Beneath Hong Kong’s modern skyscrapers lies a surprisingly kid-friendly destination. The city holds tremendous sentimental value as our former home and my daughter’s birthplace. We return every year mostly because the list of things to do in Hong Kong with kids is rather large.
The neat thing about Hong Kong is that we experience something new every time we visit. For such a tiny destination, it really packs a punch.
Best Things to Do in Hong Kong with Kids
It’s become much easier to buy tickets for Hong Kong attractions in advance, which you absolutely should do. I’ve noted where this is possible, and in most cases, it’s via Klook, an enormous tour operator in Asia. You’ll usually save a little money and skip queues by entering with their mobile or printed tickets.
You may also want to consider the Hong Kong Pass. This sightseeing pass is for active travelers who would like to see multiple attractions in a day. (Always read the fine print.)
1. Hong Kong Disneyland
We’ve been to every Disneyland in the world, and Hong Kong Disneyland is by far our favorite. I’m a fan of experiencing Disney in other cultures because the food and other aspects are different. While there can be lines, they are shorter than any other Disney park we’ve been to.
Rides like “it’s a small world” are sung in English though instructions for this and that around the park are typically given in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin.
Of the major roller coasters, Hyperspace Mountain (more or less Space Mountain for those familiar with Disneyland in Anaheim) is the only one represented here. Do not miss Iron Man Experience, Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, and Mystic Manor.
Buy tickets in advance online and print them in advance. Options include:
- Discounted Hong Kong Disneyland tickets on Klook (QR code mobile entry)
- The Central MTR station Hong Kong Disneyland kiosk
- Hong Kong Disneyland hotel or other luxury hotel concierge.
- Hong Kong Disneyland app
The key is to buy them in advance to avoid potential lines at park ticket booths.
If short on time, a half-day visit to Hong Kong Disneyland is still worth it. If you’re coming during summer months and would like to skip the lines, think about booking a 3-hour Disneyland VIP Tour. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (there is one in the park now, too), Hong Kong Disneyland character dining, and Disney dim sum all take place at Disneyland Hotel, which is a quick shuttle bus away from the theme park. You’ll need to reserve either of these experiences in advance.
Though it’s small relative to other Disney parks, Hong Kong Disneyland is one of the best things to do in Hong Kong with kids. I have an extensive guide to Hong Kong Disneyland which has a good discussion in the comments and tips for visiting Hong Kong Disneyland in the summer.
2. Ocean Park
Sea-themed Ocean Park Hong Kong is on the south side of Hong Kong island and accessible by car, bus, taxi and now the MTR (it’s one stop from the Admiralty station).
Some prefer this park to Hong Kong Disneyland because it’s unique with fewer crowds and opportunities for animal encounters (check the schedule). We recently participated in the Honorary Panda Keeper program.
The park is divided into two—a lower level and upper level—connected by a sky tram that provides some of the best views of this part of Hong Kong island. The sky tram is a bit hairy on windy days. A submarine-themed train barrels through the mountain to the other side, too. The lines are usually shorter if you take the train up to the upper level and the cable car down.
The Waterfront (lower area) area near the entrance has the pandas, a huge aquarium and a playground for younger kids. The Summit (upper area) has rides for older kids, the sea lions (which you can toss fish to at designated times), the main show area and other attractions.
Ocean Park is also doable with just a half-day if you’re short on time. Also, buy tickets in advance to avoid lines. Klook also has discounted Ocean Park tickets.
3. Ride the Star Ferry Hong Kong
The Star Ferry Hong Kong is a historical American-football-shaped boat that journeys from Central to Kowloon or Wan Chai to Kowloon in just a few minutes (6-12 depending on the time of day). It also goes to the Hong Kong Disneyland hotel once per day.
Depending on how far you have to walk to the ferry terminals, it can be faster to take the Star Ferry Hong Kong to Kowloon than the MTR. Starting at HKD 2.2o per adult, per way, it certainly is cheap.
Try to sit on the upper deck to avoid inhaling coal fumes that trap themselves on the lower level. It costs a few extra cents, but I believe it’s worth it. There is no need to check the schedule (unless you need to ride it very early in the morning or late at night) because the ferries run frequently enough.
You can also book a short Star Ferry tour around Victoria Harbour during the day or at night. The latter is particularly spectacular, and I would choose the one timed during the ICC and Symphony of Lights evening light shows.
4. Shop the Toy Streets
Yes, there are streets dedicated entirely to toys. Since we always in Hong Kong near my daughter’s birthday, these streets are where we load up on party favors.
