Singapore is the 4th most visited city in the world, according to Forbes. From food to fun, quiet activities to energetic events, there’s something for everyone. But is there a price tag to everything? Thankfully, no! In celebration of SG50 (Singapore turning 50 next year), we’ve put together a list of 50 things you can do in Singapore with the kids, without spending a single cent!
1. If you’re an 80s child, you might remember going to the Road Safety Park for school excursions. Guess what? It’s still around and open all year round. This functioning network of kid-sized infrastructure – mini roads, small traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, a sized-down petrol kiosk, overhead pass, bus stops, and vehicle inspection centres is still a thrill for children. A little imagination is required, but kids are known for having loads.
2. If your little ones find the solar system fascinating, bring them star gazing at the Singapore Science Centre Observatory. You’ll be able to look at different planets (depending on the time of year) through a huge telescope, and the moon (with a pair of powerful binoculars), and learn more about the constellations. The Observatory offers free star gazing sessions every Friday, 7.50pm to 10pm, weather permitting. Check their Facebook page for updates. * Note: The Science Centre closes at 6pm. Admission charges are applicable if you enter before this time to explore the Science Centre. Admission is free if you head directly to the Observatory for the star gazing sessions.
3. A reservoir in the middle of the city – Impossible? Nope! Marina Barrage is not only home to Singapore’s 15th reservoir (and the only city reservoir), but also a popular water play area for kids. There aren’t any fancy toys, just good ole water jets, which are guaranteed to keep your kids squealing in delight. Not up for some water play? Then head on up to the roof top for some kite flying action. Got an older kid? He might appreciate the Singapore Sustainability Gallery which showcases exhibits on environmental and water issues.
4. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is not the only place in Singapore where you can find a Tembusu tree! The Istana, located right at the heart of the city, has some too — probably over a century old! * Note: The Istana welcomes visitors on designated public holidays. Singaporeans and permanent residents enter free; other visitors pay $1. Get details on the designated dates here.
5. If you’re looking for a fun and educational venue for the kids, don’t miss the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. Set on two hectres of land, this children’s park cultivates an appreciation of plants among children. It has a treehouse, a sensory garden, a water play area, a maze, and even an area that showcases the steps of photosynthesis. Older kids may enjoy touring the garden with this free online worksheet.
6. Did you know that Singapore has four main sources of water supply (or otherwise known as the Four National Taps)? NEWater, or reclaimed water, is one of them. Find out more about more about this process through tours and workshops at the NEWater Visitor Centre. Older children (10-11 year olds) can sign up for the NEWater Scientist Programme too!
7. Are the kids saying “Mummy, I want a dog!” everyday? Visit the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to mingle with the animals there before committing to a pet. You’ll find dogs and cats, as well as smaller animals like rabbits, chinchillas and hamsters. Even if you’re not looking to adopt a pet, it’s still an eye-opening experience for kids.
8. Do you know what a cassowary is? We didn’t either until we visited Animal Resort. If you’re looking for an old kampong vibe where geese run wild and chickens roam free, this is the place to visit. The compounds are not large but big enough to house a horse, peacocks, birds, geese, a cassowary, marabou stork and there’s also a fish pond. Food for animals can be purchased at a very reasonable price.
9. When the day is nice and cool, put on your walking shoes and enjoy a walking evening with Singapore Footprints. Every Saturday and Sunday at 4.30pm, a group of volunteers from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore conducts free walking tours, taking you on a scenic and colonial journey around Raffles Place.
10. If you’d rather walk at your own time and pace, check out the walking trails by the National Heritage Board. There are no guides and no tours; just look out for heritage markers (which have more information on the respective locations) on your own. Download the heritage maps, the Family Time Activity Sheets, and enjoy your walks together.
11. Let the sea breeze caress your face as you slap on some sunscreen and head on to East Coast Beach. If you’re there on a weekend, look out for Castle Beach near the Lagoon Food Centre (carpark E2) where there are free sandcastle building workshops from 3.30pm to 7pm. Sand toys will also be provided!
