What can you do with the kids on a free weekend, an afternoon or even just a few hours? We all know we can go to the cinema and the gaming caves of the malls in District’s 1, 2 and 7, but let’s focus on more active solutions.
Parks and playgrounds are great outdoor attractions for toddlers and children up to a certain age. Depending on where you live, you can pick the closest one for a few hours of relaxation in a relatively calm and green environment, while the youngsters are playing and making friends.
Enjoy an Urban Oasis
23/9 Park stretches from the Ben Thanh roundabout all the way to Tay Binh Market between Pham Ngu Lao street and Le Lai street. While in the evening locals are dancing or exercising and students hone their English skills on unsuspecting tourists, during the day the small playground near Ben Thanh Market is a popular spot for local, expat and tourist kids and toddlers. The toys are in good condition, and corner stores as well as various street vendors are within reach. Before you leave the area, make sure to drop by Ralf’s Artisan Gelato on Dang Thi Nhu street for a scoop of your favourite gelato.
Tao Dan Park behind the Independence Palace there’s a very nice and spacious playground for all kinds of family activities that also includes an indoor play area – handy during the frequent downpours in the rainy season. The park itself is quite big and serves as an event location for boy and girl scout gatherings, bonsai exhibitions and so forth. In the morning you get to experience the songbird singing competition at the outdoor cafe near Truong Dinh street. Another advantage of Tao Dan Park is its proximity to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre (55B Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1). The water puppet show is a lovely indoor activity for children and adults alike.
Le Van Tam Park on Hai Ba Trung street is not only a nice place to skate, run and chat with friends, it also offers a small theme park for younger children. They can ride a train, a merry-go-round and other attractions. There is also a bouncy castle and a ball cage.
The Van Thanh Leisure Area in Binh Thanh District is ideal for a nice afternoon getaway. You can book a small hut and bring your own barbecue, and then explore the area or swim with your family in the pool. There is a playground with many activities for children. Address: Phuong 22, Binh Thanh District. Phone: +84 28 3512 3026.
Get in Touch with Your Wild Side
The zoo is an attraction that lost its charm when the management decided to put profit ahead of the comfort of the animals. However, children love to see elephants, giraffes and other interesting creatures. And while the youngest enjoy feeding the goats and marvelling at the tigers, older children may learn something about species-appropriate zookeeping. Avoid the weekends, though: the deafening music at the centre of the area disturbs the nearby monkeys and they start hurling rubbish at visitors. Address: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, D1. Phone: +84 28 3829 1425.
Pet Me does not have the best coffee in the city, but it is a chance for your kids to get closer to their furry, feathery and scaly friends. Located in Thao Dien, this is a nicely designed outdoor area that harbours a variety of animals that can bring a smile to your child’s face. Daredevils may even hold a snake, if they wish. Address: 198 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, D2. Phone: +84 091 709 6677.
Beat the Heat
Dam Sen Water Park is a big amusement park in District 11. It offers a variety of attractions from water slides to a giant freezer where your family can experience ice sculptures and colourful lighting. Address: 3 Hoa Binh, D11. Phone: +84 28 3963 3593.
Maia Club in Phu My Hung has you and your whole family covered. There’s an awesome pool, a sandbox and a kids’ club. While your children are having fun discovering their slumbering talents, you can relax at the spa or play golf or tennis. Address: Lot MD2, Phu My Hung, D7. Phone: +84 28 5412 1311.
Put the Active Back in Activity
Other events and activities are more specialised in terms of your youngster’s age and interests. Kizciti, for example, is a whole little world for children, where they can experience what it is like to be an adult. On entering the area, children receive a small amount of the local currency called “kizo”. Depending on what they are playing, they can earn kizo or have to pay some. There is a variety of jobs to try, as well a simple bistro-cafe for a snack or a coffee for the parents. Address: 48 Hoang Dieu, D4. Phone: 08 3825 3868.
Saigon Outcast is not only a nice entertainment location, conveniently placed in Thao Dien, it is also a place for your kids to run around while you listen to live music or attend one of its many events. The half pipe may interest your older kids, and the most daring teens and adults can try the Push Rock Climbing wall. Address: 188 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, D2. Phone: +84 90 236 5780.
Bowling can be great fun for older kids and adults alike. The most famous bowling hall is upstairs at Diamond Plaza. Address: 34 Le Duan, D1. Phone: +84 28 3822 5500.
Keep Things Low-Key
A few nice places can be discovered along Binh Quoi street on Thanh Da Island (accessible through the Binh Thanh District), which runs up the peninsula that can be seen from the Thao Dien riverside. There are leisure areas and restaurants, as well as parks where you can rent a nice place for a kid’s birthday party. More interesting for our teens, however, are the fishing dens where you can catch mantis shrimps or fish and have them barbecued on site. It does not compare to a fishing weekend in the highlands, but it’s fine for an hour of quiet excitement.
Snap Café in Thao Dien is one of the best family environments in the area, providing an open-air space for kids to run around, as well as a playground with a sandbox, while you enjoy a nice coffee or afternoon snack. Address: 32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, D2. Phone: +84 28 3519 4532.
At Vinspace art studio in Thao Dien, kids can hone their creative talents and take part in art workshops to bring colour to your life and on their brand new white shirts. You can attend a workshop together and cooperate in a family activity to create a work of art that fills that blank space on the kitchen wall. Address: 6 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, D2. Phone: +84 90 772 9846.