The grandparents are coming to town – hooray! Once the excitement of the impending visit wears off, the panic sets in. Where can you take your more ‘mature’ loved ones to showcase just how fabulous Singapore is without them wilting at outdoor activities in the intense tropical heat? (If they need to stay cool, check out our guide to Singapore’s best places to beat the heat).
They may be here for an extended visit, and in some cases not be particularly mobile. We’ve got a great list of activities to enjoy with the oldies that will have them forgiving you for absconding overseas with the grandkids, and if not, at least understanding why you’ve chosen to call Singapore home.
Gardens by the Bay
The spectacular botanical feat that is the Gardens by the Bay is a sure-fire winner for all the family. Make a beeline under the shaded pathway directly from the Visitors’ Centre to the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest (making sure to take in the breathtaking Super Trees on route). Not only are both conservatories jam-packed with immaculately maintained flora from around the globe, their ingenious design means that they are blissfully cool. The Flower Dome has regularly changing exhibits, and the Cloud Forest features a giant waterfall and a captivating eco-warrior educational element. If you’ve got stamina reserves post-domes, let the kids have a quick frolic at the free FEO Children’s Garden water play area.
18 Marina Gardens Drive, Singapore 018953; www.gardensbythebay.com.sg.
National Gallery Singapore
The National Gallery Singapore is our favourite place to head with the kids any time of year, especially the excellent Keppel Centre for Art Education. It boasts the title of the world’s first museum dedicated to Southeast Asian modern art, so will hold plenty of appeal to the grandparents. And this summer there’s the Children’s Festival at National Gallery Singapore (until 9 Sep 2018) – think bright yellow concert halls, rope mazes and creating a masterpiece with foam noodles. All that art appreciation is sure to work up a hunger. Thankfully the National Kitchen by Violet Oon (pictured top) is there to satisfy your local food cravings with a touch of panache.
National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957; www.nationalgallery.sg
Katong Antique Centre
For an authentic glimpse into a traditional turn of the century Peranakan family home, head to Katong Antique House on East Coast Road. Nestled in the heritage neighbourhood of Joo Chiat (yes, those iconic candy-coloured shophouses) Katong Antique House is a beautifully preserved house packed to the rafters with everyday artefacts including vintage enamelware, wooden kueh molds and kebayas. The grandparents will rave about this intimate private house-turned-gallery bursting with Chinese Peranakan culture. Book a tour with the wonderfully insightful Jennifer Lim (6345 8544).
Katong Antique House, 208 East Coast Road, Singapore 428907.
CÉ LA VI bar cocktails
Zip up to the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands to CÉ LA VI once the sun goes down and indulge in a cocktail or two for an uber-impressive 360 degree view of the Singapore skyline. It’s a great vantage point to watch the nightly laser show too, but your wallet will thank you if you move on for dinner (unless it’s a super-special occasion).
CÉ LA VI L57-01, North Sky Park, Marina Bay Sands Skypark Hotel Lobby, Tower 3; www.sg.celavi.com
Fort Canning Battlebox Singapore
For history buffs with a keen interest in WWII, the Fort Canning Battlebox Singapore is a great day out. The kids will also be intrigued entering this former British underground command centre hiding under Fort Canning Hill. Now a museum, the Battlebox was the site of the British formal surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942. Entry is by guided tour only and hours are reduced on Mondays. Take a stroll around the lovely paths in Fort Canning after your tour (the height means it’s actually quite breezy) before crossing over to Clarke Quay for a refreshment or bite to eat.
2 Cox Terrace, Singapore 179622 (Fort Canning Park); www.battlebox.com.sg
For the grandparent keen on exploring local culture, you can’t get much better than a tour of the iconic Baba House (pictured top). This indigo-painted, heritage-listed shophouse has been painstakingly maintained in its original condition as an ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family. Gifted to the National University of Singapore by Agnes Tan, it offers an insight into a different time, decor and way of life.
