Chiang Mai is a very safe, friendly place for travellers with kids and there is plenty for them to see and do. Thai people love children and like the other places in South East Asia we have travelled so far, Western kids get a lot of attention. And it’s not just from the adults, the Thai kids just want to be instant buddies with your child. So aside from the general sight seeing, rides in tuk tuks and visits to markets, here are 6 things to do with a toddler in Chiang Mai.
Chillout at the Buak Hard Public Park
It’s the only public park in the Old Town of Chiang Mai and it’s not a big one, but it is pleasant and a great place for kids. It is well maintained and the windy paths, little bridges and fountains make it the ideal environment for little people to explore. There is a rickety little playground with typical Thai metal play equipment and an old timber forte with a lot of missing planks and broken handrails. It definitely wouldn’t pass any Western safety standards, but the kids have fun and you most likely will meet foreign parents there too. For 5TBH you can also feed the swarms of hungry fish in the little lake with a bag of pellets. It’s a total feeding frenzy, so there is absolutely no chance the kids won’t see the fish. There are also plenty of pigeons hanging around in search of food, which are prime targets for kids to chase or throw the fish food to. Buak Hard Public Park South-East corner of the Moat, Chiang Mai Open: 8am – 8pm Cost: Free, 5-20TBH for a bag of feed foot
Keep cool in the Indoor Playgrounds
Chiang Mai inner city doesn’t have a lot of outdoor playgrounds mainly due to space, maintenance requirements and the heat, but there are plenty of indoor play centres to visit. Most big department stores have these centres with great areas for toddlers as well as arcade gaming for the old kids. Our top picks: Kiddy Land
Located on level 2 in the unattractive brick building, Kad Suan Kaew, is Kiddy Land and for 50TBH the kids can have free range of the padded play area for 1hr. Generally on a weekday the place is pretty empty, but on the weekends it can get a little manic. It’s a great place for toddlers as they can climb on top of everything and run around without much chance of injury. An added bonus is it’s totally enclosed so escapees can’t go far out for your sight. There are also a huge range of little rides with annoying music and disco lights that your children will be instantly drawn to. Most rides only cost 10TBH each, so they are not going to break the piggy bank. Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai Open: 10am – 9pm Cost: 50TBH per hour Maya Fantasia
Located in Chiang Mai’s newest shopping centre, Maya, is Maya Fantasia. It’s a similar concept to most indoor playgrounds but with newer arcade games and a padded play area. It is however, much more expensive than other department stores at 80TBH for one child and 30TBH for an adult for maximum an hour. A bonus though, the shopping is much better here! If you do visit, remember to pack a pair of socks, as it is a requirement if you want to go into the play area. Maya Shopping Centre Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai Open: 10am – 10pm Cost: 80TBH per hr + 30TBH for adult
The Big C Superstore and Airport Plaza also have great indoor playgrounds to keep your children entertained and cool.
A day out at the lake
About 15km out of town is the Huay Tung Tao Lake, an ideal location to escape the city and cool off. We rode our pushbikes out there (quite a ride and on some busy roads), but you can take a Song Teow, ride your motorbike or hire a car for the day. Pack a picnic if you’re organised or eat at one of the many lakeside restaurants. The food is cheap and you can grab yourself a little lake side timber hut to hang out in all day. The water is refreshing and despite the murky colour, it’s very clean. If you are feeling active you can paddle your kids around in an old fashioned swan or if you need more adventure, adults and older kids can try out a zip line activity. It costs 20TBH to enter (Jack was free) and is open from early morning until 6pm at night.
Drop them off at the Bronco Kids Sports Club
Located opposite the Chiang Mai Technical College is the indoor sports centre, Bronco Kids Sports Club. There is an indoor swimming pool, tennis court and soccer field for private use and lessons are available. Whilst we didn’t use these facilities, we did use the Kids Club where you can drop your child off for a maximum of 2hrs as a child minding service. It’s a cosy room but has lots of great toys to keep the child occupied. Handy considering we only saw one child there the times we visited. The staff don’t speak English and don’t seem overly interested in looking after the kids, but Jack seemed to be happy just to be playing with toys for a change. Not an everyday solution, but convenient if you need to get some work done or just need a break for an hour or two (there are plenty of coffee shops near by if that’s the case)! The Kids Club costs 80TBH per hour. Bronco Kids Sports Club Wiang Kaew Road Cost: 80TBH per hour
A visit to the Chiang Mai Zoo
Whilst there were some negatives about our trip to the Chiang Mai Zoo, it is kid heaven. Not only do they get to see a range of animals, there are plenty of opportunities for feeding and touching the animals too. Our highlight would have to be the hungry hippos! Entry fee is cheap at 150TBH for adults and kids under 135cm tall are free. It’s a big place, so plan on spending most of the day there. You can catch a bus or the sky rail around the zoo, but we found it much better to walk the grounds to ensure we didn’t miss a thing. Also note, there isn’t great food options within the zoo – only one main cafeteria at the start and a few basic convenience shops along the way, so I was very thankful that I packed some carrot and cucumber sticks which kept the hunger pains at bay. Chiang Mai Zoo 100 Huay Kaew Road Open: 9am – 5pm daily. Cost: 150TBH for adults
People watch while they play at the Muang Chiang Mai Stadium
A hidden gem 10min bicycle ride north of the old town is the Muang Chiang Mai Stadium. It’s a bustling place of school and uni kids and exercise enthusiasts and has a great playground for little ones. There is both Western style play equipment with several slides, a big sea saw and a mini rock climbing wall as well as a few pieces of metal Thai equipment. Unlike the Buak Hard Park, you won’t see many tourists here, but you will have a lot of locals asking questions and taking photos of your child whether you like it or not! In the early evening this place is thriving with lots of little local kids, runners making their way around the stadium track and 80’s style aerobics in full swing from 5:45pm. It is definitely a great place to people watch and your kids will have a great time too! Muang Chiang Mai Stadium Samamkela roundabout Cost: Free.
While they may not be located on a map, there are a lot of little play areas dotted around the suburbs of Chiang Mai which you will come across if you go exploring. If you are staying in the south of the Old Town there is a rough, unkept old playground at the end of Chiang Mai Land Road and a Western style playground on Chiang Mai – Lamphun Road just a little up from the Tesco Lotus Express. Also, if you are not staying at a hotel with a pool, there are plenty of lovely resorts around the city where you can pay for a visit to the pool to relax and cool off. For us, nothing beats cruising around the city with Jack on our push bikes. There are plenty of places where you can rent a bike with child seat or a kiddy basket for a small cost. It’s a great way to see the sights, keep your child contained and they have fun too.