Today is Deepavali, so first off lots of love, light and happiness to you all! And you know what else that means…it’s public holiday time! Woop! We know that sometimes thinking up new ideas of what to do on public holidays can be tough (heavens, sometimes just thinking about what to do on a regular day can be exhausting), so we’ve put together our top 10 ideas of Deepavali activities to keep the whole family happy.
Firstly, just a quick recap of what Deepavali (sometimes called Diwali) is, just in case you didn’t catch our guide to Deepavali for families already. The five-day festival is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains worldwide and the date each year is dictated by the Hindu lunar calendar.
While each faith has its own legend behind the origins of the festival, the most popularly accepted is that of Lord Rama and his wife Sita: the power couple who defeated the demon king, Ravanna. By kicking the demon’s butt, they were finally able to return to their kingdom after a 14-year exile, and the homecoming in Ayodhya, Northern India became the first celebration of Deepavali. Earthen diyas (oil lamps) and fire crackers galore filled the city to not only welcome home Lord Rama and his awesome wife, but to also celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Hence Deepavali being known as the festival of lights.
1. Enjoy the colour and crowds in Little India
While Deepavali celebrations mostly take place in homes, Little India is where the hub of public celebrations will be happening. We’re the first ones to say it…if you’re not into crowds (especially with kids and prams), Little India will not be the place for you on the Deepavali holiday. Otherwise, head on down to experience the festive transformation of Little India’s bustling streets into an exotic wonderland of colours, a myriad of twinkling lights and larger-than-life decor.
We suggest catching the MRT and jumping off at Little India station. You can then head to the Deepavali Festival Village, in all its lively, colourful energy. This festive bazaar offers ornamental decorations, festive cookies, traditional sweet delicacies, offering a unique cultural experience for visitors. And if you’ve been meaning to try out a parrot to predict your fortune, well you’re in luck: look out for the parrot astrologers who will pick out tarot cards to give you a bird’s eye view into your future…
Deepavali Festival Village, Campbell Lane and Hastings Road, open from 10am until 10pm
Then head to the POLI site on Hindoo Road, where you’ll see a vibrant Rangoli art installation. Some of Singapore’s most prominent voluntary welfare organisations have contributed colourful designs to inspire you to express yourself and bring communities together.
Project Oasis in Little India (POLI), 1 Hindoo Rd, Singapore 209105
If all that walking has got you hungry, head to one of the many restaurants in Little India. Race Course Road is teeming with food outlets serving up traditional Deepavali dishes like lentil curry, potato varuval and the deliciously sweet payasam. If you fancy a snack along the way, popular Deepavali treats include mithai and the glorious deep-friend pakoras. You really can’t go wrong!
If you’re keen to hang around to catch the beautiful Deepavali street decor and lights, head to Serangoon Road, Kinta Road and Race Course Road. The lights will be on display until 25th November, if you don’t fancy the crowds on the Deepavali holiday. Since its beginning in 1988, the Little India light up has grown into the spectacular light show it is today, with the streets transformed by thousands of colourful lights. The lights come on at 7pm and stay illuminated until midnight.
Deepavali lights, Serangoon Road and Kinta Road, from 7pm until midnight
2. Get crafty at the Singapore Philatelic Museum
We love the Singapore Philatelic Museum on a regular day (it’s fun, cool and free…what’s not to love?), so it’s extra good news that this public holiday, it’s hosting a Deepavali Open House from 10am until 7pm. There’s various activities on the go, like a colourful Deepavali craft session from 10am until 1pm (small donation requested) and a youth performance of songs from The Little Prince opera at 1pm.
Singapore Philatelic Museum, 23-B Coleman Street, Singapore 179807, www.spm.org.sg
3. Say hello to the elephants at Singapore Zoo
During Deepavali you may have spotted the enormous replica elephants and peacocks dotted around Little India. Hindu tradition regards Elephants as symbols of royalty and abundance and peacocks represent victory, love and wisdom, so why not head to Singapore Zoo to see some real elephants this Deepavali holiday? We’re also reliably informed that while there are officially no peacocks at the zoo, you may spot them in the carpark! The zoo is a winner for early risers, with its doors open at 8.30am every day – just enough time for mum and dad to grab an early morning coffee and then head out to Mandai!
