Twenty-five fab things to do with kids in Hong Kong

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Autumn is perfect weather for a ride on Hong Kong’s Peak Tram

25 Tai Kwun

A new entry for 2018, Tai Kwun, or ‘big station’, was opened earlier this year and is the result of the government’s much vaunted $3.8 billion, eight-year heritage restoration project of the former colonial central police station, magistracy and prison compound. It’s now home to numerous dining outlets, exhibition spaces and ‘storytelling’ spots where you can trace the long history of the complex. Great for boosting kids’ historical knowledge, Tai Kwun is a fascinating addition to Hong Kong’s tourist trail – and it’s gratifying to finally see some of the SAR’s colonial history being saved rather than bulldozed. 10 Hollywood Road, Central. taikwun.hk

 

24 Museum of Eastern and Western Medicine

Discover Hong Kong’s rich medical history tucked away in Sheung Wan. Find out how ‘rat bins’ were used in the early days of the colony to control outbreaks of bubonic plague; see x-rays of bound feet; and take a closer look at old-style acupuncture needles. This small but fascinating museum is housed in the Old Pathological Institute, which itself is one of Hong Kong’s declared monuments. The museum mixes traditional Chinese medicine with modern Western techniques for an all-round view of how the medical industry has developed over the years. 2 Caine Lane, Mid-Level. hkmms.org.hk

 

23 Museum of Coastal Defence

This fun museum is great for kids – they’ll love checking out the tanks and canons – and is housed in the former coastal defence fort overlooking Victoria Harbour. The fort was built by the British in 1887 to defend eastern approaches to the harbour. The museum’s permanent exhibition, ‘600 Years of Coastal Defence’, tells the story of the defence of the territory from the Ming Dynasty, through two Opium Wars and on to the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941. There’s lots to keep kids interested as well as extensive outdoor area. 175 Tung Hei Road, Shau Kei Wan. lcsd.gov.hk

 

22 Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware

Discover ancient Chinese tea culture and the art of tea preparation at this small museum in Hong Kong Park. Flagstaff House was built in 1846 and was once the residence of the commander of the British Forces. It is one of Hong Kong’s few remaining colonial buildings. It was damaged under the Japanese occupation during World War II and in 1978 was handed over to the Hong Kong government who took great pains to restore it to its original style. It now houses over 600 pieces of teaware as well as a small children’s play area with toy tea sets. 10 Cotton Tree Drive, Central. hk.art.museum

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Tai Kwun on Hollywood Road is the heritage redevelopment of Central’s former police station

21 Hong Kong Park

This eight-hectare park features fountains, lily ponds and play areas, as well as Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre, a Thai restaurant, the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware (see above) and The Edward Youde Aviary. Sadly the aviary is currently closed for renovations (it’s due to re-open mid-2019), but there’s still plenty to do. If you’ve got budding botanists on your hands, it’s worth checking out the orchids and plants in the Forsgate Conservatory. There’s also a Tai Chi area and the children’s playground is one of the largest in the city. And don’t forget to stop at the artificial lake which is great for turtle-spotting. If you’ve got visitors in town, the park is a fantastic vantage point for taking pictures of the surrounding skyscrapers. 19 Cotton Tree Drive, Central. lcsd.gov.hk

 

20 Adventure tours

Escape the city and join Wouter van Marle on one of his discovery walks exploring Hong Kong’s exciting ‘backyard’. This month there’s a Bats Walk on October 13, which is suitable for children aged four and up and takes you on a nighttime adventure walk around Hok Tau Reservoir and Sha Lo Tung abandoned village in the New Territories. The six kilometre trail is along well-maintained paths and dirt track and lasts approximately two hours. For a more challenging adventure, join van Marle on October 28 for a Ponds and Waterfalls Tour – suitable for kids aged eight and up. adventuretours.hk

 

