Chiang Mai For Toddlers

Toddlers have a vastly different set of criteria for assessing the net worth of any activity.

It’s a mysterious and complex algorithm that seems to factor in smiles, swings, fish and scope for jumping. Gongs and cats get points, too.

Luckily for us we (somehow) produced an easy-going toddler with a sunny disposition. And she is usually happy where ever in the world she is, as long as she’s getting suitable amounts of attention or has something worthy of investigating. Because we are in the middle of taking our toddler around the world, I really hope she retains this trait over the next few years.

Halfway through Chiang Mai stay (three months down, three months to go), the following five sites have been endorsed by our 26-month-old toddler:

Chiang Mai Zoo

Our toddler, Miss M, loves animals. Cats, birds and elephants are her favourites (in that order). And so she just loved Chiang Mai Zoo, although her desire to spend time staring at birds really put a dent in our plans to see the monkeys, pandas, seals and the snow dome.

The zoo is easily accessible from the old town, where most visitors stay. The site is huge – more than 200 acres – and worthy of a full day and possibly even a return visit. Just don’t lose your keys like we did. Do get a bus ticket. I don’t think it would actually be possible to explore the zoo on foot. Plus, toddlers will just love the open-sided buses.

Don’t bother with the children’s adventure park. It’s just a small play area that really isn’t worth spending time on, not when there are so many exciting animals to see and feed.

Chiang Mai Zoo
100 Huay Keaw Road
Tel: +66 (0) 53-221179

Buak Hat Park

“The” park in Chiang Mai, on one of the corners of the old town, Buak Hat has a rickety old playground with very steep slides. The park is very toddler-centric and probably won’t elicit much enthusiasm from bigger kids. But if your little one has a bout of cabin fever and just needs to run around for a bit, this is the place to go. It’s also a great place to meet other parents of toddlers, even if you can’t communicate beyond shrugs and smiles.

Once a bit of toddler energy has been worn off on the slides, swings, climbing frames and strange train things, you can proceed to the park’s real highlight – the fish.

Buy a bag of fish food from one of the many vendors at the park (you can hire a small mat from the vendors, too), and start feeding the fish in the pond. The big catfish with their thick whiskers look like dragons when they start hoovering the surface trying to suck down some food.

The park also has some resident cats, which can entertain a gentle toddler for quite a while.

Be warned that the toilets in the park are basic squat toilets.

Buak Hat Park
Near Suang Prung Gate, on the corner of Bamrung Buri and Arak roads, Chiang Mai

Kad Suan Kaew Central Mall

Perhaps as a result of the dearth of outdoor playgrounds, Chiang Mai shopping centres all seem to have children’s play areas.

The play area on the second floor of Kad Suan Kaew Central Mall is the best one for toddlers, even though our two-year-old is too small to go into the padded play area. If Darling Man and I had the stamina, Miss M would probably stay here all day, taking ride after ride. Each ride is only 10 baht, so a visit won’t break the bank. Most toddlers visit the play area with an entourage that includes one person with a stash of 10 baht coins, so every kid usually scores a couple of free rides.

Kat Suan Kaew Mall
21 Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai

Wat Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep is the temple that floats above Chiang Mai, near the top of the mountain that hulks over the city.

Getting to the temple is an adventure in itself. The steep windy mountain road has several places to stop on the way up and each stop has food vendors and sometimes musicians. There are lookouts and tracks to waterfalls… it’s easy to get distracted from the main mission — visiting the temple.

There are food and trinket vendors at the base of the wat as well. Do fortify yourself with a passionfruit juice and a sausage on a stick because taking the 300 stairs is THE way to visit the wat. The elevator is horrible, crowded, claustrophobic and overpriced.

At the top of the stairs, there are several troupes of performers. Girls in traditional dress, boys playing instruments and sometimes small boys dancing so badly it’s adorable. The golden domes of the wat, up another flight of steps, are almost an anticlimax after the excitement of the performers and the view of Chiang Mai from the terrace below.


Wat Chedi Luang

One of the most beautiful wats in Chiang Mai’s old town, Wat Chedi Luang in in a vast complex where toddlers can run around and let off some steam.

