Saigon is a concrete jungle. Lots of motorbikes, traffic, and buildings. It is also very, very hot. In order to break up our 2 week stay in the city, we found ourselves doing a wonderful Saigon Street Food Tour with the kids, going to a lot of restaurants, and hanging out in our air conditioned hotel room more than I’d like to admit. Besides the awesome street food tour mentioned above, here are some kid-oriented activities that we found to keep our 3 kids (ages 7, 5, and 2 1/2) entertained during our visit!
1. BeeBee Activity Center
Outside of the inner city limits we found BeeBee. For 100,000 Vietnamese Dong (about $5…crazy how such a big number can mean so little) our kids had unlimited playtime. They had a great rock climbing wall that our oldest was eager to climb!
We were paying too much attention to her when we looked down and realized her little brother was also going for it…without a harness! I think we have another high-adventure kid on our hands!
They had a great toddler-friendly area where Ethan could ride and push around little cars and flirt with the other little girls. Parents could sit back and work on the computers and snack on some refreshments.
The bigger kids had fun running up and down padded stairs and sliding down the racing slides.
And have you ever seen a swirling contraption like this?! The kids sit on the padded balls and you can push them around in a circle!
I’m sure it wouldn’t pass US safety standards (do they even allow tetherball anymore?)…so it made it all the more enjoyable!
To find Bee Bee, take a look at their website and give their address to the taxi driver. The location is labeled with their longer Vietnamese name, and likely no one will know it by name…particularly just by “BeeBee”!!
2. Tini World
Another play place we really enjoyed was Tini World, which has several locations throughout town (we went to the one fairly close to the Reunification Palace). It was a whopping 200,000 Vietnamese Dong ($10 total for the 2 older girls). They have an odd sales tactic there, which I have to admit is really effective. You pay for the kid’s entry, but they also make you put money onto an expense card that you can use in the facility for snacks, crafts, or extras (like the “fishing” below).
Since we put money on it (not realizing they’d refund your unused money at the end—which they will), we decided to let the girls use it up. This doubled the cost, but it was fun.
The kid’s craft area on the 2nd floor allowed them the opportunity to make sand-pictures, bead some bracelets, paint some ceramics, or make perler bead shapes (remember those little plastic bead-ish type things that you put on the plastic form and then melt together with an iron?).
They picked the perler beads, and selected their shape based on a bunch of examples they had. The staff put their beads in small trays to keep it clean and organized.
Hard at work…
Maiya made designed instructed me on how to make hers for her.
The other choices…
Tini World has a huge play area on the main floor with things for kids to climb up and slide down, as well as separate room with Wii Games and a more peaceful play area with dolls and toys for smaller kids. Their second floor boasts several other rooms, including a reading library, computer games, and the craft area. The 3rd floor has a big café.
They also had a rock climbing wall (an extra expense that came out of the money we pre-paid on the expense card), which Ella was eager to try out. Her tallest wall so far! She didn’t make it over the overhang area…but then again, she is only 7. Next time…
3. Diamond Plaza Bowling
When being in a crowded play center with a ton of other kids and parents isn’t your thing, we’d recommend going to the Diamond Plaza to bowl with your kids.
On a work day (read: non-weekend, non-holiday) this place is relatively quiet, and most importantly, air conditioned!
Our girls enjoyed perfecting their bowling skills.
Maiya’s bowling consisted of dropping the ball quite suddenly on the floor, in a slightly-forward motion. I am sorry if the bowling alley now has some dents in their floor. It was a really nice place! J/K
Our toddler, Ethan was the ball handler. He guarded each ball that came out, and made sure that everyone got the correct bowling ball.
He was very serious about his job, and he terrified me as he stood close to that hole where the ball comes up (so I stood there most of the time guarding it).
Once, after I finished my turn, I turned around and realized Ethan was gone. Looking back at the alley, I realized he had grabbed a bowling ball by himself, and dropped it, trying to roll it down the alley like everyone else! Ahhh!
Those are heavy balls that could fall on his barefoot toe…but fortunately he didn’t get his toe! I helped him the next time, as he decided he no longer wanted to be left out of the fun!
