Singapore with Kids
by Kate Farr.
If you're looking for a quick family city break that ticks all the boxes for convenience, then look no further than Singapore. This compact city-state hovers just 140 km above the equator, making for predictably hot and wet weather year-round, but fortunately, the Little Red Dot is jam-packed with plenty of cool corners to catch a quick breather. The Lion City's small size and great transportation makes it the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway from Hong Kong - so here are just a few activities on offer in this South-East Asian family-friendly hotspot.
One of Singapore's most iconic districts, the whole of Chinatown is a designated conservation area that's packed full of sights, sounds and snacks that kids will love to explore! The free-to-enter Buddha Tooth Temple and Museum is a good starting point, and the incense, chanting monks and drums will mesmerise as much as the gold-bedecked décor. Moving just a few minutes further up South Bridge Road, you'll come to the Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore's oldest Hindu place of worship and home to one of the most striking facades you'll ever come across.
Chinatown's bustling street market occupies Sago Street, offering a dazzling array of silks, wooden carvings, teaware and the obligatory chopstick sets (that most Hong Kongers will probably choose to skip past!).
If you're in need of a bite to eat after all that wandering, a visit to the Maxwell Road Food Centre will definitely hit the spot. This place epitomises Singaporean food court dining, offering wipe-clean tables, self-serve counters and a huge array of freshly cooked dishes, making it an easy option for pleasing picky eaters.
The Singapore River cuts right through the city and there are plenty of fun things to see, do and eat along the riverbank. Start your day with cappuccino and croissants at Robertson Quay's Kith Café, where little ones congregate in the small play area outside while dog walkers grab takeout. Hop aboard a traditional wooden River Taxi to continue your exploration; this bargain bumboat ride will set you back just S$3 when you pay using your EZ Link Card, and offers a gentle start to your day.
Hop off at bustling Boat Quay to grab a spot of lunch in one of the many waterfront restaurants, then continue downriver to Marina Bay, where you'll find Singapore's famous half-lion, half-fish Merlion Statue just outside the Fullerton Hotel. Another short hop across the water takes you to the Bayfront promenade area near the huge Marina Bay Sands complex, which offers a panoramic view of the city skyline and plenty of space for little legs to let loose.
Gardens By The Bay offers an enormous 100 hectares of greenery to explore on foot, by shuttle or - if you've brought your own ¬ - scooter or bike. There are domes, pavilions and garden spaces, all with their own stunning tropical microclimates to explore and discover. If that's all sounding a little bit educational for a holiday, then the fabulous Far East Organisation Children's Garden is the perfect antidote. There is an excellent rainforest tree house and playground, but the main attraction is the huge water play area, where children can run, splash and make new friends under sprinklers and fountains. Refuel on site at the Children's Garden Café, and be sure to leave room for afters at Bakerzin, a Singaporean dessert specialist.
Get up close and personal with the cute and not-so-cute residents of Singapore's Night Safari. This nocturnal zoo was the first of its kind in the world and focuses on conservation of the various exotic creatures that call this place home, with visitors subject to strict codes of conduct, including strict bans on flash photography and litter dropping. Walk the park in your own time, or hop on board one of the frequent shuttles that take you on a guided tour of the many rare animal species.
Another must-visit green space is the famous Botanic Gardens, which spans three separate districts of the city and offers plenty of kid-friendly fun. There are swings and sculptures dotted throughout the park, along with boardwalks that thread through towering tropical hardwood trees. Symphony Lake regularly hosts musical performances in its outdoor amphitheatre, and make sure that you plan a pit stop at the Jacob Ballas Children's Garden, where little ones can enjoy wet and dry play areas and learn more about botany through hands-on interactive displays.