When families with children come to visit

Family with children visiting for two weeks:

When you’ve got children in the mix, make your days much less packed as things always take a little longer with kids. Try to cater for all age groups where you can – but let everyone know that there’s lot of fun things around Singapore and everyone will get their turn. When all else fails, use a bribe – ice cream always works for us!

Day 1

Boat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Plenty of photo opportunities here for kids including spouting water from their mouths and ‘carrying’ MBS – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat (and offers a spot for a loo break!) but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and see the rest of the river. Just make sure you buy a ticket that allows you to hop on and off.

bumboat in Singapore

Everyone loves a relaxing potter down the river don’t they? If not, bribe them with icecream!

Day 2

Get the MRT to Esplanade and have a wander around the Esplanade. You can get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof and there’s a great Haagan Daaz inside. Take a leisurely stroll towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch at one of the many places at MBS, there’s plenty of options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Whilst you’re in MBS show the kids the canal that runs through it and if you’ve timed it right, you’ll see the Rain Oculus empty – it collects rain water that fills the canal! You can even jump on one of the sampans for a leisurely ride.

Next it’s time to grab your head for heights and go on up to the sky park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get to see what the city from 57 floors up – and if you stretch your neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

skypark at Marina Bay Sands

Young and old alike will be blown away by the views at the top of MBS

Day 3

Is pool day and a bit of down time for the adults whilst the kids burn off some energy in the pool. If you are a member of a club, head there for the day – if not, a condo pool or house pool would do the trick too. If you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests here!

Pool at The British Club Singapore

A day by the pool relaxing will be just what you all need today.

Day 4

After a relaxing day yesterday today is all about action packed fun and is probably THE thing your younger guests have been waiting for. Universal Studios.  A great family day out that will tick all the boxes no matter what age the children are. Discount tickets can be bought through places like the British Club and you can buy an express pass to help skip some of the long queues (the price can vary). But really, these places are all about the anticipation as much as anything else so just go armed with lots of patience and you’ll be fine. Pre-book your entrance tickets to avoid the long lines to get in and get there early.

Universal Studios

One of the less hair-raising rides – for some!

Day 5

Take it easy today, the kids will be exhausted from yesterday – as will the adults. Take your guests out for lunch somewhere you would go to usually. Go for a walk around your local area, let them get to know your ‘hood’. Have lunch at a hawker centre and order some food the kids may not have tried before.

Day 6

For older children today is all about local heritage so head for China Town. This may be met with groans of ‘boring’ from younger guests but remind them they can look for cheap pressies to take home or find the best noodles in Singapore today. Visit China Town Heritage Centre to get a feel for how the city has changed over the years and see how people used to live.

china town

China Town and its Markets are full of colour and culture.

Head to food street for some local fare. If it all looks a bit scary to your younger visitors, choose something simple like chicken sate or spring rolls. Or ask The Noodle Man for some plain non spicy noodles.

Spend the afternoon wandering around the markets and challenge your guests to try some Durian.

or

orangutan at Singapore Zoo

Monkey around at Singapore Zoo.

If this really doesn’t appeal to your older children and probably won’t with younger children you could suggest Singapore Zoo. One of the most impressive zoo’s I’ve ever been to and although it’s  a long day you can take your time walking around and can jump on and off the tram for a few extra dollars. The monkey exhibit is amazing and there are plenty of animal experiences and shows to see too including jungle breakfast (this requires pre-booking).

Day 7

Have a shorter day today and suggest The Alive Museum in Sun Tec city is a great spot to take families (especially on a rainy day, but it will be busy) and you will literally run out of battery on your camera. From flying on the back of a huge Kingfisher to being picked up by a giant baby, this 4D museum has to be seen to be believed. Great fun for young and old alike!

Day 8

Sentosa is calling. There really is so much to do on The State of Fun that one day is not enough. Madam Tussauds to Segways, Ziplines to a butterfly park. There’s a good page on the website here that will help you plan. It’s worth buying a Fun Pass which gives you access to a number of attractions. You can even stay for the evening and watch one of the light shows too.

For me, the things you should not miss is the Luge – brilliant fun for all and the most hair-raising skyline ride up to it, the Merlion Walk and the Merlion and the Images of Singapore LIVE (really one of the best ways to introduce children to the history of Singapore).

Dinner at Coastes is a great way to end the day – kid friendly, relaxed, the food comes quick and the kids can play in the sand whilst you and your adult guests can enjoy a much-needed beverage.

dinner at coastes, Singapore

The perfect spot for a family dinner – relaxed, good food, service is quick and your toes are in the sand. What’s not to love?

