Manila is a crazy city. It’s the only place I know where people put marshmallows in their salads, take selfies on their floatation devices during the floods, and name their kids “Lady-Bee”, “Peach Pink Orchids”, and “Crystal Gale”. And yet it’s where we fondly call home/
Manila is a mecca of fun for kids and a melting pot of indulgence and culinary adventure for adults. Since moving from the French Alps to the very centre of this Asian mega city I have swapped mountains, fresh air and fondue for theme parks, mega malls, selfies and siomai (local steamed pork dumplings). The kids can’t run free like they can in the Alps but no one knows how to have fun like a Pinoy. Here, then, are my top things to do with kids in Manila!
1. Explore Old Manila
The walled old town of Intramuros is a great place for kids to explore; climb over the old ramparts and take a calesa ride (horse and cart) around this Spanish influenced neighbourhood. This is the oldest district and the historic heart of Manila. Nearby Fort Santiago has a lovely children’s park and fountains for the kids to splash in. There is also the option to buy some local souvenirs.
I often take the kids to Intramuros as it’s a great place for their imaginations to run wild. A visit for me is not complete without stopping at Barbaras Café for a refreshing drink. This is next door to Casa Manila, a museum housed within a reproduction of a traditional aristocrat’s house. The museum shows what life was like under the Spanish rule and tours are available.
Bambike offers 2.5-hour tours around Intramuros, stopping at 10 different locations along the way. This is a great way to see the old town with big kids in tow and there is very little traffic. Children over 10-years can cycle their own bike. Younger children can share a bike with their parents; the Ligtasin Cove Bike has been designed with a longer saddle, ideal to share with a small child (there are no kiddie bike seats here!). A pedicab is also available to hire. This is a great organisation that works with, and gives back to, local communities.
My two children love the chance to take a tour in the horse drawn carriage either around the town or there are shorter tours which take a loop of Fort Santiago. We spent my birthday here in 2015 and finished the day off with cocktails on the roof top restaurant at the Bayleaf Hotel, which has amazing views of the city and, if you are lucky, there is sometimes a live band playing.
Getting to Intramuros
Intramuros is located near the port (and Ocean Park). Your best bet to is to drive or get a taxi.
2. Get to Work at Kidzania
Located in Bonifacio Global City in the heart of Manila’s newest business district. Kidzania is a fun, educational play city where kids can play different roles from fire-fighters, to nurses, to fashion models. They can even get a Masters Degree to earn more kidzos (the play currency) which they can trade or save. It is aimed at kids aged four to fourteen. However, I think the best age to go is around seven or eight years old.
I was a little sceptical at first because I have never experienced anything like it. On arrival the kids are given their own boarding pass and enter what I can only describe as a giant living board game (reminiscent of the Game of Life). They go from place to place learning, making, exchanging ideas and taking part in activities. The best part is that parents can’t interfere! We have to wait outside each activity and let the facilitators at Kidzania take control.
Maya took five of her buddies and they became paramedics, fire-fighters, pizza-makers, pilots, beauticians and fashion models. This was just a small slice of what the centre has to offer so we will definitely need to go back to try some of the other activities. The security is seriously state of the art so kids can freely roam. They each have a wrist band which would create an alarm if they were to leave the premises without their parent in charge.
Getting to Kidzania
Entrance fees: It may seem a little pricey (at 900php – 1,00php depending on the day) but when taken into consideration the length of stay, inclusion of lunch (if the kids make it) and activities on offer it is worth it. The sessions last for 5 hours and our kids were more than happy to stay this long.
Kidzania: Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Metro Manila
Phone:(02) 711 5439
For more information on KidZania Manila, take a look at this post.
3. Go Beneath the Waves at Ocean Park
Ocean Park Manila is a world-class marine park and premiere educational facility. We have been here a couple of times (once on a school trip and once independently) and the kids had a wonderful time discovering the world beneath the waves. The children love to learn about the different species of marine life and watch the sting rays and sharks glide overhead as they walk through glass tunnels in the aquarium.
There is a brilliant jellyfish exhibit with tanks that light up to display the beauty of these otherworldly creatures. The hit for most visitors is the sea-lion show where the handlers educate the public about the supreme intelligence of these amazing creatures. You can enjoy all that the aquarium has to offer in a half-day.
The park is located opposite Luneta National Park (also known as Rizal Park), which is Manila’s biggest public park. This is an interesting place to stroll through as it is peppered with historical statues and smaller parks with monuments telling the history of the Philippines.
Getting to Ocean Park
Ocean Park: Manila Ocean Park behind Quirino Grandstand Luneta Manila Philippines 1000
Phone: +632 567 7777
Hours: 10am – 8pm
4. Take the Kids for Lunch at Genki Sushi
This is my favourite place for a lunch date with my daughter Maya (5 years) and her friends. It was also the first place she tried sushi! We were planning a trip to Japan so I was keen to introduce her to some local cuisine before throwing her in the deep end. There is an electric train track that runs through the restaurant past each table. Once your order has been placed via the digital iPad at your table, a train or racing car arrives to deliver beautifully crafted sushi delights. You then press a button to send the car back and continue ordering. The children love the interactive ordering process. You can view your bill at any time on the iPad too, which is helpful if the kids get too enthusiastic. The food is simple and delicious, and the diner style seating is practical for families with small children.
Getting to Genki Sushi
Genki Sushi: 2nd level of the Bonifacio Stopover Pavilion, 31st cor. Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City.
