Laid-back, temple-studded Chiang Mai, Thailand’s Rose of the North, is a wonderful destination to visit as a family. Firstly there’s the financial factor: the city offers a wide array of affordable restaurants and accommodation, even when travelling as a group; and secondly, the country’s family-orientated culture makes visiting this part of the world with younger travellers a breeze – don’t be surprised if a restaurant server whisks your child away to play while the grown ups finish their meal, it’s all part of Chiang Mai’s charm.
There are also plenty of family-centric events and activities that will not only keep little ones entertained but introduce them to different aspects of Thailand’s culture, cuisine and community too.
Considering visiting Chiang Mai with your children? Here’s a list of activities and restaurants in the city that are perfect for pint-sized explorers.
Outdoor activities for kids in Chiang Mai
Outdoor destinations and activities are some of Chiang Mai’s biggest draws (except in March and April when soaring temperatures tend to make outdoor adventures short-lived). For an easy, open-air excursion, Suan Buak Hat, a public park in the southeast corner of the old city, provides plenty of open space, shady trees and a playground for kids to run around and let off some steam after flying.
South of town and set amongst rice paddies, Ginger Farm’s vegetable gardens, farmyard animals and rustic cafe cater to families looking to get out into the countryside. The working farm is open to the public and offers daily kids programmes, workshops and classes ranging from art and yoga, to cooking and planting rice. After walking through the gardens, head to the cafe for a refreshing drink and farm-fresh dishes.
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For a one-of-a-kind experience that’s sure to give the kids a giggle (while also being educational), Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park shows the process of making paper out of elephant dung. While you won’t find any of the magnificent beasts at this ecofriendly 'museum park', you will find plenty of fun, with tours of the park ending with a '‘hands-on' demonstration of the paper-making process, and kids are encouraged to give it a whirl for themselves. To continue the strange day of discovery, visit the nearby Siam Insect Zoo afterwards to discover a range of colourful creepy crawlies that are certain to intrigue little ones.
Indoor activities for kids in Chiang Mai
Need to bring the energy level down a notch, or take a break from the heat? The illusion art museum, Art in Paradise, allows children of all ages – and adults who are children at heart – to have some fun placing themselves in the centre of mind-bending 3D art displays. Make sure to have your camera or phone battery charged to snap perfectly angled shots that make it look like your kids are standing in the middle of hot lava, dangling off cliff edges or – less perilously – gracing the front of a best-selling magazine.
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Popular with local and long-stay families but also open to children just passing through, Kids Yoga Garden offers a welcoming, homely, creative space for kids to take art, cooking and yoga classes. Run by a friendly Thai and American team, Kids Yoga Garden has regular drop-in classes as well as special workshops and multi-day camps. Check their website or Facebook Page for current events.
Where to eat with kids in Chiang Mai
When it comes to eating, night markets like the Sunday Walking Street or Saturday Walking Street are a fun and affordable way to coax younger travellers to broaden their palate and try new flavours (especially when there are some adorable-looking donuts on offer as a reward for eating their veg). With so many expat families in town, there are also several restaurants that cater to globe-trotting youngsters with a mix of Thai and international dishes, and outdoor play areas.
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Make your way south of Chiang Mai to Hang Dong to find Triplet’s Eat & Play. As children climb on the bamboo playset, parents can keep an eye on them while dining on tasty Thai and Mediterranean meals. Nearby, Nic’s Restaurant & Playground is another go-to family spot thanks to – you guessed it – the on-site playground. Serving a wide range of Thai and western dishes, including plenty of typical kids favourites, Nic’s is particularly busy on the weekends. Both restaurants feature air-conditioned indoor or outdoor tables and on-site parking.
While temple-hopping in the old city, stop off at Into the Woods for fairy-tale-inspired drinks and desserts. For another sweet treat, the perennially trendy I-Berry in the Nimmanhaemin neighbourhood delights kids young and old with inventive ice cream flavours – the saraka (snake fruit) sorbet is highly recommended – plus a leafy garden area and fun photo ops.
Wherever you go in Chiang Mai, you’ll quickly find that kids are welcome and greeted with a smile. The biggest struggle on a family holiday here? Telling the kids it’s time to go home.