I have always believed in experiential learning - the process of learning through experience - and this explains why I am always looking for places and activities in Singapore to keep my monkies occupied whenever the weekends roll along.
Frankly, it is always more fun to be outdoors because being outside is vital to a kid’s growth, and his/her emotional and mental development. Kids learn better through these experiences which cannot be replicated in the classroom.
But there can only be so many parks or indoor/outdoor playgrounds or theme parks that parents can visit... so if you are looking for places to visit in Singapore that are a little off-the-beaten track AND secret, then these places will no doubt be the best way to spend a memorable time with your family. Even BETTER if they are ALL FREE to visit! :)
1. Tuas South Beach
There is a secret, secluded beach at Tuas. Head along Tuas South Ave 4 and look for a large and grassy field near the road bend. Trek about 300m through the grass and come face to face with a little beach that faces Jurong Island.
Granted the beach is not the cleanest around and the sea is not exactly made for swimming but this stretch of sand is devoid of crowds, far from looming buildings and quiet - the perfect place to relax with the family, and perhaps fly a kite.
2. Thow Kwang Industry
Thow Kwang is home to one of the last surviving dragon kilns or long yao in Singapore. The Thow Kwang dragon kiln was built in the 1940s and used to fire ceramic products. After a hiatus, the dragon kiln was brought back to life. Since 2001, potters’ activities have thrived and now there is a huge selection of pottery wares for sale there.
While the Dragon Kiln is certainly a draw, the hands-on pottery sessions will be a hit with the kids. They would love creating pots on clay-wheels during the session before burning the pots in the kiln. Sessions are typically conducted during weekends and public holidays, and start from $28 for 1.5 hours. More details on its Facebook page HERE.
Address: 85 Lorong Tawas (off Jalan Bahar), Singapore 639823
Opening Hours: 9am–5pm daily
3. Jurong Eco-Garden
Just a stone's throw away from Thow Kwang is Jurong Eco-Garden, the 'green lungs' of CleanTech Park and Singapore’s first freshwater swamp forest located within an industrial park. If we had not visited Thow Kwang, we would not have discovered this gem of a find. Simply because the Eco-Garden has an amazing variety of wildlife and nature and is home to many birds, dragonflies, butterflies and insects.
Spread over four areas - Summit Forest, Wildlife Corridor, Stream Ravine and Freshwater Swamp Forest - the 5-hectare park intersperse building parcels seamlessly with green spaces. One interesting station to visit is the Composting Station which features the processes how horticulture waste are converted into resources. If you are planning to expose nature to the kids minus the crowds, Jurong Eco-Garden will be your best bet!
Address: 1 Clean Tech Loop, Singapore 609434
4. Kranji War Memorial
The Kranji War Memorial in Singapore honours the men and women from the Commonwealth who died in the line of duty during World War II. More than 4,400 white gravestones are erected in rows on the cemetery’s gentle slope. The Chinese Memorial, in plot 44, marks a mass grave for 69 Chinese servicemen who were killed by the Japanese when Singapore fell in February 1942. Next to the Kranji War Memorial is the Kranji Military Cemetery, with more than 1,400 burials of soldiers who died after World War II. The Singapore State Cemetery, where the country’s first and second presidents, Encik Yusof Ishak and Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, are buried is situated nearby as well.
A solemn and peaceful resting place to honour the dead, this is not the place for young kids to be running around. Rather, it is the perfect place for older kids to be exposed to Singapore’s war history with information detailing the Japanese invasion and occupation of Singapore.
Address: 9 Woodlands Road, Singapore 7386565. Sembawang Hot Spring
Opening Hours: 8am - 6.30pm daily
Opening Hours: 8am - 6.30pm daily
This is the mainland’s only natural hot spring and its water used to be bottled commercially by Fraser and Neave, under the brand name of Seletaris. The spring water is popular for its purported curative properties, and so, some parents bring their kids who have skin conditions such as eczema, to bathe there every week.
While the area is kept to a bare minimum, the Hot Spring provides a one of a kind experience in Singapore. Bring some buckets along (or just use the many buckets that others have left behind) and indulge in foot bath therapy. Just for kicks, bring along eggs and you will be able to enjoy soft-boiled eggs, courtesy of the hot spring water.
Address: Along Gambas Avenue
Opening Hours: 7am - 7pm
6. Pasir Panjang and Sime Road Pillboxes
Probably the best known pillbox in Singapore is the preserved one at the junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads. A pillbox is a concrete bunker or guard-house, and usually has small holes allowing the person inside to keep watch and to aim a machine gun. The pillbox at 262 Pasir Panjang Road is one of the few that has survived. It lies within the area that had been defended by the First Malaya Brigade, and may have been used by the Malay Regiment in its battle against the 18th Japanese Division on Pasir Panjang Ridge in February 1942.
If you are looking for more adventure, then try locating the pillbox on Sime Road. If driving, park at Sime Hill Road, on the left before the pillbox. The Sime Road Pillbox is the more interesting of the two as kids (and adults) can go inside the pillbox and have a sense of how it felt to have been in one during wartime.
