72 Hours in Osaka with Kids

Osaka's skyline. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Stock
Osaka's skyline. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Stock

Just a short 2.5-hour Shinkansen ride from Tokyo, Osaka offers a vibrant and relaxed atmosphere that is truly worth experiencing, whether it’s your first visit or your tenth to the Land of the Rising Sun. Despite its unique charm, Osaka is often overshadowed by the more traditional destinations of Kyoto or Nara — wonderful in their own right but nothing quite like the port city, known for its incredible architecture, nightlife, and amazing food. Ready to embark on the ultimate 72-hour adventure, uncovering Osaka’s must-see sights, bites and unforgettable experiences? Here’s our recommended itinerary for an amazing three days in Osaka.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
Osaka Castle is a must-visit. Photo by coward_lion/Adobe Stock

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids

Day 1

Start your morning early by arriving in Osaka via one of Japan’s high-speed bullet trains. We recommend booking tickets in advance, particularly if you plan to travel to Japan during key holidays like Golden Week (late April/early May) or peak commute times (between 6 and 8 am, weekdays). Make sure to stop by one of the train station convenience stores or food stalls to purchase an ekiben (railway bento) to eat during your journey — this is one of the few instances where eating on public transportation is not frowned upon. After arriving at Shin-Osaka Station, drop off your luggage at your hotel before making your way to the city center. If you’ve purchased a transportation card in Tokyo, you will be glad to hear you can use it conveniently in Osaka. Take advantage of the bus and metro system, as it is just as comprehensive and easy to use as the one in the capital.

If this is your first time in the city, Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo) is a fun and immersive introduction to Japan’s history. Older children will enjoy the modern reconstruction of the castle inside, which offers a samurai exhibit in the Osaka Museum of History and a panoramic view of the city from the top of the castle — a great photo op! Alternatively, your family might spend time in Osaka Castle Park, which contains scenic gardens (particularly beautiful when the cherry blossoms open in the spring), walking paths and a spacious playground structure.

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Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
Sample grilled seafood and other classic street fare at Kuromon Ichiba Market. Photo by Pattarisara/Adobe Stock

Head to Kuromon Ichiba Market at Nippombashi Station for a street food lunch. Osaka is known for being a foodie’s paradise and one of Japan’s best cities to find a hearty meal at a decent price. The market is a great way to introduce the little ones to various famous foods in the area, such as grilled seafood, skewered chicken in caramelized sauce (yakitori), urchin, sushi, fruit and the most famous dish in Osaka, takoyaki. These are round balls often filled with pieces of seafood and topped with ingredients such as mayonnaise, dried bonito flakes and seaweed. Leave room for dessert and indulge in a fish-shaped cake with sweet red bean or custard filling (taiyaki).

From Nippombashi Station, take a short walk to the Tombori Riverwalk in the Dotonbori area. Here, you can enjoy a scenic and leisurely stroll along the Dotonbori Canal, which offers a great overview of one of the most famous streets in Osaka and will be a great opportunity to buy souvenirs. Dotonbori is best experienced as the sun goes down so you can see it in its full neon-lighted glory. Take pictures at the famous Glico Running Man sign, then end your day with dinner at Kani Doraku, a famous crab restaurant known for its giant moving crab sign and crab-focused cuisine.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
Whale sharks are a highlight of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. Photo by Alan/Adobe Stock

Day 2

Begin your second day at the Osakako Station (near Osaka Bay) and spend the morning at one of the largest aquariums in the world, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. The aquarium’s permanent exhibit faithfully replicates around 15 natural ecosystems from the Pacific Rim, accurately recreating their climates and showcasing the marine animals native to those regions. It is also one of the few aquariums in the world that houses a whale shark, a must-see for any shark enthusiast in your family. Afterward, ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel for spectacular views of Osaka Bay and the skyline.

For lunch, venture into the Tempozan Marketplaceright next to the ferris wheel, where you will find the Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho food court. What makes this particular food court a must-see is that it is modeled after a 1960s Osaka street, giving the kids a bit of history while you look for something good to try. One of my favorites is okonomiyaki, a savory pancake that can be customized with your favorite toppings — an Osakan staple. After lunch, spend some time wandering around the shopping complex and keep an eye out for great souvenirs. There is also an indoor petting zoo located in the complex to keep younger kids engaged.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
The Floating Garden Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building. Photo by bennymarty/Adobe Stock

In the afternoon, spend some time at Kids Plaza Osaka, a children’s museum that encourages interactive play and has exhibitions that allow guests (both little ones and adult ones) to participate in hands-on activities. Close to the Kids Plaza, you will also find the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, which is a 10th-century Shinto shrine that hosts one of Japan’s largest festivals in July, the Tenjin Matsuri. If you are fortunate enough to visit in late July, make sure to attend the festival for a night of vibrant parades, traditional music and fireworks. Most famous is the procession of boats on the Okawa River, a must-see.

