Chiang Mai is fantastic for families, including toddlers and younger kids, with lots of see and do. Here are 10 attractions that will keep little ones active and entertained.
Most major shopping malls in Chiang Mai have their own play centres, giving parents an easy and affordable way to spend a fun few hours out of the sun. Kids@Play (located in the open-air Promenada Resort Mall) is a 1,300-square meter indoor recreation centre with an indoor playground field and six themed party rooms. There’s also a cafe offering cakes, fresh coffee, Belgium chocolates and free Wi-Fi – everything a parent could want while the kids let off steam.
Situated around 10 km northwest of the Old City, Huay Tung Tao Lake offers a tranquil haven to escape from the bustle of the main town. There are lots of affordable lakeside restaurants, small picnic huts, and the shady paved road winding around the lake is ideal for pushing a stroller or taking a leisurely bike ride. You can also hire swan paddle boats and take a relaxing tour around the lake.
Located on Huay Kaew Road, the zoo houses a range of animals, including the famous pandas, as well as a small aquarium. Children will love seeing and feeding animals such as hippos, swans, giraffes and emus. The zoo’s grounds are huge and visitors can get around on a tram or sky rail. Food options are limited so plan on bringing your own fare if possible; for those with energy to spare, visit the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep nearby. There is a small cable car for those who cannot make the 300-some step climb.
Outdoor play areas are limited in Chiang Mai, but Muang Chiang Mai Stadium has a great little playground for young ones. Situated just north of the Old City, this toddler-centric play area has several slides, a seesaw and a miniature rock climbing wall. Head along in the early evening and you’ll find the place buzzing with local kids, runners and people cycling around the stadium track. Sit back, relax, and watch the world go by while your kids race around and play.
We all know that poo is a beloved topic among the kiddie crowd. And at the Poo Poo Paper Park in Mae Rim, you can recycle elephant poop into paper with a hands-on, educational (and non-disgusting) experience. Take a self-guided tour in a lovely outdoor space that encompasses a well-maintained park, fish pond, café, shop, fibre cleaning and pulp processing stations, and a crafts table. The latter allows kids to make their own poo poo paper creations.
This quirky ice cream cafe is a top spot to relax with the kids and treat them to a sweet treat on hot afternoons. There’s a delicious variety of ice cream flavors to pick from (inventive creations include Guava & Salted Plum), while fruit smoothies and decadent desserts keep the sugar rush coming. Grab tables in the leafy garden among the wacky sculptures, or take your ice creams and sit beneath the shade of the sprawling garden tree covered in dangling lights.
Needing some green space in the city? Seek out Suan Buak Hat park, located in the southwest corner of the old town at the corner of Bumrung Buri and Bunreuang moat roads. While tiny, the park offers a nice break from the bustling streets, with small ponds (and loads of fish to feed) and bridges, lawns for picnicking and a little playground for kids to expend some energy.
8. Mon Cham
The countryside surrounding Chiang Mai offers endless opportunities for exploration, and Mon Cham is a true highlight of the region. Approximately a 1-hour drive northwest of the Old City, this idyllic mountaintop getaway is home to local hill tribe communities, flower-filled hillsides, and tumbling terrace fields. There are lots of tranquil gardens to explore, a restaurant and cafe, and plenty of places to sprawl out and soak up panoramic views from above the clouds. A real bonus for parents with young children — temperatures here are cool all year round, so it’s the perfect escape from the city heat.
Located in Mae Rim, the inhabitants of this small “zoo” might make your skin crawl, but you’re guaranteed to have a fascinating (and very close) look at a variety of live insects, including moths, butterflies, stick insects, beetles and scorpions. Explore a small butterfly enclosure and watch cocoons hatch, dig for squirmy beetle larvae, and check out exhibits featuring thousands of pinned insects.
10. Wat Umong
If you’re going to visit a temple in Chiang Mai, do miss Wat Umong located at the foot of Doi Suthep. This unusual ‘tunnel temple’) is set in tranquil, forested grounds. The children will be intrigued with its series of mysterious underground passageways. You can also walk around the premises, which are peppered with signs bearing moral teachings, and visit the lake to feed resident catfish and turtles.