Destination Guide: KL. Kuala Lumpur with kids is like a layer cake: its modern and sleek air-conditioned business heart coexists with the nostalgic pockets that have changed little in the past fifty years. A family holiday in the capital of Malaysia with kids is the ultimate Southeast Asian city experience. It’s busy, crowded and very hot. You can visit state-of-the-art kids’ attractions followed by a street lunch in a stall from a different era. And everywhere you go the people are friendly, there are memorable cultural experiences to be had and it’s a hedonistic sensory experience. Here is why you should definitely plan to visit Kuala Lumpur with kids.
Kuala Lumpur With Kids: The Destination
A family vacation in KL with kids is not a quiet or serene experience – it’s quite the opposite and that’s what makes it so exciting and memorable. All the foreign smells, sights and sounds are heightened by the extreme tropical heat which means you should plan your family holiday with a good mixture of active cultural experiences and then chill out moments.
And as if to suit this idea, the city is a fantastic combination of parklands and urban sprawl, chaotic street markets and well organised indoor play centres. There is definitely something for everyone in KL.
[For more family travel tips on Kuala Lumpur with kids, see the suitcases&strollers insider city guide here.]
KL With Kids: The Activities
The heart of modern KL is Suria KLCC (known by locals just as “KLCC”). This is a must-see and the attractions there will keep families busy for a day or two. Kids will love the park with a playground and a huge paddling area. In the evenings the fountains turn into a music and light show. Admire the Petronas Towers from the park or make a beeline for the tickets to go up to the top of the towers.
If you want to see the skyline with the Petronas Towers instead of from it, head over to the KL Tower. Teenagers (and parents) will be super impressed with the open-air Heli Lounge Bar located on a helipad.
Conveniently located at Suria KLCC, Petrosains science centre has an oil and gas emphasis and is a great for kids interested in pressing buttons.
If you have dinosaur fans in tow, head over to Discoveria in Avenue K shopping centre across the road from KLCC. Avenue K has a plethora of food and beverage outlets, a newly opened Star Light Kids indoor playground and a rooftop terrace very much suitable for a picnic and run around (open after 5pm).
A perfect stop on a hot day, Aquaria has some great sea life including sharks and giant turtles. Check the feeding times and try to catch a main feeding in the Aquatheatre.
KL also has lots of parks and green areas. For a pretty good jungle experience head out to the Forest Research Institute (FRIM) just outside the city.
The hot and sweaty walk up to the very cool canopy walk takes upwards from 45 minutes with little ones. Pack a snack and eat it on the way down while soaking your tired feet in the stream. Don’t forget mozzie spray!
[For more family travel tips on how to avoid dengue fever with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
The temples at Batu Caves, located on a steep limestone hill, are impressive for all ages – as is the huge statue of Lord Murugan guarding the entrance. There are lots of stairs so leave the stroller at home. The adventurous can join the Dark Cave tour, an educational tour of one of the main caves at Batu Hill. Watch out for the bold monkeys who will most certainly steal the food right out of your hands!
To learn about Malaysian history, hop over to the National Museum. It is pretty compact and has enough life-like displays to keep kids interested – and there is a coffee joint just outside.
To experience some history in much more lively way, see Mud KL, an hour-long musical about the early days of KL, on twice day in a beautiful colonial building by the Merdeka Square.
The KL Bird Park boasts the largest walk-in aviary in the world and, indeed, there are a lot of fluttering of wings everywhere you look. A great place to let the kids loose, it is also very stroller friendly and has a decent restaurant. The nearby Butterfly Park is more compact and full of colourful butterflies. It has lots of stairs so best if the young ones walk with their own two feet.
[For more family travel tips on viewing the wildlife in Malaysia, see the suitcases&strollers story Malaysia With Kids: Orang Utans in Kota Kinabalu.]
If you still haven’t had enough of animals, there is the National Zoo. The pandas are the brightest stars of the zoo (extra fee applies for the pandas), but the zoo itself pales in comparison with that of neighbouring Singapore.
[For more family travel tips on Singapore with kids, see the suitcases&strollers city guide Asia Holiday Destinations: Singapore With Kids.]
A fish spa (where fish nibble the dead skin off your feet!) will make even the moodiest of teenagers giggle. There is an airy and bright one in Pavilion shopping centre, but you can also find some feet-eating fish at Central Market.
