A Family’s Guide to Experiencing Singapore
Immerse your entire family into the sensational sights, sounds and tastes that are waiting to be discovered in Singapore.
Small-but-mighty, Singapore is truly one of the greatest family vacation destinations in the world. I say this having enjoyed the city-state many times on holiday before becoming a parent. However, I find that I love it even more now with my daughter in tow. Where else can you immerse in a colorful melting pot of Malay, British, Indian and Chinese cultures all in one place, or explore futuristic gardens and remnants of a primary rainforest at the same time? Then, there is the mind-blowing food (leave the diet at home); a kid-friendly airport; world-class wildlife; and other theme parks, modern conveniences and locals who have always doted on my little redheaded girl. We never, ever run out of things to do Singapore, and I miss it dearly when we are away.
WHERE TO STAY
The Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore at Marina Bay has some of the largest rooms and suites in town; and have unobstructed views of the Bay, Singapore River and the city skyline. Club level rooms provide access to five daily food presentations at The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge – a very handy convenience with kids in tow, in addition to complimentary car service to nearby activities. Four Seasons Hotel Singapore is on a peaceful, tree-lined street that is just steps from Orchard Road – arguably Asia’s most famous shopping street, and the city’s hub of entertainment. Kids particularly love the rooftop pool with toys and a special poolside menu just for them, a welcome amenity, and complimentary hand consoles and DVDs. Sunday brunch in Singapore is legendary, and Four Seasons hosts one of the best with a supervised Playland complete with bouncy castle, arts and crafts, face painting and more to entertain kids while adults leisurely make their way through the multiple stations.
Capella Singapore is a luxury resort on Sentosa Island that faces the South China Sea, where modern meets Colonial. Kids love swimming pools, and Capella has three, in addition to private plunge pools in its manor and villa accommodations. The villas provide one or two separate bedrooms and living areas, granting the comforts of home that families often crave while traveling. This is a great choice for family vacations centered around the various activities on Sentosa Island.
THINGS TO DO
Over the years, Sentosa Island has developed into one of the world’s greatest playgrounds, which still brings together the leisure activities of pretty white sand beaches and heritage walks with the thrills of famous theme parks. Universal Studios (be sure to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment) sprinkles movie-themed attractions and rides throughout seven zones, and offers VIP tours for those seeking red carpet treatment. “Edutainment” here includes the newly opened Kidzania where kids role-play various adult careers throughout a state-of-the-art, kid-sized city, and S.E.A. Aquarium, which showcases Asia’s maritime heritage with over 100,000 marine animals. Families can also escape the heat at the Adventure Cove Waterpark, ride a luge or Segway, watch a myriad of performances and so much more on Sentosa Island.
The conservation-minded Wildlife Reserves Singapore oversees four wildlife parks that are each worthy of a visit if time permits. The Singapore Zoo is famous for its stunning landscape and open exhibits where animals roam safely yet a bit more freely than at other zoos around the world. Moats and other hidden barriers separate visitors, but do not be surprised to see an orangutan swinging high above walkways, or spot a wallaby hopping across a path right in front of you. Highlights here include breakfast with orangutans and multiple opportunities to feed resident animals throughout the day. The Night Safari, the world’s first nocturnal zoo, has wildlife enclosures lit to resemble moonlight. After entering, immediately line up for the 40-minute guided tram tour (the best way to kick-off a visit) through the park’s six geographical zones. Look also into the Bird’s Eye Tour at Jurong Bird Park where a personal guide leads visitors on a private tour of the park, including the popular Lory feeding and Waterfall Aviary that is home to over 600 free-flying birds [Lories are small and very bright colored parrots with a unique brush-like tongue, which allows them to remove pollen and nectar from flower blossoms]. Additionally, the new River Safari Park focuses on wildlife in and around the world’s major rivers, including Singapore’s two giant pandas: Kai Kai and Jia Jia.
You have probably seen photos of the illuminated steel Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, and these futuristic trees are worth a visit – especially during the evening light show. From Marina Bay, take the Helix Bridge to the Singapore Flyer observation wheel for more panoramic views over the city-state. Near here awaits another popular family favorite, DUCK Tours, which takes riders around Singapore on WWII amphibious bus-boats through land and water.
WHERE TO EAT
Eating is the unofficial sport of Singapore. Locals take their food seriously so plan to enjoy every last bite, and hit the treadmill later. It is the ultimate place to let kids travel through their taste buds (with noodles, rice, fruit and other kid-friendly foods easy to find), as you never know what flavors they might discover, and quickly come to love.
Despite its seemingly regional name, Chinatown Food Street, is a fantastic place to sample the best of Singapore’s multicultural cuisine at hawker stalls, kiosks and restaurants. Here, it is easy to source local favorites including satays, oyster omelettes, kway teow, sambal stingray, Indian curries and much more. A recent renovation added a cooling system and roof so it is now enjoyable all-day, everyday.
Hainanese Chicken rice is the national dish of Singapore, and the most famous stall for it is arguably Tian Tian Chicken Rice in Maxwell Food Centre. This popular hawker centre has over 100 stalls so the odds of finding something to satisfy the cravings of kids and adults here are high. If your kids are adventurous eaters, chili crab is another must-try dish. Jumbo Seafood has multiple outlets that serve it in addition to a delicious black pepper crab.
Food for Thought now has two locations in Singapore. The restaurant inside the Singapore Botanical Gardens was designed to embrace its stunning surroundings; as well as the importance of community, family and eco-consciousness. It has a kids’ play area conveniently placed near dining tables outside and a menu that encompasses local favorites and Western options like scrambled eggs, pulled pork burgers and linguine.
Photography: Capella Singapore