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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 Toni from Manila, who writes about home and living at Wifely Steps.
The unassuming capital of Philippines, Manila is often overlooked by many and left unexplored. Toni gives us an insider’s perspective of kid-friendly things to do in Manila.
Hi Toni! Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a work-at-home mom based in Manila, Philippines. Freelance writing and business consulting keeps me busy, but it’s my two-year-old son who keeps me on my toes the most. When not meeting deadlines or finishing projects, I enjoy blogging, watching Toy Story over and over with my toddler, and taking walks in the park with my family.
What are your suggestions for parents visiting with young kids to do in Manila? What have been some of your favourite outings with your kids?
My family and I enjoy visiting Manila Ocean Park (in pic). It is a marine-themed park, and we like the Oceanarium part of the park best. Not only does it have over 5000 varieties of underwater creatures, but we love walking through the underwater viewing tunnel and seeing fish and manta ray swim over our heads.
Another fun place to visit is Ark Avilon Zoo, an interactive zoo where we can pet and feed the animals. My family and I had fun interacting with animals such as carp, turtles, sheep, rabbits and lots more.
Kids’ indoor playgrounds are big in malls, and if your kids are into this check out Cosmic Kidz at the SM Mall of Asia. The play area is best suited for kids 4-6, but a play space specifically for toddlers is being built right across it.
Museo Pambata is another favourite of ours. It’s a hands-on discovery museum for kids, and you can catch shadow plays and storytelling during weekends.
For tourists visiting your city for the first time, do you have any particular tips?
Sure! First, make sure you bring light and loose clothing. The Philippines has a tropical climate and is generally warm around the year. Typhoons hit the country during the middle part of the year, so it may be best to visit from December to mid-May. It can get incredibly hot during the summer months of April and May, but you can always escape Manila and head on to nearby beaches to cool off!
Second, travel light. You can get a lot of supplies upon arriving in Manila, as convenience stores, drug stores and malls are heavily present.
If you’re bringing camera and cell phone chargers, the standard voltage of electricity used in the country is 220 volts AC, 60 cycles.
Getting around Manila can be easy because of the Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT) and an abundance of taxi cabs and jeepneys. Be prepared for traffic though, especially during morning and evening rush hours, as roads can get very congested.
Are there any particular restaurants in Manila that you think kids will enjoy?
Our family’s favourite restaurant is Italianni’s. The staff is consistently warm and friendly, and the kids can create their own pizza! Some branches have a “kids eat for free” promo during weekends, where kids 10 years old and below can get one dish from the kids menu for free. Their Chicken Popcorn and Pasta (with white sauce) is my son’s all-time favourite.
Check out Pancake House and let your kids go gaga over the many pancake choices and delicious fruit shakes. I recommend their Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Chocolate Chip Pancakes served with Peanut Butter and Orange Freeze shake. Clawdaddy’s is known for its crab dishes, but kids would enjoy their Chicken Fingers as it is served in a red, paper car. It makes for a great remembrance too!
One particular kind of restaurant the whole family can enjoy is called “dampa”. Families can enjoy the day’s freshest catch, choose from a variety of fresh seafood and have them cooked just the way they like it. There are many restaurants in Manila that offer this kind of eating experience. Check out Farmer’s Market in Cubao and Dampa in Libis. The best would be Seaside along Macapagal Boulevard as it’s near Manila Bay, rates well on cleanliness and its open air experience makes for the perfect ambience to enjoy your freshly cooked seafood.
Are there any particular shopping areas in Manila that you think kids will like?
Manila malls can whet the shopping appetite not only of Dad and Mom, but the children as well. Major establishments have huge toy stores such as Toys R Us and Toy Kingdom. Malls would probably be the best option for families travelling with younger kids as there would be more options food-wise and shop-wise. A lot of malls in Manila have a kids’ wing, where kid-centric boutiques, shops and play areas can be found. We can save bargain shopping at bazaars and flea markets for the grown-ups!
Any kid-friendly day trips out from Manila?
Tagaytay is a wonderful choice if your family wants to escape the busyness of the city, even for just one day. It is about 90 minutes away from Manila and once you get there, you’ll revel in cool breeze and pine tree-dotted mountainscapes. Families can have picnics at Picnic Grove, walk around parks, go horseback riding, delight in the colourful Flower Farm. Stop by Ilog Maria as well, one of the best bee farms in the country and pick up some health and beauty products such as homemade soaps and lotions, lip balm and of course, honey! Our favourite Tagaytay restaurants are Sonya’s Garden and Bag of Beans. Enjoy the fresh pineapples from street side vendors, buco tarts and blueberry cheesecake tarts from Rowena’s and ube jam from the Pink Sisters convent.
Apart from Manila, what other places in Philippines would kids enjoy?
If you have the whole weekend to explore, why not check out Baguio? It is approximately a 5-hour drive away from Manila and your family might love the cool and crisp weather of this mountain city. It is known for its fresh strawberries and has a lot of activities for families. Camp John Hay, for example, has a Butterfly Sanctuary and parks where families can hike and picnic. Burnham Park offers a lake in the middle of the city where parents can take their children boating. There is also a skating rink, vast picnic areas, eateries and a lot of shopping stalls. Kids can ride ponies at Wright Park, and there are hundreds of ponies to choose from. Kids can go strawberry picking and enjoy strawberry taho (a popular soy-based drink) at the Strawberry Farm, or take up art lessons at the Tam-awan Village or Botanical Gardens.
A trip to the Philippines is not complete without a visit to the beach, and Boracay may be one of the best of them all. It’s a great spot for honeymooners, but it offers plenty of fun options for families with young kids too. Many of the larger hotels have family-friendly facilities such as private pools and playgrounds. For family adventures, explore the Bat Cave with the older kids. A tour guide can help you check out the fruit bats in their natural habitat and navigate you around the cave. Watch out for steep trails! Island hopping is always fun. Families can rent a motor boat and have the guide take them around the whole island in just one day. The best entertainment would be the beach itself. The long stretch of white sand can make for hours of relaxing strolls and tumble-filled play. All you and your kids will need is imagination, a sense of fun and maybe a bucket and a spade to start on that sandcastle.
In your opinion, how kid-friendly is Philippines?
The Philippines has a strong culture of family. We harbour close family ties and place a premium on family values. That may be one reason why there is a multitude of family-friendly spots around the city and around the country. We enjoy spending time together, especially on Sundays which a lot of us regard as Family Days. The Philippines is very kid-friendly. There is always something to amuse and entertain both parents and children, whether in or out of Manila. So come on over and have fun in the Philippines!
Thanks for welcoming us Toni! We’ll be sure to hop over soon!
*Photo credit: Toni (Toni and her kid at Manila Ocean Park.)
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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