SINGAPORE – The September holidays might be only a week long, but it is still a good time for kids to take a break – never mind that the year-end exams are looming. Both stressed-out students and frazzled parents need some downtime.
Here are some new places to visit and shows to binge-watch with the entire family.
1. The Palawan @ Sentosa
What: A 183,000 sq ft beachfront destination by Shangri-La Group that features attractions with enticing names such as Splash Tribe, HyperDrive and HydroDash.
Splash Tribe is a beach club with kid-oriented play activities, HyperDrive is an electric go-kart circuit and HydroDash is a floating obstacle course. There is also UltraGolf, an 18-hole mini golf course, as well as food trucks for when the munchies hit.
Where: 54 Palawan Beach Walk
When: Each session at Splash Tribe lasts 4½ hours from Mondays to Thursdays (10am and 2.30pm) and four hours from Fridays to Sundays, and on the eve of and public holidays (10am, 2 and 6pm).
HyperDrive and UltraGolf are open on weekdays, 12.30 to 9pm, and weekends, public and school holidays, 10am to 9pm. HydroDash is open on weekdays, noon to 6pm, and weekends and public holidays, 10am to 6pm.
The food trucks are open from Sundays to Thursdays, 11am to 7pm, and on Fridays, Saturdays, the eve of and public holidays, 11am to 9pm.
Admission: Splash Tribe’s entry charge is $10 for those aged five and above, plus a minimum spend on food and beverages that starts at $50.
A race session at HyperDrive starts at $30. Bring your own balaclava, which goes on under the helmet for protection and sweat absorption, or buy one there for $3.
UltraGolf tickets start at $12 for kids between three and 12 years old, and at $15 for those aged 13 and above.
For the full list of prices and reservations, go to www.thepalawansentosa.com
Fun factor for kids: Sentosa is well known for its excellent beach clubs, and it finally has one that is focused on children’s play. Splash Tribe is a guaranteed hit with the young ones. My daughters, aged 10 and four, spent hours in the water play zone that has spiral and racer slides, and there is also a spacious 1,280 sq ft infinity pool to swim in.
Accompanying adults can lounge around at the seating areas while keeping an eye on the little ones. The options range from dining tables (minimum spend of $50 from Mondays to Thursdays, $100 from Fridays to Sundays, and on the eve of and public holidays) to gazebos which can fit up to eight (minimum spend of $400 from Mondays to Thursdays, $600 from Fridays to Sundays, and on the eve of and public holidays). The menu includes kid-friendly fare such as pizzas and rainbow-sprinkled brownies.
The staff at Splash Tribe, from the servers to the lifeguards, were especially attentive to the children’s needs and made sure they stayed safe while playing.
Kids above nine years old get to live out their Mario Kart fantasies by driving electric go-karts at HyperDrive. Younger kids who are at least 90cm tall can ride as passengers in the dual karts, which must be driven by those aged 18 and above with a valid car or motorcycle licence. Helmets are provided and, if you want to pretend to be British Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton, you can rent a racing suit.
Driving on the three-level track, which has 14 turns, is exhilarating, and the eight-minute racing session goes by in a flash. Kids can drive up to a maximum speed of 30kmh, but advanced drivers can go for karts that reach 50kmh. Another plus point is that HyperDrive is indoors, so you get a respite from the sun and inclement weather. There is also a cafe, which doubles as a viewing gallery where you can watch the karts in action.
UltraGolf offers putters of various sizes so adults and kids can tee off together. Make sure the kids are slathered in sunscreen and put on hats and comfortable clothing. But if the heat gets unbearable, there is a shaded seating area in the middle of the course. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to complete the course.
Look out for: If you want to have a picnic at the beach, you can get nosh to go at the 10 food trucks, which are decked out in funky designs and offer fare ranging from bubble tea to banh mi sandwiches. Or stay out of the sun at a sheltered dining area.
For those with babies, nursing rooms are available at HyperDrive, Splash Tribe and +Twelve, another beach club there that is more suited for adults.
Dog lovers will want to head to The Palawan Dog Run nearby, the only area in Sentosa that is an off-leash safe space for dogs. Entry is free and it is open daily from 10am to 9pm.