157 Neil Rd, Singapore 088883; babahouse.nus.edu.sg
Another wonderful way to beat the heat but still witness a stunning Singapore wildlife reserve, is to opt for the nocturnal Night Safari. Doors open at 7.15pm, with animal enthusiasts lining up for the first Creatures of the Night Show from 7pm. Head out early and grab a bite to eat while enjoying the high-octane Thumbuakar fire show (first performance is at 7pm, with food outlets open from 5.30pm). Once you’ve laughed at and cheered on the cute Creatures of the Night, relax and enjoy the commentary on the train as it weaves its way past the natural enclosures of the night safari animals (our favourite was the lion!). Buy tickets online to score up to 15 per cent off the regular ticket price.
80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826; www.nightsafari.com.sg.
The National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
As Singapore’s first (and only) UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is an absolute must (particularly for the grandmas). It can get a little hot and sweaty amongst all those palms, however. Pack a drink bottle and head directly to the National Orchid Garden (past the iconic swan lake and gazebo on the hill, of course). Enjoy the national emblem in all its bloom, and the delightful cool mist and air in the Winter Zone.
Cool Zone, National Orchid Garden, Central Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569; www.nparks.gov.sg
Singapore River Cruise
Jump aboard the Singapore River Cruise for a traditional bumboat guided tour. The journey will take you through the bustling restaurant district of Clarke Quay, alongside the quintessentially Singaporean shop houses of Boat Quay, past the Merlion and the architectural feat of Marina Bay Sands. The whole family will have a ball on the 40-minute journey, especially if you go early evening when the temperatures are cooler and the night comes alive.
Singapore River Cruise, Jetties from Robertson Quay to Marina Barrage (but best is Clarke Quay with ticketing counter); www.rivercruise.com.sg.
Tiong Bahru Wet Market
Rise with the roosters’ crow and head en masse to the Tiong Bahru Wet Market. Immerse your respected elders in the fresh sights, sounds and scents of this buzzing local marketplace. Pick up organic fruit and veg, local delights, stunning freshly cut orchids and top-quality Australian and New Zealand beef, all at a fraction of the supermarket price. Then roll your trolley through the architecturally interesting and hip neighbourhood, and stop in at Tiong Bahru Bakery for an artisan coffee and buttery pastry before browsing through our favourite book store in Singapore, Books Actually.
Tiong Bahru Wet Market, 30 Seng Poh Road, Singapore 168898. Opens daily, 8am-12pm.
Asian Civilisations Museum
Occupying more than 14, 000 square metres of space and housing 11 galleries of artefacts, the Asian Civilisations Museum is – in a word – HUGE. It might seem a little overwhelming for the kiddos, but this culture hub has a number of gallery workshops and trails to break down the learning process. Here, grandparents can take in the fascinating history of vibrant, multi-cultural Singapore, all without raising a sweat. And after you’re done, treat yourselves to a meal at Privé at ACM – the ride-on cars in the courtyard will buy you time to indulge in a to-die-for cupcake. If the museum action goes down well with your guests, check out our guide to the best family-friendly museums and exhibits in 2018 in Singapore to plan your next adventure.
1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555; www.acm.org.sg
The folks at the S.E.A. Aquarium really weren’t messing about when they designed and built this state-of-the-art facility. It’s home to not only one of the biggest open-water habitats in the world, but also to over 100,000 aquatic animals. In delightfully air-conditioned comfort you can gaze at schools of tropical fish or dancing jellyfish, catch the playful dolphins or get close to sharp-toothed sharks and giant manta rays and electric eels.
S.E.A. Aquarium, Resorts World Sentosa, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa Island, Singapore 098269; www.rwsentosa.com
Electric Scooter or Segway Ride
For the young-at-heart grandparent with good balance, a tour on an electric scooter or Segway around the sights and sounds of Singapore could be just the ticket! Participants will be given a brief training session on operating their motorised, eco-friendly device before you zip off on your own or on a guided tour for 2-2.5 hours (around Sentosa). Your best bet is to arrange a babysitter/helper for the kids at home, and enjoy a cruise, sans kids.
