Singapore with kids: best places to entertain tots in the Lion City
With its wide footpaths, green spaces, child-friendly amenities, awesome attractions and legendary cleanliness, Singapore is perhaps one of the world’s best cities to visit with tots in tow. Round up the kids and make this tiny island your ultimate family playground.
Designed to get you up close and personal with all creatures great and small (from baby orangutans to lumbering Asian elephants), Singapore Zoo uses natural barriers such as rock walls, vegetation and streams to help you you feel part of the action. There’s a lot of ground to cover (26 hectares to be exact) so jump on the guided tram ride first up to get your bearings. Check the feeding trail times (especially for the Fragile Forest, in which creatures that may be hiding in the treetops come down to eat) and follow the keepers to see the the animals at their most active. Download the Singapore Zoo app (available free via the Singapore Zoo website; zoo.com.sg) and have an interactive map, itinerary planner and educational information at your fingertips.
Dive below the surface at S.E.A. Aquarium on Sentosa Island to an amazing underwater world overflowing with more than 800 species of marine critters living in 49 different habitats. Kids will be mesmerised by the majestic manta rays, giant groupers, moon jellyfish and other creatures of the deep as they wander through the aquatic tank tunnels. Get tiny hands wet at the Discover Touch Pool where you can stroke sea stars and urchins; make sure to pop up in the moray eel dome for an eye-to-eye view. Tip: if it’s crowded at the Open Ocean exhibit’s large window, head around to the restaurant and enjoy a snack with front row seats to the action.
Jurong Bird Park
Budding bird watchers can discover more than 5,000 birds spanning 400 species at Asia’s largest bird park, located a 30 minute drive from the city centre. Colourful exhibits include the Waterfall Aviary, Birds of Prey, Penguin Coast and Wings of Asia; make sure to visit Lory Loft to feed the flock of friendly lorikeets. You can also opt to let your kids experience the heat of the hunt at the Kings of the Skies show, where birds of prey demonstrate what they do best – make sure your rugrats are ready to put up their hands when presenters ask for volunteers as they’ll get to be part of the show. The bird-themed playground, with wet and dry zones, offers a place for kids to spread their own wings and run wild.
Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden
Energetic kids? Head to the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, Asia’s first garden dedicated to kids, to let them burn off some energy while learning about nature. Packed with interesting and educational areas including the sensory garden and Magic of Photosynthesis, the playground, part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, lets little ones learn through interactive stations and fun activities – watch them whiz down the tree house slides, get dirty in the sand pit, lost in the maze and soaked in the waterworks area.
The onsite Kidz Café caters perfectly to young'uns with tiny tables and chairs and a kid-friendly menu. The coffee here provides the required perk to help keep up with the kids, but if you're after a really great cup, head to Da Paolo Gastronomia at Cluny Court, opposite the Botanic Gardens MRT (metro) station. Make sure to pack hats and sunscreen, and aim to be there early morning or late afternoon when it’s not too hot. Did we mention it’s free?
Far East Organisation Children’s Garden
Part of the incredible Gardens By the Bay complex in Marina Bay, this free state-of-the-art play area has been specifically designed for kids aged one to 12. Split into two areas, the garden allows kids to enjoy exploring and interacting with nature based on their age group. Under 6’ers have their own dry and wet playground that is surrounded by dense gardens so big kids can’t easily run in. The highlight for older kids will be the rainforest tree houses; surrounded by awesome play equipment like climbing ropes, spider net and twisting slide, it’s where jungle fantasies come to life. When it’s time to cool off, head to the water area where kids will love the water effects sequenced to their movements.
There’s a cafe onsite but for some typically Singaporean fare kids will love, head to Satay By The Bay, located in the GBTB gronds, for tasty hawker style food at affordable prices.
Thrills and Spills
Singapore’s movie-based theme park (rwsentosa.com) promises an action-packed day for children of all ages. Little ones will love animation-based Far, Far Away and Madagascar zones, with their river boat rides, carousels and family roller coasters. Bigger kids will enjoy the Lost World, Ancient Egypt and Sci-Fi City (where the highlight for many is the Transformers Ultimate 3D Battle). Need a bit of a break? Head to ‘New York’ or ‘Hollywood’ to take in a show or watch some street entertainment.
It may come as no surprise that it can get busy here, so it’s best to purchase tickets online and arrive at opening time (10am). Midweek is quietest but if you do head here on a weekend, invest in an express pass so you can skip the queues. On Saturdays you’ll catch the weekly fireworks in the Lake Hollywood Spectacular show at 8pm.
Swing, climb, scramble, jump and zip your way through this awesome treetop adventure (forestadventure.com.sg) located just 25 minutes drive from the city centre. With three courses to choose from (height, weight and supervision dependent), there is something for every thrill seeker – big kids can tackle the grand course of 35 different obstacles, which amounts to over two hours of fun in the trees. The kid's course is designed for five- to 10-year-olds and takes an hour to complete; with the grand finale zip-line the highlight. Tiny tots can scramble around the mini-course where they’re never out of reach. Note that the kids' and tots' courses are only open on the weekends or Singapore school and public holidays; it's best to reserve a time online beforehand.
This aquatic adventure park will delight smaller kids with its giant wave pool and the Big Bucket Treehouse – watch out for the giant splash! – and tempt the more daring with an array of thrilling waterslides and other activities. For a relaxing family timeout, snorkel on the artificial reef or grab a tube and float through 14 beautiful habitats on the Adventure River. The popular Dolphin Island attraction allows visitors to interact with Indo-Pacific dolphins in a pool, but given the animal welfare issues involved with keeping cetaceans in captivity for the purpose of human entertainment, it's worth holding out to see dolphins in the wild instead. Hit the big attractions when you arrive to avoid large queues.
Not for the faint-hearted, this gravity-defying simulated skydiving adventure on Sentosa Island is the biggest adrenaline rush you can get indoors in Singapore. Children seven and above can suit up for the ride of their life in the giant clear wind tunnel, with instructors on hand to literally make sure no one gets carried away. Every participant is awarded with a flight certificate indicating their skill level, which makes for great kiddie bragging rights material. The actual time you’re in the air is fairly short (about 45seconds) but it can feel like a lifetime.