I’ve always been a fan of traveling to Asia with kids. Destinations like China, Vietnam and Thailand allow families to experience a different way of life that can’t be found anywhere else in world. Yet for some reason Singapore was never on my radar. Don’t make the same mistake I did and think of Singapore as a spot you only fly through (though it’s home to what is arguably the world’s best airport). Think of it as a place you stay for a fantastic family vacation.
If you only had time to do one thing as a family in Singapore, Gardens by the Bay would be it. Think of it as a home for numerous attractions in one beautiful location.
Stand among giants in the Supertree Grove. Gardens by the Bay is home to 18 Supertrees (solar-powered artificial trees) covered by more than 158,000 plants. A dozen of them stand together to create the Supertree Grove — the tallest measures 16 stories. Enjoy the view from the ground, then take the elevator up one of the Supertrees to the OCBC Skyway. A touch longer than a football field, the aerial walkway lets you stroll through the treetops and get an overview of the Gardens’ many attractions, along with some amazing Singapore skyline views.
Plan on visiting the Supertree Grove at least twice, once in the daylight and then again in the evening for the Garden Rhapsody light and sound show. This not-to-be-missed presentation takes place every evening with shows typically starting at 7:45pm and 8:45pm. Try and arrive a bit early to grab a good spot on the ground, then lie back and look up.
Covering nearly three acres and divided into a variety of gardens, the Flower Dome is home to plants from Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions around the world. You can see wooly cacti in the Succulent Garden, kangaroo paw in the Australian Garden and trees thought to be more than a thousand years old in the Olive Grove.
The world’s highest indoor waterfall makes a roaring impression the moment you walk into the Cloud Forest. It’s just shy of 100 feet tall, and you will get a good misting. (I was happy I had my raincoat in my shoulder bag.) In addition to the waterfall, the indoor mountain is covered with lush vegetation. Elevated walkways allow for easy exploring.
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While the OCBC Skyway, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest require you to purchase a ticket, there are nearly a half-dozen outdoor gardens that offer free admission. The Far East Organization Children’s Garden boasts a popular water play area, so think about packing swimsuits, or at the very least a towel.
What’s a Merlion? An icon in Singapore, the mythical creature is half-fish and half-lion. One of the most popular spots to snap a picture (and watch people doing crazy things for the camera) in Singapore, the park and its signature fountain overlook the bay, and it’s within walking distance of other fun stops like the Helix Bridge and The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall.
The longest pedestrian bridge in Singapore, the Helix Bridge gets its inspiration from double-helix DNA. It’s fun to stroll along day or night; after visiting Merlion Park, families can use it to reach The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Though shoppers will be thrilled with this well-air-conditioned stop, you don’t have to be a shopper to enjoy a visit here. Rides on Chinese wooden boats called sampans are available along a canal that runs through the building. Even if you don’t hop aboard, it’s somewhat entertaining to watch others set sail inside a mall.
Don’t expect to get the kids to bed early in Singapore. In addition to the sparkling Garden Rhapsody light show at Gardens by the Bay, a light and water show called Spectra is held nightly in front of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands. Show times for Spectra vary depending on the day of the week. Although both nightly extravaganzas are relatively close to each other, it’s next to impossible to get from one to the other without a wait in between showings.
Tweens and teens especially will enjoy wandering this colorful neighborhood, which is hip and loaded with history. Sultan Mosque is located in the heart of Kampong Glam. If the mosque is open to the public, it’s worth a look. Nearby Haji Lane is home to trendy boutiques, bars and cafes. Side streets are lined with vivid street art, making the area an an enjoyable place to wander without needing much of a plan.
Just getting to Sentosa Island is fun. Cable cars run throughout the day along a scenic route from Mount Faber, Singapore’s second-highest hill, to the island. You can also opt to travel to Sentosa Island by monorail. The Sentosa Express departs from the third level of VivoCity, a popular shopping mall.
Once on Sentosa Island, families have tough choices to make. You could easily spend the day at Universal Studios Singapore. Adventure Cove Waterpark is a good bet for families looking to beat the heat, and marine life fans will be drawn to the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa.
But if you’re in the mood to relax, head straight for Palawan Beach. Free shuttles run from the Sentosa Express Beach Station to the sand. Along with lifeguards, there‘s a fun suspension bridge to bounce along that links the beach to the southernmost point of continental Asia, and Asia’s closest point to the Equator.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Dana Rebmann.
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