Day 9

Relax. Take it easy as everyone will be tired from yesterday. If the kids get tetchy take them for a walk around your local park.

This evening would be a good time to go on the Night Safari. The world’s first nocturnal wildlife park, it’s quite a unique night out, but it’s a late one so maybe some afternoon naps would be a good idea before you go. Book your tickets in advance and although it’ll be busy when you arrive, it’s well organised and everyone gets to see everything.

Day 10

Time to head for Gardens By The Bay. Go later in the afternoon if you can so that you can stay for the light show at 7:45. Allow a few hours at the gardens or if necessary, go back in the evening.

laying down for singing trees

Tell your guests to lay down and take in the wonder of the Singing Trees.

Plenty to do at the Children’s Garden including a splash park so get the kids to take their swimwear. If they are older they might enjoy the Cloud Forest but it’s pretty chilly inside the dome so take jumpers. Don’t forget to head to the Supertree Grove to see the gardens during the day and you can visit the OCBC Skyway if you’re ok with going up high with the kids.

Day 11

East Coast Park.  If the children are able to ride bikes this is a good place to go as you can hire them here and cycle all the way along the cycle paths that run next to the beach. If not, just grab the stroller and take a leisurely walk. Scooters, roller blades, inline skates – they’re all welcome! Plenty of dining options along the way or take a picnic. There are also barbecue pits if you want to get organised for a family bbq, you’ll need to book here though.There is a children’s playground too.

Wishing Bells, Mount Faber, Singapore
Make a wish at Mount Fabe

or

You could go for a ride on the Cable Car for spectacular views and fun. Begin your journey at Mount Faber where you can have a look around at the stunning park before getting on the cable car. There’s the huge polish bell of friendship, stunning views and a great little restaurant and gift shop up there. Also, you can buy a bell or two of your own and tie them on the railings as many others have done before.

Day 12

Water Park. Whilst Adventure Cove is great fun and well worth a visit, if your guests have already made heavy dent in their wallets, take them to Jurong Water Park instead.  A local pool that has enough rides, slides and lazy rivers to keep the younger ones happy. It may not be ideal for older children looking for huge thrills, but is a good substitute for little ones. For older ones, I’d opt for the Sentosa park for sure – if you are a member of the British Club (or know someone who is) they have discounted tickets available.

Day 13

Kartwheels on Tanjong Beach

Simple fun at the beach – and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Beach day. Most children will want to go to the beach before they go home. You can go to Tanjong, Siloso or Palawan on Sentosa for an easy day. At Palawan there’s also a fantastic pirate ship splash park ideal for under 10’s. Check the website for opening times. Whilst you’re there you can maybe do one or two of the attractions that you may have missed on day 8.

Day 14

Take a day off today and let your guests relax in the sun whilst they get ready to leave. Again a pool is a bonus here. If you’re feeling generous (which you may not be after two weeks) you could offer to take the kids out to a park to give the parents some space to pack.

Or…

If the family that are coming to stay are feeling adventurous suggest a few days away somewhere like Bintan. There are many resorts and hotels to choose from and gives people a different taste of Asia. It’s only 45 minutes by ferry so you can do it over a long weekend – we’ve even done just two days.

bintan beach games

Take a break from Singapore and hop on the ferry to Bintan for a few days. Simple laid back fun.

Other options a bit further afield are Thailand, Malaysia, Batu Batu and so on. As long as it’s within a 2 hour flight or 5 hour drive it’s worth it I think.

By doing this it takes the pressure off you as a host too as feels more like a holiday. Alternatively if you are working or your kids are at school the family may want to take a few days away on their own. Give them lots of ideas before they come and let them decide. It may even be they treat themselves to a couple of nights at one of the hotels here in Singapore.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:
Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo – both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version:
family visiting If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button and comment at the bottom of this post.

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

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When your best friends come to visit…

Five day Itinerary with friends – no kids

Teapot cocktail, Bitters & Love

It will be cocktail o’clock when your best friends come to visit

Day 1

AmTanjong Beach. Take a towel and just sit and take in the strangely relaxing scenery of ships, tankers and the like. Have a dip if you like and just catch up. Don’t rush too much as everyone is just catching their breath. Then after an hour or so – or more if you have sun worshippers visiting – head for brunch at the Marina. I like Em for a good breakfast and if you’ve got kids in tow they can play on the pirate ship playground whilst you enjoy a chat with your friends. Another favourite spot that I’d go to any time of the day is Coastes – quick service and you get to sit on the beach.

