When I was young, Chinese New Year meant visiting friends and relatives, collecting red packets, and feasting at their homes. Shops were shut. The neighbourhood was a ghost town. You had to cook, or starve.

These days, things are very different. The NTUC outlet near my home is open 24 hours throughout the festive season, the ‘zhi char’ stall at the coffee shop too. And more people are taking advantage of the long weekend to go overseas for a short break.

So what can you do if you need time out from the eating, the endless questions, and the card games — or if you’re not celebrating the Lunar New Year? Lots. Here are some of our picks.

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1. Build a LEGO Orange

We’d head to one of these luxe resorts for some pampering, yes, even with the kids – it’s possible! But for a more kid- and wallet-friendly option, pop across the causeway to LEGOLAND® Malaysia Resort, where you can build LEGO mandarin oranges, get a ‘Make A CNY Wish’ request granted, and pose at the newly refurbished China Miniland cluster with its new LEGO models, festive scenes and decoration.
Details here.


2. Visit the Prez

The Istana will be open, and there’ll be a lion dance, acrobatic, and other dance performances. Some feathered friends from the Singapore Bird Park will swoop in for a visit, and the goats from Hay Dairies will be here to kid around with visitors. You can also go on a guided nature walk around the Istana, or take a tour of the main building (fees applicable).
Friday, 20 February 2015, 8.30am-6pm. Entry to the Istana grounds is free for Singaporeans and Singapore permanent residents. All others visitors are required to pay an entrance fee of $1 per person. Details here.

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3. Play with Science

KidsSTOP and the Science Centre will be open throughout the Lunar New Year so budding explorers and discoverers can continue to imagine, experience, discover, and dream while the rest of us down pineapple tarts and ‘bak kwa’. What’s in store? Kids can role-play as pilots, palentologists, construction experts, grocery store owners, and more!
18 February — Session 1: 12pm to 3pm, Session 2: 3pm to 6pm; Public Holidays — Session 1: 10am to 2pm (last admission at 1.15pm), Session 2: 3pm to 7pm (last admission at 6.15pm). More details here.

4. Wander Port-side

Join in the Lunar New Year celebrations at Sentosa’s Port of Lost Wonder. There’ll be drums and dancing lions, craft for little hands — they get to make sew-it-yourself handmade pouches (good for mandarin oranges!) — and you may even get to meet the God of Fortune!
Till 22 Feb, 10am-6pm. $10 Non-Peak, $15 Peak (Weekends, PH, School Holidays). Adults enter free with a child. Certain activities chargeable by Curio Coins. Details here.

10895416_1534131916859306_2010271698_nImage: Resorts World Sentosa’s Instagram feed @rwsentosa

5. Go to Hollywood

You can, at Universal Studios Singapore, where Hollywood Boulevard will be decked with festive lanterns and a larger-than-life installation inspired by the traditional art of paper-cutting. Pose for pictures with Puss In Boots and Kitty Softpaws, who join Woody and Winnie Woodpecker as well as friends from Sesame Street in dressing up for the celebrations. Don’t miss the Hollywood Dreams Parade at 3pm and spectacular fireworks at 8pm!
Universal Studios Singapore opens till 9pm on the first three days of Lunar New Year (19–21 Feb). Details here.

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