End the day with a visit to the Umeda Sky Building’s Floating Garden Observatory for stunning panoramic views of Osaka. For dinner, visit one of the many restaurants in the area for a meal before making your way to Qu’il fait bon for one of the shop’s famous fruit tarts, a delicious dessert after a long day of adventure.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
Shitennoji Temple. Photo by Chalearmrat/Adobe Stock

Day 3

Spend your last day in Osaka exploring the Tennoji district, an area that offers an entertaining mix of tradition, cultural heritage and modern, family-friendly attractions for all. Begin your adventure by visiting the Shitennoji Temple, which is within walking distance of Tennoji Station. One of Japan’s oldest temples, it is best known for being the first Buddhist and state-established temple in the country. Although restored several times, it has retained much of its historical integrity, which gives visitors a glimpse into what it would have looked like in the past. Throughout the year, the temple hosts a series of cultural activities like calligraphy and tea ceremonies that offer insight into Japanese culture. These are great ways to introduce the kids to some of the country’s oldest practices and a much more interactive alternative to what you might find in the museum. Within a short walking distance of the temple is the Tennoji Park and Playground, featuring large, open green spaces perfect for kids to get some energy out or for a family picnic.

At midday, visit Abeno Q’s Mall for a variety of family-friendly dining options, including casual spots for a relaxing lunch. Some great options are MOS Burger, one of Japan’s most famous burger chains, and Saizeriya, an Italian family restaurant that offers very kid-friendly choices. Abeno Q’s is a massive shopping complex that is home to around 250 stores, making it one of the largest in Osaka. Feel free to spend an extra hour wandering around to get a good sense of the culture, as you will find a variety of famous Japanese food and drink places, popular fashion stores and more.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
The Shinsekai district with Tsutenkaku Tower in the background. Photo by Richie Chan/Adobe Stock

In the evening, head to Shinsekai, an older Japanese neighborhood known for its nostalgic rendition of retro Japan. Neon signs line the streets and affordable eats are everywhere you turn, which makes it a great street to DIY a food tour. The deep-fried skewers (kushikatsu) are particularly delicious, so give them a try! Make your way to Tsutenkaku Tower, known as the “Eiffel Tower of Osaka,” for more spectacular views of the city. It also features a fun slide that the older kids can try if they dare. After dinner at one of the many food stalls or restaurants that you’ll encounter along Janjan Yokocho Alley, end your time in Osaka with a trip to Spa World. This multi-floor hot springs offers baths modeled after onsen around the world. In addition to the baths, it houses a sauna, massage areas, relaxation spaces, gaming facilities, swimming pools, water slides and more.

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids
Osaka’s skyline. Photo by SeanPavonePhoto/Adobe Stock

Where to Stay

Osaka offers no shortage of accommodation options, which can make finding the perfect place to station yourself a challenge if you are unfamiliar with the area. While traveling from one side of Osaka to the other is relatively easy, each of its most famous districts offers different perspectives on life in the city. Here is a quick run through the most popular:

  • Namba (Minami): Known for being the heart of Osaka’s nightlife and entertainment, this is the best option for families looking for an area bustling with activity and food options. The neon lights, 24-hour gaming centers, shopping options and food streets are some of the highlights of this centrally located district, but this also means large crowds, noise and higher prices.
  • Umeda (Kita): This district is famous for its more modern, upscale and business-oriented vibe. It features high-end shopping options and most of the luxury hotels in the area, making it a must-visit place if you are in search of fine dining or a five-star experience. Some of the key attractions here are the Floating Garden Observatory at the Umeda Sky Building, Grand Front Osaka (shopping complex) and HEP Five, a shopping mall with a Ferris wheel. Expect accommodations to be more expensive and nightlife to be quieter.
  • Shinsaibashi: Shinsaibashi is well known among the teenage and young adult community. It is filled with trendy fashion boutiques and cafes, making it particularly appealing to families with older children, and is near Namba, making it easy to explore both areas extensively. It’s particularly famous for the Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and America Village (Amerikamura), known for their shopping and street art. Like Namba, Shinsaibashi is busy, particularly in the evening.
  • Tennoji: This is a great option for families hoping to explore both traditional and modern attractions. With easy access to parks, temples and shopping centers, Tennoji is very family-friendly and offers the most affordable accommodations among these options. Here you’ll find Abeno Harukas, Japan’s tallest building; the Tennoji Zoo; and Shintennoji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest temples. As it is more traditional in nature, nightlife is scarce and it’s less centrally located, making commutes into the city longer but not unmanageable.

Other popular options include Osaka Bay Area and Shin-Osaka, which offer a variety of family-friendly and more affordable accommodation options.

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly activities and accommodations in Japan on Ciao Bambino

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72 hours in Tokyo with kids

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