12. If you have a tot who’s into vehicles, the Land Transport Gallery is bound to make him a happy little camper. What’s a mosquito bus? Which vehicles were illegal in the old days? This is where you’ll get the answers! Free and easy sessions are available but sign up for a guided tour to get the full experience. Visits are by appointment only; contact LTA to book your tours in advance.
13. Every Saturday between 9am and 11am, the fire stations in Singapore (except the one on Jurong Island) open their doors to the public. What emergency vehicles are housed at the fire station? How do Civil Defence teams respond to emergencies? What is a Red Rhino? Get the answers to your burning questions at the Fire Station Open House.
14. If you’ve always wondered what old fire engines looked like, or would like to try your hand at putting out a fire without being too close to the heat, the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery is the place for you. Also, experience a virtual fire fighting experience by following a group of firemen as they respond to a building fire. It’s conveniently located right next to the Central Fire Station so you can visit the fire station followed by the heritage gallery on a Saturday morning.
15. Be surrounded by good reads at the libraries in Singapore. The National Library at Bugis boasts of the first green library for kids. It even has a treehouse! While you’re there, don’t forget to take a ride up the bubble lifts for a fantastic view of the city. Or check out Jurong Regional Library’s new Children Literacy Centre that’s geared toward toddlers. It even has hand puppets to play with, and a dress-up section.
16. Fancy a coffee and some shopping while the kids are minded by someone else in a fun environment? Both IKEA stores in Singapore offer a complimentary drop-off service for children between 90cm and 130cm tall. At Smaland (Ikea’s play area for kids), active ones get to jump into ball pits (sorry, berry pits), climb in and out of giant clogs, hide under trees or snuggle up in a cozy nook with a book for an hour while you shop.
17. A trip to Haw Par Villa could be fun or freaky. Either way, there are interesting statues and dioramas of Chinese mythology and legends. There are specific signs that point to the Ten Courts of Hell exhibit – you may like to steer clear of that if you have young children with you.
18. Fort Canning Park is one of Singapore’s hidden treasures – you’ll find and archaeological dig site, a spice garden, a lighthouse (yes, a lighthouse! It’s fully functioning but not operational) and there are lots of saga seeds to pick at Fort Canning Green.
19. If you’re Singaporean, you’ve probably visited the airport without a plane ticket in hand. With its cool air-conditioned comfort and wide open spaces, it’s little wonder that the Changi International Airport is a hit with families. Some other fun and free things to do include wood block rubbing stations, a 12-metre high slide, playgrounds and lots of fun displays to look at, like the Kinetic Rain display at Terminal 1. Of course, there’s also the viewing gallery that you can hang out at for some plane spotting.
20. Escape tall buildings and crowded malls and head to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Look out for the exquisite gate at the entrance, admire the graceful swans at Swan Lake, or tickle your senses at Fragrant Garden. Explore at your own pace, or use one of these designed trail guides (from 40 to 90 minutes long) or apps. If you’re lucky, you could even end your evening with a free concert in the park. Check the website for details on upcoming events.
21. Did you know that Singapore is one of the top ten manufacturers of oil rigs? Ever wanted to be a ship captain and control a ship? How much can you stuff into a 20-foot container? Hop on board the ship simulator and learn lots about the maritime industry in Singapore at the Singapore Maritime Gallery.
22. Be a part of history and stand at the site where the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. The building was lovingly restored and now Memories at Old Ford Factory houses a permanent exhibition about Singapore during World War II. Guided tours are available. * Admission is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents; other guests pay $3.
23. Have an aspiring police officer on your hands? Take him to the Police Heritage Centre to learn more about what it takes to be a police officer, and take a walk through history as you see old police buildings, vehicles and uniforms. Speaking of uniforms, there’ll be kid-sized ones to try out at the very end of the 1.5 hour tour! *Admission is free but advance booking is required. Email for bookings.