PM – Walk around Sentosa – I would always get the free tram to Beach Station and go to Merlion Walk and show guests the magnificent Merlion that takes pride of place there. You can even go inside and up to its head for some stunning views of Sentosa and the surrounding area. There are a whole list of other things to do on Sentosa here. More info on Sentosa on my blog post.

Evening depends on how tired everyone is but a relaxed dinner at home is always a good way to round of day 1. You can always grab some hawker food if you are short of time (or cooking skills!)

The Luge, Sentosa, Singapore

The Luge is somewhere you should take your friends – and just pray you make it down without any ‘accidents’ of any kind. Great for a giggle and the hats are a great solution to frizzy hair!

Day 2

AMBoat trip on the river. Start at Clarke Quay. Get off at Clifford Pier to see the original Merlion at Merlion Park. Perfect photo opportunities here – if you don’t know what you’re doing take some tips from those around you. Then walk down to the Fullerton Bay Hotel and go in to reception. Not only is it a respite from the heat but it’s beautiful decor and peaceful feel will take your breath away. And don’t worry, you can just wander in as it’s a public walkway. Once you’ve taken in the sights around there, jump back on a boat and get off at Esplanade. More details on Clarke Quay boat trips here.

PM – Have a quick look at The Esplanade and get some pics of the Grand Prix Track from its roof, then walk towards Marina Bay Sands crossing the stunning Helix Bridge. You can stop for lunch around the Esplanade or eat at one of the many places at MBS (I love TWG  for some good old-fashioned elegance or there’s plenty of other options including a not too pricey food centre on the lower floor. Now grab your head for heights and go on up to the Sky Park for the most stunning views of Singapore. This is where your guests will get the see what the city is about – and they stretch their neck enough, can gawp at those in the famous infinity pool (no entry if you’re not a guest I’m afraid). You can stop at Ce La Vie for a quick drink – a good way to relax whilst taking in the view.

On the way home it’s time to head to Raffles. Everybody who has visited us here has this at the top of their ‘must do’ list. It may be a bit of a tourist trap and overpriced, but it is so reminiscent of a bygone era it’s worth it. It’ll only take an hour (if there’s not a queue) and is a good way to round of the day. Of course, you have to go to the Long Bar and have a Singapore Sling, but also have a look around the Courtyard and in the gift shop. Some lovely take home gifts there. * NB The Long Bar and much of the hotel is closed for renovations at the moment (October 2017) so check the website before you go.

Evening – After a freshen up and some down time back at home or the hotel it’s time to head for cocktails somewhere swanky. My favourite spot is The Lantern Bar. Pricey but worth it for the view and the atmosphere. Other places to consider are Smoke & Mirrors, Ce La Vie or Zafferanos. All offer great views.

Views from the Lantern Bar, Singapore

Great photo opportunities for your friends at The Lantern Bar and it’s always a ‘wow’ moment when the lift doors open.

Or if you fancy it head to one of the more hip places like Jigger & Pony, Operation Dagger or Bitters & Love is my personal fave. You can snack whilst drinking your cocktails as most places in Singapore offer bar snacks which are usually more than substantial if you’ve had a big lunch!

Day 3

AM & PM -Time to relax. Jet lag will kick in on day 3 so give your guests the day off. If you are a member of a club, head there for a day around the pool. Have a relaxed lunch, maybe even a spa treatment if you can.  A condo pool or house pool would do the trick too – ask friends if you don’t have one and are not a member anywhere – or take advantage of most clubs free two weeks/one month membership whilst you have guests.

Evening  Having spent the day relaxing, head out early to Gardens By The Bay – my absolute favourite touristy thing to do in Singapore as you’ll read here. The Singing Trees do their stuff at 7:45 and 8:45 every night. 

Supertree Grove at night

I have seen these beauties a dozen times or more and still love it. An absolute must do!

Pay the minimum charge (about $20 per person) and go to the top of the main tree and have a drink, it’s worth it – the views are stunning, especially as the city lights up at night. They do some pretty tasty snack up there too if you get hungry. The Indochine restaurant – which is a floor lower than the rooftop bar, is great if you want to splash out on dinner.  But I would go for something a little less heavy on the wallet and wander over to Sate By The Bay after the light show and try some of the best local food around. Don’t miss out on the Pork Belly or Sate.

Day 4

AM – Book a walking tour. I love Betel Box tours and highly recommend their China Town Food Tour. It’s really informative and takes you to places you wouldn’t necessarily know about, as well as the obvious spots. Of course, it’s all dependent on what day this is and what they have scheduled but get in early and you can work your itinerary around them. They do offer private tours too which although more expensive, actually may be worth it to do what you want.

Local hawker food at China Town

Just one of the many dishes you’ll try on the Betel Box food tour – the every popular Chicken rice.