Address: Pasir Panjang Pillbox (Junction of Pasir Panjang and Science Park Roads) | Sime Road Pillbox (Along Sime Road, just before SICC entrance)
7. Urban Farm & Barn
Tucked away on the top of a hill in Bukit Panjang, this urban farm is well-stocked with herbs and edibles growing in the show gardens which featured raised beds, a step garden, herb fountain and a vertical garden. Ample signs that detail the plants' names and their characteristics accompany the plants as well, making it an informative session for the kids as well. Do check out the mini eco-pond too, which counts some tadpoles as its residents, as well as a tree frog.
But the highlight for the kids has got to be the chance to grow their own vegetables on the vertical farming system! Rows of farming racks are available for rent. Visitors can rent 20 trays of compost _ slotted into a rack - for $50 a month (min. rental for 3 months). What’s more, 40% of the rent goes to a fund for students from low-income families. Just plant the seeds and return weeks later to harvest. Farming has never been easier… or more fun!
Address: Off Petir Road, Bukit Panjang
Opening Hours: Mon: Closed | Tue - Thurs: 8.30am - 11.30am | Fri -Sun & Public Holidays: 3pm - 6pm
8. Sengkang Riverside Park
Okay, so this is not exactly a secret spot but compared to its more famous Punggol Waterway counterpart, Sengkang Riverside Park is often overlooked. Featuring a constructed wetland and rich biodiversity, the park is made up of three areas along Sungei Punggol River - the Visitor Centre, the Civic Event Lawn and Singapore’s largest man-made wetland, Sengkang Floating Island.
No playgrounds here, but there are definitely plenty of nature experiences for the kids. Hike on the park’s trails to view the marshes and get close to the inhabitants of the marshland. Home to many aquatic plants, the wetland doubles up as a wildlife habitat and attracts a variety of mangrove birds and damselflies. Alternatively, embark on an educational journey to explore the fruit trees planted around the park such as the starfruit, chiku and dragon fruit trees. Or head inwards to the park from the Visitor Centre where a large field awaits. Here, the wind blows consistently making it a perfect spot to fly some kites!
Address: Anchorvale Street abutting Sungei Punggol
9. Changi Museum
Changi Museum is more ulu (or remote) than secret. But then again, the museum can be considered a secret as well because it is a severely underrated gem that few Singaporeans ever visit. The place provides in-depth accounts of the lives of Singaporeans, POWs and civilians who were imprisoned in Singapore and the region.
If you are looking to educate your kids about both the horror and heroism of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Changi Museum is it. Take a slow walk through the adjacent Changi Chapel too, which houses a box of sand from Changi Beach where the tragic Sook Ching massacres took place.
Address: 1000 Upper Changi Road North, Singapore 507707
Opening Hours: 9.30am - 5pm daily
10. Balik Kampung
Looking to give your child an experience that is wholesome and different from modern city life? Head down to Balik Kampung (meaning “going back home” in Malay), the flagship community programme of Ground-Up Initiative (GUI), a volunteer-driven non-profit organisation. Get your hands dirty by chipping in to help build a sustainable kampong through activities that revolve around the themes of community building and sustainable living.
Together with their kids, parents can participate in activities such as weeding, watering and working on the farming plots, harvesting fruits and vegetables, strengthening river embankments, preparing lunch for volunteers and some carpentry work. Volunteer sessions are every Saturday between 8.45am and 2pm and every Wednesday between 9.45am and 3pm. Sign up via HERE.
Address: 91 Lorong Chencharu, Singapore 769201
Farmart Centre houses a collection of shops, a farmers’ market, petting zoo and food outlets serving local fare. On weekends, get up close to farm animals such as goats, bull frogs, tortoises, rabbits, birds, fishes and hamsters at the Weekend Animal Farm Corner.
The animals are all free to visit but if your kids wish to feed the farm animals as well as the koi in the Koi Pond, then food is available for purchase at $5 for a bundled package of feed.
Address: 67 Sungei Tengah Road Singapore 699008
Opening Hours: Food Outlets: 10am–10pm (Sun–Thu); 10am–12am (Fri, Sat, PH) | Contact shops for specific operating hours
12. Jurong Railway Line
Many have heard of the Green Corridor but few have explored the now defunct Jurong Railway Line. The Jurong Railway Line is the sibling of the main railway line that stretched from Woodlands to Tanjong Pagar. It had branched out from the former Bukit Timah Railway Station near King Albert Park and extended 20km to Jurong Industrial Estate. One of the landmarks of the Jurong Railway Line is the rusty truss bridge near Sunset Way.
Sunset Way is a good starting point for exploring the Jurong Railway Line. To get to the Jurong Railway Line, enter via the intersection of Sunset Way and Clementi Street 14. The three train tunnels and a community farm at Clementi Avenue 4 are waiting to be discovered alongside the sweet allure of a rural Singapore that is virtually nonexistent today.
Address: No specific entry point, but I recommend entering the Jurong Railway Line via the intersection of Sunset Way and Clementi Street 14
Feb 2016 UPDATE: Entrance to the Truss Bridge has been closed to public.
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