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While Hong Kong is known as a business and financial center of the world, it is also a city rich in culture, history, food and entertainment, making it an ideal family destination. And, it is a great introduction to Asian and Chinese culture, while still being one of the easier Asian cities to navigate since many of its inhabitants speak English. When my husband and I decided to bring our 3-year-old son Sammy there, we knew not everything would go smoothly; there were definitely a few things I wish I’d understood better beforehand. So, hopefully these tips and suggestions can help your family plan an incredible trip to Hong Kong.
Flying to Hong Kong
No matter where in the US you’re flying from, the flight is going to be long (about 16 hours). There are a few carriers that make the journey, but we flew Cathay Pacific from New York (JFK) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and were thrilled with the service and how the airline treated families. The flight attendants on Cathay were extra nice to Sammy and gave him an adorable packet filled with toys and games. (Here are tips for getting through a long-haul flight with littles.)
It’s easy to use points and miles for the flight, and if you have enough of them for a business or first class upgrade, it is well worth it (although economy on Cathay is one of the better economy options for this long-haul journey). Use American Airlines AAdvantage miles to book award flights on partner Cathay or even use Chase Ultimate Rewards points (transfer to British Airways and then book partner Cathay or other flights through Chase’s travel portal and pay with your UR points).
Getting Around: Look Up
Hong Kong is a compact city with more than 7.3 million inhabitants. It’s crowded, which can make getting around difficult, especially with children in tow. Still, in certain ways, navigating Hong Kong is easy: the subway (called the MTR) is straightforward, runs often and is impeccably clean, and there are elevators if you know where to find them (ask a station guide); taxis are fairly simple to get, although if your child uses a car seat, you have to bring your own; and the city is somewhat walkable.
Actually, its walkability is also the hardest part about getting around, but once you figure out the secret, the city opens up. While there are sidewalks on Hong Kong Island, the streets are extremely steep. So much so that steps and outdoor escalators are common. This can make getting around with a toddler challenging. My son can’t walk for more than a few minutes but he is too heavy to wear or carry. So we use a stroller. And while our stroller is super-light and folds easily (we swear by the YoYo+ BabyZen but if you’re looking for a new one, check out TPG‘s eight best strollers for travel), it was rather difficult for me to push it up the steep walkways (hello, triceps!) and made using the stairs and escalators challenging. Also, the sidewalks are quite narrow and uneven, and they are often crowded — not ideal for a stroller.
However, Hong Kong Island does have a solution for pedestrians, although it took me a while to figure it out. If you look up (specifically in the Admiralty, Central and Sheung Wan districts by the harbor) you’ll notice an extensive labyrinth of elevated pedestrian walkways. These wide tubes and bridges not only allow pedestrians to cross the busy streets easily (which must have been the original purpose), but they also stretch for blocks and blocks, allowing pedestrians to avoid the crowded streets below and move much faster. The best part for stroller-pushing moms and dads? There are plenty of elevators leading up to them — although sometimes they can be hard to spot. These walkways won’t show up on Google Maps, so they can be hard to figure out.
For getting between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, you can’t beat the iconic Star Ferry, which makes the 10-minute trip all day and all night long. It’s also super fun for little ones, and cheap (starting at just HKD 2.20 per adult, one-way).
You can also book a longer harbor tour via the ferry or one of the junks that operates there. The route during the nightly light show that happens above Hong Kong Island’s skyscrapers is recommended.
Enjoy the Green Space
Although Hong Kong is filled with skyscrapers and tightly packed buildings, it also happens to have 40 percent green space. And that green space is stunning — and perfect for kids. On Hong Kong Island, our favorite spot quickly became Hong Kong Park, a beautiful swath of green right in Central that is home to fish-stocked ponds, landscaped gardens, an aviary and a multi-level brightly colored playground. Another green gem is the Hong Kong Zoo, which is just across from the park. It’s free to get in and filled with lots of birds, monkeys and other small mammals in fairly spacious cages.
Taking the Peak Tram up Victoria Mountain is a must and another affordable form of entertainment for the kiddos (HKD 52 round-trip per adult and HKD 23 round-trip per child 3–11 or seniors 65+). The ride up the mountain offers stunning views and once at the top, they only improve. After snapping some photos, stroll the Peak Circle Walk or head to the Morning Trail, which is stroller friendly, and enjoy a nice quiet walk in the woods. If you do the whole thing, you’ll end up back at the bottom near the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong in Central. If your kids are older, you can hike the Dragon’s Back — the last leg of the longer Hong Kong Trail — and it’s most scenic.
On Kowloon Island, a beloved serene spot is the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens, a beautifully landscaped monastery and garden perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city and giving kids some space to move around. A couple of stops away on the train is Kowloon Walled City Park, which sits on the former Kowloon Walled City, infamous for being a lawless area during British rule (and once the most crowded place on earth). Now, it’s a lovely park with a playground, bike path and some exhibits about its history.
