10 reasons why Jurong East is the perfect kids-friendly staycation destination
Now with the newly-opened Jurong Lake Gardens, the Jurong East area in Singapore just became the perfect destination to take the kids for a family staycation.
Whenever we mention we’re going on a family staycation, most of our friends assume we are off to Sentosa or some fancy hotels in the Marina Bay area. But what if I told you one of the best staycations we had was at Jurong East? Now with the newly-opened Jurong Lake Gardens, Jurong East might just be the most underrated place in Singapore for a staycation with kids.
Unless you live in Jurong East itself - of which I’ll say, you lucky bugger! - here are ten reasons why you should journey to the west of Singapore for your next family staycation.
1) The great location of Genting Hotel
Before I go on, I must add that our family typically plan a three- to four-day stay for a staycation, hence I'm always on the look out for hotels that are close to activities that will entertain our kids for a couple of days.
There are not many hotel choices which are close to attractions (detailed below) in Jurong East - there are a couple of choices in the West Coast area but much further away from Jurong East's action - which is why I’d highly recommend Genting Hotel at 2 Town Hall Link. It’s no luxury hotel but a pretty decent three-star hotel which fulfills two of my most stringent criteria for staycations – there is enough beds for sleeping and it is at a good location.
I have my doubts when some hotels sell themselves as staycation venues for local families, but their rooms only cater for three persons when many Singaporean families have more than one kid. If not, they charge you for a rollaway bed or it cost you an arm and leg to book a ‘family room’. That’s why we love Genting Hotel. It doesn’t sell itself as a staycation venue for local families yet it can comfortably sleep a family of four with young children in their deluxe room with two queen-size beds. Everything else in the hotel is pretty basic but did I already mention the location is fantastic? You’d be in walking distances of most attractions in the area.
The hotel is located right next to Jurong East MRT and also has a free shuttle to Resort World Sentosa, just a 20-minute ride away, though there is really no need for that when there is already so much to do in the area.
2) Cool Science Centre exhibitions
I remember as a kid, I always get this happy buzz whenever I visited the Science Centre. Till this day I can still recall some of the hands-on displays and interactive exhibitions. Years later, the Science Centre at 15 Science Centre Road still feels exciting, especially for children. My kids remember vividly the exhibitions and shows we saw over the years like one on dinosaurs a couple of years ago and most recently, The Mind's Eye, an exhibition on optical illusions. The latter exhibition - still ongoing at the Science Centre at the time of this post - will entertain and amuse kids and adults with its mind-boggling and educational illusions and displays. Do note that some exhibitions are temporary, so check before you go.
Check out Professor Crackitt’s Laboratory exhibition too, a life-size labyrinth of mirrors, filled with infinite reflections and endless hallways that's sure to amuse kids and adults. In fact, we were so amused we must have gone through the maze ten times!
Longstanding live shows like The Tesla Coil and Fire Tornado demonstrations at the Science Centre are also huge hits with kids judging by the crowds.
The demonstrations are all sights to behold though younger children might get a little spooked by the loud noise produced during The Tesla Coil demonstration, so get them to cover their years when the host tells them to!
The Kinetic Garden outside of the Science Centre is a fun playground that lets kids play and learn about science through plenty of hands-on activities.
But given that the Kinetic Garden's outdoor, it can get pretty hot during late mornings and early afternoons. So slap on the sunblock and mozzie repellent if you plan to play there during the day.
3) KidStop rocks
Right next to the main Science Centre building is KidStop, a children’s Science Centre, filled with interactive and engaging exhibits for kids age eight and below. Still, we have seen older kids like those in their tweens enjoying the exhibits especially attractions like the Big Dream Climber, a nine-metre high climbing structure...
...and Giant J, a supervised slide where children and adults can experience the sensation of free fall from as high as seven metres.
Entrance fees are very reasonable for Singaporeans and PRs at $6 for adults and $4 for children 3-12 years old during weekends, school and public holidays per four-hour session, and are free outside of those periods.
4) Immersive Omni-Theatre shows
The Omni-Theatre at the Science Centre screens science-related and conducts live planetarium shows. It's gigantic 23-metre diameter digital dome screen will make you feel as if you’re really there with the film crew. Our kids, who were at age five and seven when we were there, may not fully understand the narration of the documentary shows, but they definitely enjoyed the spinning outer space scenes which made us all a little dizzy. There is not a huge variety of shows being screened at one time and shows are changed every now and then, so check the Science Centre website on shows and screening times to see if the shows catch your fancy.
5) You can star gaze or observe the sun at The Observatory
The Science Centre’s Observatory is open for star-gazing 745-10pm every Friday, excluding public holidays. Due to limited capacity at its gigantic main telescope - one of the few in the world that is located next to the Equator - you are required to register for queue cards for star-gazing through the main telescope. Check The Observatory's Facebook page on how to register and for the latest updates before you go as star-gazing is subject to weather conditions. Also, expect the place to be packed during special events like lunar eclipses and super moons.
During the year-end rainy season from mid-November till December, the star-gazing sessions are replaced by solar observations in the mornings. Though our kids' comments of the sun during the lunar observation was "just a round circle", they were still pretty excited about looking through the main telescope. The star-gazing and lunar observation activities are great ways to introduce children to astronomy and did I mention they are free too?
6) Enjoy winter at Snow City
Not everyone can afford a skiing trip to Japan or Europe, but we can afford a trip to Snow City, right next to the Science Centre at 21 Jurong Town Hall Road. It’s no Swiss Alps and you can’t exactly ski down snowy mountains, but it’s the next closest to sub-zero degree winter experience you can get back home.
