Christina Pfeiffer visits Macao on a family reunion and discovers a city of bright lights, big resorts and a bounty of family fun for all ages.
When you have family and friends spread around the world,
it can be a challenge to find the right time or place to catch up.
Choosing an overseas destination for my family reunion was proving tricky,
especially as there were young children tagging along. With relatives flying
in from as far as the UK, the youngest of the clan seven years old and the
oldest 70, we needed a destination that would appeal to a wide range of age
In Asia, family-friendly beach destinations are a dime a dozen, but if a big
city getaway is what you are after, Macao has a lot to offer families – and
what’s more – many of the attractions are free. This compact destination
punches way above it weight when it comes to packing so much excitement into
such a small area. But the size only makes it that much easier to get around
with the kids in tow!
With dazzling casino resorts popping up here, there and everywhere, a lot of
Macao’s allure lays in its glitz and glamour, a city that is always pulsating
and full of promises. Not surprisingly, these resorts also have plenty of
exciting activities designed to keep younger visitors smiling. Add to the mix
Macao’s Portugese history and variety of attractions - such as the Flora
Gardens, Macau Tower, the Cable Car, Science Centre, Open Top Bus and the mega
shows - and you have a family holiday destination for everyone to enjoy.
Ni Hao Macao
Arriving from Australia, the ferry transfer from Hong Kong International
Airport to Macao couldn’t have been easier. Our luggage is checked through
from Australia to Macao, allowing us to head straight to the ferry transfer
counter and avoid the airport immigration queues, where we find a short,
stress-free wait for the boat. Two services, TurboJET and CotaiJet, offer
regular Jetfoils and TriCats between Hong Kong and Macao.
To the galaxy... and beyond
One of the many benefits of choosing Macao for a family holiday is that
resorts are designed to cater for big groups. Holidaymakers travelling with
extended family are in luck; the resorts offer accommodation options for
varied budgets, while sharing common facilities, such as swimming pools,
resort decks, kids’ facilities, local and international restaurants, and
Enter Galaxy Macau. Galaxy’s Grand Resort Deck is fabulous fun for the little
ones, boasting the world’s largest Skytop Wave Pool, expansive tropical
gardens complete with waterslides, lagoons and white-water rapids, straddling
five hotels – JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Hotel Okura, Banyan Tree and Galaxy
Hotel. Not to mention the 10-theatre cinema complex, where we decide to catch
up on the latest Hollywood releases (many films are shown here before they
are even released in Australia) and enjoy the latest in 3D technology.
Sands Cotai Central is another popular complex that has
hotels to fit the budget, from Holiday Inn Macao, Conrad Macao and Sheraton
Grand Macao Hotel to the lavish St Regis Macao. Sheraton Grand Macao’s Family
Suites are perfect for families; the kids’ rooms are decked out with toys and
cushions, child-sized tables, armchairs, game consoles, large flat screen
TVs, Wi-Fi... the list goes on. Some are even themed with DreamWorks
characters like Shrek. Even bathrooms have products especially for kids, like
the Shine for Sheraton™ bath amenities.
The DreamWorks Experience at Sand Cotai Central is the largest DreamWorks
production outside of the USA and you may just find parents having more fun
than the kids at the interactive, buffet Shrekfast Character Breakfast. The
dancing and singing DreamWorks characters have even the shyest members of my
family boogying with Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and the animals from Madagascar.
My seven-year-old nephew is so taken by the Shrekfast breakfast he insists on
going to the Paradise Garden in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Macao Cotai
Central to have more photos taken afterwards with the Madagascar crew.
A blend of new and old
Macao’s newest resort, Studio City Macau, has an impressive family
entertainment centre that is five-star yet affordable, with themed nightclubs,
local and international restaurants, a unique resort deck and creative
The kids will love the new magic show performed by international illusionists
at The House of Magic. Then there’s the eye-popping Golden Reel ride, Asia’s
highest Ferris wheel and world’s first figure-8 Ferris wheel, where you can
sit back and admire a bird’s-eye of Macao from 130 metres in the air. Studio
City Macau spared no expense in partnering with Universal Studios to create
the exciting Batman Dark Flight.
This 4D flight simulation ride is an action-packed adventure through Gotham City that will have the littlies – and the
‘biggies’ – squealing in joy. It has a minimum height requirement of 120
centimetres and kids shorter than 140 centimetres need to be accompanied by
Even with all these new and exciting family attractions, Macao has not
forgotten its rich historic past. The city is a colourful blend of its
Chinese heritage and the leftover architectural and culinary influences of
Portuguese colonialism. The city is safe, clean and compact, so taking a
self-guided walking tour is at the top of our checklists. Actually, it’s a
city made for walking, allowing us to set our own pace and discover hidden
corners and secret treasures.
The centre of Macao is a World Heritage Site
teeming with churches, temples and forts, and we are surprised by how much we
see in such a short time. Downloading the ‘Step Up Macao’ mobile app to our
Apples and Androids, we wander around the streets, reading short stories about
the sites we pass and stopping at suggested restaurants and shops along the
way. What a perfect end to a fabulous family holiday filled with ear to ear
***Macao Report Card***
QANTAS and Cathay Pacific fly into Hong Hong on a regular basis then
it is just a 30 minute ferry transfer to Macao.
Stay & Do