24. The Singapore Cable Car Museum takes you through the history of cable cars in Singapore, and you’ll get to check out and climb into previous generations of cable cars, including the plush VIP one and one made of Lego blocks. Entry into the Singapore Cable Car Museum is free but admission into Sentosa applies. *enjoy free entry into Sentosa from now till 4 Jan 2015 when you enter via the Sentosa Boardwalk. Tap your Ezlink card for quick access!
25. Still have your Chinese New Year outfits? Put them on and head West to the Chinese Garden and admire spectacular pagodas, beautifully carved bridges, or simply pretend that you’ve been transported back to ancient China. Located right next door is the Japanese Garden which will evoke a sense of zen and tranquility.
26. Fancy waking up to the sound of waves rolling to shore? Grab your tent and set up camp right on the beach for a night like no other – Star gaze the night away! Prepare your own BBQ! Tell stories in the night! Permits are required (they can be obtained here), but are free. Camping is only allowed at designated areas of East Coast, West Coast and Pasir Ris Parks respectively; find out more here.
27. Make a wish at the world’s largest fountain, the Fountain of Wealth at Suntec City! Either admire the majestic fountain from above or walk three rounds around the small fountain at ground level to make a wish. Touch Water Sessions are at 10am-12noon, 2-4pm, and 6-7.30pm.
28. Tucked away in the far Eastern part of Singapore is a large fiddler crab population. Head on down to Pasir Ris Park, at the beach area near Sungei Tampines with insect repellent, a hat, and sharp eyes. The crabs only appear at low tide so make sure to check tide timings before you head down. Pasir Ris Park also has the largest playground in Singapore so be prepared to stay a long time!
29. Be a culture vulture! Learn more about other cultures as well as your own! Why is there a street called “Coffin Street”? Why are there glass bottles at the top of Sultan Mosque? What status can you see on top of a Hindu temple? Head on to Little India, Chinatown, and Kampong Glam to find out!
30. The Peranakan Museum is great but if you’d like to be in an actual former ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family and see how a typical Baba family lived, you should pay Baba House a visit. Hour-long heritage tours are free but prior bookings are required. Best for older kids.
31. Head out to the country! The Kranji Countryside, that is. Set aside a whole day to explore places like Qian Hu Fish Farm and Bollywood Veggies where you can roam around one of the few vegetable farms in Singapore (there’s also a café!), and watch goats being milked at Hay Dairies.
32. There’s a spot in Singapore that plays an important role to migratory birds from as far as Siberia on their way to Australia. Step into their world and bring a pair of binoculars when you go bird spotting at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. You may meet a giant monitor lizard along the way, but watch out for crocodiles!
33. There’s no need to be a sporty person to enjoy the facilities of the newly opened Singapore Sports Hub. Take a peek at the new National Stadium, play chess on a giant chess board at the Sports library or learn to play a new sport or join an exercise class for free.
34. Gardening enthusiasts rejoice! A lush gardening hub for all to enjoy, Hort Park distributes free plant cuttings every first Saturday of the month – go early to avoid disappointment. Get up close and personal with over 20 species of butterflies every last Saturday of the month at its Butterfly Garden. Interested to find out what keeps the park looking so beautiful? Speak to the people responsible for it at Meet the Gardeners’ Sessions.
35. Visit one of Singapore’s oldest HDB estates – Tiong Bahru, and take a leisurely stroll to enjoy the different architecture of the pre-war and post-war four-storey homes. Small though it may be, Tiong Bahru is home to Singapore’s only remaining World War II air raid shelter. If you have a five to 10 year old, download this free printable scavenger hunt which will bring them around the estate, searching for little mysteries.
36. It stands at 8.6 metres, weighs 70 tonnes and was once part of a temporary hotel. Say hi to Singapore’s icon, the Merlion, at Merlion Park!