The highlight of the attraction is a three-storey high and 60-metre long snow slope you can snow tube down, and a snow chamber where you can prance around under falling snow singing “Let it go! Let it go!” My kids have loved Snow City since they were pre-schoolers, and have always badger us to take them there. The snow and freezing temperature is enough to captivate them for an hour or two. But do watch your younger ones, the ground can be a bit slippery at some places. Big E had slipped once and ended with a cut on her lip when she was a pre-schooler. The good thing out of it is that she’s not daunted by that and wants to return to Snow City though she’s now in primary school.
Also, pack some winter wear for your trip. Winter jacket and boots are provided with your admission tickets, but you'll need long pants, gloves and socks. If not, you can rent them at the venue.
Admission fees for Singaporeans and PRs start from $12 for child and $15 for adults for a one-hour snow play. Like the Omni-Theatre tickets, you can also get packaged tickets with Science Centre entrance tickets either online or at the Science Centre ticketing counter.
7) Ice-skate at Jcube
After a visit to Snow City, complete your winter experience with ice-skating at The Rink on the third level of JCube at 2 Jurong East Central 1, right opposite Genting Hotel. The Rink on the shopping complex's level three is Singapore’s first and only Olympic-size ice-skating rink. Public rates for two-hour sessions including skate boots rental are at $18 for adults and $16 for children at primary six and below. If the kiddos can't ski yet, cute penguin/snowman/seal snow aids are available for rental, likewise for helmets, gloves, and socks.
8) The wonder that is Westgate Wonderland
Those who live in the west would know about this huge outdoor playground known as Westgate Wonderland on level four of Westgate shopping mall on 3 Gateway Drive, an 8-10 minutes walk from Genting Hotel. Boasting of a ten-metre tall tree house, Westgate Wonderland is the largest rooftop mall playground in Singapore and easily rivals indoor playgrounds that charge for entrance.
The only catch is that there is no air-conditioning and it can get pretty hot from late mornings till late afternoon. But it’s free! Can’t have your cake and eat it too huh? Evenings are your best bet, though it definitely gets crowded at this time especially during school holidays.
They have a small water play area which is less exciting than the playground area but is suitable for smaller kids.
9) Outlet mall shopping and rooftop playground at IMM
What’s a holiday without a bit of shopping? Or to make it even better, outlet mall shopping! IMM 2 Jurong East Street 21 is Singapore’s largest outlet mall with more than 90 outlet stores, these including brand names like Agnes b, Coach, Calvin Klein Jeans, Furla, Kate Spade New York and lots more (see here for list of stores). The place was packed with shoppers the Saturday we were there which goes to show how popular the place is with both locals and tourists.
While mummy goes shopping, daddy can take the kids to the dry and wet playgrounds on level three. The dry playground was pretty crowded on the Saturday we were there, the wet playground less so. Both play areas were enough to entertain our kids - at age five and seven - for at least an hour, and they still didn't want to leave after that!
The IMM mall is about a 10 minute-walk from Jurong East MRT station if you use the J-Walk link bridge at Westgate (beside Paradise Dynasty) on level two.
10) Jurong Lake Gardens and Jurong Bird Park are not too far
When you’ve had enough of indoor activities, head slightly further just two MRT stops away from Jurong East MRT station to Lakeside MRT station for the newly-opened Lakeside Garden. Located along Yuan Ching Road and next to Lakeside MRT station, the 53-hectare site which opened on 27 April 2019 boasts of the largest children's nature play garden in the heartlands for children aged between five and 12. With 13 different adventure stations, children can play among different log structures and at Clusia Cove, a water play area made up of a tidal play pool and a sand play pool.
You can also take the kids for a stroll along Rasau Walk - a 300-metre boardwalk that meanders Jurong Lake - and spot birds like herons, egrets and storks. While we haven't had the chance to visit the Jurong Lakeside Garden yet, it'll definitely be on our to-do list!
Further out but only ten-minutes by car, is Jurong Bird Park at 2 Jurong Hill. Did you know it's Asia’s largest bird park, with close to 3,500 birds across 400 species? Opened in 1971, many mums and dads like me would have grew up visiting and remembering its key features like the bird shows, tram ride, walk-in aviaries, waterfall and air-conditioned penguin enclave. Look out for ticket promotions on their website where we have seen discounts for NTUC Link and Passion Card members.
Bonus tips for your trip:
- For cost savings at the Science Centre, get packaged tickets online or at the Science Centre ticketing counter where Science Centre entrance tickets are bundled with Omni-Theatre and/or Snow City tickets.
- Check attraction websites ahead of your trip for promotions. For example, Snow City currently has a 1-for-1 deal for Passion Card holders from 2 April 2019 till 31 May 2019.
- At the Omni-Theatre, queue a little earlier at it's entrance close to KidStop before the show to secure a sit in the centre of the cinema to get the most out of your experience.
- The Science Centre is set to move from its current Jurong Town Hall location to the north shore of Jurong Lake, near the Chinese Garden MRT station in 2020. So if you'd like to visit the Science Centre at its 41-year-old original location - it was opened on 10 December 1977 - do so soon!
- For savings at Jurong Bird Park, purchase tickets online or get bundle tickets for other Wildlife Reserves attractions. Singaporeans get further discount too when you purchase tickets online.
- Jurong Bird Park is set to relocate to the Mandai area in 2020. While the new park will be much anticipated, it’s this original park at 2 Jurong Hill that brings back much memories for us adults. So visit it before it moves!
And it’s adios Jurong East! What other fun places in Jurong East would you recommend?
Disclaimer: We pay for all our visits, and my opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family's own.
©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.