PM – Depending on how everyone feels as walking around in this humidity can really get to you, the afternoon can be spent wandering around the markets in China Town – all the cheap touristy gifts can be found here. Arab Street and Little India also are good places for this.

Evening dinner should be somewhere relaxed, one of your favourite local dining spots maybe, or a club. Let your friends see what you do and where you’d go.

Day 5

AM – Time for some history. Either head to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Fort Siloso or my recommendation would be Changi War Museum. A great way to learn about the history of Singapore and a good end to a hectic week.

PM – Take some down time to sit and chat, after all, they’ll be gone before you know it. Make tea, put your feet up and just enjoy them being there. They’ll also need to think about packing, dependent on what time they leave tomorrow.

Evening – time to get your glad rags and show them how it’s done in Singapore. ‘Dinner up high’ is an absolute must and tell your friends to allow for this in their budget as it doesn’t come cheap. Artemis has the best food, great view and fab bar in my opinion, but there’s also Level 33, Zafferano’s, Mandarin Oriental, Ce La Vie (you will need to take out a mortgage though!), Me @ Oui, to name but a few.

 

These are just ideas for a five-day itinerary with friends and is pretty packed. Obviously you can miss things out or swap things around. For example, it may be that it pours down one day and you have to do the museum on day two instead. Be flexible but try to have a plan of some sort. That way your friends will leave feeling like they’ve seen something of this amazing island. Talking of rain, don’t assume rain stops play – as you’ll know once you’ve lived here a while, it can be raining one side of the street, and not the other. Plus, it’s very often short-lived. Just take a brolly and get on with it.

Other places to visit that you can swap in are:

Orchard Road – I’ve missed out shopping on here as it bores me, but if you have a shopaholic visiting you must of course visit the shopping district – Ion, Paragon etc. Botanic Gardens – a beautiful and relaxing stroll for as long or short as you like.
National Museum – in fact any museum! The Peranakan is one of my faves.
Singapore Zoo both during the day and at night (the Night Safari is very popular).
Gardens By The Bay – either just wander around the huge gardens and/or go into the flower dome or cloud dome (take a jumper, it’s chilly in there!)
Pulau Ubin – to see a bit of how Singapore used to be. Ideal for mountain bike enthusiasts.
Cable Car over to Sentosa.
Jurong Bird Park.
Kent Ridge Park – or any of the other parks, especially early morning to catch a taste of what the locals do to keep fit.
Trick Eye museum – there are two in Singapore, one on Sentosa and one Suntec. Both great fun and a must for all Instagram addicts.

The list goes on and on…

Here’s a printable PDF version. If you do print out this free itinerary please don’t forget to click the ‘like me’ button on the side of the page and comment below.

5 day with friends

Take a look at the other itineraries for more information on the above or more ideas.

The island of fun

Bear with me whilst I have a little meander down memory lane won’t you?

Years ago when I was young, free and full of bullshit, err…I mean adventurous spirit, my BFF and I decided to give up our jobs, our homes (well, I left mine with my then boyfriend) and our families to travel to the wonderful land of Oz. We booked our flight and didn’t pay much attention to the stop over destination. We just agreed that a few days in some place called Singapore would be an ok idea.

I remember getting off the aeroplane, finding the bus stop then walking for miles looking for a hostel. We checked in to a not-so-great looking place where flip flops were a necessity when visiting the bathroom and downstairs was a cafe frequented all through the night by labourers. I have no idea to this day where we stayed I just remember my friend fell down one of the storm drains whilst we were crossing the road and I thought this was hilarious. What I do remember is taking the cable car one day across to Sentosa Island. We only went there as it was in the tourist guide and there didn’t seem much else to do (sharp intake of breath from everyone).

SilosoBeachSentosa

Siloso beach as I remember it.

It was all very low key. Some kind of nature walk and a mono rail, but that was pretty much it. What stands out  in my memory was discovering the ‘beach’. A line of palm trees in front of the Rasa hotel through which was the merest hint of sand. Walking through the trees revealed this magic patch of sand with a few straw umbrellas dotted around. My friend and I whiled away an hour or two chatting, planning, bullshitting no doubt. But it was lovely. Peaceful, serene even. And yes, there were tankers sailing by just across the way. That was 1996.