37. The legendary Raffles Hotel boasts a 125-year old history, the birth of the Singapore Sling, and Singapore’s most photographed doorman. Part of the hotel’s grounds are accessible only to hotel guests, but a big portion of it is open to public for exploring – look out for some of the prettiest fountains in Singapore!
38. If you haven’t noticed, water play areas have been sprouting up on the rooftops of shopping malls faster than you can say “My, what a hot day!”. Grab your swim suits and cool down at the newest kids on the block, Westgate Wonderland, Tampines 1, 112Katong and Changi City Point.
39. From new playgrounds to old! Go on a hunt for the famous Dragon playground at Toa Payoh Lorong 6, the Dove playground at Dakota Crescent, and Watermelon playground at Tampines Central Park. A full list of old playgrounds can be found here. Make it a day out!
Picture courtesy of Itchy Fingers Snap
40. A stroll along Sengkang Riverside Park is a good way to end a busy day. Lush greenery, beautiful pathways that cut through waters, and wide open fields beckon!
41. You may have taken the cable car up, you may have driven up, but have you ever thought of conquering Mount Faber on foot? It is absolutely possible, even with young children, and even with a stroller (there will be some stairs that you’ll have to carry your stoller up/down, but most of the trail is pavement)!
42. If you’re halfway up Mount Faber and get distracted by the lovely sight of Henderson Waves, go ahead and take that detour and enjoy the view.
43. Built on 101 hectres of reclaimed land in Central Singapore, Gardens by the Bay is home to Supertrees as tall as 50 metres! Bring your swim gear too because the water play area at the Children’s Garden within is guaranteed to keep your kids occupied for hours.
44. Join the temple tour of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery and find out more about Chinese art as well as the different architectural designs around the monastery and temple. If you’re lucky, you might even be in time for lunch – the fare is simple, but there is no charge. Feel free to make a donation if you like!
45. Completed in 1867, MacRitchie Reservoir is one of Singapore’s oldest reservoirs. It’s gone through renovations and improvements to include creature comforts (such as toilets!), but the charm is all preserved. Go on the boardwalk that skirts around the perimeter of the reservoir and enjoy the sounds of nature.
46. One of the largest parks in Singapore, Bishan Park invites you to kick off your shoes and go wading in its meandering stream (it’s only knee deep) – a stream that was once a concrete canal! Bring your scooters for a ride around the park, learn how you can control water flows or simply have a splash. Rope bridge? Check. Spider web? Check. Slides? Check. Lots more stuff that’s begging to be climbed upon? Double check! This park has it all!
47. Factory tours are a fun way to watch how products are manufactured or processed. Most factories conduct free tours or visit but appointments have to be made in advance. Check out Yakult, Tiger Breweries, Gardenia and Fassler salmon factory.
48. If it’s one of those days when you don’t really want to go out too far, why not just pop by your neighbourhood wet market. Your kids may be surprised to discover that eggs don’t always come in packs of ten and in plastic containers! Let them watch how meats are cut, give them the task of choosing vegetables, and invite them to point out all the fruits they know.
49. A fan of art? How about checking out some of the cool public art installations around Singapore? Like the “The Stair, The Clouds and The Sky” as well as “Let’s go to a paradise of glorious tulips” at Orchard Central, the series of bronze sculptures along Boat Quay, including “First Generation” by Singaporean sculptor Chong Fah Cheong which depicts a group of boys jumping into the Singapore River, as well as the mesmerizing “Kinetic Rain” display at Terminal 1 of Changi Airport.
50. Did you know that The Esplanade, or otherwise known as “The Durian”, has a rooftop garden with a gorgeous view? Check Esplanade’s website regularly; there are often free concerts and performances around!
With so many places to visit without burning a hole in your pocket, it’s all the more reason to look forward to the weekends!
* Admission free for all unless otherwise stated. All information accurate at print-time.