If you’re in KL with kids, it’s definitely worthwhile taking in some of the street culture and walking the old neighbourhoods. Petaling Street, that used to be the heart of Chinatown, is now a busy marketplace selling mostly fake handbags.
The area around it, however, is slowly being renovated and new cafés are popping up on monthly basis. Within a few blocks you can step into a Chinese and a Hindu temple and there is even a small wet market.
Central Market around the corner makes for a nice cooling stop (with clean toilets!).
[For more family travel tips on how to use a squat toilet, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Those interested in tours can book them at Central Market – the ones revolving around food may appeal to teenagers. Kids can also try out traditional batik painting here. Another place to release your inner batik artist is the Craft Complex where you can also shop for lovely Malaysian handicrafts and see artisans at work.
New age theme parks for kids are very popular in Malaysia. Kidzania is a miniature word where kids can practise different jobs, earn money and spend it. You can easily spend a whole day in here with the kids trying out being a pilot, dentist or fireman. It works best for school aged children but independent pre-schoolers will enjoy it as well. Adults are not allowed into the activities area and can relax at the parents’ lounge.
District 21 located in a new mall in Putrajaya is a different kind of theme park for kids – all rides are muscle powered. This apocalypse-themed indoor park is for those bursting with energy: it has wall climbing, trampolines, mazes, a tube slide, zip lines and obstacle courses.
If you are into good old-fashioned theme park fun, head over to Sunway Lagoon, a huge theme park with a water park, amusement park, zoo and – of course – a shopping centre.
[For more family travel tips on other theme parks for kids in Malaysia, see the suitcases&strollers story Theme Parks In Asia.]
KL With Kids: Food
Malaysians love food and you can eat anything from affordable street fare to five star dinners. All hotels offer lavish weekend buffets and malls have food courts where you can grab an affordable lunch. Trendy cafés can be found all over.
The night market, pasar malam, is great place to sample the best of Malaysian street food. One of the most accessible for visitors is the one in Bangsar, right next to the Bangsar Village Shopping Centre, open every Sunday (from late afternoon).
Jalan Alor, THE food street in the city centre, comes alive in the evenings. It is the place for cheap and cheerful street fare in a lively setting and offers exotic delicacies like frog porridge. But fear not, kiddie-friendly fried rice is also available! Tables on the street make it very stroller friendly, but it does get very busy.
In addition to food, Malaysians love children and kids are welcome virtually everywhere. Most restaurants have baby chairs and many have kids’ menus.
Family Friendly Acccommodation in KL With Kids
Most top-end hotels in KLCC have magnificent city views and great pools, like the new Grand Hyatt, Prince Hotel or the Shangri-La. Aloft Sentral has a great rooftop pool and is very convenient for the KLIA Express train. Capri in Bangsar South has serviced apartments big enough for larger families and is accessible by public transport.
When selecting family friendly accommodation in Kuala Lumpur with kids, a hotel with a pool is highly recommended. Staying in the KLCC area may be a good option for first timers. Airbnb has great apartments in condos with a swimming pool in the centre within walking distance from the services.
[For a suitcases&strollers review of Airbnb for kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Kuala Lumpur With Kids: The Practicalities
Patchy public transport outside the immediate city centre and the constant tropical heat make planning essential when traveling with kids in Malaysia and particularly KL.
KL is not a big city but the traffic can be a nightmare. Try to time your trips between 10am and 4pm. The trains (LRT, MRT and monorail) are conveniently in the centre but not all stations have lifts so come prepared with a light weight travel stroller or a baby carrier. The monorail is particularly nifty and kids love riding it just for the sake of it! Downloading a taxi app such as MyTeksi is recommended – not only you get a taxi easily you will also get automatically charged by the meter (plus the app’s service charge).
The hop-on-hop-off bus is a good way to see the city. Note: the whole tour takes 2.5 hours without even getting off the bus. Try to avoid the bus during the peak traffic hours.
The weather is always hot in KL so make sure you carry water, hats and don’t skimp on sun cream.
There are major supermarkets in all the malls (usually on the bottom floor) that have a good selection of baby food and nappies. If you use a particular brand of powdered milk, you should bring that with you.
It is not safe to drink the water from the tap in Malaysia. Only use bottled water for drinking and be wary of children drinking water in the shower or the bath.