Years later, with a husband (the aforementioned house sitting boyfriend no less), a couple of children and a whole life time on I came back to Sentosa. We were there, again on a stopover to Oz. In that weird way that life has, we were actually on our way to visit my BFF who had never left Sydney all those years before. After saying ‘see you up the coast’ as she had a job that was keeping her in Sydney for a few more weeks, we bid farewell. Then my BFF met and fell in love with her now hubby and never made it.

giant-merlion-on-sentosa

The mighty Merlion

Anyway, I digress. So, there I  was with my little family and the beach was just as I remembered really – the line of palm trees, the patch of sand with the umbrellas shading just a few people, all still fairly low key. Except it was now called Siloso Beach, well that patch of it was anyway. This was 2004.

By this time there was also the aquarium on Sentosa – a big shiny attraction with dolphins to swim with, huge tanks, petting pools and so on. There was also a few other things to see such as the musical fountain and a butterfly park, there were a few restaurants dotted along the beaches too. There was even a tram that could take you from one end to the other.

My hubby, myself and our two young boys – took the tram to visit the Merlion. This 37m towering giant was a sight to behold – and a sight that catches your eye as you enter Sentosa across the causeway bridge. Well, it used to – more of that later. Night or day it looks amazing. Standing proud of all of its surroundings. Well, it used to – but more of that later! 

We went up to the observation deck at the top of the Merlion’s head, stood and roared in its mouth and had the obligatory tourist shot taken. We went back at night too when the Merlion takes on a whole new feel with it’s beady eyes shooting out laser beams, and its mermaid scales that twinkle with thousands of lights as the water gushing around it sparkles.

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A stroll along Merlion walk. 2007.

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The original Siloso

I know, I’m a little bit in love with the Merlion.

From that visit though it didn’t seem that that much had changed on Sentosa apart from the odd new place to eat and things were a bit more polished for the tourists. A few years later though and it was a whole new story.

With hubby’s work now bringing him to Singapore more and more we would come with him on work based holidays. By now we had a new addition to the family too. So, he’d work for a week whilst me and the kids holidayed – hubby would then join us for a week. Each time we chose to stay on Sentosa. Each time it changed a little bit more. First, the restaurants grew, then a few more attractions were being advertised – Songs of The Sea, Images of Singapore and so on. Then, my husband heard the rumours that there was going to be a Universal Studios resort built there. This was around 2008.

What? On our lovely serene Sentosa. Don’t be daft.

The next year when we visited we could see the skeleton of what was to become this mammoth building project taking shape. I didn’t like it.

After a few years of being away, in 2012 we returned and the change was amazing. In fact, it was jaw dropping. My husband had given us updates each time he’d been over. That the park was pretty much taking over the whole of Sentosa. That you could see it as you came up towards Sentosa Gateway.  That it was now a fully fledged tourist attraction. But nothing could prepare us for this amazing new mini town with its huge fairy tale castle, sky scraping hotels and  hair-raising rides, restaurants, shows and much more.

You could see it as you drove across the causeway. In fact, it kind of hits you around the gob full on.  And here I quietly stifle a sob.IMG_1257

My poor majestic Merlion no longer stands proud and tall over Sentosa. Instead, he has been hidden away behind the buildings, rides and general stuff that make up a world famous theme park. Now, you’re lucky to spot him as you drive around the bend towards the beach.

But, I have to say, it is spectacular and for Singapore it does add an element that was missing. Or, an element that tourists couldn’t see or find before so easily. Fun!

Nowadays if you head to Sentosa you are going knowing full well you’ll be spending the day having fun. Whether it’s visiting the Images of Singapore exhibition (wonderful), skimming the treetops on the 450m long megazip ride (my Son tells me it’s amazing), flying down the luge (the best fun ever), cooling down at the Port of Lost Wonder (great for younger kids), watching the stunning water and laser show (worth the $15 or so) or meandering around the butterfly park (good fun).

There is so much to do you need a whole weekend at least. And that’s without stopping for food. On that note, a mention to one of our favourite spots in Singapore – Coastes restaurant. The best place to kick off your shoes, sink your feet in the sand, grab something cold to drink and chill. We go there often on a Sunday after taking our dog for his Sunday morning dip at Tanjong Beach. The fish and chips is always fab, the all day brekkie is good too.

USSAnd what of Universal Studios; Singapore’s answer to Disney land? It is fab, I can’t deny it. My kids love it and would go every weekend if they could. It has some great rides, is clean, well laid out, easy to access and never so busy you want to scream (well not much anyway). It does add an element to Singapore that was perhaps missing. I just wish they’d given some more thought to the poor old Merlion and his view. Still, he seems quite happy as he now has an even sparklier walk up to see him.

And, this, as it turns out is just part one of my Sentosa story. A friend of mine recently moved to Sentosa so I went for a little wander around the residential area one day whilst waiting for her to let me in for a cuppa. Oh my. It’s a whole new world! And, there’s another story…

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I couldn’t resist it…. 2014