19 Repulse Bay and temple

Soak up the last of the summer sun and take a dip at popular Repulse Bay beach. Head along the sands and discover the temple and statues of Kwun Yam – goddess of mercy – and Tin Hau – goddess of the sea. The traditional Chinese statues stand ten metres high and if you cross the red ‘longevity bridge’ to the shrine, tradition says you will add three days to your life. There is also plenty of flat seafront promenade for littlies to scooter, plus a couple of fun beachside play-parks. Fuel up at the wide selection of eats located in The Pulse shopping mall which overlooks the sands. Beach Road, Repulse Bay. thepulse.com.hk

 

18 Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

This busy farm was originally set up to help poor farmers in Hong Kong’s New Territories. It now promotes biodiversity conservation and greater environmental awareness in Hong Kong and southern China. The farm was built in the 1950s in a valley with streams, woodlands and terraces and today includes a rescue and rehabilitation programme for native animals. Look out for pigsties, a reptile viewing point, an insect house, the Jim Ades Raptor Sanctuary and the Piers Jacobs Wildlife Sanctuary. 9.30am-5pm, Lam Kam Road, New Territories. kfbg.org

 

17 Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

The oldest park in Hong Kong and one of the oldest zoological and botanical gardens in the world, Hong Kong’s Botanical Gardens occupies 5.6 hectares of prime Mid-levels real estate on the northern slope of Victoria Peak. It was founded in 1864 and opened to the public in 1871 – an original pagoda still stands and there is an interesting selection of historical photographs in the ‘time tunnel’. This was the original site of Government House. The park is today home to over 600 birds, 70 mammals and 40 reptiles, although it has been recommended by wildlife experts that the area is returned to its original state as a botanical garden. Enjoy the gardens from the cafe at the entrance – there’s plenty of space for the kids to run around and also a children’s playground. Albany Road, Central. lcsd.gov.hk

 

16 Hong Kong Wetland Park

Escape the city for the wildlife of the far north New Territories. The Hong Kong Wetland Park has over 60-hectares of parkland demonstrating the diversity of the territory’s wetland ecosystem. Originally set up as a mitigation area to compensate for wetlands lost due to the Tin Shui Wai New Town development, it now bills itself an international park with visitor centre. Expect to see mangroves, butterflies, birds, reptiles, crabs, fish and more. If you’re coming by car, some parking is available, otherwise catch the MTR to Tin Shui Wai and change for Wetland Park Station/Tin Sau Station on the Light Rail Line. Open everyday except for Tuesday, 10am-5pm, $15 for three to 17 year olds and grandparents over 65, $30 standard. Wetland Park Rd, Tin Shui Wai. wetlandpark.gov.hk

 

15 Aberdeen Promenade and sampan tour

Stroll along the pushchair-friendly Aberdeen Promenade from the Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market at the western end – don’t forget to check out the catch of the day – to the east side where you can hop on a sampan for a tour of the typhoon shelter. Expect to pay around $80/person for a half-hour tour, during which you will get up close to the floating fishing village which is still semi-home to a number of the boat-dwelling Tanka people. And at the other end of the social scale, view the glossy yachts jostling for position in Aberdeen harbour – one allegedly belongs to Hong Kong action hero Jackie Chan. Aberdeen Praya Road, Aberdeen.

 

14 10,000 Buddhas Monastery

Best attempted at this cooler time of year, the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery is actually five temples, four pavilions, one pagoda – and 430 steep hillside steps to reach them. Make sure the walking party is forewarned and forearmed! Alongside the climb are dozens of golden and painted life-size buddha statues, all of which are different, so take your time and catch your breath while you have a look. At the top are views across the New Territories and the bright red pagoda that appears on $100 bills printed between 1985 and 2002. Take the MTR to Sha Tin, the steps are at the end of Sheung Wo Che Street on the left-hand side. Sheung Wo Che Street, Sha Tin. 10kbuddhas.org

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Hanging around over Lantau

13 Chi Lin Nunnery

This large Buddhist complex in Diamond Hill, Kowloon, was founded in the 1930s as a retreat for Buddhist nuns. It was rebuilt in the 1990s following traditional Tang Dynasty architecture – it’s constructed entirely from cypress wood, using no nails, and is in fact the world’s largest handmade wooden building. Once you’ve viewed the nunnery, let the kids have a scamper over 3.5 hectares of landscaped gardens across the road at Nan Lian Gardens. The gardens also house a tasty vegetarian restaurant and teahouse. And slightly off-the-wall-fact, many vote the souvenir shop the best in Hong Kong. Take the MTR to Diamond Hill, 5 Chi Lin Drive, Sheung Yuen Leng, 2354 1888. chilin.org