2. LKY100 – The Boy Who Became Prime Minister
What: An exhibition for young ones that sheds light on what Mr Lee Kuan Yew was like, including his growing-up years, personality and characteristics, as well as significant life events that led him to become Singapore’s founding prime minister. The exhibition coincides with the 100th anniversary of his birth on Sept 16, 1923.
Where: Discovery Room, Children’s Museum Singapore, 23-B Coleman Street
When: Until Jan 14, 2024; Tuesdays to Sundays, four visiting slots at 9am, 11am, 2pm and 4pm
Admission: Free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Otherwise, it is $10 a child and $15 an adult. Only adults accompanying children aged 12 and below are allowed in the museum. Book online at www.nhb.gov.sg/childrensmuseum before going.
Fun factor for kids: Kids can dress up like Mr Lee and his wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, by donning matching batik outfits, which will make for cute photos. They can also try on a barrister wig and robes, as Mr Lee was a lawyer before he entered politics.
History lessons do not have to be dry, and there are plenty of exhibits to grab the kids’ attention, including life-size cut-outs of Mr Lee, and a pair of black leather shoes and the shoe moulds from his shoemaker, Lee Hoi Wah Shoes.
Some rarely seen items on display include the school registry from his alma mater, Telok Kurau East School, now Telok Kurau Primary School, that bears his English name, Harry.
Look out for: The exhibition features special events and workshops (extra fees start at $8 a child) on various days and times over the next few months. Learn to make glue from tapioca, as Mr Lee did to earn extra income when Singapore was under the Japanese Occupation during World War II. Go to str.sg/iSLb for details on the programmes.
Tickets include entry to other galleries in the museum. Each visiting slot lasts one hour and 45 minutes, so plan your time because the kids will want to check out the other exhibits and play areas as well.
3. Orchid Extravaganza: Orchids Of The East Tropics and Orchids Of Machu Picchu
What: It is orchids galore at Gardens by the Bay, with two new displays featuring the flower. Orchid Extravaganza: Orchids Of The East Tropics showcases flowers and cultural artefacts from Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Orchids Of Machu Picchu is a display of orchid species and hybrids found in Machu Picchu, Peru, a Unesco World Heritage site.
Where: Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive. Orchid Extravaganza is at the Flower Dome while Orchids Of Machu Picchu is at Orchid Haven, Cloud Forest.
When: 9am to 9pm daily. Till Sept 17 for Orchid Extravaganza, and Feb 18 for Orchids Of Machu Picchu.
Admission: Tickets to the Flower Dome for Singapore residents are $8 for children aged three to 12 and seniors aged 60 and above, and $12 for adults.
Tickets to Cloud Forest for Singapore residents are $23 for children aged three to 12 and seniors aged 60 and above, and $27 for adults.
Tickets to both Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome for Singapore residents are $27 for children aged three to 12, $30 for seniors aged 60, and $35 for adults. Tickets for non-residents are $40 for children aged three to 12 and $53 for adults.
Entry is free for children under the age of three.
Fun factor for kids: Even if you and your family are not travelling these school holidays, your kids can get to experience and appreciate various cultures and natural landscapes outside of Singapore.
Orchid Extravaganza features traditional houses found in South-east Asia, as well as various kebaya displays. All five countries involved in the exhibition are jointly nominating the traditional dress to the Unesco Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Orchids Of Machu Picchu is more than just a display of rare orchids. Kids get to pretend they are on a journey along the Inca Trail and see replicas of the artefacts of ancient civilisations, such as a miniature model of the iconic Machu Picchu citadel, as well as birds and llamas found in Peru.
These two new orchid displays are not only breathtakingly beautiful, but also perfect backdrops for Instagram photos and TikTok videos. When my family was there, we saw quite a number of visitors posing and dancing for social media content.
Look out for: Orchid Extravaganza has hybrid orchids, such as the purple Aranda Noorah Alsagoff and pink-white Aranda Pure Heart, which were derived from ancestor species found in the five countries behind the exhibition.
At Orchids Of Machu Picchu, do not miss the orange Waqanki, which translates to “you will cry” in the Quechuan language. The exotic orchid is inspired by the legend of an Incan princess caught in a forbidden love with a common soldier who later died. According to lore, the Waqanki orchid bloomed wherever the princess’ tears landed.
