So if you are planning to bring the family out for a day's worth of fun at a fun new place during the weekend, I've put together a list of 13 Singapore's little-known experiences - away from the mainstream attractions - which can be enjoyed together as a family!
1. Touchwood @ Ground-up Initiative
Kids picking up basic carpentry skills? Touchwood is one of the rare places in Singapore to do so! The craft arm of Ground-Up Initiative, Touchwood is a social enterprise with one mission - to find and create useful ways in recycling used and unwanted materials and in the process, increase awareness on the importance of resourcefulness, especially in a small, resource-scarce country that we live in, and encourage greater social interaction.
Address: Kampung Kampus, Ground-Up Initiative, 91 Lorong Chencharu (Yishun) Singapore 769201
Price: Varies according to workshop
2. Sisters Island
A great retreat for a day of snorkelling in blue waters and camping, Sisters Islands is actually made up of two islands – Big Sister’s Island and Little Sister’s Island. The islands are separated by a narrow channel and are popular with picnic-goers because of their shady palm trees and beach shelters. A permit is also needed should you decide to camp overnight on the island.
The main highlight though, is the rich marine life that the island houses. Home to Singapore’s first Marine Park, the entire area will protect Singapore’s coral reefs, which support an ecosystem inhabited by rare and endangered species of seahorses, clams, sponges and other marine life. The intertidal area at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park is most suitable for visiting during low tides of 0.4 metres and below. That is when you will be able to see the area teeming with marine life.
One has to charter a fast boat as there are no daily ferries to the island. But I highly recommend signing up for the Introductory Guided Walks at Sisters' Islands Marine Park conducted by NParks which are FREE. Visit www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/sisters-islands-marine-park for more details. Do check back regularly as the slots get filled up very fast!3. The Live Turtle & Tortoise Museum
Found within Chinese Gardens, the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum is home to more than 200 turtles and tortoises in over 60 different species like the fortune turtle, the gold soft-shell turtle and the ferocious alligator turtle. Tamer turtles roam the compound, so opportunities to pet and feed the animals will never fail to thrill children and adults alike. The Museum is also a showcase of collectibles such as toys, ornaments, tableware and furniture, inspired by these animals.
Although the area is rather small, the museum provides families the chance to come up close with these fascinating creatures. For $2, you get a bunch of fresh vegetables to feed the hungry reptiles within the garden and that should delight any child.
Address: 1 Chinese Garden Rd Singapore 619795
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm daily
Price: Adults $5 | Children below 6 $3
4. Water-Venture by People’s Association
People Association’s Water-Venture outlets offer unlimited outdoor fun and fitness as a way to bond families and friends. The outlets offer a range of water sports activities like kayaking, sailing, dragon boating, windsurfing and power boating, with some catering to children as well. There are eight Water-Venture outlets which are run by professional staff and assisted by a dedicated pool of trainers and volunteers.
Keep an eye out for the wildly popular Reservoir Discovery Series – an island-wide kayaking initiation that welcomes everyone (with or without kayaking experience) to pick up the sport, bask in the natural surroundings, and explore the scenic routes and calm reservoirs of Singapore.
Address: Visit HERE for its 8 locations
Opening Hours: The Water-Venture outlets operate from Tuesdays to Sundays, 9.30am to 6.00pm, open on all public holidays (except Chinese New year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Christmas & National Day)
5. Kranji Marshes
Spanning 56.8 hectares (half the size of Gardens by the Bay), Kranji Marshes is the largest freshwater marshland in Singapore. It is home to a combination of lush, marsh, woodland and grass habitats with more than 170 species of birds, 54 species of butterflies and 33 species of dragonflies lies in the north-western part of Singapore. And not only is it open to everyone, it is FREE to visit!
There are two main areas – one that is open to public and the core conservation area which can only be accessed via guided walks. For the public walk, the start journey begins at Kranji Gate which is located at the end of Neo Tiew Lane 2 (beside D'Kranji Farm Resort). The walk is a relatively straight-forward linear one, a 1km route which ends at 10-metre tall Raptor Tower which offers a panoramic view of the entire Kranji Marshes. Suffice to say, scaling the tower is the highlight for the kids!
Address: 11 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718814
Opening hours: 7am to 7pm daily
6. Children Little Museum
Hidden away along Bussorah Street, in front of the Sultan Mosque, is one awesome gem offering visitors a precious glimpse into the past. The Children Little Museum houses an impressive collection of memorabilia and old-school toys. From tikam tikam to tin robots to old-style pick-up-stix, there are surprises waiting to be discovered and reminisced especially for us parents. And it will most certainly be an eye-opener for the children too, giving parents the perfect opportunity to share what kind of toys and items they had while growing up last time.
And when you leave, be sure to check out the mamak store outside the museum which sells all the retro toys that we are familiar, as well as tikam tikam! Oh, and did I mention the admission fees are amazingly affordable too? Only $2 per person! Our experience HERE.