Segway Tours Singapore; www.segwaytours.com.sg/tours
Chong Wen Ge Cafe and Antique Tiles Museum
To give the grandparents an authentic taste of Singapore treat them to a leisurely stroll along Telok Ayer St. Take in the majesty of the Thian Hock Kheng temple in all its splendour, and take refuge from the midday heat at the delectable and quaint Chong Wen Ge Cafe. It’s the sort of place you lose track of time, while gathered around a table with your loved ones for simple Peranakan-style comfort food: this is where you can try a great laksa or a selection of kueh for a sweet treat! Pop next door for a gander at the Antique Tiles Museum (and if grandma has fallen in love with Peranakan tiles, take home an tile coaster as a lasting memento for as little as $30).
168 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068619; Chong Wen Ge Cafe
Lunch date at Yellow Pot, Six Senses Duxton
If you’re looking for someplace quiet for an adults-only lunch date with the folks, Yellow Pot at the newly opened Six Senses Duxton is just the ticket. Nestled in a gorgeous boutique hotel along a row of shophouses, Yellow Pot takes Chinese cuisine to the next level with sharing dishes that’s sure to impress. Although a little on the pricey side, the hotel’s cosy atmosphere and heritage-style decor is an ideal intimate setting for a tasty meal. Plus, we have to admit, the signature cocktail Escape to Kaifeng made with Tanqueray gin and chrysanthemum cordial is our new favourite floral cocktail.
88 Duxton Rd, Singapore 089540; www.sixsenses.com/hotels/duxton/dining
Hit an indoor play centre
At the end of the day, we all know the grandparents visit with the primary purpose of seeing the kids, and spoiling them rotten. A sure-fire way to get into a child’s good books is to treat them to a session at in indoor play centre – preferably with a cafe on site! There are lots of (literally) cool play centres littered about Singapore where the adults can relax for a bit with a cup of tea while the kids burn off energy, such as Waka Waka at Annex @ Furama, Amazonia at Great World City, to name just a couple. We also highly recommend KidsSTOP at the Singapore Science Centre for a full day excursion.
The Changi Museum
If you’ve got an hour or two up your sleeve, brush up on your war history at the Changi Museum. Due to the nature of the exhibits (including some graphic images and harrowing stories), it’s not one for kids. However, if the grandparent in question loves history or has a connection with the army/war, they will enjoy examining old war relics, artefacts and artwork from interned prisoners. You can even light a candle of remembrance in the church built as a replica of the one constructed by the POWs. While entry is free, you may get more out of the experience with a guided tour or audio guide.
The Changi Museum, 1000 Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707; www.changimuseum.sg.
High Tea or Sunday Brunch at a five-star hotel
Singapore is blessed with some of the most unbelievably decadent dining to be found on planet Earth. If the grandparents’ visit falls over a weekend, book them in for a free-flow French champagne buffet at an international hotel. We’ve nailed ultimate guides for both Saturday brunches in Singapore and Sunday free-flow buffets with bubbly for your perusal, and can also personally vouch for the concept of high tea. It’s indulgent, but worth the splurge with your nearest and dearest. Our pick is the Heritage Dim Sum Brunch at the Clifford Pier at the Fullerton Bay Hotel where you can sample local delights (like chilli crab and rojak) in air-conditioned style.
Newton Hawker Centre
At the other end of the scale to a five-star brunch or CÉ LA VI cocktail both in terms of price and vibe, is a local feast at Newton Hawker Centre. Think Singaporean signatures such as chicken rice, oyster omelette and chilli stingray: cross a few essential local eats off your must-try list (check out our top 30 Singapore dishes)! The alfresco dining is relaxing for all ages, with the kids enjoying weighing prawns, and the adults savouring ice-cold beer. It’s the perfect way to end the grandparent’s visit, and entice them to come again soon…
Newton Food Centre, 500 Clemenceau Avenue North, Singapore 229495.
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