Singapore, boring? No way! This tiny island-state might have a somewhat buttoned-up reputation, but family travelers are in for a treat.
Singapore's family-friendly attractions give travelers a direct connection to Southeast Asia's diverse cultures in a much safer environment than most of the rest of the region. Families also get all the creature comforts of the West that their budgets allow: posh hotels, 4G mobile internet, and cheap and fast transportation all over the island by bus and train.
So fly in, take your family to these kid-friendly adventure spots and let loose!
There's no safer environment in which to see Southeast Asia's wildlife than in the region's best zoo, the Singapore Zoo. With over 3,000 animals housed in a 28-hectare park, kids can safely see rare Southeast Asia animals like the orangutan, sun bears and Malayan tigers — along with guests from further away like polar bears, giraffes and hamadryas baboons.
Singapore Zoo's "open zoo" concept disdains cages, preferring less visible means of constraint. Large land animals are kept in place by deep moats that are hidden from viewers' eyes — from a zoo-going kid's point of view, the animals look as if they're simply enjoying their native habitats.
Outside their enclosures, animals get to meet-and-greet guests through regular animal shows and feeding sessions. Make time for the latter: your little ones will love feeding the residents, whether by tossing fruit to baboons or fish to carrots to giraffes.
DUCKtours offers the only tour of Singapore that lets you see the city-state's historical district from the road… then takes to the water for a totally different perspective.
Using refurbished 1970s-era amphibious vehicles, the tour takes off from Suntec City Mall, then circulates around Singapore's Civic District, running past the Padang, the City Hall building, the War Memorial, and the Victoria Theatre.
The trip is accompanied by commentary from the tour guides (“ducktainers”) who offer their wacky take on the city's sights.
The tour then drives straight into the Singapore River (watch the tour's Captain and “ducktainers” play up the suspense of the inevitable splashdown). From the river and the adjoining Marina Bay, passengers get a great view of the city's skyline.
The whole trip takes about an hour to complete, with lots of sightseeing and picture-taking opportunities all throughout.
Singapore's reputation as an “expensive” city might make visitors think twice about eating out, but the local eats buck the local trend towards priciness and glitz. Take your family to dine at a hawker center instead — these are open-air food courts in Singapore that serve a wide variety of Asian dishes.
With little ambience and no airconditioning, Singapore's hawker centers are simple affairs with a surprisingly wide range of culinary choices. Prices are low ($5 buys you a big meal) and the menu reflects the multicultural mix of the Singaporean populace.
Indian biryani stands jostle Western food booths and noodle stalls in most places. At any hawker center, tourists mingle with working stiffs to stuff their faces with Cantonese, Hokkien, Indian, Malay, and "Western" food.
The second-tallest observation wheel in the world packs quite a view from the top. Ride the Singapore Flyer and see Singapore and its neighbors from over 500 feet up in the air.
You'll be ushered into an air-conditioned capsule (if you're lucky, you and your family will get one all to yourselves) and enjoy a 30-minute ride that offers uninterrupted views of Singapore's skyline.
Look around and you'll see Marina Bay's newest and most beautiful structures — the Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and the financial district's high-rises defining the skyline. In good weather, you might even be able to spot outlying islands belonging to neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia!
Explore Macritchie Reservoir Park
Singapore's Macritchie Reservoir Park presents one of the very few chances your kids will get to encounter original old-growth wildlife, an increasingly rare asset in this hyper-modern island state.
The Park is an integral part of the adjoining reservoir's design — its 100 hectares of unspoiled forest protect the water from any nearby agricultural activities. A series of nature trails criss-cross the forest; take your family on a trek down boardwalks winding past the reservoir and take in views of the calm water and its avian residents.
Higher up, a 250-metre Treetop Walk connects the two highest points in the park, while allowing birds'-eye-views of the forest canopy and its residents, like macaque monkeys and monitor lizards.
Signs adorn the Park's walking trails, allowing guests to conduct self-guided tours around the premises. For more active visitors, a jogging path and outdoor fitness stations provide opportunities to break a sweat.
Looking more like a futuristic domed city than a habitat for the world's botanical riches, Singapore's Gardens by the Bay takes visitors into a unique plant-based world, centered around the Gardens' iconic giant glass greenhouses.
Inside each biome, endangered plants flourish in an artificially-engineered "native" environment simulating some of the most threatened habitats on the planet.
Scaling the Gardens' dizzying walkways is part of the experience — whether on the Cloud Forest Conservatory's “cloud walk”or on the 420-foot-long OCBC Walkway that extends between the “Supertrees” outside.
Kids can find more around here than just plants under glass: a one-hectare Far East Organization Children's Garden contains a number of play areas designed for kids from 2 to 12 years of age. At the center of it all stands a sprawling splash fountain area with a series of nozzles, splines and buckets for creative water fun.
The second Universal Studios in Asia and the first in Southeast Asia has big shoes to fill, but knocks the theme park experience out of the, er, park.
Singapore's Universal Studios stands on the resort island of Sentosa, occupying 20 hectares centered by an artificial lagoon. Seven movie-themed zones can be visited in a loop around the park, offering only-in-Singapore rides like the Transformers ride and dueling Battlestar Galactica roller-coasters.
The rides cover every age from 4 to over 90: little tykes will enjoy the rides patterned after Sesame Street and Shrek, while older kids and not-kids-anymore can get their thrill on at the Mummy 3D ride.
Outside the Park, Singapore visitors can take in the rest of Sentosa's kid-friendly attractions, including an aquarium, adventure park and even a Madame Tussaud's wax museum!
Watch the Marina Bay Light Show
Every night, the Marina Bay Sands hotel turns into a glowing canvas for artwork made of laserlight.
At 8pm and 9:30pm, spectators standing across the Bay from the Sands can watch a 15-minute performance that involves music, lasers, spotlights, water fountains and projected images that bring the Sands' facade to life, with light bouncing off the waters and bathing the Marina Bay district in a neon-bright glow.
After watching the show, take in Marina Bay's other attractions at leisure — the Singapore Flyer and Gardens by the Bay can be easily reached on foot from most vantage points in the area.