On our recent trip to Singapore we didn’t have many days so needed to choose a few things to do and see from the hundreds of options to keep children busy and engaged. So we decided to cover some of our regular favourites – Singapore Zoo and Gardens by the Bay – but also went off the beaten path to a local market and traipsed down a nice little suburb. In doing so, we managed to convince the kids that there are many options beyond Sentosa and Universal Studios.
A perennial favourite, Singapore Zoo always delivers hours of fun and education. With over 300 species of animals spread across 28 hectares, there’s a lot to see. On our last trip, we went for the Night Safari which is a must try. This time, we decided to cover the zoo in a day. It is a vast space at the edge of a forest reserve. Check out their website for a better idea of what’s in store.
Start early – the zoo is huge and if you start late, you may not be able to cover all that you had planned because you need to navigate around animal resting times. Of course, feeding times and relevant shows are great so try not to miss those. The free ranging orang utans were definitely a highlight for us. The wet play area closes occasionally for cleaning and general upkeep. When we went, it was closed for a few days, so we missed it – do check for availability when you go.
Zoo tip: Buy a package online for better discounts and escape the queue. If you are planning on visiting the Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and/or Jurong Bird Park within one month of each other, you can buy 2-in-1, 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 Park Hopper tickets at a discounted price. There are other on-site activities as well including trampoline jumping. There are a few options for food including Ah Meng Kitchen which also offers a jungle breakfast with wildlife, something we may try next time.
There have been a lot of discussion about zoos after a gorilla was shot dead when a boy fell into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. While the argument for and against zoos will continue, what is sensible is to follow good safety precautions as well as maybe to get the children to think about the zoos of the future.
Gardens by the Bay
Three gorgeous gardens with waterfront views, this horticultural marvel is an immaculately managed space. Gardens by the Bay provides an opportunity for kids to learn about ecosystems and different species of plants from around the world up close .
Don’t forget swimming costumes when heading to the Far East Organisation’s Children’s Garden which has various integrated play equipment and water play features spread over four play zones: Adventure Trail, Rainforest Treehouses, Toddler Play Zone and Water Play Areas. Be careful – you may get drenched yourself! However, this being organised Singapore, they do have a store responding to all your swim-related needs right on-site.
Children’s Garden Tip: The Children’s Garden is free and open Tuesdays-Sunday from 9am to 9pm. It is closed on Mondays (unless a Public Holiday falls on Monday, in which case it will be closed the next day).
There’s much to love in trendy Tiong Bharu with its fancy cafés and lifestyle stores juxtaposed against the space age inspired architecture, with buildings designed to resemble ocean liners and cars – what appears to be pre-war experiment. A nice change to the more austere HDB-type of surroundings. It’s a nice place to hunt down a good eat and amble along on a sunny evening.
We love Little India especially for the spicy food. For the children, it was more about the sights and sounds, including watching flowers being strung at flower stalls and hole-in-the-wall bookstores. We were a bit floored with the maze of Mustafa Centre but definitely the groceries is a good place to stock on lentils, cashews and almonds. This Singapore blogger has actually mapped this incredible maze – hats off! We had a lovely Indian vegetarian lunch here at Gokul.
The other ethnic quarters that we plan to target on our next trip will be Kampung Glam and Chinatown.
Visit a Local Wet Market
As we stayed near Novena at Balestier Road, Whampoa market was within walking distance. We found a vibrant market that buzzes with constant activity and a nice place for freshly made sugar cane juice! We also bought some local fruits here – mangosteens, rambutans and langsats abound. Nothing gives a feel of a place more than a local wet market and depending on where you stay, there are options everywhere, including Tiong Bharu, Chinatown and Geylang Serai.
Singapore Repertory Theater
Look out for shows by the SRT. When we there, we managed to catch Hanuman the Superhero Journey. Described as a multi-sensory theater experience, it was perfect for very young children and had them humming to the music. Taking account of how my children have watched the story of Hanuman enacted in different parts of Asia, they found this interpretation very refreshing.
Check out for details of upcoming show on their website and plan accordingly. Definitely worth the experience!
Where we stayed
We booked our first ever Airbnb and were very happy with our unit. We had 2 bedrooms in the heart of Novena with a cosy kitchen and small dining table. So much space! Next time, we realised that we must book earlier if we wanted our location of choice.
Hot water didn’t work in the unit (by itself not a major issue in sweltering Singapore). Our owner Nick tried to have it fixed but when he couldn’t – he graciously made it up by paying for our Singapore Zoo tickets which we thought was a very nice gesture.
We drove from KL this time and wazed our way around the island. But we have also used the MRT and buses before which all run very efficiently. It’s Singapore-lah!
You can check hotel prices for Singapore at Booking.com – many offer free cancellations.