Let’s face it, Manila isn’t the first place one would choose to travel with kids. When you’re travelling to the Philippines with little ones in tow, you’d probably think of heading to one of its gorgeous islands its share of amazing beaches. But if you do find yourself in the bustling capital of the Philippines, you’ll find that there’s actually heaps of cool things for kids of all ages to do and see. Is it the prettiest city in the world? No. Is it a bit rough around the edges? Yes. But from awesome weekend markets to fun farms, indoor playgrounds to an amazing educational museum, there’s definitely a generous dose of culture and plenty of fun for fams to be had in Manila.
How to get there
Both Singapore Airlines and Philippine Airlines have direct flights to Manila everyday. And there’s no need to splurge either: budget airlines such as Cebu Pacific Air, Scoot and Jetstar also fly to Manila daily. Once you’re on the plane, it’s a quick three and a half hour flight to Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
When to go
Manila’s monsoon season runs from June to September. We suggest avoiding travelling to Manila at this time because it is notorious for heavy flooding and traffic. Not fun.
Where to stay
Take a look at hotels in Makati or Bonifacio Global City (BGC) because they’re usually within walking distance to restaurants and shopping malls. Our favourites are the Shangri-La at The Fort Hotel in BGC which is perfectly located for the Adventure Zone indoor playground, or Manila Peninsula in Makati for their exceptional service (and delicious buffet).
What to do
Go wild in a playground for kids of all ages at PLAY at Okada Manila
Short for “Purposeful Learning and Activities for the Young”, PLAY promises an afternoon full of fun. What makes it different from your typical play area is that it’s got dedicated learning programmes like music and movement as well as art and crafts. PLAY also has eight purpose-built play areas or neighbourhoods with their own themes – pretty cool stuff, we think! And when you’re done with all the playground fun, nab yourself a spot to watch the fountain show (it’s prettiest during night time).
PLAY at Okada Manila, New Seaside Drive, Entertainment City, Paranaque
Get your explorer hats on and learn about Manila’s culture and history with a day trip to the walled old town of Intramuros. We suggest taking a calesa ride (horse and cart) around the area to find out more about the heart of Manila’s history. When you’re done with your calesa ride, ask the driver to drop you off at Fort Santiago – it’s a great place for kids to explore with tons of creepy corners and old ramparts to climb. Don’t forget to check out the museums in the area (there are a bunch). We particularly loved Casa Manila, a museum dedicated to the life of an aristocrat from the Spanish colonial era: it’s pretty cool and makes for a great couple of hours of exploration and adventure. When you’re done taking in the sights, stop by super quaint Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant for a halo-halo (the Philippines’ answer to Singapore’s ice kachang).
Get smart at the Mind Museum
Your little ones are bound to have an extraordinary experience at the Mind Museum with over 250 interactive exhibits, a 3D theatre, planetarium shows, experiment demos and more. Got a budding astronaut? There’s a super cool Space Adventure exhibition worth checking out for sure.
The Mind Museum, 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Pet some cute farm animals at The Fun Farm at Sta Elena
When you need a change from the city scenery, hop in the car and drive an hour or so up the South Luzon Expressway for a lovely dose of fresh air and pretty greenery at Sta Elena Fun Farm. It’s the perfect space for kids to run free and feed some animals and even ride horses. If your little ones are up to it, there’s a mini zip line too! For a super authentic farm experience, make sure you try out the carabao (water buffalo) cart rides! If you have the time it’s also got accommodation on site, so make a farm stay of it.
Sta.Elena, Barrio Malitlit, Santa Rosa, Laguna
Where to eat
The Salcedo Park Saturday Gourmet Market
If you’ve got a bunch of early birds, we suggest hitting the Salcedo Park Saturday Gourmet Market early. You’re bound to be overwhelmed by the dizzying array of food choices: melt in your mouth baklava, squid ink paella, kebabs and traditional chicken inasal (grilled chicken) with rice, just to name a few dishes we love. If you’ve got an adventurous palate, we suggest having taho (sweet silken tofu with sago and sugar syrup) or several scoops of ‘dirty’ ice cream (ube and cheese are the best flavours!). Don’t forget to take the kids to the playground after so you can burn off some calories running around after them!
When you think of Italian cafe food in Manila, Cibo is always on the top of the fam-friendly dining list. And when it comes to feeding kids, Italian food is always an easy choice (especially for fusspot little ones). With 14 branches spread across the metro (the Rockwell branch is conveniently located near the children’s section in the mall), Cibo will definitely satisfy the cravings once hunger pangs strike.
When in Manila, you must have Filipino food and Manam dishes out some of the most delish classic Filipino dishes in the city. From tangy sinigang, creamy kare-kare, sizzling crispy sisig to sinfully sweet bibingka, we’re drooling just thinking about the menu! Beware of the long queues though – Manam is notorious for its long waiting times. We suggest feeding the kids a small snack or two before getting in line! Believe us though: it’s totally worth the wait.
Cafe Mary Grace
For classic comfort food served up in a cozy setting and with outlets all over the metro, you and your family will love Mary Grace. Rock up for traditional Filipino fare, pizza, creamy pasta dishes… it’s got it all. When you’re done with your meal, don’t forget to order dessert – its ensaymada (a soft, cheesy, buttery roll sprinkled with sugar) is its best seller (and worth hoarding for the trip home to Singapore).
We love Manila, but be warned: the heavy traffic is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared to do a lot of car seat entertaining and have car spotting games at the ready! Also, most areas, apart from Makati and BGC, are not pedestrian friendly so bringing a bulky stroller isn’t recommended. Be prepared, parents.
Now go have fun in Manila!
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