Perhaps the Philippines capital isn’t at the top of your family travel bucket list, but there are still lots of great kids activities in Manila. We spent a few days in Manila looking for things to do with the kids while we waited for our Thailand visas to be processed. In that time we found quite a few fun family activities!
Here’s our list of the top activities for kids in Manila.
SM Mall of Asia
Wow. We had been to Ayala Mall in Cebu and thought that was pretty impressive. SM Mall of Asia makes Ayala Mall look like the corner store. The Mall of Asia is absolutely gigantic. I don’t think it’s possible to grasp just how enormous this place is without seeing it.
Driving into the complex felt a bit like arriving at one of the Disney parks in Orlando, Florida. The mall itself has entire wings filled with dozens of stores all selling more or less the same thing (like cell phones or computers). There’s a seemingly endless selection of places to eat or drink. There is even a full size ice rink!
Also inside the mall there is a large play area for kids. There are arcade games, small rides, and two indoor play gym spaces.
One of the play gyms, Cosmic Kidz, is a multi-story complex filled with tunnels, climbing structures, ball pits, and slides. Kids must be 13 years old or under to use Cosmic Kidz. Admission is 200 pesos ($4.50) for 1/2 hour, 280 pesos ($6) for 1 hour, and 480 pesos ($11) for unlimited time. Adults are also charged 120 pesos ($3) to go in and supervise.
The the other one, Tiny Town, is for younger ones (48 inches tall and below). Tiny Town has smaller climbing structures and play houses. Admission is 190 pesos ($4.50) for 1 hour and 380 pesos ($9) for unlimited time. Adults are 50 pesos.
Both play areas require kids to wear socks only, so keep that in mind if you are typically wearing sandals. You can buy socks for 50 pesos ($1) if you don’t have any.
In addition to the shopping area there is also a huge outdoor amusement park complex along the Manila Bay waterfront. Jasper and Aurora loved the carousel, which at 200 pesos ($4.50) for 2 rides was about half the price of the one we rode on Pier 39 in San Francisco.
The highlight of the whole mall is the Mall of Asia Eye, an enormous 180 ft tall ferris wheel on the waterfront. You ride in enclosed, air conditioned gondolas and you get a nice view of the city. We rode the Eye after dark and the lights, both from the city and the Eye itself, were really fun. The ride cost 600 pesos ($13) for the four of us.
The biggest attraction in Rizal Park for families with younger kids is the Children’s Playground. This large playground is at the southeast corner of the park and there is a small admission fee of 10 pesos ($0.25) per person, including adults.
Children’s Playground is full of things for kids to climb on and slide down. There are strange concrete dinosaurs and other animals like a giraffe, camel, and hippo to clamber on. There’s even a giant shoe to hide in. Our kids particularly loved the see saws and huge variety of slides.
It all looks great and is a lot of fun, but just be careful because everything is concrete. There are also many areas with limited or no protection against falls and the ground below is also concrete, or in some cases a pond of water!
Next to the playground is a large art installation that depicts the Philippines archipelago in a giant relief map within a pool of water. It’s a little tired and could use a bit of TLC but it’s worth a quick look (it’s free).
The Chinese Gardens are also nice to walk around (10 pesos per person). We didn’t spend a lot of time here as quiet contemplation isn’t the twins’ forte, but nonetheless the plantings and statues are pretty and we all enjoyed a short tour.
In the center of the park there’s a huge reflecting pool. It looked like there were fountains setup in the middle but they weren’t going when we were there. There’s a trolley that makes a circuit around the pool that looked like fun, but we were already heading the other direction when we saw it.
There’s also the Pambata Children’s Museum. We wanted to see this during our visit to Manila but the day we planned to go turned out to be the day of Pope Francis’ arrival in the city and the museum was closed. Too bad, it looked like fun!
Besides these attractions there’s also Japanese gardens, a butterfly pavilion with orchid garden, and much more.
Intramuros is the oldest part of Manila and is a charming maze of narrow streets within high stone walls. It’s located just north of Rizal park and we walked there from our hotel just south of the park.
The many attractions within Intramuros are somewhat spread out so we opted to take a bicycle taxi tour. Since there were four of us we split into two bike taxis and the guides pedaled us around the old city streets.
We typically don’t like tours like this because we like to set our own pace, but the tour guides gave us a hard sell when we entered the Intramuros gates, following us for a block down the street and offering a low rate for the whole family (more on this later). We had already spent the morning at Rizal Park and having someone else drive us around sounded like a welcome break.
The tour guides were pretty relaxed about how much time we spent at places and even brought us to a street market for some lunch before we started. It was fun to eat like a local with the students just inside the Intramuros walls. Good service, good food, cheap prices.
Along the tour we visited Fort Santiago which has good views across the city from its high walls (there’s also a small playground), San Agustin church, and the Manila Cathedral. The Rizal Shrine is also located within Fort Santiago and is like a museum dedicated to Jose Rizal, a Philippines national hero.
At the end of our bike tour the drivers asked for 4x the original price, claiming the original price was for just one bike and for half as much time. This was not true as we had clearly agreed to a price of 500 pesos for all of us on 2 bikes, for a specific itinerary (not time), before we started so we stood firm. To avoid a giant argument we eventually agreed to 600 pesos ($13) total and walked away.
A lot of the attractions in Intramuros are probably not all that interesting for young kids, but riding around on the bike taxis certainly kept our pair entertained while we took in the historic sights. They also enjoyed running around the Fort Santiago grounds, checking out the cannons and big stone walls.
Activities for Kids in Manila
As you can see, we found plenty of fun family activities in Manila during our short stay. It may not be a family travel hotspot, but we still had a great time.