Macau holds so many world titles, none of which appear conducive to family trips across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong. There’s the fact that it’s the most densely populated area in the world and that charming certitude of world’s largest gambling centre. If you think that chasing a toddler around an overcrowded casino hub is a fate worse than death, think again! There are plenty of things to do in Macau for kids.
Your first guess might be that Macau is a playground for wealthy punters who don’t mind a bit of hustle and bustle. And chasing a toddler around this overcrowded casino land appears to be an affliction worse than the Inferno, Sheol, or whichever spiritual realm of evil and suffering you happen to subscribe to. But, like the sky-painted ceiling of Venetian Macau, looks can be deceiving.
In fact, the flood of American-style casinos in the area over the past five years has, quite ironically, made Macau much more child-friendly.
That’s before you even begin exploring the old town.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in Macau with your munchkins.
Things to do in Macau for kids
1- Explore Macau’s colonial past
The fact that the island was a Portuguese colony from the 16th century all the way up until 1999 makes it a fascinating blend of European and Asian culture.
This is best seen in the colonial architecture dotted across the island, all of which is worth a look in.
There are plenty of churches to explore, however, kids do tend to tire of religious paraphernalia so best limit your visit to one or two destinations.
The ruins of St Paul’s are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Macau’s most iconic landmark. Admission is free and the site is only a short walk from the town centre.
Other key historic landmarks include Senado Square, Guia Fortress, St Dominic’s Church and Tashi Square.
2- Ride the gondolas at The Venetian
A replica of the popular Las Vegas moneymaker, this hotel and casino is well worth a visit, even for non-gamblers.
There are three canals snaking through the mammoth complex and visitors can explore each one on foot via the bridges and heavily painted sidewalks, or take a gondola tour, which includes some only-slightly-naff opera accompaniments.
Stop along the way to enjoy a famous egg tart from Lord Stow’s cart and end up at Qube – a three-story, fully-decked out play centre the kids will love.
3- House of Dancing Water at the City of Dreams
Just like Vegas, there are always plenty of performances taking place in Macau, including lots for kids.
The House of Dancing Water is an extravaganza that can only be described as part acrobatics, part water and light display, part stunt show and all awesome.
The show took five years and 250 million USD to develop and, even if the kids don’t follow the love story, there are plenty of tricks and flips to wow them.
4- Relax in Lou Lim Leoc Garden
When the glitz gets too much, the Lou Lim Leoc Garden is a tranquil escape located in the northern part of Macau.
Modelled after the classical Chinese gardens of Suzhou, Lou Lim features narrow pathways, a pond filled with carp and lotus flowers, and a six-way bridge ripe for exploring.
5- Visit the Macau Giant Panda Pavilion
Three giant pandas (and who doesn’t love pandas?) live in a purpose-built sanctuary located on Coloane Island.
It’s a bit of a hike from the city centre so you might need to grab a cab, however children under 12 gain free admission and adults get in for the equivalent of about two Aussie dollars.
6- Stop in at the Macau Science Centre
This modernistic building houses several interactive exhibitions, including a planetarium with 3D space footage and an IMAX theatre.
Don’t fret about language barriers because many of the movies and activities appear in English.
7- See the Galaxy Macau Diamond Show
Just the name sounds thrilling and the actual show doesn’t fail to impress. Touted as one of the largest laser displays in the world, the show runs nightly and features lights, lasers, and music. Best of all, the 20-minute display is absolutely free!
8- See the jellyfish at the Moon Jellyfish Aquarium
The name spells it all – Moon Jellyfish Aquarium. Over at the Wynn Macau find one of the world’s largest water tanks devoted to moon jellyfish.
Although not a local marine species these critters were brought in from Taiwan and Japan, they continue to enchant, casting off stunning neon blue tones.
The glowing experience is a delightful thing to do in Macau for kids.
It occurs as you’re checking in at the Encore Tower in the main entrance.
9- A day at the beach
Nothing spells relaxation than laying down your beach towel at the Hac Sa Beach (the locals call it Black Sand Beach).
Macau’s largest natural beach located on the southeast side of green infused Coloane island no longer has black sand (it’s golden) but still makes a great city break when looking for things to do in Macau for kids.
10- Macau Maritime Museum
Head to the Macau Maritime Museum.
Built on the site where the first Portuguese explorers landed, the site alone is significant.
Today, see a lively harbour of sailboats and cargo ships that sail past this building which also resembles a boat with its white full sail.
Explore five sections that include fishing techniques, technology and an aquarium gallery with four tanks devoted to different themes.
We like the last tank showing a recreated sunken boat in the deep sea undoubtedly filled with sunken treasures.
Fun ways to introduce the kids to food in Macau
11- Join a Macanese cooking class
There’s nothing like cultural immersion to reveal the spirit of a destination and the inventive culinary workshop at Pousada de Coloane does just that.
Armed with a shopping list for classic Portuguese dishes that are part of Macau’s food heritage, I shop and haggled at the Red Market while absorbing the particulars of Macanese traditions.