 

12 Kowloon Walled City Park

Kowloon Walled City Park started life as a military stronghold. Its strategic position on the waterfront (these days it’s land-locked and surrounded by high-rise) meant in the 1840s it was turned into a garrison with massive stone walls and watchtowers. By the 1940s it housed over 40,000 inhabitants and had become a centre for vice and crime, Triad activity and prostitution. In the 1990s it was demolished, the inhabitants resettled, and the area transformed into tranquil gardens. There are water features, photographic displays tracing the area’s history, a chess garden and paved walkways, as well as a playpark at the entrance on Junction Road. Adjacent to the gardens is a bike park with cycles for hire. Take the MTR to Lok Fu Station, 6.30am-11pm daily, Tung Tau Tsuen Road, Kowloon. amo.gov.hk

 

11 Lantau cable car and Po Lin Monastery

As construction work continues apace on Lantau, this trip becomes ever more fascinating. Be wowed by the juxtaposition of massive-scale engineering projects and nature as you travel south from the airport over rolling emerald mountains towards the Big Buddha and the village of Ngong Ping. The Buddha and surrounding temples are just about saved from Disneyfication (souvenir shops abound) by their authenticity – expect lots of incense burning, prayers and feral buffalo wandering around. Book a return ticket, or there are public buses and taxis available for the 30-minute trip back to Tung Chung. Take the MTR to Tung Chung, parking available at Citygate. np360.com.hk.

 

10 Temple Street Night Markets

Bag a bargain, haggle to your heart’s content, ‘fess up to a fortune teller, it’s all happening on Temple Street come nightfall. From handbags to wallets, clothing, trinkets, souvenirs, toys and everything in between, this is a hardcore, fast-paced version of chi chi Stanley Market. And when you’re done, take the weight off your feet (and the pressure off your purse) with a beer and some noodles from a roadside food stall – we’re not talking high glamour here, expect plastic seating and toilet roll napkins. But the service is efficient and the food tasty and inexpensive. Temple Street, TST, nearest MTR station is Jordan. temple-street-night-market.hk

 

9 Stanley Markets

If you’ve got guests in town, you’re not going to escape a trip to Stanley Markets, so embrace it with a stylish arrival on Aqua Luna followed by a tasty lunch. There are restaurants aplenty on the waterfront, a great place for watching the world go by as you catch up on all the news from back ‘home’. On weekends the promenade is pedestrian-only, scooter heaven for the kids. Aqua Luna sails from Central Ferry Pier 9 at midday, picking up at TST and arriving at 1.30pm at Stanley Blake Pier. The return journey leaves Stanley at 3.30pm, $280/adult one-way, $190/child. aqualuna.com.hk.

 

8 Hong Kong’s pink dolphins

They may be under threat like never before, but Hong Kong’s pink dolphins are still bobbing around off north Lantau. Meet them with Hong Kong’s most reputable tour groups, Hong Kong DolphinWatch. The team has been leading ecological tours to see the endangered dolphins since 1995 and sightings are more-or-less guaranteed – although numbers are diminishing due to Lantau’s huge construction projects, including the airport extension and the Macau bridge. Hong Kong DolphinWatch can pick guests up from 3 Salisbury Road, TST, and drive out to Lantau where you board the viewing boat. 1528A Star House, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. hkdolphinwatch.com

 

7 History tours with Jason Wordie

Local historian and writer Jason Wordie leads a number of historical tours around the territory. This month he’s running a tour of Central on October 1, Wan Chai on October 13, Kennedy Town on October 20, Kowloon City on October 25 and Sham Shui Po wet markets on October 29. The tours last approximately three-and-a-half hours and are crammed with fascinating facts and figures for a much deeper understanding of Hong Kong life. Suitable for older children and grandparents happy with standing and walking for the duration of the tour. jasonwordie.com