Discover the Local Amusement
When we first started planning our trip, I was sure I would take Sammy to Hong Kong Disneyland. But I was nervous about being a single parent there while my husband worked and I also didn’t realize how far it was (Hong Kong Disneyland is on Lantau Island, about 45 minutes away by car from Hong Kong Island). But, if you have enough time and are die-hard Disney fans (we are not), I’ve heard it’s more manageable than other Disney parks and worth the trek.
Better for us turned out to be Ocean Park, which is what someone who lived there told me was “the locals’ amusement park.” It’s only a 20-minute car ride from Central, accessible by the MTR, cheaper (tickets start at HKD 240 versus Disney’s HKD 619) and has diverse offerings. The water-themed park has a lower level and upper level that are connected by a sky tram — which happens to have amazing views — and there’s also a submarine-themed train that goes through the mountain to the other side.
The lower area has pandas (an obvious highlight) and other Asian animals, a huge aquarium, a playground and kiddie rides. The upper area has rides for older kids, sea lions and other attractions.
They also have shows and animal encounters at various times. We enjoyed watching one with exotic birds like macaws and owls, even though it was narrated only in Cantonese. We especially loved seeing few other foreign faces — it really did feel like we were in on a local secret.
Other fun activities that kids will love in the city include visiting the Hong Kong Science Museum (admission costs HKD 20, or free on Wednesdays and every day for those 4 and under), climbing aboard a classic junk boat (pricing varies by junk), riding the Hong Kong Observation Wheel (similar to the London Eye; tickets start at HKG 20 for adults and HKG 10 for kids 3–11) and venturing out to Lamma, Lantau, or other outer islands.
Hong Kong’s food scene is dense, varied and impressive. There’s food from all over China and across Asia, as well as excellent renditions of French, Italian, Mexican… You can find pretty much anything, which is helpful if you have a picky eater. If your kid is adventurous like ours, you’ll want to sample Hong Kong classics that also happen to be kid-friendly, like dim sum, noodles, bubble waffles, Hong Kong egg tarts and fishballs in curry sauce (Sammy loved these!).
We also enjoyed fun and funky modern Cantonese restaurants like Happy Paradise and Ho Lee Fook, which put a new spin on classic Chinese dishes. And if you need a break from meat and pork, the vegetarian restaurant Grassroots Pantry is perfect. High tea can be fun for kids who can stay somewhat seated; we enjoyed the ones at the Peninsula Hong Kong and Upper House.
Where to Stay
Hong Kong hotels know how to do luxury, so if you’re able to splurge or have the points to spend, there are definitely some worthy contenders.
If you have Marriott points, and want to live the high life, try The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong or W Hong Kong. Both are Category 8 properties, starting at 85,000 points per night. The JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel and Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers are all Category 6 hotels, starting at 50k points per night (so you can use a Marriott 50k free night certificate at these hotels) but there are less expensive options, too. If you have a Marriott 35k free night certificate (or 35k points), book the Category 5 The Mira or Mira Moon Hong Kong (Design Hotels) or Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel.
With both the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express Card and the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card you’ll earn 100,000 Marriott points after you spend $5,000 on your card within the first three months of card membership until April 24.
For Hyatt fans, try the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong (from 25k points per night), Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Tsim Sha Tsui (from 15k points) or the Hyatt Regency Hong Kong Sha Tin (from 12k points). Earn Hyatt points with the World of Hyatt Credit Card.
IHG Rewards Club members have great things to say about the InterContinental Hong Kong (from 70k points per night) and the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong (from 60k points per night). Less expensive properties include the Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Causeway Bay from 55k points, Crowne Plaza Hong Kong Kowloon East from 40k points or the Holiday Inn Golden Mile Hong Kong from 45k points. Earn points with the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.
If you’d prefer to spend Hilton Honors points, look to the Conrad Hong Kong (from 68k–80k points) or the Hilton Garden Inn Hong Kong Mongkok (from 30k points). Before you lock in on a hotel, learn which Hilton credit card is best for family travelers.
We preferred staying in Central so we could be in the middle of it all and we loved our experience at the year-old Murray Hong Kong, which was across the street from Hong Kong Park and the Peak Tram, and had large rooms and suites with a sleek modern design. They also have an incredible buffet breakfast with literally anything you could want. Plus, they gave Sammy an activity book with colored pencils and a beautifully crocheted stuffed cockatoo.
Across the park is Upper House, which has the city’s largest rooms and bathrooms (seriously, the bathtubs are legendary). And of course, you can’t go wrong with the historic Peninsula on Kowloon Island, which has impeccable service and details like chocolate treats made in-house (Sammy got a giant chocolate bear) and nightly tea service, but our favorite part was the grand indoor pool that we couldn’t seem to get Sammy out of on our last morning.
Hong Kong with little kids is totally do-able if you go into the trip with the right attitude. Have you taken your family to Hong Kong? What were the can’t-miss activities for your kids?
Know before you go.
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