One of the primary reasons we decided that after living in Phuket for more or less 5 years we’d relocated to Chiang Mai is there are tons of things to do here for kids.
Don’t get me wrong, Phuket has loads of beaches ( as you probably know) and outdoor activities that are fantastic, but if you live there long-term you may find it a wee bit lacking for other family-friendly activities.
Chiang Mai happens to have many expat families from around the world that are based here, for a number of reasons. From Menonite missionaries to professors and even diplomats, expats have decided that this part of the country is an excellent place to raise kids. And it’s not just expats that feel that way. Many of our Thai friends from Phuket raved about the alternative schools here in Northern Thailand.
In today’s post, I’m sharing tips on how to find regular activities for your children if you’re coming here long-term, as well as family-friendly travel tips for a short term stay.
Indoor Play Areas
Almost every mall in Thailand ( or Bic C) has a play area for kids. Promenada Resort Mall has perhaps the largest ( and priciest) and is our daughter’s favorite. The staff there are incredible attentive and friendly, plus there’s a little cafe for parents to hang out at while their kids are having in an array of things for children to do.
Maya has a playroom that’s great for younger children, and the same goes for Kad Suan Gaew’s retro playroom. The latter is across from a very old school, awesome arcade and game area, while Maya’s game area has loads of modern gaming options.
Central Airport Mall has our daughter’s second favorite play area, which has a baking and colouring station for kids to create in, as well as go carts.
As I mentioned, most Bic C’s and some larger Tescos have indoor play areas too. They are usually located near the food court.
You’ll find the majority of restaurants in Thailand to be family-friendly, except for perhaps food stalls on a busy Bangkok soi. But even then, kids can find the hustle and bustle of street food fun!
But if you have a toddler/preschooler, you’ll love taking them to Nic’s where they can play in the hand-made bamboo boat or on the trampoleen while you and your partner have dinner. Or wine. Or coffee!
Nic’s is very popular with local and expat families that live in Hang Dong, and many of the kids that play there attend the buddhist school nearby. The kid-themed menu has everything from vegetarian croquettes to ‘spider’ pizza, plus smoothies and other yummy treats.
Thai dishes are around 100 baht and farang food is roughly 150 and up.
Another restaurant I think kids will enjoy is Ohkajhu, which is extremely popular with Thai families. Our friends have two young children that really enjoy walking around the large restaurant and looking at the organic lettuce and rosemary that’s growing in the front. There is a tractor that our daughter loves to hop on and pretend she’s a farmer.
Whether you’re homeschooling/unschooling in Chiang Mai or want to supplement some after school activities, chances are that at some point your lovely kiddos may want to take an art or dance class.
Thankfully, Chiang Mai has a number of schools and activity programs. Sangdao Dance offers ballet, jazz, and modern dance classes. The Russian Ballet in Kad Farang ( Hang Dong) is also an option. The teacher is a very nice man from the Philipines who has lots of experience teaching everything from hip hop to jazz.
Chiang Mai has several large movie theaters that show the usual Hollywood kids movies, as well as the latest in Asian cinema.
Because I’m a fan of everything retro, I personally think the cinema at the top of Kad Suan Gaew is pretty sweet, but the majority of the movies they show are dubbed in Thai.
The most popular cinemas are those at Maya, Central Airport, and Promenada.
Museums & Gardens
Art in Paradise is a fun place for family members of all ages. The 3d art makes it look as though you’re part of the painting/display. There is a similar museum in Phuket Town that opened recently, in case you’re heading down South.
Here in Hang Dong, you’ll find the beautiful Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden that is popular with locals who like to take strolls or cycle around the area at night, when it’s not as hot. It has a variety of plants from all of the country.
Although touristy, Chiang Mai’s walking market on Sunday makes for a great outing. Kids love grabbing a cup of fresh passion fruit or juice as they peruse the stalls.
The Walking Market is also in a fantastic location, and if you go early enough you can beat the crowd.
Chiang Mai Zoo
If you’re looking for something a wee bit more affordable than the Night Safari, check out the local zoo. We personally haven’t had a chance to go but I’ve heard it’s OK, and we plan on checking it out sometime this summer.
For Christian homeschooling and unschooling families, the local homeschool coop may be a great place to get the kiddos together with other homeschoolers their age. They offer classes in everything from chess to model UN.
Do you have a child that has taken an interest in robots? You’ll be happy to know that in Kad Farang there is a small robotics school!
Monk chat would be a fun thing for teens to partake in. Many wat ( temples) in the city center have a day when you can sit and chat with a monk, which helps him learn English and also gives you the ability to learn basic buddhist concepts.
Cooking schools here in Chiang Mai may offer classes that kids of all ages can partake in. This is a fantastic way to get your kiddos interested in helping you out in the kitchen, and I think cooking in general is an excellent way to help them build creative skills, as well as their confidence. Because we’re a big fan of Southern Thai cuisine, we haven’t yet found a school that offers the type of dishes we want to cook ( like gaeng som) so we have yet to take cooking classes here in the city, but I’m investigating if there are schools that will allow you to cook Thai dishes that aren’t the usual green curry/phad thai type of deal. Most schools have a set menu that you can learn to cook, with vegetarian options frequently available.
I’ve heard great things about Benny’s Home Cooking school, and have seen photos on Instagram of kids taking lessons. They have several menus you can choose from, including some Lanna specialties and dishes from Isaan.
If English is your child’s second language, you’ll find many small English schools ( such as Kumon) that offer short and long-term ESL classes for kids of all ages.
And if your high school grad is interested in studying Thai while you’re here, Chiang Mai University has both long-term ( 1 year) and short term Thai language classes. I studied at CMU and loved my professor! The year long program would be fantastic if you have a teen that is taking a gap year before going into Uni.
For younger kids, you will find a number of clay modeling studios in malls throughout Thailand, including Central Festival in Phuket, and I believe there is one near the playroom/game area in Kad Suan Gaew.
Public swimming pools offer a great way to beat the heat. We go to our local one in Hang Dong ( the Kad Farang swimming club), where it costs non-members 40-60 baht each time they go for a swim. If you get the year pass it costs less.
For the martial artists in your family, they will be pleased to find a plethora of options and dojos. Kad Farang ( that I keep mentioning because I live next to it) has a tae kwon do place upstairs, as well as gymnastics and yoga.
What family activities do you recommend here in Chiang Mai? I’d love to keep adding to this list and look forward to hearing your tips & suggestions!