Singapore Zoo, 80 Mandai Lake Rd, Singapore 729826, www.wrs.com.sg
4. Catch the peacocks at Jurong Bird Park
If you’ve not been to the Jurong Bird Park, you are totally missing out. We think it’s one of the happiest places in Singapore, with loads of beautiful birds (of course), a well maintained water play area and playground and fun live shows. It’s pram-friendly and you can tackle the whole thing in two or three hours, or spend a whole day there, if you fancy it: there’s plenty to see. And in honour of Deepavali, keep your eyes open for the beautiful peacocks. As with the zoo, Jurong Bird Park opens at 8.30 every day.
Jurong Bird Park, 2 Jurong Hill, Singapore 628925; www.wrs.com.sg
5. Dinner and Bollywood dancing delights
Singapore stalwart Relish.SG is hosting a a Deepavali party, complete with twelve delicious Indian, Malay and Sri Lankan influenced dishes, like Parsi apricot chicken and Keralan prawns in hot tamarind sauce. And to make it even more fun for older kids, there’ll be a Bollywood performance, with Indian classical and folk fused with elements of jazz, hip-hop, Arabic and Latin forms.
Relish.SG, 116 Serangoon North Avenue 1, #04-513, Singapore 550116; www.relish.sg
6. More night lights at Rainforest Lumina
If you’re willing to delay bedtime a bit but aren’t quite brave enough to head in to see the Little India lights, this is a brilliant Deepavali holiday outing. Described as a ‘multimedia night walk on the wild side’, Rainforest Lumina is part art installation, part magic. With loads of different immersive displays, light shows and interactive elements, this is sure to entertain kids and grown ups. Rainforest Lumina is located within Singapore Zoo and the first entry is at 7.30pm.
Rainforest Lumina, 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826; www.rainforestlumina.wrs.com.sg
7. Escape the hustle on an island adventure to Pulau Ubin
If you weren’t able to extend the Deepavali holiday into a long weekend, you can do your best to pretend you’re having an island getaway by visiting Pulau Ubin. You’ll feel a million miles from the urban hustle, but it’s actually only a very easy ten minute bumboat ride away. As soon as you step onto this charming island, you’ll feel like you’re on a holiday. Hire bikes for the whole crew and head off on a family adventure – from an easy pedal around the island to a more adventurous jungle hike, there’s something for everyone (including toilets and cold drinks)
Pulau Ubin is accessible by bumboat ($3 per passenger each way), which leaves from Changi Point Ferry Terminal
8. Try some traditional Deepavali crafts at home
Fancy a lazy day at home for the public holiday? We hear ya. In addition to lots of napping, movies, snacking and maybe a swim, you could indulge in a bit of Deepavali-inspired craft for the kiddos. Quite possibly the most visually appealing cultural celebration, Deepavali offers up lots of fun, colourful activities for the kids to try at home. The glorious internet is full of kids’ Deepavali craft ideas, like painting old CDs and hanging them to reflect light, homemade Rangolis (all you need is rice and food colouring…and a dustpan for afterwards!), paper lanterns and cardboard tealight holders. We’ve also done a roundup of our favourite easy Deepavali crafts that you can do with the kiddos.
9. Istana Open House
The Istana is the official residence and office of Singapore’s first female president, Halimah Yacob. Meaning “palace” in Malay, the Istana is where she receives and entertains state guests. The Istana is also the working office of the Prime Minister of Singapore.
You may have driven past it and not even known it! Nestled beautifully along Orchard Road, the sprawling grounds of the Istana are opened to the public on select public holidays throughout the year, including Deepavali. Visitors can tour the grounds and selected rooms of the Istana Main Building, enjoy various performances and even have a picnic. Last time we visited they had a band and there was kids’ play equipment set up on the lawn too!
In our opinion, this is a Singapore bucket list item – something not to be missed, so get there bright and early to avoid any queues. Gates open at 8.30am and entrance is free for Singaporeans and PRs. For everyone else there’s a $2 admission fee.
The Istana, Orchard Rd, Singapore 238823; www.istana.gov.sg
10. Find somewhere to stay cool
We’re totally crushing on icy cold places right now. Anywhere that stops us from sweating and keeps the kids happy, right? Public holidays for most of us mean both parents are on hand to help out, so you could consider heading to one of Singapore’s cooler spots, like the waterslides at Wild Wild Wet (our all time fave Singapore happy place), Snow City or ice skating at Kallang Leisure Park or The Rink in Jurong.
Top image: McKay Savage via Flickr
Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:
Deepavali in Singapore 2018: guide to the Festival of Lights for families
10 Singapore foods we crave when we’re overseas
Guide to all the festivals we celebrate in Singapore
Sweat, wet patches and heat rash, oh my! How to handle the heat in Singapore