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 the city that we fondly called home for five years. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, the chaotic capital of The Philippines is vibrant and colourful and surprisingly family-friendly. Yes, it’s sprawling it can take you hours to get from one place to another but there are so many places to visit in Manila for kids that you’ll always find something fun to do. Plus it has some of the best food in Asia (if you want some tips on the best foods to try in The Philippines, take a look at this post).
When I moved from the French Alps to the centre of this Asian megacity, I swapped mountains, fresh air and fondue for theme parks, mega malls, selfies and siomai (local steamed pork dumplings). And I loved it. After all, no one knows how to have fun like a Pinoy! If you’re looking for family activities in Manila or you’re wondering where to go in Manila for kids then here are some of our favourite family-friendly activities that we enjoyed when we lived in this city.
Post and photos by Philippa Langrish
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Manila with kids
My top tip when choosing things to do in Manila with kids is to not try and do too much! Traffic is maddeningly slow so trying to fit in lots of kid-friendly places in Manila in one day is nigh on impossible. Instead, organise your days so that you focus on one area or neighbourhood at a time. And what better place to start than the historic heart of the capital, Old Manila, one of the most interesting places for kids in Manila. If you’re interested in taking a tour of Old Manila then I would recommend taking a look at this one.
Explore old Manila
The walled old town of Intramuros is one of the most interesting places to go in Manila for kids. This is the oldest district and the historic centre of Manila where children can climb over the old ramparts, take a calesa ride (horse and cart) around the Spanish influenced neighbourhood and buy some souvenirs. Nearby Fort Santiago has a lovely children’s park and fountains for the kids to splash in.
Although perhaps not the most obvious of places to visit in Manila for family, I would often take my kids here as it’s a great place for their imaginations to run wild. One of our favourite kids activities in Manila was Casa Manila, a museum housed within a reproduction of a traditional aristocrat’s house that shows what life was like under the Spanish rule and tours are available. Afterwards, make sure to stop at Barbaras Café for a refreshing drink.
Bambike offers 2.5-hour tours around Intramuros, stopping at 10 different locations along the way. This is one of the best Manila family activities that the capital has to offer and is a brilliant way to explore the old town, particularly with big kids and teens. Children over 10-years can cycle their own bike and 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.
Another favourite family activity in Manila is a tour in the horse drawn carriage either around the old town or there are shorter tours which take a loop of Fort Santiago. We once spent my birthday here and finished the day off with cocktails on the roof top restaurant at the Bayleaf Hotel, which has amazing views of the city.
Intramuros is located near the port (and Ocean Park). Your best bet to get here is to either drive or get a taxi.
The following are some of the other tours that I would recommend for Manila and beyond.
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 and is one of the most popular things to do in Manila with kids.
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, instead they have to wait outside each activity and let the facilitators at Kidzania take control.
My daughter 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 roam freely; each child has a wrist band which creates an alarm if they leave the premises without their parent in charge.
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. Hours: 12AM–11:59PM
For more information on KidZania Manila, take a look at this post.
Go beneath the waves at Ocean Park
Ocean Park Manila is a world-class marine park and premiere educational facility that holds regular activities for kids in Manila. 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.
Ocean Park: Manila Ocean Park behind Quirino Grandstand Luneta Manila Philippines 1000. Hours: 10am – 8pm
Take the kids for lunch at Genki Sushi
If you’re wondering where to bring kids in Manila for a yummy meal then I highly recommend Genki Sushi. This is my favourite place for a lunch date with my daughter Maya and her friends. It was also the first place she tried sushi! There is an electric train track that runs through the restaurant past each table and, 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.
Genki Sushi: 2nd level of the Bonifacio Stopover Pavilion, 31st cor. Rizal Drive, Bonifacio Global City.
Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 11:00 am-10:00 pm, Friday and Saturday: 11:00 am-11:00 pm
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 at ROX to be a one of the best family bonding places in metro Manila. I often go with my daughter and am able to belay her 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. Another place to try is Climb Central Manila, which offers different challenges as well as climbing lanes suitable for kids. If you’re wondering what to do in Manila with kids and looking for something a little different, then I highly recommend rock climbing!
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
Be enchanted at DreamPlay
DreamPlay, the interactive theme park created by the makers of the movies Madagascar, Shrek and How to tame your Dragon, is not surprisingly one of the most kid friendly things to do in Manila. 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, construct 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.
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!
For more information, see the DreamPlay website.
Challenge yourself 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 and is one of our favourite things to do in Manila for kids. 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.If you’re wondering where to bring toddlers in Manila then this is a great option; my two-year-old loved the dinosaur and space exhibitions.
Mind Museum: JY Campos Park, 3rd Avenue, Bonifacio Global City Fort Bonifacio 1634
Hours Tuesday – Sunday – 9:00AM – 6:00PM
Swing through the air on a flying trapezee
Flying Trapeze is the first and only full size flying trapeze rig in the Philippines and is honestly one of the most exciting things to do with kids in Manila! 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 is another brilliant family bonding place in metro Manila. The best time to go is in the dry season; classes are cancelled when it rains or is too windy.
Flying Trapeze Philippines: Federation Drive corner 9th Ave. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Class schedules are variable – check out the website for details.
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 among others.
Eat alfresco at the weekend markets
If you’re wondering where to go in Manila with kids at the weekend then you should definitely try the markets of Salcedo or Legazpi in Makati, which are lively 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 playground 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.
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
Get lost at Art in Island
One of the most kid friendly places in Quezon City is Art In Island. The Korean invented 3D art gallery brings its wall murals to life with the help of illusion and shadow. We took the kids when my youngest was just a baby and Maya was four-years-old, along with a couple of her friends. The three girls had a wonderful time gallivanting from painting to painting. The paintings are interactive and aim 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.I would highly recommend it as one of the most fun things to do in Manila with kids! Read more about Art In Island here.
Where to stay in Manila with kids
If you’re looking for places to stay in Manila with the family, take a look at this post on family-friendly hotels in the capital. Or take a look at the latest reviews and the lowest hotel prices from TripAdvisor to help you find the best value hotels for your trip.