Go to Fuk Wing Street in Sham Shui Po (we stop into Tim Ho Wan for a barbecue pork bun prior) where there are cheap plastic dolls, balls, gadgets and school supplies that you can buy individually or in bulk. It’s a nice stop if you’re shopping the other markets in Sham Shui Po anyway. Admittedly, the toys do start to look the same after a while. Take Exit B2 at Sham Shui Po Station, walk two streets and turn right.
Another option is Tai Yuen Street in Wan Chai. This one has more variety and nostalgic toys. Take Exit A3 at Wan Chai station and walk just a few minutes. You’ll see it.
If in need of a costume for any reason, definitely go to Pottinger Street. This small market in Central has loads of costumes and accessories year-round. It’s also conveniently located next two other famous shopping streets called The Lanes (Li Yuen Street East and Li Yuen Street West) just off of Queens Road near the Mid Levels escalator.
5. Visit The Peak
Note: The Peak Tram will be closed for maintenance for up to three months starting on April 23, 2019.
First, pray for a clear day because The Peak offers the most spectacular view of Hong Kong. The viewing deck on the top of The Peak Tower on the Sky Terrace (admission required) is the perfect place to take that holiday card photo. Or, opt for the free Lion’s Peak Pavilion to the right (if facing Victoria Harbour) of The Peak Tower. It’s a free viewing platform with more charm but usually crowded.
Go any time of the day, but I think it’s best to maximize your time up here by also dining at The Peak Lookout. There are also quick-service restaurants, some of which serve must-try Hong Kong food.
Madame Tussaud’s is here as are many, many souvenir shops.
Note: The Peak Galleria is closed for renovation until 2019. This is where a number of restaurants, shops and Trick Eye Museum are located.
Stroll around the Peak Circle Walk for more scenic shots. As the name implies, you can walk an entire circle around The Peak. There’s a little kids’ playground around the middle if they need a break. It takes around 40 minutes to do the entire walk, however, when short on time we walk it for a bit and then reverse.
We usually take The Peak Tram up and taxi back down, because my daughter is usually tired from walking. However, on the most recent trip we walked down the scenic Morning Trail from the Peak all the way back to Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong in Central which took about an hour or so (however, I know where I’m going… if you try and get lost at the bottom of the trail, hail a taxi).
Likewise, many hike to Pok Fu Lam from The Peak and down a few other trails. If this appeals to you, ask your hotel concierge for a map and make sure your cell phone is charged.
Tip: The queue for the Peak Tram on the way up has been really long lately. Get a skip-the-line ticket from Klook (you can bundle this with discounted admission to Madame Tussauds and the Sky Terrace) or the Hong Kong pass.
6. Hong Kong Science Museum/Hong Kong Museum of History
Here’s something to do on a rainy day (and, in the summer, there are plenty of rainy days). The Hong Kong Science Museum is located in Tsim Sha Tsui East in Kowloon and has over 500 exhibits on display including Cathay Pacific’s first DC3 airliner suspended from the ceiling. Most of the exhibits are hands-on including a car simulator that you “drive” to avoid accidents. Another highlight is the 22-meter Energy Machine (the largest of its kind in the world) with audio-visual effects simulating energy. Kids will love it.
The Hong Kong Museum of History is right next door and free to enter. It is my favorite Hong Kong museum and does have some colorful hands-on exhibits for kids, but you will likely enjoy it more than they will. I say hit both at the same time.
7. Hong Kong Park
It’s not huge but passing through here is a pleasant thing to do with kids, especially if you’re walking from Central to Admiralty (or vice versa) or need a break from shopping at Pacific Place (one of my favorite indoor malls). Turtles and koi fish can be seen swimming in little ponds along the walkway.
There’s even a small teaware museum worth visiting quickly. When it’s hot, it’s easy to duck into Pacific Place mall for a drink or bite to eat. This park is a little oasis off of the busy street.
If families are considering the Admiralty Hotels (Upper House, Conrad, JW Marriott, and Island Shangri-la), I always point out this park as a perk of the location.
8. The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery via Ngong Ping 360
Named for the stunning views seen during a ride, Ngong Ping 360 eliminates the need to endure a windy bus ride to the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island.
Take the MTR to Tung Chung station and the cable car is just a few minutes away on foot. Ride in a regular cable car, private cable car or even a glass-bottom cable car. Kids will love the glass-bottom cable car which usually has a shorter boarding queue.
The cable car drops you at Ngong Ping Village where there is shopping, dining, and entertainment (it’s a bit touristy). Nature walks are accessible here but most famous is the Po Lin Monastery where you may have a decent vegetarian lunch and the Tian Tan Buddha, otherwise known as the Big Buddha.
Though people from all over Asia make the pilgrimage to see the Big Buddha, it was built in 1993. It is still a holy place.
If your kids are good walkers, do take a quick detour to the Wisdom Path where a group of large wooden steles displays a prayer. It’s great for photos.
