Hong Kong is a great vacation spot with kids that won’t break the bank. With convenient and historic public transportation and lots of free things to see, there’s plenty to do, especially when fighting jet lag. Walking around the streets at night is safe and exciting. In Kowloon, there’s great Hong Kong architecture from half a century ago. Greedy property developers are quickly grabbing up land in un-gentrified areas, so I’m not sure how much longer Kowloon will look this way. But for now, there’s still plenty to see.
During the day, the Prince Edward markets are wonderful for kids. We started out at the flower market, which is nothing like what we have back in Chicago. My kids loved seeing the individually-wrapped roses and all the bright colors in the flower market. We also went to the bird market and goldfish street, two musts for young kids.
Down the peninsula in Tsim Sha Tsui, we caught the Star Ferry. I like taking it from Kowloon to Central (or Wanchai) because the view of the harbor from the Kowloon side is the most stunning anywhere (except for the IFC building, which looks so out of place).
Once on Hong Kong side, it’s imperative to ride the trams. The upper deck has the best views. These trams are old and cost almost nothing. It’s a good way to rest one’s legs, especially while still recovering from a long flight.
Wet markets are fun and educational. My daughter didn’t love the fish market, but my younger son did. So fresh! Those are toads in the photo below.
Sai Ying Pun on Hong Kong Island is filled with murals. These are just a few.
Back on Kowloon, we went to the free museum at the old Shek Kip Mei housing estate, which has been turned into a youth hostel (we stayed there!). The museum shows how Hong Kong resettled 50,000 refugees who were rendered homeless after a sweeping fire in the early 1950s. This was the first public housing estate and people shared kitchens and bathrooms. It wouldn’t be until two decades later when public housing would include private kitchens and bathrooms.
Another free museum is the Hong Kong Railway Museum up in Tai Po in the New Territories. Kids can board old steamers and see how people used to travel across the territory.
If you’re up in Tai Po or other parts of the New Territories on that train line, it’s worth taking a trip up to Lok Ma Chau to see China. There is no place to exit the station without a visa and going through immigration, but you can certainly see a lot from the platform in Hong Kong. Fun fact: this was just a rice paddy the last time I saw this view in 1990.
Back on Hong Kong Island, which takes about an hour from Lok Ma Chau, it’s great to go up to the Peak at dusk. We splurged for the Peak Tram going up, which is US$4-6 one way. It goes up the Peak at a 45 degree angle and is worth the single fare. This is before sundown.
And this is after.
Visiting old tea houses is also fun. Here at Lin Heung in Central, my kids learned to pour tea from bowls with lids on them. There are always rumors that Lin Heung is going to close, and now it seems like that’s going to happen around Chinese New Year. If it does, there’s another Lin Heung in Sheung Wan, next to Central. These dim sum places have been around for almost 100 years.
My kids also like banyan trees and found this one to be extra special, as it’s incorporated into the fortification of the hill.
The Jumbo floating restaurant in Aberdeen used to be on all the tourist circuits. It’s kind of low key now and we didn’t see many tour groups. The wait for the sampan to go out to the restaurant wasn’t very long and there was no line whatsoever. It’s a fun, old-school experience that’s a little more costly than most restaurants.
Outside the Jumbo. All the old time movie stars used to go here.
My kids really enjoyed their first trip to Hong Kong. We also shopped and ate a ton. Maybe those will be posts for another day. Even with all our luggage (the big suitcase is from my son, who lives not too far away in Shanghai), Hong Kong taxi drivers are resourceful.
If you want information about any of the places I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to Google them for current hours. I’d be happy to answer any questions in case you’re looking for something tailored to your family.