I learn the importance of balancing spicy and sweet flavours and how to pick fresh coconut and turmeric for vibrant flavor.
Portuguese music seeps through the elegant black and white tiles that cover the pousada, as I whip up Portuguese coconut chicken.
Paired with wine, caldo verde or kale and potato soup and views of Cheoc Van beach, it’s the perfect introduction to the Portuguese side of Macau.
12- Savour the flavours of fat tea
The tradition of Cha Gordo or fat tea is an unexpected Macanese take on the concept of English High Tea.
Cha Gordo is high tea with a twist of Chinese and Portuguese sensibilities.
The idea took hold in the early 20th century when there weren’t many restaurants or cafes in Macau.
Macanese housewives would prepare a mid-afternoon spread of snacks and desserts to celebrate saints days, christenings or just a neighbourhood gathering.
Chef Miguel Joao de Souza creates a weekly Cha Gordo based on childhood memories at the Sheraton Macao.
The feast includes at least 12 sweet and savoury dishes with nods to Chinese, Portuguese and Angolan influences.
I sample serradura, cookies and cream pudding, lacassa noodle soup, bacalau codfish and potato fritters and minchi diced and deep fried meats and potatoes with three kinds of soy sauce.
Washed down with a pot of tea, it’s a perfect example of Macanese fusion cuisine.
13- Hunt for the perfect Portuguese egg tart
Macau has the best of both worlds, street food as well as formal dining.
Macau’s egg tarts have become famous around the word and are right at the top of the Macanese food chain.
In Macau, you’ll find egg tarts everywhere as most bakeries and many restaurants serve up this treat. But there’s nowhere as famous as Lord Stow’s Bakery, a tiny shop that is worth the trip to snatch up the warm, buttery pastries.
It’s a must-do in Macau.
In 1989, after a visit to Portugal, Andrew Stow created a Macanese version of Pasteis de Nata or custard tarts.
Stow was an Englishman nicknamed “Lord Stow” by local Portuguese for jokingly “lording” his British heritage over them.
The joke was on the Portuguese as Stow’s egg tarts have become Macau’s most well-known treat.
I visit Lord Stow’s original bakery in Coloane and munch warm, caramelized brown on top and slightly sweet tarts straight from the oven.
14- Cook your own hot pot meal
The Chinese influence in Macau’s cuisine is evident through China’s 1,000-year-old hot pot tradition introduced to Macau by Mongolian warriors.
The Mongolians used their helmets to simmer soup over hot embers.
Hot pots evolved into a popular social activity all over China.
At Sheraton Macao’s Xin Restaurant, groups of families and friends gather around tables eating from the hot pots.
Chinese hot pots are sometimes called Chinese fondue.
The dish involves selecting meat, fish, vegetables and condiments and cooking them yourself in a metal pot.
A hot pot meal is a leisurely, communal experience where everyone at the table shares sampling the dishes.
The broth is the foundation of the meal. Xin’s menu comes with a range of meat and seafood broths.
Each region in China is famous for a different broth. I particularly love the famous Sichuan hot pot and its chili peppers and peppercorns.
The spicy flavours compliment the vegetables and chicken I plop into the soup. It’s also an honour to participate in a long-honoured Chinese cultural tradition.
15- Nibble almond cookies
Next to egg tarts, almond cookies top the list as Macau’s most ubiquitous edible souvenir.
You’ll spot boxes of them everywhere, from street stands to high-end department stores, with the Koi Kei brand the most popular.
So what’s so special about them? I’m not sure what the fuss is about until I bite into a dense, crumbly cookie. These aren’t the bland desserts featured on Chinese takeout menus.
Macau almond cookies are baked with mung bean flour and feature whole pieces of almonds.
The taste is nutty and only slightly sweet but it’s the unusual flavours that really make them stand out.
Choose almond cookies with shredded pork, black sesame or lard for a true taste of Macau.
Rosalind Cumming Yeates
Where to stay in Macau with kids
Many hotels in Macau are family friendly and offer adjoining rooms and even rooms set up with toys for the children. Here are three you might like to check out.
1- The Venetian
There are some that say casino-less hotels are your best bet for families in Macau, but as I’ve already mentioned, The Venetian is a wonderfully interactive experience in Macau for kids and adults alike.
2- Conrad Macau
The Conrad Macau is located along the Cotai Strip and connected to the Hong Kong ferry terminal, has spacious rooms, a wonderful buffet area, and an indoor pool. The fact that it doesn’t house a casino but is in walking distance of all the main attractions is a big drawcard here.
3- Sofitel Macau
Sofitel Macau at Ponte 16 is located in Old Macau, a stone’s throw from the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Senado Square. It has a rather beautiful outdoor pool with Romanesque statues aplenty!
Looking for more things to do in Macau? We have a huge range of suggestions and ideas. Here are some to get you started.
Looking to pick up a unique souvenir? Here are some places to go shopping in Macau.