My daughter loves visiting the Big Buddha and asks to visit every time we go to Hong Kong now. You can read more about our tips for visiting the Big Buddha because there is a lot to know.
Some hotel concierge desks can purchase your Ngong Ping cable car tickets in advance. Otherwise, Klook has them and a dedicated expedited line at the entrance.
9. Go Hong Kong Pink Dolphin Watching
Sadly, due to pollution, ferries and harbour reclamation, the endangered Hong Kong pink dolphins are becoming even rarer. They are gorgeous and if you can swing 3 hours on a boat, try to see them before they are gone. Through Klook, you can book a Hong Kong pink dolphin watching tour.
10. Explore the Geoparks
Eight UNESCO Geoparks in Hong Kong highlight interesting rock formations created by the Earth’s movement. Contrary to the way the above Geopark looks, some are flat and easy for young kids to navigate. There are hexagonal volcanic columns, sea arches, and more.
Some of them are remote. Your best bet is to do some research to decide which are most appropriate for your family and whether or not to take a tour.
If you happen to be staying at The Peninsula Hong Kong, they now offer a private helicopter tour of the UNESCO Geoparks as part of their Peninsula Academy bespoke programs, or you can book one via Klook.
11. Watch the Nightly Symphony of Lights and ICC Light Shows
This show never gets old, and my daughter has loved it since before she could talk. I highly recommend harbour view hotel rooms as most have views of the nightly Symphony of Lights show over Victoria Harbour.
The ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’ as named by Guinness World Records starts every night at 8:00 p.m. Colored lasers and lights shoot from the top of 40 buildings lining the Hong Kong skyline. Listen to music (Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra recorded the new musical score) and narration available via the A Symphony of Lights app though it is broadcast live near Avenue of the Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui and at the promenade at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai. Make sure to see the laser show at least once.
The ICC building, which you can see from Hong Kong island. Download the app so that you can listen to music synchronized with the light show. You can see it extremely well from a harbour view room at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, the IFC terraces on Podium 3 and 4 as well as some harbour view restaurants. The shows happen nightly at 7:45 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Remember, you can see both shows at the evening Star Ferry tour or book a Symphony of Lights tour on Aqua Luna, a (new) traditional Hong Kong red-sailed junks (more details below).
12. Ride the Mid-Levels Escalator
This activity depends on the level of patience your kids have, but the Mid-Levels Escalator is the largest escalator in the world.
Starting at 6:00 a.m., the escalator runs downhill to take residents to work and switches directions at roughly 10:15 a.m. to run uphill until midnight, at which point it turns off until the morning.
Make it a challenge and see if you can ride it all the way to the top though it doesn’t reach The Peak. You can always exit the in the Mid-Levels/Soho area for lunch, dinner, shopping or a snack.
There are tons of great restaurants in Soho/Mid-Levels. As you’ve likely taken the escalator up, it’s easy to walk back down (not easy with a stroller unless you know the back routes). My daughter liked to count the steps down when she was younger. Or, simply taxi back down to Central.
13. Bike the New Territories
Cycling is growing to one of the most popular things to do in Hong Kong with kids and most often done in the New Territories. We took a half-day private biking tour of the Walled Villages in the New Territories with Mountain Biking Asia that I would recommend for kids that can handle more rugged terrain. It’s pretty flat, with a few small hills and dirt roads but they do need a little strength and endurance. My daughter was nine when we first did this and fine.
We have also rented bikes just outside of the MTR station in Tai Wai (they even have kids’ bikes). This entire route is pretty flat and a dedicated bike path. Discover Hong Kong has a helpful page outlining the various bike paths and rental information.
14. Ride a Hong Kong Junk
Red-sailed junks are Hong Kong’s icon, often seen in travel ads, and a sight that lends immediate recognition to Victoria Harbour. Duk Ling is the last authentic Chinese sailing junk in Victoria Harbour. The junk has been painstakingly restored and is available for short cruises during the week or private hire. If you’re not going to ride it, keep an eye out it in the harbour. I see it often from Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
Another red-sailed junk built by the Aqua Group is also visible on the harbour and available for dining and tours. It’s called Aqua Luna but is a new ship which means the experience is a bit more posh with more comfortable seating, cocktails, and food for purchase. Those who prefer a more authentic experience should choose Duk Ling (a complimentary glass of beer, red wine or soft drinks is provided as well).
Aqua Luna also runs on a hop-on, hop-off basis between noon and 5:00 p.m. to four points in Hong Kong.
There are also some junks you can rent by the day (sans the red sails, usually). We’ve done it with friends (and loads of champagne), and it’s quite fun. If you ride a Hong Kong junk, bring sunscreen if during the day. If you are very sensitive to sea sickness, give it a skip.