 

6 Ping Shan Heritage Trail

Hong Kong’s original heritage trail takes you through a part of Hong Kong that has been populated by the Tangs, one of the territory’s oldest ‘clan settlers’ since the Yuan Dynasty in the thirteenth century. See historic buildings belonging to the family, Hong Kong’s oldest pagoda Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, the magnificent Tang Clan Ancestral Hall, a temple, a study hall and a well. Ping Shan Tang Clan Gallery and the trail’s visitor centre is located inside the Old Ping Shan Police Station, built by the British in 1900 as much to monitor the coastline as to keep an eye on the clan. Hang Tau Tsuen, Ping Shan, Yuen Long, New Territories. amo.gov.hk

 

5 Aberdeen Promenade and sampan tour

Stroll along the pushchair-friendly Aberdeen Promenade from the Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market at the western end – don’t forget to check out the catch of the day – to the east side where you can hop on a sampan for a tour of the typhoon shelter. Expect to pay around $80/person for a half-hour tour, during which you will get up close to the floating fishing village which is still semi-home to a number of the boat-dwelling Tanka people. And at the other end of the social scale, view the glossy yachts jostling for position in Aberdeen harbour – one allegedly belongs to Hong Kong action hero Jackie Chan.

 

4 Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

Located in Kowloon, this traditional style Chinese temple is nestled between high rise shopping malls and residential buildings. It’s actually one of Hong Kong’s most popular temples and well-known amongst the international Chinese community. Sik Sik Yuen is the Taoist organisation that administers the temple, while Wong Tai Sin, or Wong Cho-ping, was a young shepherd-boy from Zhejiang province around 300AD who devoted his life to Taoism and to whom the temple is dedicated. Wong Tai Sin literally means ‘great immortal Wong’. The temple includes a Nine Dragons Wall, fortune telling hall and a Good Wish Garden with Taoist garden pond. Catch the MTR to Wong Tai Sin. siksikyuen.org.hk

 

3 Peng Chau

Grab a ferry to laidback tiny Peng Chau lying off the north-eastern coast of Lantau. Famous for its temples and seafood, the island used to be a hive of activity with a matchstick factory and lime kilns. There is now just one kiln left – lime was produced by burning oyster shells, clam shells and coral, and was used in construction and ship maintenance until the 1950s – and the former Great China Match Factory is now no more than a few stones marking the boundary walls. Today the island is great for easy hiking (we did it with a grandad and a four-year-old) – head up to Finger Hill for panoramic views over the Tsing Ma bridge and Disneyland, then hit the Peng Chau Family Trail which is a paved walk around the island. Allow two to three hours. Bring a picnic, or try one of the handful of local-style restaurants.

 

2 Cheung Chau treetop adventures

Sai Yuen Farm on the outlying island of Cheung Chau boasts a model boating pond, goat feeding and for those aged four and up, Climbing Monkeys. And for older children aged eight and above is a ten-metre-high tree-top canopy walk with biplane. Not only that, there’s a Segway course through Devil’s Forest for teens (13+). You can even camp-over in a Mongolian Ger, an African safari tent of a geodesic dome.  Visitors are also invited to bring their own camping gear. Catch a ferry from Central Ferry Pier No 5 and there are signs for the farm from Cheung Chau ferry pier. 

 

1 Peak tram

An oldie but a goodie, Hong Kong’s peak tram offers postcard perfect shots as you ride up Victoria Peak. This year it celebrates its 130th birthday. Hack of the day is to take a taxi or bus to the top and catch the tram back down – this way you avoid the monster queues on Garden Road. If your group is looking to stretch their legs, the flat, paved and shady Lugard Road circular walk is just under 4kms and offers views across Pok Fu Lam reservoir, Aberdeen and Lamma, the Tsing Ma bridge, and finally the city in all its high rise splendour. The Peak is undergoing major renovation at the moment and many of the ground floor cafes and shops are currently closed. Pacific Coffee by the tram station and The Peak Lookout Cafe both remain open, however, each offering knock-out views.

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beyondthehighrise

I'm a freelance writer and editor living in Hong Kong.

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