That’s not to say he didn’t try it again, when we weren’t looking. That time it got his toe, and the staff kindly supplied us some ice and concerned looks. Ethan got over it in no time…
4. Diamond Plaza Arcade Center
Next to the bowling alley is the game arcade. You can get a handful of tokens for a small cost, and on a quiet day it is worth setting your kids free to shoot some hoops, drive some race cars, play air hockey, etc.
What I wouldn’t recommend is letting your husband loose (and unknowingly allowing him to buy $20 worth of a massive amount of tokens).
Also, I wouldn’t recommend coming here after school hours or on a holiday (we made that mistake when we returned). At those times this game arcade turns into more of a casino-type setting where older men sit at these tables smoking (inside!) and somehow manage to earn TON of coins back off of these tables. Also, pay attention to where you put your money, because some of the game machines just eat your money and don’t even work.
5. Kiz City
I’ve posted in detail about Kiz City before, and it is an absolute must-visit if you have time to kill (and your kids are between 3 and 12). This mini Kid’s City has kids jump into activities teaching them about the professional world (they can learn to be a baker, fire fighter, pilot, and about 2 dozen other jobs).
It is more like dress-up and playing house than a real hard-core education…which is just perfect for this age level!
6. The Snap Café
Located outside of the city center in a ritzier expat community is The Snap Café. We enjoyed a Christmas lunch here, but the kids mostly just enjoyed their large outdoor playground and sandbox.
The seating is open, allowing parents to munch while keeping an eye on their kids.
7. Playground near Kiz City
There’s probably a real name for this place, but we just refer to it as the playground outside of Kiz City. If you are facing the entrance to Kiz City, walk down the street to the left and turn the corner and you’ll find a place that is hopping with soccer games, food vendors and restaurants, and a large wood playground complex. Don’t confuse this with the other playground closer to the Kiz City entrance that needs some love and attention. This wood playground is pretty awesome, and is certainly alive at night (when the parents are off work, kids are out of school, and the temperatures are cool enough to be outside).
8. Suoi Tien Theme Park
This Buddhist themed water park is beautifully done and a great place to cool down! It is quite a ways outside of the city center, and will likely cost you a taxi ride of 200,000 dong ($10) to get there. The entrance fees for the park are extremely reasonable (read: cheap, but I forgot to write down how much), but note that the food vendors close down after lunch.
Like the activities mentioned above, I would not recommend coming here on a holiday or weekend (you’ll get what you see above—LOTS of kids!). Also, in order to insure that you don’t hit the park during a day when schools are doing a field trip (as we did on our visit here), you may want to go here after 2pm.
There are other great waterparks in town that we didn’t get a chance to visit…so do your homework and choose wisely! I can certainly recommend this waterpark, however.
9. Water Puppet Show
Our kids thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Vietnamese Water Puppet Show in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. In fact, upon exiting the exciting one hour show, the kids immediately asked to see it again! It is not the cheapest, and cost our family of 5 (toddler being free) about $23 USD. That being said, it is totally worth it!
The show was a feast for the eyes and ears (imagine Asian stringed instruments and traditional singing) with puppets that seemingly “float” on the water stage.
I’d recommending asking for a front-row seat, where you may get a tiny bit wet, but your kids will be actively engaged in the entire show! The show is all in Vietnamese, but the action and atmosphere will have you quickly forgetting that you don’t understand a word!
10. See a movie at the Diamond Plaza
You can take the kids to an English movie theatre at Lotte Cinema, on the 13th floor of the Diamond Plaza. Due to the odd setup of floors at this building, you may find yourself on the top floor of the front department store (4th floor) wondering where the 13th floor could possibly be. Ask the friendly English-speaking associate at the 1st floor help desk, and they will point you the way to a set of elevators that takes you to another wing of the mall (which houses mostly business offices). The theaters aren’t awesome or super modern (no stadium seating), but they’re sufficient (and need I say air conditioned??!). A movie for 2 adults and our 2 children cost us 630,000 Vietnamese Dong (ouch—$30 USD).
Overall, we were surprised how busy we could stay during our 2 week stay in Ho Chi Minh. After all, if you did just one of these activities per day (not to mention any other sightseeing or eating out), you’d stay quite busy for at least 10 days!
Enjoy, and I’d love to hear your feedback on any of these activities that you do in Saigon!