Family-friendly fun in Ho Chi Minh City

There’s plenty to do in HCMC if you’re travelling with children. Here is our pick of the best activities for kids of all ages.

Ho Chi Minh City
  • Sheriden Rhodes
  • November 2018

Ho Chi Minh City is set to be one of the hottest destinations for 2019 – and it’s great for families. With everything from leafy parks and historic tunnel tours to colourful markets and entertaining shows, there is so much to do in Vietnam’s most populous city. Don’t miss these family-friendly must-dos…

Park play

Kids up early? Head to Tao Dan Park in District 1 and watch the locals practising tai chi, belly dancing or taking a constitutional stroll in the cool morning air. The lush 10-hectare park includes shady avenues of tropical trees, replicas of Nha Trang's Cham Tower and Hung King Temple, plus a playground. Children will love the park’s “bird café”, where many older locals sip coffee, chat and enjoy a game of cards accompanied by their prized birds.

Tao Dan Park is a tranquil hideaway
Tao Dan Park is a tranquil hideaway.

Three-wheeled fun

A cyclo tour is a close-up way to take in Vietnam’s most populous city and if your kids are anything like my 10-year-old, they’ll love the fact they don’t have to walk. A cyclo (or rickshaw) is a traditional taxi operated by pedal power. Tours generally range from two to four hours and take in the main highlights – think Saigon Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and the War Remnants Museum (be prepared for some distressing exhibits; Independence Palace is a safer bet for kids). To ensure you’re matched with the right cyclo driver and pay the going rate, it’s a good idea to book through your hotel. And it’s best to have the right cash ready, as many drivers don’t carry change.

To market, to market

Kids will have a chance to work on their negotiation skills at Ben Thanh Market. Formally established by the French in 1870 in District 1, it’s the city’s most popular market, crammed with stalls selling everything from jewellery and traditional hats to fidget spinners, squishies (or whatever the latest craze happens to be) plus fresh seafood. For cheaper prices, try Pham Van Hai market, while bargain clothes, shoes and bags can be found at Saigon Square.

Spend days getting lost within Ben Thanh Market
Spend days getting lost within Ben Thanh Market.

Deep history

Explore the tunnel network of Cu Chi used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. Many tours operate from Ho Chi Minh City (book at your hotel tour desk) and give an authentic sense of the underground life of soldiers during the war.

Front row seats

Enjoy the colourful stories of the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre, which includes singing (in Vietnamese) and traditional music. Book through your hotel and ask for a front row seat if your kids enjoy getting splashed. Kids (7+) will also love the AO Show by Lune Production known as the Cirque du Soleil of Vietnam for its eye-popping acrobatics. Contemporary dance and feats of strength accompanied by folk music are just the beginning.

Help is on the menu

Dine at KOTO Saigon, a not-for-profit restaurant that helps disadvantaged kids. KOTO (which stands for Know One, Teach One) is operated by former Intrepid Travel tour leader Jimmy Pham and offers trainees the chance to fine-tune their hospitality skills, while diners tuck into the delicious South-East Asian fusion menu. Kids will love the crunchy spring rolls (perhaps avoid the wok-fried frogs). A Western menu is available, too.

Top tip

Child car seats, cots and infant formula are not always available so bring what you need.