Parents coming to stay? Not sure where to take them this time? Already exhausted your fail proof list; including Marina Bay Sands, The Night Zoo and everything in between. Yes I’ve been there, especially as my parents come with a long list of demands including… a little culture, air-con is a bonus, not too far to walk, good food, somewhere to sit, rest and not too busy (just to mention a few).
As I write this my parents have just finished their second 2-month tour of Asia, with a lot of that time spent in Singapore. I wanted to share the top places to take your visitors too, keep them entertained and to give other people a chance to get a lounger by the pool. These have all been tried-and-tested by my in laws also and are our top picks.
Guaranteed your visitors will never have seen anything like this before, it’s certainly a conversation starter and possibly the most random place I’ve ever taken anyone to in Singapore. Set up by the guys who invented Tiger Balm its a crazy theme park based on Chinese culture, history, philosophy and religion. It’s also known as Singapore’s largest outdoor art gallery, when you visit you’ll be amazed at how big it is.
It’s a tough one to describe but it’s essentially a beautiful park full of crazy sculptures and scenes to educate you about Chinese beliefs. It’s not one for kids though, in my opinion, as some of the scenes are quite harrowing. For example if you’re disobedient to your siblings, your punishment when you die will be grounding by a large stone or if you’re a money lender who charges exorbitant interest rates your fate is to be thrown onto a hill of knives. There are very graphic model scenes to hammer this home. Plus I should mention this is free to get into which always pleases parents.
Tip: Get your hands on some white Tiger Balm, it’s amazing for mosquito insect bites.
Tip: Take plenty of water as it’s on a hill and gets hot walking around.
2. Fort Siloso
If your parents are a similar age to mine it’s likely they had family members who were involved in war at some stage. Both of my granddads were in the Navy, one for Britain and one for Germany. My British grandad also came through Asia on one of his tours and was likely in Singapore. So I’m fascinated at what Singapore would’ve looked like when he was here and so was my Dad. Thus I suggest adding Fort Siloso to your list.
Firstly, it’s a free attraction, which is rare in Singapore. Secondly, they’ve done an amazing job of setting out room scenes from yester-year with music playing and voices over a speaker, it feels like you’re walking around a time-hop. Thirdly, every time we’ve been its been nice and quiet. It’s really informative on the Japanese invasion of Singapore and you’ll learn lots. You can scuttle around the tunnels and underground rooms too. Great one to take the kids along to and wear them out.
Tip: If you’re hot and bothered afterwards there is a 7-11 just around the corner by the cable car station which is always well stocked for ice-creams.
As per my previous suggest, Fort Silioso, Battlebox up at Fort Canning is also a great half day out for parents who like a bit of war history. Battlebox is a former WWII British underground command centre inside Fort Canning Hill. They do a few tours but the best for kids and grandparents is the one below. Which covers how the bunker worked and all about the Japanese invasion and the incidents which led to the surrender.
THE BATTLEBOX TOUR – A Story of Strategy & Surrender ™ (1 hour 15 minutes)
Adult: S$20 | Children (7 – 12 years): S$10
Timings (Mondays): 1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm
Timings: Tuesdays to Sundays, and Mondays which are public holidays: 9.45am, 11.00am, 1.30pm, 2.45pm, 4.00pm
Tip: It’s an easy one to send parents off in a taxi to on their own. Being easy to find and the whole bunker is nice and cool, there are a few steps but not too far to walk, unless they decide to walk all around Fort Canning Hill.
4. China Town
Always a favourite, it’s normally the first place I take visitors too. Easy to get to by cab or MRT it’s a great culture shock for when you land in Singapore. This year it’s the Chinese year of the pig, so the streets and building are adorned with cheeky dirty pigs. On the list must be a visit to the Buddha Tooth Temple and the Sri Mariamman Temple, it’s easy to get side-tracked, but do stop by the TinTin Shop or the Chinatown Heritage Museum. It’s lovely to just wonder around the shop-house lined streets, soak up the atmosphere and browse the stalls for holiday nicknacks.
Tip: on the top floor of the Buddha Tooth Temple is a roof top garden with one of the largest Buddha prayer wheels.
5. Gardens by the Bay
This place is a show stopper by day and night. Personally the Cloud Dome is my favourite to take guests into, with the huge waterfall, tree-top walks and most importantly the lack of humidity (it’s a welcome break for guests). We quite often skip the flower dome as it’s very similar to a British summer time climate and lots of flowers we’re used to seeing back home in England.
For guests who don’t like to walk far they run a shuttle tour of the gardens in English, (other languages upon prior request) and only $8 pax (per person). They’ve also just opened a new area called Floral Fantasy with 4D cinema experience. It’s always refreshing when there is something ‘new’ to explore together with guests.
If you’ve guests in town over Christmas they turn the gardens into the most amazing Christmas Market for December, snow and Santa included.
Tip: Book tickets for the Cloud Dome online in advance and you’ll get a discount and avoid the queues at the ticket booth.
6. Light show at Marina Bay Sands
My Dad said this was one of the favourite things he did and it’s better than Vegas! Just outside the Marina Bay Shoppes in the bay you’ll find a nightly light and water show. It starts at 8pm and 9.30pm (On Friday and Saturday nights, there is another show at 11pm).
If you go to the 8pm show you can walk through the hotel and get to see the light show at Gardens by the Bay too, which starts at 8.45 pm. (work out your route in advance as it gets a little tricky to get through the hotel, there is a bridge on the 6th floor which you need to take).
