Saigon for children and kids activities in Ho Chi Minh City

Cu-Chi is fun and educational

Cu-Chi is fun and educational

On a quick glance at the attractions that Saigon has to offer, it would seem that it’s not a kid-friendly city, as most visitors spend their days visiting ancient temples and museums. But with a bit of forethought, it’s quite possible to prepare an itinerary that is also great fun for younger visitors.

One aspect of Vietnamese culture that makes things easy for parents is that everyone loves children, and you’ll find no shortage of temporary babysitters in hotels and restaurants. By taking a few basic precautions concerning traffic, the heat and street food, you should find that the little ones enjoy their stay as much as mum and dad. Following are a few suggestions for activities and places that appeal to most kids.

Fun activities for kids in Saigon

Markets and malls
While kids might not get quite the same kick out of shopping that parents do, they will love exploring a big market like Ben Thanh in the city centre. You’ll need to keep an eye on them though as it’s easy to get lost in the maze of narrow alleys. Air-conditioned malls make a good break from the heat, and the cinemas, ice-cream outlets and bowling alleys can keep kids amused for hours. One that has it all is Diamond Plaza, just behind the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Selected museums
Children are every bit as fascinated by the paraphernalia of war as adults, and they are bound to be captivated by the displays of rusting planes and tanks and bits of exploded bombs outside both the War Remnants Museum and the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.

The latter is housed in a grand colonial building, though the exhibits inside are not too exciting, while the former is a full-on, tragic encounter with the agonies of the American War. Most people find it fascinating but this is not for the faint-hearted, either children or adults.

Water puppets and water parks
Water puppets are a unique form of Vietnamese entertainment that has been around for centuries, and though the idea originated in the north, there are a few places where you can go to watch a show in Saigon, such as the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai.

A water park not far from Cu-Chi

A water park not far from Cu-Chi

Shows last around 45 minutes during which the puppets splash about in a pool with plenty of slapstick humour. Saigon’s heat can get oppressive, but there is a big water park at Dam Sen, west of the city centre, and also a theme park with roller coaster rides, bumper cars and lots more.

Parks, gardens and Saigon Zoo
The city’s congestion gets to everyone once in a while, so it’s fortunate that Saigon has a couple of large parks near the city centre, where you can go for a stroll or just to sit on the grass.

The most convenient is Cong Vien Hoa Park, located immediately west of the Reunification Palace, though the Botanical Gardens to the northeast of the centre are also worth a visit. Connected to the Botanical Gardens is the city’s zoo, which is not the best in the world, but for kids an encounter with its elephants, lions and tigers is likely to be preferable to yet another museum.

Day trips for kids
Most kids are enthralled by the Cu Chi Tunnels, especially when it comes to crawling through them. Fortunately, there is limited access, so they’re unlikely to crawl all the way to Cambodia, and the booby traps and abandoned tank are a reminder of the stark realities of war.

Another enjoyable day out is to visit a floating market in the Mekong Delta, which gives the chance to see some of the countryside around Saigon, and includes a boat ride on one of the arms of the picturesque delta.

Precautions with kids
Make sure that your kids are in close attendance as you cross the road, as they are likely to get nervy about strolling through moving traffic. Beware of the heat – don’t let kids spend too long out in the sun and apply plenty of sunscreen. Finally, be cautious of street food stalls; while most are quite hygienic, they can easily be the cause of an upset tummy.

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