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Five things to do in Manila with kids

5 activities in the Philippines' capital

A visit to Manila can be a bit of wild ride with its insane traffic and steamy climate, but on a recent short break, we found there’s plenty of kid friendly food and fun to be found, indoors and out, in the Philippines bustling capital.

1. Eat like the locals

Visiting families should definitely try the local cuisine. Our kids’ faves were chicken adobo, a stewed, melt-in-the-mouth chicken dish served with garlic rice, crispy Filipino style pork belly in a coconut gravy, and Lumpia, pork stuffed spring rolls. They also adored Halo-halo, a wildly coloured shaved ice confection stacked with evaporated milk, red beans, coconut jelly, purple yam and ice cream. Then there is fast food chain Jolly Bee, which appears to have a cult following among Filipino folks and can only be described as being like the love child of McDonald’s and a can of tinned spaghetti. We’re not big on fast food, usually, but it was certainly a food experience we had to tick off our list.

Raf eating Lumpia

2. Munch through the Markets

The buzzing Salcedo (Saturday) and Legazpi (Sunday) Markets in Makati are not for the feint of heart, packed as they are with piles of pork, dried and smoked fish, stacks of crabs and other fascinating seafoods, strings of fat sausages and strange looking sweets, but they are a great place to get a feel for Manila. Open in the mornings, it's a good idea to get in early to beat the heat and the crowds. It is worth noting there’s a good kids’ playground near Salcedo, when the kids need a break from the sights, smells and sounds of the market.

3. Ride in a Jeepney

These colourful jeeps are the most affordable and interesting way to get around the traffic packed streets of Manila. While they can seem daunting to the first time visitor, kids will find a ride in one of the gaudy, noisy, open-windowed jeeps almost irresistible.

Find out from your hotel concierge where and which route to take (the start and end destination will be painted on each side of the jeepney), pay with small change, board and exit quickly to avoid jolts, and remember to have the kids shout “para po” loudly when you do want to stop.

Family Fun

4. Run wild, inside

DreamPlay, located inside the City of Dreams complex, is an interactive, movie-inspired creative play centre from the makers of the movies Madagascar, Shrek and How to tame your Dragon where the kids can learn to cook, build and fly a dragon, animate their own movies or just fly down the slides and run amok in the fantastic soft play areas.

KidZania is another awesome indoor play city where kids can take their grown-up dream jobs for a test drive. Or you could lose a week at the gigantic SM Mall of Asia, which not only boasts a gazillion stores for mum, the kids can let loose on the indoor play areas, Olympic-sized ice skating rink and game centres. If you do want to head out into the heat the mall even has an outdoor amusement park and the epic MOA Eye, the Philippines’ tallest Ferris wheel.

Play Time

5. Lap up a little luxury

It’s no surprise the stunning Fairmont Makati was recognised as the “Best New Family-Friendly Hotel” in the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler Awards. Not only are the opulent family suites enormous, with room for the kids to rest and play and a separate bedroom for mum and dad, they’re stocked with special kids toiletries (as well as luxe ones for mum and dad) plus sweet welcome treats including rainbow marshmallows, giant choc chip cookies and flavoured milks. There’s also kid friendly dining, an epic breakfast buffet and room service options for the kids. The enormous swimming pool is as much of a magnet for kids as the gorgeous day spa is for me, but it is the attentive service and genuinely warm welcome the kids receive from every member of the staff that makes the Fairmont Makati a family friendly winner in our eyes.

Play Time

When she’s not treading on Lego and being forced to watch Frozen on loop, Aleney de Winter is a travel, food and parenting writer. She shares tales of travelling and eating along with the hilarious antics of her globetrotting six-year old foodie son and daredevil three-year old daughter on her blog, Boy Eats World.

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