You get a bonus when you buy tickets to Cloud Forest, where the Machu Picchu display is. Tickets include access to Avatar: The Experience, which transports you to the otherworldly landscape of alien world Pandora from box-office sci-fi hits Avatar (2009) and Avatar: The Way Of Water (2022).
What: An art trail around the Civic District area where you track down six benches which are also artworks by Singapore-based artists Lua Boon Kai, Joyce Beetuan Koh, Immanuel Koh, Yang Jie, Jeffrey Tan and Jason Wee. Each is based on a punctuation mark. The project is curated by home-grown multidisciplinary artist Justin Loke.
Where: Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), 1 Empress Place; The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane; along Queen Elizabeth Walk; Esplanade Park, along Connaught Drive; and The Esplanade, 1 Esplanade Drive. Go to bit.ly/3ORYGO9 to see a map with the exact locations of the benches.
When: Until July 31, 2026
Fun factor for kids: An amusing game to play with your kids is guessing which punctuation mark each bench is based on. Lua’s This is Not A Bench’s unconventional shape is the most fun, as it invites you to sit on, straddle or lean against it.
Each of the benches reflects its location’s historical and cultural significance, so the trail is also a chance to learn about what Singapore and the region was like in the past. Tan’s Sayang! Satay Sayang!, for instance, is a homage to the old Esplanade Satay Club, while the design of Koh’s Re-store/Neural Artefact Black references artefacts from the ACM archives.
Look out for: There is a lot of construction work going on for the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2023, which takes place from Sept 15 to 17, so be careful when walking around the Civic District.
Some areas have been fenced up, so detours are inevitable. For example, my daughter and I had a bit of trouble looking for Yang Jie’s …All The King’s Men artwork near Anderson Bridge because we were walking from ACM and several walkways around Connaught Drive were temporarily inaccessible.
5. Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures (PG13)
13 episodes, about 25 minutes each
Synopsis: A group of young Jedi trainees of various species and backgrounds learn to master the Force and explore the galaxy.
Available on: Disney+
Parents will love: Star Wars is one of the biggest media franchises, so it is safe to say plenty of parents are familiar with the space-based saga.
This new series is canon to Star Wars lore, and the events take place in an era centuries before the movies.
The main characters – such as trainee Jedi knight Kai Brightstar and droid RJ-83 – are new, but fans will be pleased to know that fan favourite Jedi master Yoda makes an appearance.
Kids will love: Young Jedi Adventures is the first full-length animated Star War series aimed at “younglings”, a term often used in Star Wars to refer to children.
The characters, especially the furry blue Jedi Nubs, are adorable. More importantly, the series eschews the darker and more mature aspects of Star Wars, such as the violence and villainy associated with Darth Vader and his dark-side ilk.
Like in other Star War series, the show is big on diversity, so you have positive role models of all races and species, which teaches kids that what matters is not outward appearances, but what you do.
Advisory: There is some fighting involved – these are lightsaber-wielding Jedi knight trainees, after all. The characters are often in conflict with the bad guys, but these skirmishes are resolved through teamwork, discipline, patience and perseverance.
6. Mech Cadets (PG)
10 episodes, ranging from 19 to 30 minutes each
Synopsis: A group of teenagers learns to pilot giant alien robots known as Robo Mechs and defend earth from an alien threat.
Available on: Netflix
Parents will love: Mech Cadets, an animated series based on the comic book series Mech Cadet Yu, has well-developed characters and storylines that are simple enough for younger children to follow, but are also compelling for teenagers and adults.
It offers plenty of positive messages. The series shows that having a disability and coming from the lower rungs of the societal ladder are not obstacles to being a hero. One of the main characters starts out as a janitor, while another is an above-knee amputee, and both end up as elite cadets.
The characters come from various races and cultures, and main character Stanford Yu’s mother occasionally speaks Cantonese. Voice actors include seasoned Asian-American names such as Ming-Na Wen and Daniel Dae Kim.
Kids will love: The premise that while the adults run the show, it is often the kids who end up saving the day.
Teenagers and older children will easily identify with some issues the characters face, such as having to deal with parents’ expectations and competition among peers.
The animation is gorgeous, with a colourful blend of 3D realism and anime-style liveliness.
Advisory: The fighting scenes can get a little graphic. In one scene, a giant robot uses a blade to stab an alien creature, which bleeds out and dies.
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