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The Women’s Web, ‘Travel The World With Kids’ series is a set of interviews with mothers 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 Anuradha Shankar from Mumbai, who writes about her travel tales at A Wandering Mind.
Often referred to as the New York of India, Mumbai is well known as the financial centre and entertainment capital of India. But, what kid-friendly activities does it boasts of? Let’s find out!
Hello Anu! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
It’s difficult to talk about myself, for I never know how to describe the bundle of contradictions that I am! I was an enthusiastic science student, all set, and almost on the way to become a scientist, and then I suddenly left one of the premier educational institutions in India to change my field, get married and settle down as a wife and mother. My life now revolves around my 8 year old son, whom I adore watching grow up, yet sitting at home gets on my nerves! Starting a blog was an attempt to share my travel experiences with the world, and a way to satisfy my creative urges. It was originally meant to be strictly a travel blog, yet, somewhere during the past 4 years, it has lived up to its name, wandering here and there, with posts on not just my travels, but also my experiences bringing up my son, events in Mumbai, festivals I celebrate, and so much more! It also opened the door to freelance writing, which has allowed me to harness my creative urges better.
What would you suggest parents visiting Mumbai with young kids (under 3, 4-6) do?
Mumbai is my home, and the city I love. Yet, there is no denying that this is one of the most difficult cities to travel with kids! Distances are large and time simply seems to disappear. Public transport is hard to manage with kids in tow, and even travelling by car can get quite tiring and boring for smaller kids. Add all this to the crowd, and you would wonder why ever to get out of the house in the first place! All that said and done, it is also a city which has numerous attractions for kids, especially the younger ones.
First and foremost is the Taraporewala Aquarium, with its many species of fishes, sure to be loved by kids. While the maintenance has deteriorated over the years, the aquarium still manages to hold the kids enthralled.
The natural history section of the Prince of Wales museum (now renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) comes a close second, its huge stuffed blue whale making the kids gape in amazement. Don’t be surprised if your kids refuse to leave. I had to drag my son out at closing time the first time I took him there!
Next on the list would be the Nehru science centre. While older kids can actually learn and understand the science behind the exhibits, the younger ones simply enjoy playing with them. The Nehru Planetarium is reputed to be the best in the country, and even the smaller kids enjoy the experience. Their moving model of the solar system and the weighing scale showing the kids’ weight on different planets are all time hits.
A ride on the open deck bus, Nilambari, from the Gateway of India is another must-do for kids. Again, while you and the older children might listen to the guide explaining about Mumbai’s heritage buildings, smaller kids love the feel of riding on the open deck. The Gateway itself is a wonderful place to take kids to. While the monument itself is usually packed with tourists, it’s a good idea to take a boat ride. These days, it’s even possible to hire a yacht there.
Mumbai being an island, you would be wondering why I haven’t listed any beaches so far. Well, that’s because I prefer going to beaches outside Mumbai, since those here are usually too crowded! However, walking along Juhu beach, or riding a horse cart on Chowpatty are memorable experiences for kids.
And while at Juhu, don’t miss the chance to take in a play at Prithvi theatre. The informal set-up of the theatre and the interactive nature of their plays make it a remarkable experience.
What have been some of your favourite outings in Mumbai with your kids?
One of my son’s favourite outings in Mumbai is to the Gateway of India. Whenever we go to town for some work or the other, the gateway is always on our list. We might just sit there for a while, but we do go there regularly! One of our earliest and most memorable visits was to the museum and the gateway, when we also rode the Nilambari.
Another memorable day was the one we spent at the Nehru Planetarium and the science centre. There are many wonderful memories – of our trip to Elephanta caves and another boat ride… this time to the Global Vippassana Pagoda at Gorai (near Esselworld).
Our first glimpse of flamingoes! And so many more…. to read them, head over to my blog!
What about kid-friendly restaurants in Mumbai?
Much as I enjoy exploring and discovering new places, I am not very comfortable experimenting with food. I like to try out different kinds of cuisines when I travel, but back home, I prefer to stick to home-cooked food.
The only exception to this rule is street food, which I love! More often than not, eating out for us means a trip to our nearest Khau galli, literally meaning food lane. These lanes come alive late in the evening, with the street side vendors making anything from papad roasted on a coal fire to 36 kinds of dosas, and of course, the usual ‘Bombay’ food – bhel puri, sev puri and pani puri! Then there are the sandwiches and frankies, and to complete the meal, a glass of fresh juice or a dessert of malai kulfi. A visit to these roadside stall ends up like a 6 or 7 course meal!
Earlier, when we were kids, we were told to stay away from these roadside eateries on hygienic grounds; but of late, we have seen the vendors themselves becoming aware of such issues. The lanes are much cleaner now, and most of them use gloves and make everything in a very hygienic manner – so it is completely safe for your kids. Just avoid these stalls during the monsoon!
Any kid-friendly day trips out from Mumbai?
A visit to the Elephanta caves is probably the best way to spend a whole day away from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. The Kanheri caves, located within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is another place worth a visit.
There are also lots of interesting places to visit around Mumbai, such as Alibag, which is a couple of hours by boat from the Gateway of India. The beaches and forts of Alibag are worth visiting and worth spending a couple of days at too!
Matheran is the nearest hill station, and one completely pollution-free, since vehicles are not allowed there. Take a train to Neral at the foothills and then the toy train to the hill station. The journey will be a slow one for you, but the kids will enjoy it!
That was lovely Anu! Thanks a lot for such useful information on kid-friendly activities in Mumbai!
*Photo credit: Anuradha Shankar
Previous interviews in the ‘Travel With Kids’ series:
Artnavy from Bengaluru
Leonny from Singapore