As ‘Asia’s World City’ travellers to the famous eastern metropolis would be right to assume that there is a wealth of things to do in Hong Kong. From shopping to sightseeing and lazy beaches to a bustling nightlife, Hong Kong really does have it all.
Living in Guangzhou for the past 2 years, we have been able to take advantage of this on several occasions. Just a cheap 2 hour train ride from our door, Hong Kong is the goto weekend break destination for Expats in our part of China. Indeed, with a car, we have known people to pop down for the day! And it isn’t hard to see why.
As a favourite destination for our younger, single…er (is that even a word?) friends, we worried on our first visit that Hong Kong wouldn’t have many things to offer our young family beyond Disneyland. However, with 5 days to spare and a little exploration, we were able to find plenty of things to keep little feet tired and little minds from becoming bored.
Here then, are our top 5 things to do with kids in Hong Kong.
5. Visit Stanley
We were pleasantly surprised by our visit to Stanley. Almost ‘seaside like’ in it’s appearance, it is a lovely mixture of seafront bars and restaurants, traditional market stalls and the hustle and bustle of an English beach resort.
Located to the far south of Hong Kong Island, a visit to Stanley has recently become more convenient thanks to the opening of the South Island Line of the MTR. Despite not going to Stanley directly, the line does go to the famed Ocean Park and from there you can take a bus or a taxi. Taxis from Ocean Park take about 20 minutes to half an hour and shouldn’t cost more than GBP9.
We were dropped off next to an ice cream van on the seafront (a sight that we became embarrassingly excited about after spending so long away from the UK) where you then have the choice of heading left into the famous Stanley Market or right along the seafront past an impressive selection of eateries.
We spent a pleasant afternoon eating lunch at a place called Spiaggia’s; a reasonably priced Italian restaurant which also brews it’s own beer. We were drawn inside by the availability of a children’s menu (something which were were unable to find at any of the other restaurants, and boy did we try!) and the food was very nice indeed.
After lunch, we headed down to the famous market where I annoyed stallholders by taking photographs of the ‘No Photographs!’ signs whilst my wife enjoyed hunting for fake designer handbags and our children cried to anybody who would listen because we had passed a Haagen Dazs shop without stopping for ice cream.
The market itself was, I imagine, great for cruise ship tourists and people on vacation looking for fakes and typical ‘Chinese’ souveniers although, living in Guangzhou (the workhouse of China where all things, real and fake, are made), this was lost on us.
Heading back to the seafront, we relented and took our children for ice-cream in another of the restaurants, where we spent a happy hour eating desserts and watching the boats pass by, before heading back to the main road and requesting an Uber. This arrived in 10 minutes and took us back to our hotel without any issues.
4. Repulse Bay Beach
The inclusion of Repulse Bay Beach on this list is kind of a cheat, given that the closest we got to it was looking longly out of the window as we passed in a taxi on the way to Stanley. However, it is included as it is at the top of our list of places to visit the next time we’re in Hong Kong and comes highly recommended by friends who have visited.
Winner of several ‘Best HK Beach’ awards, Repulse Bay beach is also Hong Kong’s most popular because of it’s facilities and public transport connections. Located not too far from Stanley, it plays host to thousands of visitors on public holidays during the warmer months.
3. Hong Kong Disneyland
We’ve written a lot before about our fondness for Hong Kong Disneyland and have visited both during special events and on normal days. Having also stayed at the resort hotel, we would wholeheartedly recommend a visit, albeit with one major caveat.
Avoid the place like the plague during Chinese holidays
On our recent visit, one of our two days in the park fell on a Chinese national holiday and it would be no exaggeration to say that the day was a disaster.
During national holidays the park seemingly does not operate any maximum visitor numbers (or if it does, these numbers are so high that visitor experience suffers long before they consider not allowing admission to any further visitors). We had Chinese friends visit on the same day as us and they were both amazed and amused that we expected to ride the rides on that day (”people just come today to see the park, we don’t expect to ride the rides, the queues will be too long”).
Indeed, the queues for every ride were 60 minutes or more, with the majority being around 90 minutes. Our friends queued for 2 hours to get a photograph with Mickey and restaurants were either sold out of food or had similar 60 minute queues just to get to the counters and order food.
Add to this the fact that one of the restaurants was closed completely, the Festival of the Lion King show was closed for refurbishments and the Tarzan Treehouse was also closed and we spent the day trailing two crying children around the park because they couldn’t handle standing in a queue for 90 minutes but also couldn’t understand why they couldn’t experience any of their favourite rides.
After 3 hours spent trying to find at least something that didn’t necessitate queuing for over an hour, we watched the Spring parade and then left.
2. Ride the Victoria Peak Tram (From Top to Bottom)
Riding the tram up Victoria Peak is the highlight of many Hong Kong escapes and this is evident in the enormous 3 hour long queues at it’s base. Like Disney, we visited the Victoria Peak Tram with the intention of having a stress free day out, only to have to change plans quickly once we realised that queues were longer than our two youngsters could deal with.
The tramway itself is excellent and the children loved it. It’s novel, it’s quirky and ridden from the top to the bottom, it’s pretty exciting. The gradient of the track creates the ‘Peak Illusion’ which the tram company itself describes as ‘a spectacular visual illusion’ in which the buildings, rather than the tram itself, look like they are leaning whilst the tram remains horizontal. Its pretty fun to look out for and children of a certain age will love it.
We discovered during our visit that in order to skip the queues, you should take a taxi to the top of the peak and ride the tram back down. This way you avoid the 3 hour wait at the bottom; perfect when travelling with younger children.
1. Star Ferry’s Harbour Tour
Combining two iconic Hong Kong staples into one unique experience; Star Ferry’s Harbour tour is a fantastic way to check the big two off your Hong Kong bucket list in one fell swoop. Star Ferry’s Harbour Tour also provides a comfortable environment in which to experience stunning views of the harbour with younger children.
Operating a number of boats slightly larger than the standard Star Ferry, Star Ferry’s Harbour Tour provides tourist with a 60 minute cruise around the harbour, complete with a complimentary soft drink and a biscuit and some limited commentary about the various sights to be seen from the boat.
Top tip: Take the night time tours to see the skyline in all of it’s neon glory. Take the slightly more expensive 7:45pm tour to experience the nightly sound and light show from the water.