Gosh, Macau has changed. As the only area in China with legalized gambling and revenues dwarfing that of flashier Las Vegas, the influx of U.S.-based casinos has ironically made the area a lot more kid-friendly. I wished that I’d booked more time as there now are plenty of things to do in Macau with kids–something I never thought I’d say, having lived in nearby Hong Kong.
Where is Macau?
Macau is located at the southern tip of Guandong province in China and is made up of a peninsula and several small islands. The whole special administrative region (no visa is required for U.S. citizens, unlike mainland China) is just over 11 square miles. It’s about an hour ferry ride (we took Cotai Jet) from Hong Kong. There’s a small peninsula and several islands. The Cotai Strip, where The Venetian and Four Seasons Hotel Maca0, Cotai Strip are located, is a land reclamation project funded by the Las Vegas Sands that now links the islands of Coloane (Co) and Taipa (tai). Over the years, we’ve visited Macau quite a bit (my husband worked on a major casino deal there) but I hadn’t stayed on the Cotai Strip until our recent trip.
Reasons to Visit Macau
What makes Macau awesome for the non-gambler is its history as a Portuguese colony from the mid-16th century to 1999. Portuguese influence is still visible in the colorful, colonial architecture and cuisine. I personally love the food and will need to dedicate an entire post to that alone. Portuguese wine is common and the bakeries are famous in the region. Macau is small so it doesn’t take long (unless there’s traffic–which is a real possibility during peak times) to get from one place to another.
A mistake that people make is comparing Macau to Las Vegas. If you’re coming to Macau for bottomless drinks and bachelorette party-type activities, you’re definitely headed to the wrong place. Gambling is serious business in China and I’ll just leave it at that. Also, you’ll see Macau often written as Macao.
Things To Do In Macau With Kids
1. Stay In A Non-Gaming Hotel
Though family-friendly hotel options are on the rise in Macau, word on the street is that the best for families is Four Seasons Hotel Macao. Cotai Strip. As a freelance writer for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, I was hosted there but, truthfully, given my experience with the area it doesn’t influence my opinion at all. Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip is non-gaming and, unlike Las Vegas, kids are not at all allowed to walk through Macau casinos to get from point A to point B. Non-gaming means the hotel is more relaxed and draws a family clientele in addition to all of the Four Seasons touches that you’d expect. They put a cool pink tent and a number of special amenities in the room just for my 6-year-old. Not to mention there are five swimming pools (one has a waterfall), kids menus and it’s linked to The Venetian where several of the things to do on this list await.
2. Ride The Venetian Macao Gondola
The Venetian Macao is the largest casino in the world. It’s massive. It’s also the largest building in the world based on floor space. Get a map from your concierge otherwise you’ll get lost. There are three canals here versus just one in Las Vegas. Our gondelier sang in both Italian and Mandarin while cracking jokes. He was excellent about posing everyone for good photographs and this was a highlight for my daughter.
3. See The House Of Dancing Water
I dedicated an entire post to The House of Dancing Water because it’s one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. The show is unique to Macau and a whopping $250 million went into creating it. The stage holds 3.7 million gallons of water and can transform from a pool deep enough for high diving to a completely dry floor in a matter of seconds. There’s acrobatics, motorcycle stunts, water jet displays and more. The show is across the street from Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip inside City of Dreams.
Located inside The Venetian Macao, Qube is an interactive kid’s play zone with climbing structures, computer games, pool tables and more. It’s good for kids who can walk all the way up through teens (they will likely lurk in separate areas). I hear that locals love it just as much as tourists. Entry fee as of this writing is MOP $90 for two hours.
5. Eat Egg Tarts
Well, maybe this one is for you unless your kids are budding foodies. Make a trip to famous Lord Stow’s, thought to have pioneered the egg tarts Macau is famous for. My daughter loved their ham croissant sandwich. There’s a branch inside The Venetian and several others around Macau, though the original is on Coloane Island. You’ll see visitors in the know buying boxes and boxes of these and other delights. Go see what the fuss is about. The crust is more like a sugar cookie than pastry with a delicately-baked egg custard in the center (said to contain two eggs each).
6. Ruins of St. Paul’s
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Macau’s most famous landmark, a trip isn’t complete without a photo opp. Ruins of St. Paul’s (top photo) is a 16th century facade left from a college and cathedral that had been destroyed in a typhoon (and by fires before that). The rear is reinforced by steel and there’s a stairway for visitors to climb up and peek though the windows. Admission is free and below is the historic city centre. Get dropped off at Senado Square and leisurely weave your way up to Ruins of St. Paul’s past the shops, snacks and famous bakeries.
7. Go To The Beach
On Coloane Island awaits Hac Sa Beach, which translates to black sand beach. And, that’s more or less what it is with the exception of some imported yellow sand to help assist with erosion. It’s a mix in spots but still the best place to go to the beach in Macau. It’s 4km long which means you won’t face crowds. Fancy waterskiing? You can do it in Macau. Other amenities include picnic areas, a children’s play area, tennis, and other water sport rentals. This is also where the famous and kid-friendly Fernando’s Restaurant is.
8. DreamWorks Experience At Cotai Strip Resorts
Whether you’d like to watch your favorite DreamWorks characters march in a parade or eat breakfast with them, have a look at the various DreamWorks Experiences offered by certain Cotai Strip resorts. Shrekfast, breakfast with Shrek and friends, occurs at the Sheraton and Holiday Inn.
9. Visit The Macau Tower
What you do at the Macau Tower totally depends on age. Teens may get a thrill from attempting the world’s highest bungee jump. Or, there is no age restriction for those who would like to strap in do the sky walk like these people above. As long as you fit in the harness, it doesn’t matter how old you are! There’s no handrail and the edge is only 1.8 meters wide. The tower is 61 stories tall. The adventure offerings are run by AJ Hacket, and have a flawless safety record.
But for the less daring, there’s indoor and outdoor observation decks and a restaurant that rotates 360 degrees for panoramic views of the surrounding area. The buffet here is excellent with Portuguese and international favorites. A convention space, shopping and even a movie theatre inside the tower also live inside the tower. It’s huge.
10. Visit The Macao Science Center
The Macao Science Center features 14 galleries and 450 interactive exhibits with many of them hand’s on. Entrance is $25 MOP and $65 MOP including a 3D planetarium show. It’s a TripAdvisor Award of Excellence recipient.
11. See Giant Pandas
Two pandas were given to Macau in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Macau’s reunification in China. The Giant Panda Pavilion is little bit out of the way unless you are already on Coloane Island. You won’t spend a ton of time here but kids ages 12 and under as well as seniors are free with others at $10 MOP. It’s cheap and cute. Who doesn’t love a panda?
Tips For Visiting Macau
1. If arriving from Hong Kong, upgrade to first class on the ferry. Doing so will allow you first off the ferry and into the customs line. The difference in price is not significant. Again, read about our experience in first class on Cotai Jet.
2. Hong Kong dollars are widely accepted all over Macau if you don’t feel like exchanging money for Macanese patacas. They are pegged together so it’s usually $7.8 HKD and MOP to $1 USD.
3. There are no seat belts in Macau taxi back seats. None. Go with the flow or book a hotel (if booking online, our site partner Agoda typically has the best prices in Asia) with a fleet of cars.
Have you been to Macau? What did you think?
*Photo credit: Skywalk, Macau Tower. All others are via my Instagram feed.