The downside of Hong Kong in terms of families is how densely populated it is, with small residential spaces and gardens, and few places to spontaneously go out and kick a ball, say. However, in terms of amenities it is surprisingly family-friendly, with two world-class amusement parks, kid-oriented museums, watersports and a range of beaches and parks for families to enjoy. There is a particularly impressive array of aviaries and zoo facilities, all with animals well cared for. Ferry trips or weekend stays on the outlying Islands are always a treat, as is Stanley when the crowds are under control; and when all other inspiration fails, head up the Peak and have fun trying to spot your home on a clear day.
Below is just a taste of what is on offer – check out listings in print and online from HK Magazine or Time Out Hong Kong, and www.hkwithkids.com, which is a great place to look for destinations and get plugged into the community. In the main, though, you’ll quickly meet other expats with kids here; use them as your main inspiration and source of ideas.
For outdoor activities, don’t forget to make sure kids have hats and sunscreen and drink plenty of water – Hong Kong is safe in most ways, but heat and humidity, and unfortunately air pollution, mean you have to be careful not to let your younger children overdo it.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Even though this is the smallest of the five Disney parks worldwide, you’ll still find your kids wanting more when the day ends – consider staying at a hotel inside the resort, enjoying the evening fireworks and giving it a second day. Expect the usual fare, with Mickey, Minnie and Donald delighting kids and rides exciting enough to keep older kids happy. Since it opened in 2005 it has been popular with locals and tourists alike, and even though they claim to have taken Chinese culture into account, it is still pretty much the usual formula and a great fun day out. Beware weekends and holidays when crowds are overwhelming.
Still Hong Kong’s more popular (and iconic) amusement park despite competition from Disney, this hugely enjoyable place has a much more Chinese feel and covers a whole peninsula. It is located on two hills, joined by a cable car, which is a nice experience in itself. The wildlife area includes giant pandas and full-size dinosaur models, there is a range of rides (44 in total), loads of shows and the aquarium is spectacular. A first-class theme park experience marred only by exorbitant food prices.
Wong Chuk Hang and Nam Long Shan, Southern District
Trick Eye Museum
One of the newest attractions in Hong Kong is Trick Eye Museum, a world-class 3D museum that was first created in South Korea. It features paintings on plain surfaces that magically appear to be three dimensional through the use of optical illusion.
10am-9pm (last admission 8pm)
Shop No. 1, Level 3, The Peak Galleria, 118 Peak Road, The Peak, Hong Kong
Hong Kong Space Museum
Extremely family-friendly, this is part of the Kowloon waterfront museum area and a great space. There are two theatres, one of them an Omnimax worth the cost of admission in itself, and fascinating exhibitions on the past, present and future of Chinese astronomy and space technology.
Mon, Wed-Fri 1-9pm, Sat-Sun 10am-9pm, Tue closed
10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Hong Kong Science Museum
This is one of those places where you can relax while your kids charge off to press buttons, jump into driving simulators and accidentally learn science while having a great time. Around 80 percent of exhibits are participatory and there are also daily demonstrations and shows.
Mon, Wed-Fri 1-9pm, Sat-Sun 10am-9pm, Tue closed
2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Parks and Outdoor Activities
One of those parks that seems bigger than it should be, a wander up its steps will find an Olympic-size indoor pool, flamingos wading around, two playgrounds, a kung fu and tai chi area (with free weekend demonstrations), the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre and more. There’s even free Wi-Fi for tired parents in need of a break.
Nathan Road between Haiphong Road and Austin Road
Hong Kong Park
One of the city’s most surprising features, in the heart of the financial towers of Central is this nifty park, which can be combined with a visit to the Zoological and Botanical Gardens just up the road. It packs in loads of natural life – an aviary with over 600 birds, a greenhouse with exotic plants from all over the world and a great playground, among other things. In spring, couples like to take their wedding photos here.
6am-11pm (greenhouse and aviary 9am-5pm)
Cotton Tree Drive, Central
Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Split into two halves with slightly different opening hours, this is another Central oasis with an amazing range of plants and, most fun for kids, a great zoo with birds, mammals (highlights: orangutans and a jaguar), snakes and other reptiles. There is also a playground for when they are tired of looking and want to start running around.
5am-10pm / 6am-7pm
Upper Albert Road, Central
Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden
It is worth the trip out to the New Territories to enjoy a day walking around this forested area, and kids will be fascinated by the animal sanctuary at this conservation and sustainable living project on the foothills of Tai Sham Mountain.
Lam Kam Road, Tai Po, New Territories
There’s loads for kids to enjoy on the Peak – the tram ride up, Madame Tussauds, the interactive EA Experience virtual reality gaming facility for older kids, the playground on Mount Austin Road for younger ones. There is also plenty of space to run around and even a place to kick a ball or throw a Frisbee if you walk up to the Peak Garden.
Hong Kong really comes into its own once you start taking advantage of the natural resources available in the territory – 41 public beaches, for example. The ferry trips alone are great fun for kids. Spend a day walking across Lamma Island, taking time out to play or swim at the beach and bookending the trip with seafood. Head to the northern shore of Lantau Island to go dolphin spotting with Dolphinwatch. Go cycling on Cheung Chau. Experiment with different beaches on different islands, and once you’ve found the best one for your family, make it part of your Hong Kong life.
Discover more great things to do and see in Hong Kong on our Listly list