Address: 42 Bussorah Street (in front of Sultan Mosque), Singapore 199460
Opening Hours: 10.30am - 10.00 daily
Volunteers from Castle Beach conduct sandcastle-building lessons for the public from 3.30pm to 7pm on weekends. These classes promote family bonding, team work, patience and resilience as everyone work together to create a beautiful creation on the beach. Kids will be able to pick up tips on how to build awesome sandcastles. Do note that while the lessons are free, families need to purchase a sandcastle building set.
Address: East Coast Beach, Beside E2 Carpark and East Coast Lagoon Food Village
Opening Hours: 3.30pm – 7pm every Sat & Sun
Price: Sandcastle Building Set - $42 (Deluxe Set) | $50 (Super deluxe set)
8. Kayak Mandai Mangroves
Explore the Important Bird Area of Mandai Mangroves on kayak. Organised by Nature Society (Singapore), this event is suitable for beginners as the kayaks are stable double-seaters. Kayak through Sungei Mandai Besar and Sungei Mandai Kechil where large stands of mature mangroves exist alongside abandoned kampongs.
The event is held a few times in a year so it is best to visit www.nss.org.sg for available dates and slots. Participants must be at least 8 years old. Those age 12 and below must be accompanied by one parent in the same kayak. Nature Society (Singapore)’s members pay $100 while the public pays $125 for the 4-hour session. Kids 12 years old and below are entitled to a discounted price.
9. Jurong Fishery Port
Take in the sights, sounds and of course smells at the Jurong Fishery Port where it really comes alive after midnight when all the fishing vessels start to unload their day's catch. Just the sight of so many different types of fishes and how the auction of fishes are done should be enough to offset the lack of sleep.
Fishing vessels and fish reefer boats calling at JFP usually unload their catch between 11pm and 2am for wholesale through the fish merchants so do head down at that time to catch the fervent action!
Address: Fishery Port Rd, Singapore 619742
10. PIP’s PLAYbox @ The Esplanade
PIP’s PLAYbox is an activity space tucked away on Level 4 at the Esplanade designed especially for kids - AND it's all FREE! There is a kids craft station where kids will be able to churn out their own handicrafts. The crafts will vary throughout the time of year and depending on the season.
The air-conditioned area also stocks a massive library of children’s books, complete with plenty of personal - and some secret too! - speaces for kids and parents to read together. Need a little fresh air? Head to the mini playground just outside where kids can get active and even crawl inside the brick-red tower to get a kaleidoscopic view of the sky above!
Address: Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, 1 Esplanade Dr, Level 4, Singapore 038981
Opening hours: 11am - 6pm daily
11. Bukit Brown Cemetery
Look beyond the spookiness of the cemetery, and you will find an area that very much remains a lush, overgrown oasis. Take an early morning stroll through the grounds – the paths are level and relatively easy, so it is perfect for families. If you are lucky, bump into the resident caretaker who may just point out graves of notable locals such as Gan Eng Seng and Chew Joo Chiat. On a practical note, be sure to bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
Address: Located between Lornie Road and Mount Pleasant Road
12. Cat Museum
Consisting of three floors, the museum is decked out with paraphernalia and nuggets of information about the history of cats from around the world along with curated cat-related visual artwork and photographs. More importantly, it has a space dedicated to rescued or abandoned cats which can be adopted by the public - the first museum in the world that has real cats available for adoption. The Cat Museum on the second level features touching stories and cats and their humans, as well as the important roles they play in each community while the third level houses the Muses Gallery, which traces the history and origins of the Singaporean cat. The main highlight of the gallery, however, is definitely the cat orphanage, set up in collaboration with the folks at Cat Welfare Society.
Located on the third level, the Mansion is home to the museum’s 9 resident cats. Named after Hollywood superstars, this playground for the felines has many exciting features to keep cats (and humans) entertained.
Address: 8 Purvis Street, #02-02 Singapore 188587
Opening Hours: Thurs & Fri 4pm – 7pm | Sat & Sun 1pm - 3.30pm (1st session) | Sat 4pm - 7pm (2nd session) | Sun 4pm - 6.30pm (2nd session)
Price: 13 yrs & above $12 | 7-12 yrs old $10 | FREE for children below 6 years old
13. Volunteer at Giving.sg
Spread some love to the less fortunate by volunteering together as a family at Giving.sg, which was set up by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre to promote and grow the volunteering culture here in Singapore. At Giving.sg, every youth, every senior, every child, every animal matters. So through its portal - which lists volunteering opportunities for anyone who wants to volunteer – people can volunteer for a cause or organisation they are passionate about.
There is nothing like bonding through volunteering as a family. Not does it foster volunteerism at a young age, the children learn to cherish what they currently have and not take things for granted.
If you have any more to share, I would love to know about them!