15. Ferry to an Outer Island
Kids who love boat rides can get their fill in Hong Kong between the Star Ferry, Duk Ling, Aqua Luna, dolphin watching and ferries to outlying islands where the buzz of a big city is less noticeable. The two most popular islands are Cheung Chau (pictured above), which is famous for the annual bun festival in May (if you are in Hong Kong in May, this festival is a must), and Lamma Island, another fishing village.
Cheung Chau is home to a pretty beach near the ferry terminal and water-based outdoor activities like kayaking and swimming, while Lamma Island is home to fresh seafood and a little beach.
We used to take the 20-minute ferry ride over to Lamma from Central, walk around the island and then eat at one of the small seaside restaurants. The islands, especially Lamma, provide a nice break from city life.
16. Ride the Hong Kong Observation Wheel
Recently opened on the Central Harbourfront, the new Hong Kong Observation Wheel (or Hong Kong Ferris Wheel) provides 20 minutes of fun for all ages. The wheel spins around three times and provides excellent views over Victoria Harbour. It’s also within walking distance of the ferry terminals and Central hotels.
One of the best times to visit is during Golden Hour when the sunlight hits the skyscrapers or during the Symphony of Lights show. But, really, any time is a good time.
17. Visit the Trick Eye Museum (Temporarily Closed)
Note: Trick Eye Museum is located inside The Peak Galleria which is closed for renovation until summer 2019.
My daughter and her friends loved this little 3-D art museum. I would say allow 30 minutes or so to walk through the rooms in the Trick Eye Museum. This one is convenient because you’ll likely be touring The Peak at some point anyway.
18. Eat Character Dim Sum
Character dim sum is trending in Hong Kong and elsewhere. One of the most popular places for it in Hong Kong is a restaurant called Yum Cha which as locations in both Central and Kowloon. We often meet friends here because the kids love it and the food is good. Do make a reservation. They also offer dim sum making classes.
Dim Sum Icon, now only in Kowloon, is another restaurant where the themed character dim sum changes every so often to keep people coming in. To be honest, I did not recognize the character series featured when we were there, but they’ve featured Gudetama, Sailormoon and other favorite characters. In my opinion, the food is better at Yum Cha.
Of course, you can also reserve Crystal Lotus inside Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel for Disney dim sum.
19. Eat a Hong Kong Waffle
Even picky kids may enjoy one of Hong Kong’s most popular street food snacks: the egg waffle (also called Hong Kong waffle or eggette).
In addition to the mildly-sweet flavor of the original (many flavor variations exist now) they might like to see how the waffles are made and dried by a fan. We like Mammy Pancake (locations on the island and in Kowloon) which has recently earned a Michelin star. Lee Keung Kee (North Point and Kowloon) is popular as is Oddie’s (Central and Wan Chai) if you’d like an eggette wrapped around soft-serve gelato.
Other local must-trys that kids may love include pineapple buns, Hong Kong toast, won ton noodle soup, and egg tarts.
Good Things to Know When in Hong Kong With Kids
Eating in Hong Kong with kids also isn’t challenging. There is plenty of Western food available, but kid-friendly favorites like steamed rice, fried rice, egg rolls, and other simple Chinese food items can be ordered, too.
Do not panic if you forget to pack something. Many Western brands of jarred baby food, formula, diapers and more are available at chemists and grocery stores.
Car seats aren’t required in taxis. Uneven pavement makes using a stroller difficult in some areas and finding a lift in an MTR station can be difficult, though not impossible.
Hong Kongers love kids, and I’ve received plenty of help with strollers and bags from strangers over the years.
If time permits, Hong Kong is a fantastic city for a vacation photographer. We used Flytographer for a 30-minute session and were quite pleased. Book through my link for 20% more photos and a free SmugMug print, if you’d like to try it. Shoots start at $250 for 30 minutes.
The maximum occupancy in Hong Kong hotels is three people, including kids, with a few exceptions. Even families of four will usually need connecting rooms.
I have had nothing but good experiences with babysitters at both Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. These are my top two Hong Kong family hotel picks and where we stay every year.
If you are considering a luxury Hong Kong hotel, I have access to VIP amenities and perks (that may include complimentary breakfast for two, room upgrades, food, and beverage credits and more) at five-star hotels in town through my role as an independent affiliate at Cadence Travel (a Virtuoso member agency*). Send me your dates, and I’ll let you know what’s on offer in the luxury category.
What are your favorite things to do in Hong Kong with kids?
Photo credits: Geopark, Flickr/Anthorea; Star Ferry, Peak Tram, Symphony of Lights, Duk Ling, Mid-Levels Escalator, Cheung Chau are courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.