MARIANNE ROGERSON reveals the best ways to spend three days in Singapore
There is so much to do in Singapore with kids that trying to narrow it down into three days can be tricky. If you have small kids, you might need to slow it down a little, and if you have the time you could easily (and should) stretch this into a four or even five-day itinerary, and allow yourselves some downtime at your hotel pool, because as we all know Singapore is hot, hot, hot!
DAY 1 – Singapore Zoo, Chinatown and the Colonial District
Visit the Singapore Zoo in the morning, and take in a bit of Singapore culture by visiting Chinatown and the Colonial District.
Morning – Singapore Zoo
Forget another boring hotel breakfast buffet – this morning have breakfast with the orangutans at Singapore Zoo! Singapore Zoo is awesome, and highly regarded as one of the best zoos in the world. There is an enormous amount to take in here – 2,530 animals from 315 species are housed within the 28 hectares. However, if you get to the zoo for opening time and have breakfast with the orangutans, you should still have time to see most of the animals, and even have a quick cool-off play in the Rainforest Kidzworld waterpark before heading back to town for lunch.
Lunchtime – Dim Sum
Grab a taxi from the zoo and get them to drop you in Chinatown for lunch. Chinatown is a bustling and fun part of town, and Yum Cha is a great choice for a kid-friendly restaurant here, to enjoy a dim sum feast in an authentic setting. Tucked away at the top of a hidden staircase, this popular restaurant packs in local families and passing tourists, creating a buzzing and convivial atmosphere.
Afternoon – Chinatown and a River Cruise
You are now ideally located to explore Chinatown and introduce your kids to a bit of Singapore culture. Wander the streets to admire the beautifully preserved heritage shophouses (see the Chinatown walking tour), and shop for souvenirs amongst the street stalls and tiny boutiques on Pagoda St. Call in at the Chinatown Heritage Centre to take a journey through the lives of the Chinese immigrants who flooded into Singapore throughout the 19th century, or visit the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum to learn about the life and teachings of Buddha.
Don’t miss a visit to the wet market in the basement of the Chinatown Complex to see where the locals shop for their fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, spices and seafood. Keep an eye out for the buckets of live frogs, eels and turtles for sale!
You should now have time to squeeze in a quick river cruise. The best place to pick up the boat is Merlion Park, and over a relaxing 40-minutes you will get to take in the sights of Singapore’s Colonial District, Marina Bay and Central Business District.
Dinner – local street food
You can’t visit Singapore without enjoying a meal in a Hawker Centre – the city’s version of street food. There are Hawker Centres all over Singapore, but two of our favourites are Lau Pa Sat and Makansutra Gluttons Bay – both are within easy reach of Singapore River.
DAY 2 – Sentosa Island
The second day of our itinerary is all about Sentosa Island – Singapore’s ‘playground’ and home to many of Singapore’s best family-friendly attractions.
Morning – Universal Studios
Southeast Asia’s only Universal Studios theme park, at Resorts World Sentosa, is a super fun family day out with movie-themed rollercoasters, rides and attractions. Highlights include the Shrek 4-D Adventure, Madagascar: a Crate Adventure, Transformers The Ride – a hyper-realistic 3D thrill ride, and Battlestar Galactica – the world’s tallest duelling roller coaster ride. Book your tickets online, arrive early and make sure you get the Universal Express Pass, and you can be done by lunchtime. Read all our tips for making the most of your visit in the Tips for Universal Studios chapter.
Lunchtime – noodles and dumplings
There are plenty of eating options inside Universal Studios – but why settle for a lacklustre burger when you can indulge in some fabulous noodles and dumplings and one of Singapore’s best loved restaurants, Din Tai Fung? Handily located between Universal Studios and the Southeast Asia Aquarium, Din Tai Fung dishes up a wide range of soups, appetisers, dumplings and rice dishes, but the restaurant is most famous for its Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai pork dumplings).
Afternoon – Southeast Asia Aquarium or Adventure Cove Waterpark
With more than 100,000 marine creatures from over 800 species spanning 49 different habitats, it is hard not to be impressed by the SEA Aquarium. There’s a shipwreck to marvel at, tunnels to walk through and gaze at the sharks, touch pools for discovering knobbly sea stars, and then the grand finale: the Open Ocean – a panoramic marine vista complete with manta rays, sharks, and goliath grouper. If you prefer to get wet and wild, then right next door to the SEA Aquarium is Adventure Cove Waterpark. The kids will love all the waterslides here, including Riptide Rocket, Southeast Asia’s first hydro-magnetic roller coaster (a slide that takes riders upwards). There’s also a wave pool and a 620m-long Adventure River inner tube ride, and even a small reef for snorkelling on.
Note that many of the rides at Adventure Cove Waterpark have a minimum height restriction of 122cm, so with small kids the Aquarium is a better option.
Dinner – at the beach
End your day at the beach! There are lots of child-friendly eating options down at the beach on Sentosa, where the kids can play in the sand and even swim in the pool at some beach bars. Popular options include Tanjong Beach Club, FOC Sentosa, Coastes and Ola Beach Club.
DAY 3 – Little India and Gardens by the Bay
Visit one of Singapore’s most colourful districts, Little India, before heading to the Gardens by the Bay to admire those famous super trees.
Morning – Little India
Little India is the most vibrant and colourful part of Singapore, and home to several spectacular temples and bustling shops selling everything from gold jewellery, to Hindi music CDs, cheap clothing and souvenirs. Don’t miss the fabulous wet market in the Tekka Centre.
Lunch – Masala Dosa or a Fish Head Curry
The restaurants in Little India attract locals and visitors alike who flock here in search of a good quality curry. For a light lunch, track down Komala Vilas at number 12/14 Buffalo Rd and order the Masala Dosa with a ginger tea to wash it down. For something more substantial, don’t miss out on one of Singapore’s most famous dishes: fish head curry. Both Banana Leaf Apolo (54 Race Course Rd) and Muthu’s Curry (138 Race Course Rd) are renowned for their cuisine. If you can’t face the thought of eating a fish head, there are plenty of other delicious options on the menu too!
Afternoon – Gardens by the Bay
The 100ha Gardens by the Bay is a beautiful park to explore and is home to over a quarter of a million rare plants. The most famous attraction in Gardens by the Bay, is the super trees, which have achieved iconic status since they were introduced in 2012. An elevated walkway connects two of the larger super trees (not for those with a fear of heights!), giving panoramic aerial views over the gardens. Be sure to check out the two climate-controlled conservatories: The Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Both are fun to explore and make for a welcome break from Singapore’s heat and humidity. Finish your visit at the water play area, where the kids can cool off. Don’t forget to pack their swimmers! Note that the water play area is closed on Mondays.
Dinner – chilli crab
It’s time for another iconic Singapore dish – chilli crab, the country’s unofficial national dish. The most popular place to enjoy this spicy tangy dish is at the East Coast Seafood Centre, where you’ll find a cluster of open-air seafood restaurants facing out to sea. If you are staying in the city and don’t fancy the trek out east, then Jumbo Seafood at Clarke Quay is a popular in-town choice.