Rain or shine, there is lots to do around Marina Bay. Built almost entirely from reclaimed land, the area is host to the world’s most expensive building and the largest atrium casino. It boasts the world’s biggest elevated swimming pool, the largest light and water show in Southeast Asia, and some of the most controversial architecture in Singapore to date. It is replete with high-end restaurants and shopping outlets and has a reputation for being the playground of the (often foreign) rich and fashionable.
But whatever your opinion might be regarding Marina Bay Sands and its surrounding attractions, it might be good to know that it is also a perfectly family-friendly destination that can suit all sorts of budgets.
So we’ve scoured the area to come up with these two itineraries that families can enjoy in Marina Bay. Do combine both if the force is strong with you that day.
If the weather is good:
Gardens by the Bay, Children’s Garden, Satay by the Bay, Marina Barrage
Getting there: Take the Circle Line or the Downtown Line to Bayfront MRT station or park at any one of the car parks scattered around the gardens. The Visitor Centre basement car park near the main gate is the largest, followed by the Meadow open-air car park nearer the MRT station. A shuttle (free!) runs on weekdays through the gardens, from 6pm to 1130pm.
Things to do: Take your time at Gardens by the Bay; some of the conservatories and attractions have entry fees and are arguably worth the money, but there is plenty to see even if you do decide not to shell out.
Just for kids: Yes we’re talking about the Children’s Garden, Singapore’s largest playground for kids. Located along the waterfront of Bay South Garden, this one-hectare haven for kids aged one to 12 is designed to encourage interaction with nature. It boasts a toddler play zone, an adventure trail and rainforest tree houses to explore. Its centerpiece is a Water Play area, cleverly programmed to sense movement and respond with a corresponding sequence of water effects (bring swimsuits!). For younger kids, there is the Fish Fountain where jets of water spurt out of the mouths of fish statues. Around here, rows of deck chairs have been thoughtfully placed so parents can rest their feet while keeping an eye on the kids.
The Children’s Garden is open till 9pm (on weekends and public holidays). At night the water play areas are lit up and music plays as the fountain comes on – the result is delightful. There are countless opportunities to climb, jump, slide and swing and thus accordingly, also trained members of staff stationed to ensure the safety of your young ones.
Meeting our needs: There is a large shower area, changing facilities, toilets, and lockers for rent. Hungry garden explorers can grab a bite at the cafe in the Children’s Garden, or walk a little further (just follow the signs) to Satay by the Bay.
A wide variety of hawker fare can be found here, to be enjoyed amongst the lush greenery. Fed and watered, amble further east towards Marina Barrage.
Built across the mouth of the Marina Channel, this creates the island’s largest reservoir. It also serves the purpose of alleviating flooding in lower lying areas of Singapore by draining excess storm water into the sea.
Things to do: Pop into one of the six interactive galleries. The Sustainable Singapore Gallery tells us more about the nation’s efforts at sustainable development; apart from being highly educational, it is also very interesting, engaging and a real visual treat.
The top deck of the Barrage boasts some of the most spectacular views to be found anywhere in Singapore. Bring a kite if it’s a windy day!
Opening hours: 9am to 9pm everyday except Tuesday. Admission is free. There’s also a free shuttle bus service to Marina Bay MRT station.
If it rains and even if it doesn’t:
Marina Bay Sands, Skating Rink, ArtScience Museum, Sands SkyPark, Light and Water Show
Getting there: Take the Circle or the Downtown line to Bayfront MRT to access Marina Bay Sands. Bringing your car is convenient but can be expensive unless you spend enough ($50) at the museum, shops or restaurants to qualify for complimentary parking. Having said that, there is the URA Bayfront car park situated at the cross junction of Bayfront Avenue and Marina Boulevard if you don’t mind a little walk. You might even consider taking a River Taxi from any of the participating jetties around the area – this is a magnificent way to approach the world’s most expensive building in all its full glory.
The Sands SkyPark is a real wonder; perched atop the three towers that make up Marina Bay Sands, it is longer than the Eiffel Tower laid on its side and boasts a breathtaking, birds-eye panoramic view. You won’t get to dip your toes into the famous infinity pool if you’re not a guest at the hotel, nor will you have a chance to wander around the lush, landscaped gardens big enough to fit three full-sized football fields, 200 metres in the sky. On the plus side though, children under two go free.
The Shoppes is home to a huge variety of designer shops and gourmet restaurants but perhaps more appealing to the younger imagination are the thoroughly out of place (and therefore both amazing and ridiculous) 18th century replica sampans and their traditionally costumed paddlers, passing quietly through the canals that run through the world’s most extravagant shopping centre.
Things to do: If you time your ($10 a person) ride just right, you might be treated to an hourly cascade of 22,000 litres of water tipped from a giant acrylic bowl set atop a massive steel structure, two storeys above. Why not indeed. But do note that kids under two years of age are not allowed to embark on this perilous journey.
Browse the higher-end shops, pop into a celebrity restaurant or rent some skates and socks from the box office and get groovy at the 600 square metre Skating Rink that dominates Basement 2. It’ll cost you significantly less than a sampan ride and is probably just as surreal. (Opening hours: Daily from 1130am to 830pm, closed from 5 to 6pm for maintenance.)
Where to eat: If you feel peckish after, there is the MBS Rasapura Masters food court right beside it. South Coast, an alfresco Australian bistro overlooking the bay has colouring sheets and a children’s menu. Surprisingly, the chic DB Bistro Moderne does too!
When its time to move on, follow the signs to the ArtScience Museum; it is right outside the building and looks like a giant lotus – you won’t miss it.
Image cc licensed (CC BY-SA 2.0) flickr image by William Cho
The museum can usually be relied on to host interesting, impressive exhibitions one of which will always be family-friendly. Current exhibitions are well advertised everywhere so you will probably already know what’s on, but there are also a few workshops on the weekends that are well worth checking out.
One thing you can definitely do for free in this area is also one of the most dazzling. Wonder Full, Southeast Asia’s largest light and water show, hits the promenade every evening (8pm and 930pm showings Sunday to Thursday, additional 11pm showing on Friday and Saturday). Get there early to secure your spot and watch multicoloured lasers and giant water screens create a stunning visual feast against the backdrop of the Singapore city skyline. It’s not too shabby a way to end the day.
Meeting our needs: Public toilets are generally ubiquitous everywhere. There are also dedicated family rooms from Level 1 to Basement 2 in The Shoppes, fully equipped with diaper-changing facilities, hot water dispenser, wash basin and even a place to rest your feet.
Text: Tan Yun Ning