Phone: +632 624 2867
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11:00 am-10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday: 11:00 am-11:00 pm
5. Scale New Heights
It’s a real treat for me to be able to work out while with my kids, but there are few sports which you can really do together with under 5’s. However, I found climbing to be a fabulous mother-daughter bonding experience. I am able to belay my daughter on a rope from the ground while she scampers up to the top of the climbing wall. Instructors are on hand to belay adults once the kids get too tired and need to take a rest. The wall at ROX is slanted so the gradient gets harder as you move from right to left. We started climbing at ROX two years ago and now I am keen to try the newly opened Climb Central Manila, which offers different challenges as well as climbing lanes suitable for kids.
Where to Climb
ROX: 11th Avenue Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
Phone: (02) 856 4639
Hours: Daily 10AM–11PM
Climb Central Manila: The Portal Greenfield District Park, United St, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila
Phone: (02) 734 8883
Hours: Monday – Friday 1:00 pm – 10:00pm Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm Public Holidays: 10:00 am – 10:00 pm
6. Be Enchanted at DreamPlay
DreamPlay is one of the newest arrivals in town from the makers of the movies Madagascar, Shrek and How to tame your Dragon. It’s an indoor interactive paradise for kids.
At DreamPlay the kids can learn to cook gingerbread in Shrek’s Kitchen, animate their own King Fu Panda sketch, watch a 3D short film in the interactive cinema, build and fly their own dragon, build and race toy boats, chill out in the oversized library, play in the Penguins’ airship and run wild in the soft play and the twister slides.
It’s best for older kids (aged four+ years). My daughter and her friends fell in love with DreamPlay and were reluctant to leave when our time was up. Its not as cheap as Enchanted Kingdom and you are charged on your time, so don’t spend too long eating noodles in the Kung Fu Panda kitchen!
Getting to Dreamplay
For more information, see the DreamPlay website.
7. Challenge Your Brain at the Mind Museum
The Mind Museum is the Science Museum of the Philippines. Designed especially for kids, it is an educational and fun place to learn, explore and play. I am a big fan of the outdoor park, which features a giant bubble maker, animal vision telescopes and physics inspired slides. The museum plays host to some excellent touring exhibitions, so it is worth timing your visit for when one of these is being hosted. My little boy Gillan (2 years) loves the dinosaur and space exhibits.
Getting to the Mind Museum
Mind Museum: JY Campos Park, 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City Fort Bonifacio 1634
Phone: (02) 909 6463
Hours Tuesday – Sunday – 9:00AM – 6:00PM
8. Swing Through the Air on a Flying Trapeze
Flying Trapeze is the first and only full size flying trapeze rig in the Philippines! Most children love the acrobats of circus but there is rarely an opportunity for them to learn from the professionals and experience the thrill of flying themselves.
The instructors take you through step by step so that after just one session you can not only fly, but try a couple of tricks. Beware – it’s addictive! We went back three times and progressed to flying catches! Initially I went with a group of friends and then went with my daughter, Maya. You need to be fairly fit and pretty fearless to get to grips with some of the moves. Maya got a huge buzz out of mastering the swing. Afterwards she practiced her upside-down routine on the fixed practice bar, and then had a bounce of the trampoline.
If you have fearless children this is an awesome experience, and an unforgettable memory to share. The best time to go is in the dry season; classes are cancelled when it rains or is too windy.
Getting to Flying Trapeze
Flying Trapeze Philippines: Federation Drive corner 9th Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Hours: Class schedules are variable – check out the website for details.
9. Watch a Show
If you prefer to spectate rather than take part, there are some wonderful children’s theatre productions on all year. We try and catch at least one show a year at Christmas time in the theatre at Greenbelt 5 in Makati. The shows are staged to a very professional standard.
There is also the Cultural Centre in Central Manila (CCP), which stages ballet, concerts and theatre. You can even see Broadway Productions at Solaire Resort and Casino recently including Wicked and the Blue Man Group amongst others.
Tickets for Shows
The best place to buy tickest for shows is via TicketWorld.
10. Eat Alfresco at the Weekend Markets
The weekend markets of Salcedo or Legazpi in Makati are bustling places full of local delicacies, as well as world flavours. Salcedo (Saturday) and Legazpi (Sunday) Markets are fun places to go with the family for an impromptu picnic. There is a children’s playpark next to the Salcedo Market so you can shop for your lunch before letting the kids play for a while.
The markets are only open in the morning and its best to go early to avoid the heat. My kids love munching on the chicken BBQ skewers, followed by chocolate pierogi (a Polish dumpling) and an ice cold smoothie. My little boy is a big fan of the peanut stall too. There is food from all over the world cooked freshly on the spot, so you are spoilt for choice. Manila is a melting pot for trying different cuisines. It is here in this Asian city that I have discovered Polish Perogi, Korean BBQ, and Vietnamese Pho.
Getting to Salcedo & Legazpi
Salcedo: Jaime C. Velasquez Park, Salcedo Village, Makati, Metro Manila
Legazpi: At Herrera st. cor Legazpi and Salcedo V.A. Rufino St, Makati, Metro Manila
11. Get Lost in Art In Island
You would never expect to find such a magical place off a side streets in Cubao, downtown Quezon City. However this newly opened gallery, Art In Island, is a brilliant way for kids to appreciate art. The Korean invented 3D art gallery brings its wall murals to life with the help of illusion and shadow. We took baby Gillan (one year), Maya (four years) and her two buddies (aged four and six years) for a day out. While the three girls had a wonderful time, poor Gillan was a little freaked out! Fortunately it’s stroller-friendly so once in the pushchair with his bottle of milk he was happy to be wheeled around after his big sister who gallivanted from painting to painting.
The paintings are interactive – aiming to make the spectator feel part of the image. They make amazing photos, while the fantasy theme is a great way to inspire little imaginations. Read more about Art In Island here.
Find our more information on the Art In Island website.
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For more information on travelling in The Philippines with Kids, visit our Family Guide to The Philippines