Tip: Get to Marina Bay in good time to bag a view from the middle, they project images onto the jets of water and you’ll be sure to see it all that way.
This is a hot option, so good for a day with a bit of cloud cover. But nestled in the middle of the Botanical Gardens is a blow-your-mum’s-socks-off Orchid Garden. It’s good for a couple of hours, with benches to sit and rest on plus lots of stunning orchid displays to view. There is a small $5 per person fee and seniors pay only $1.
Tip: To save walking through the Botanical Gardens you can get a taxi to drop you off very near to the Orchid Garden.
One that every parent should visit once on their trip. Out of the heat of the daytime sun the night zoo is certainly an experience. Older guests love it as they get to sit on the shuttle buses to view all the animals, there is also a sit down live animal show and if they still have any fuel left in the tank you can take them to see the hanging bats and flying squirrels.
If your parents are unable to stand in line to wait for the shuttle buses, there are benches at the front that they can rest on whilst you do the hard work and queue. Same goes for parents holding babies and those differently abled.
Tip: Get there early enough to see the fire dancers do a show at the main entrance.
Under the great Marina Bay Sands hotel is a stunning theatre and a refreshing alternative to the normal tourist hotspots. My mum loved an evening at the theatre with the kids.
Tip: You can sometimes luck with reasonable restricted view tickets too.
10. Bum Boat Ride
Down at Clarke Quay you can hop on a Bum Boat tour. Bumboat’s aren’t as rude as they sound, they’re small boats which were originally used to ferry supplies to ships moored away from the shore. They’ve been refurbished to take tourists on trips up and down the river now, giving great views on all the Singapore top spots; Fullerton Hotel, Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion to name a few.
Parents will love the video and audio that play whilst you’re floating along, its a really good concise history lesson on Singapore. A sensible spot to park parents is inside next to a window, as it can get really hot out on the deck.
Tip: Also ask for a one-way ticket to Marina Bay Sands which makes it easier if you’re headed up there too.
With the Keppel Children’s Art Centre to keep the kids entertained (be aware that as I write this parts of Keppel Centre are closed for updates) and the Galleries to view The National Gallery a great day out for Parents and your kids alike.
Pop up to the roof garden and sneak up to Smoke and Mirrors bar to take in their view over Marina Bay.
Tip: Look out for what time the free tours are on, they’re a great way to learn about art without having to read all the wall signs.
In my humble opinion the best time to visit Coastes is for brunch. It’s normally nice and quiet at this time plus their brunch options are reasonable. If you’re planning a relaxing day you can hang around and hire their beach beds for $20/day too. Or if your parents are feeling adventurous, you can also walk along to Palawan Beach and venture over a rope bridge to the most Southern Point of South-East Asia.
13. Spa Day in Batam, Tempat Senang
Hands down my mum’s favourite day here. She treated me to a day over in Batam at a spa. We hopped on a ferry at Harbour Front, next to Vivo and 30mins later we were being collected by our driver in Batam. He whisked us up into the hills to a secluded resort known to the ex-pat wives of Singapore as Tempat Senang.
You can choose a 3-hour or 6-hour treatment option. We went for six and I was totally relaxed by the end of the day. Our package included lunch too. Look out as on week days they offer discounts.
Tip: Try the hot herbal compress, I almost skipped it and it was my favourite of the day.
I find the cinema experiences here so much cheaper than the UK, so upgrading your parents and treating them to a Gold Class experience is one they’ll certainly remember.
15. Raffles Long Bar for a Singapore Sling
We’ve waited with anticipation for them to reopen the famous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel and it doesn’t disappoint. What a stunning renovation! We went along on a Saturday afternoon and took the kids along. They said it was the best place ever and got so excited at being able to drop the monkey nut shells on the floor whilst sipping mocktail versions of the Singapore Sling.
Tip: Avoid popular times as you have to queue to get in. Or send someone in advance to start queuing.
16. ColBar for dinner
This is a little gem which I normally like to keep secret. But ColBar is a rustic restaurant on the West Coast of Singapore. Mrs Lim who still works in the kitchen was taught by the British how to cook English food over 30 years ago and visa versa, it’s a real Chinese/British fusion.
Don’t expect table clothes but you’ll get the best chips, just like your nana used to make. Kids will be over the moon with eggs or beans on toast and your parents can pig out on ham, egg and chips or something more adventurous. We love the open space and the trees for the kids to climb.
9A Whitchurch Rd, Singapore 138839
Tip: If you fancy a little walk after dinner, head up the road and snoop at the beautiful black and white houses which surround the restaurant.
17. Pulau Ubin
I love this place so much I wrote a whole in depth blog about all it’s wonders here. But I wanted to add it here as it is really parent friendly too. This gorgeous jungle island has so far been saved from the over development the mainland has seen. You can still see Kampong life here and lots of wild animals.
If your parents are fit and healthy you could rent bikes on the main street and cycle around the island, the going is fairly flat. Or if you’d rather make an easier day of it, you can easily rent a minibus taxi to take you around the island. From memory we had our driver-come-tour-guide for about 2 hours and the cost was $70. That way you get to see all the sights and have somewhere to hide your bags from the monkeys.
Tip: Cash is king – this little island is behind the rest of Singapore and does not have any atms whatsoever, all the outlets only accept cash. So make sure you’re topped up before you get on the boat.