Pre-kids, Hong Kong is Asia’s party city of choice for its lively nightlife and absolutely fabulous shopping. But can Honkers really be navigated with kids? Kate Farr, editor of Sassy Mama Hong Kong and mother of Alex (2), gives suitcases&strollers the real story on whether there is more reasons to travel to the city with your children than Hong Kong Disneyland. Here are her recommendations for Hong Kong with kids.
What makes Hong Kong worth visiting?
Where to start? The bustle, the east-meets-west character, the sense that anything is possible…not to mention the fascinating history, amazing food and that gorgeous skyline! I have never been anywhere else that allows you to be pounding the city pavements, then halfway up a mountain, surrounded by greenery in a stunning national park within half an hour. I defy anyone arriving in this city not to be captivated by the buzz and fall madly in love with it.
Hong Kong is so busy – the ideal destination for business or partying. But what is there to do with kids in Hong Kong?
It’s a wonderful place to visit with kids. It’s super
kid-friendly because in one holiday you can easily check off everything on your
list, be it family-friendly eating, like Aberdeen's famous Jumbo floating
restaurant, Tsim Sha Tsui's many mesmerising museums (the Science Museum is a
stand-out), hiking the Dragon's Back on Hong Kong Island or spotting pink
dolphins off the coast of Lantau. There's even theme parks…two of them!
Each of Hong Kong’s areas has its very own distinct character and attractions,
and whether you enjoy island-hopping or cruising the malls, there
really is something to tick everyone’s box.
On a limited timescale, I’d say that the “big two” might be lower down your list than some of our other unique-to-Hong-Kong activities. On a limited timescale, I’d say that the “big two” might be lower down your list than some of our other unique-to-Hong-Kong activities, like trawling for bargains along Kowloon's famous markets or taking a trip across Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry. That said, they do make for a fuss-free day out for the whole family, so keep ’em in your back pocket in case of tantrums!
[For more on Hong Kong's theme parks, read the suitcases&strollers story Theme Parks In Asia.]
What are the other family-friend attractions visitors should definitely see?
Riding the Star Ferry and a trip on one of Hong Kong’s iconic trams are must-dos. These are a working slice of this city’s great history and by far the best way to travel.
Other than that, you simply must see the nightly “A Symphony of Lights” display from the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui. It perfectly showcases Hong Kong’s gorgeous skyline. This is one that the whole family is guaranteed to love.
Where is your favorite place to take your son in Hong Kong?
I love to hit the beach with my boy. When you think of beaches in Asia, Hong Kong doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but we have some stunning little corners tucked away with great facilities too. My pick is Lower Cheung Sha Beach on Lantau Island for a great day of sandcastles with the convenience of The Stoep South African restaurant to fill up hungry tummies.
Where is your son's favourite place to hang out in HK and why?
Alex adores the Hong Kong Science Museum; so much so that we bought an annual museum pass as we go so often! It’s large and there are loads of interactive displays so I don’t need to worry about him touching things he shouldn’t. This is a great rainy day option or one to consider when the temperatures are sweltering.
What is Hong Kong’s best hidden gem that only locals would know about?
You can spot Hong Kong’s (now endangered) pink dolphins on a Hong Kong Dolphinwatch tour off Lantau Island. It’s amazing – they really are pink and it’s another thing that you just don’t expect to see just outside such a bustling city.
Where is the best place in HK to really experience and understand the local culture outside the touristy areas?
A morning wandering around the streets of Sheung Wan is really fascinating and the perfect illustration of Hong Kong’s east-meets-west culture. Hip cafes sit cheek-by-jowl with traditional Chinese medicine shops and you’ll spot be-suited businessmen popping into the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road to burn an offering before the day’s business begins. You’ll uncover a vintage gem or two on Cat Street, see traditional lanterns and paper offerings on Queen’s Road West and if you wind your way back towards the harbour you can end up at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park where the kids can play on the (rare-in-HK) lawn.
Are there outdoor activities to do with kids in Hong Kong?
More than you could possibly imagine. The aforementioned beaches are easy to reach, there are national parks galore and family-friendly hikes to help you work up an appetite. Hong Kong has a huge Geopark in the New Territories, a wetland park with bird species galore, cycling tracks and, right in the centre of the city, there are outdoor parks and playgrounds, botanical gardens and even a small zoo.
When is the best time of year to visit Hong Kong with kids?
September through to May as the weather is generally warm, but not stifling. The humidity is lower than the summer months and there’s no typhoons to disrupt things making it the ideal time to get out and about to explore.
It gets pretty crowded in the streets. Is it possible to push a pram or take young toddlers walking?
It’s possible to get around Central surprisingly well on Hong Kong’s overhead covered walkways – giving you the added bonus of air-conditioning too. The Mid-Levels escalator makes things considerably easier when it comes to heading up those steep slopes into Soho…but if all else fails and you need a break, the taxis are safe, cheap and plentiful.
What's the best way to get around?
Pick up an Octopus card (stored-value card) and ride the excellent public transport. The MTR is quick, clean and efficient, the tram is fun and quintessentially “Hong Kong”, the ferries will shuttle you all around Hong Kong’s “fragrant harbor” and the buses go absolutely everywhere. Take taxis for a straightforward journey and – if you’re lucky – an impromptu Cantonese lesson by your driver.
Where is the best place to stay?
The Grand Hyatt in Wan Chai is a fabulous family-friendly stay with spacious rooms, a super-convenient location and great facilities. It’s worth it for the huge pool alone. [To read more about where to stay in Hong Kong with kids read the suitcases&strollers story here.]
To read more about day trips around Hong Kong go to the suitcases&strollers stories Hong Kong Islands 1: Po Toi, Cheung Chau & Peng Chau, Hong Kong Islands 2: Lantau and Hong Kong Islands 3: Lamma