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In the Women’s Web ‘Travel The World With Kids’ series, we talk to mums from all over the globe who are interested in exploring their backyard attractions with their tiny tots! We hope you find them useful, if someday you choose to visit their part of the world. Presented in Q&A format, this one is with popular blogger, Uma from Chennai, who blogs about her life at StickyBunBook.
The final Indian metro city to be covered in this series also happens to be the current home of Women’s Web itself! Known to be a more subdued city than the other metros in India, what does Singara Chennai have in store for kids?
Vanakkam Uma! Do tell us about yourself.
I am a working mom in Chennai trying to do a number of things all at once! I think of myself as an artistically minded, chilled-out mom who blogs about her little one, Pattu, among other things.
What are some of your suggestions for parents visiting with young kids to do in Chennai?
Beach. Beach. Beach. That’s what Chennai has in plenty and some really nice stretches too. Chennai has very few parks that are well maintained. The Semmozhi Poonga on Anna Salai, Nageswara Rao Park, Adyar Eco Park (closed on Sundays) are good picnic places for kids under 3 yrs. These are better visited during the evening especially in summer. Tip: Carry mosquito repellants.
There are a few good theme parks – MGM Dizzee World, Kishkinta, Queensland for the 5 yrs +.
You can also spend a lazy day in one of the beach facing hotels on East Coast Road a.k.a. ECR; Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay, Fisherman’s Cove/ Vivanta, etc. where you chill out after lunch and the kids get to spend time playing on the beach.
If you happen to be in Chennai during summer, you could look out for indoor activities by Story Trails, Vanilla Place, Hansel & Gretel and the likes that cater to kids across age groups. Or if you are around during November-January, watch out for programs at Kalakshetra and Museum Theatre that mostly host interesting shows for the kids.
The Anna Centenary Library is definitely a treat for kids. The interiors would motivate any child to pick up a book and read. They have a very good collection of books and nice reading spaces too.
If you do have the appetite for sculpture, mythology etc. Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore, Parthasarathy Temple in Triplicane, Anjaneyar Temple in Nanganallur, Ashtalakshmi Temple in Besant nagar that is right on the beach are highly recommended. The streets around the temple have a unique cultural ambience. They are dotted with small quaint shops with a lovely local flavour. They are a truly sensorial experience.
For the older kids (6 yrs+) the tree walks organized by Nizhal could be interesting too. There’s also the Rail Museum at Integral Coach Factory (ICF) of which I’ve heard some good reviews.
Birla Planetarium, Egmore Museum, Fort Museum are all places that most websites would recommend. I personally wouldn’t recommend any of these, unless you really run out of options. It is indeed disappointing that these places are badly maintained. The Birla planetarium for instance has a lovely dome theatre but the movie is badly made (except a beautiful view of the starlit sky) and does not cater to young children.
What have been some of your favourite outings in Chennai with your kids?
The one thing that is irresistible about Chennai is its beach. There are quite a few stretches that one can explore apart from the famous Marina (which I highly recommend – rickety rides, balloon shooting, pony rides to indulge in and all those yummy oily snacks that you better resist!!). The Elliots beach and the few on ECR from Tiruvanmiyur all the way to Mahabalipuram. Each of these stretches offer a different experience – the bustling and festive Marina to the quiet ones on ECR.
Dakshinachitra is a favourite destination especially if you like a cultural immersion. There are many activities for kids from basket making, block printing, puppet making, pot painting to getting their hands dirty on the potter’s wheel. They can also watch puppet theatre and glass blowing really up close. Besides their regular set of activities, they also have melas round the year that give a glimpse of different cultures through their art forms.
Arignar Anna Zoological Park or Vandalur Zoo in short, around Dec – Jan is a very pleasant experience. Only downside is that these places don’t have decent eateries and the sanitation is poor, so it is better to be armed with enough food and fluids. You can spend a whole day at Vandalur – it is huge, spread over acres of forest. It is well shaded and hence quite pleasant to walk. You can also take the battery car if required. The lion safari is worth checking out especially for the kids. The lions are plump and they hardly budge but the kids get to see them really up close.
Muttukadu offers boat rides that kids just can’t seem to have enough of.
For tourists visiting Chennai for the first time, do you have any particular tips?
Chennai is hot and humid (just in case you didn’t know!) except November – February when the weather is pleasant. Anything outdoors would be better planned around this time of the year. It is always better to carry water. If you are expecting to spend evenings outdoors, keep mosquito repellants handy.
Watch out for dehydration, especially if you are not used to hot and humid weather conditions. Street food cannot be trusted. Cotton clothes, comfortable fit are your best bet. Don’t venture out on a rainy day – you might end up witnessing one of the longest traffic jams and nothing else.
Book call taxis if you do not have your own transportation, they are reliable. If you have to take an autorickshaw, take the help of a localite to understand ‘reasonable’ fares as they do not have a meter system.
Speaking English is likely to get a better response than Hindi.
Are there any particular restaurants in Chennai that you think kids will enjoy?
The paper/ ghee roast (Dosa) is something that all kids enjoy. You could hit Saravana Bhavan (warning: very, very crowded all the time), Adyar Ananda Bhavan, Sangeetha, Murugan Idly Kadai for these and the famous mini idlis floating in sambar.
There are Marrybrowns, McDs and KFCs all over the place now for a more global menu.
For a chilled out evening, there are many places on ECR (Farmhouse, Food Village, GRT, etc) that offer the quiet for us parents and the space and ambience for the kids.
What about shopping?
If you want to avoid the sun, hit the malls – Express Avenue, Citi Center, Ampa Skywalk and the old standby,Spencer Plaza.
If you are feeling adventurous, you could have T. Nagar and Pondy Bazaar in your list. The ‘platform’ shops on Pondy Bazaar are interesting for both young girls and boys. You’ll find lovely Paavadais (traditional long skirts) for the little girls at Sundari Silks, Nalli, RmKV, Kalpa Druma, etc.
Purasaiwalkam is another busy shopping destination though I personally know very little.
Some interesting shops for kids: Peek-a-boo patterns, Poppadom (an eco friendly kid store) and Vanilla Place.
Any kid-friendly day trips out from Chennai?
Mahabalipuram is interesting and has a variety of things on offer. The rocks, caves and the beach are a visual treat. Watch out for the heat though. It would be good to take a long lunch break so that the kids are not too tired.
Pondicherry is a different cultural experience. There are many resorts en route and in Pondichery itself that you could choose from. A good place to shop and chill out. There’s the beach again!
Pitchavaram, I’ve heard is a beautiful mangrove forest. However, it might not be too kid friendly, atleast not for very young children. The older kids (6 yrs +) might find the flora and fauna interesting.
Pulicat Lake which in fact is a lagoon is a sought after place. I’ve heard that the Tamil Nadu side of this lake is well maintained and quite friendly for kids and families.
Thank you Uma for showing us the kid-friendly side of Chennai!
*Photo credit: randomsurfer (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License)
Previous Interviews In The ‘Travel With Kids’ Series:
The Mad Momma from Delhi
Maid In Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur
Lakshmi from Hyderabad
Sunayana from Kolkata
Sunita from Pune
Anuradha from Mumbai
Artnavy from Bengaluru
Leonny from Singapore
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