From a toddler’s perspective, the highlights of the wat are the many bells (each one worthy of being rung several times) and the temple dogs that loll around the place. There are also many statues that may require loud identification of various body parts, including Buddha’s belly-button.

Wat Chedi Luang
Prapokklao Road, Chiang Mai

There’s still a lot of places on our must-visit list that I’m sure Miss M will love. We just haven’t gotten around to visiting them yet, partly because we are disorganised and partly because they’re a little way out of town.

I’m looking forward to visiting Mae Rim Orchid (which includes a butterfly farm), J&T Happy Horseriding, Taweechoi Botanic Garden and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center.

Chiang Mai is a great place for kids. Our daughter loves tuk tuks – spotting one gives her a thrill, even from the back of a bike! There are dogs and cats roaming around everywhere. Everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – will have a smile for the baby. Even monks will chase her around with their digital cameras trying to capture her lovely toddler-ness.

This post is part of a group writing project by family travel bloggers. Check out these articles on activities for kids in other parts of our amazing world:

Brisbane, Australia by Our Travel Lifestyle

Central Australia by Wandering Photographer

South Australia by Livin On The Road

Sunset Coast, Michigan, USA by Wandering Educators

Boston, USA by Great Family Escape

Seattle, USA by Walkingon Travels

New York City, USA by A Minor Diversion

Washington DC, USA by Grow In Grace Life

London, UK by Travels with a Nine Year Old

Israel, the Holy Land by The Nomadic Family

Fethiye, Turkey by Ramblecrunch

The Netherlands by Act of Traveling

Vancouver, Canada by With 2 Kids In Tow

Kingston, Ontario, Canada by Edventure Project

Lake Chapala, Mexico by Living Outside of the Box

Antigua, Guatemala by Raising Miro

Costa Rica by Bohemian Travelers

Ambergris Caye, Belize by A King’s Life

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12 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


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  6. Those would be our top 5 for Chiang Mai too! Thanks for sharing.

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  8. We’re on our way to Thailand in just a few months and I can’t wait for Chiang Mai!! Thanks for the great ideas!
    Jennifer Miller recently posted..Five Favourite Places: Kingston, Ontario, Canada (my home town!)

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  13. Amy says:

    Chiangmai looks incredible! It looks like a great place.
    Amy recently posted..Travel is chaotic today

  14. Justin says:

    The Tuk Tuks rule for us. I showed these to my kids and they wanted to leave tonight! I can’t wait some day to go to Chang Mai. Thanks Barbara!
    Justin recently posted..My Top 5 Things To Do In Boston With Kids

  15. Mary says:

    Love this list! My kids, who are a bit older, also loved all the things on this list, particularly the zoo! We went on Christmas and it was the best family gift ever! Lots of real interaction with the animals. My guys also loved the Tiger Kingdom, a bit pricey but well worth it in our opinion. Although I don’t think it is suited to toddlers;)
    Mary recently posted..5 best places for kids in Costa Rica

  16. not only for toddlers! i want to go, too!!
    wandering educators recently posted..Harold and the Purple Crayon Lands in Minneapolis

  17. The monk photo of them looking at the camera is AMAAAZING…what a classic!

    A zoo that requires a bus to get around? Gotta see this…

    Chiang Mai is on the list….thanks for giving us ideas for the kids!!

  18. Mark says:

    When I came across this post about toddlers in Chiang Mai, I must admit I was a little nervous about reading it. I love the city and miss it so much. We were last there when my daughter was only 6 years old. Reading about those familiar sites struck a chord. We played on that rickety old playground and fed those fish. I remember “stroking” a live rino at the Chiang Mai Zoo. My daughter particularly enjoyed the Elephant Conservation Center — feeding bananas to the babies, the ride through the jungle, the fun show. I hope you can make it out there. I guess it’s time I go back. A great post! Thanks for sharing.
    Mark recently posted..5 (Well, 6) Great Activities for Kids in Fethiye, Turkey

  19. Diya says:

    It’s been three months already? Time flies! Loved your selections. If you haven’t been already, try the playground at the south end of the municipal stadium (just north of the moat). We discovered it towards the end of our trip and wish we knew about it sooner.
    Diya recently posted..Gaining an Appreciation for Things Handmade

    • Barbara says:

      Oh, that’s such a long way to go to visit a playground. But thanks for the mention. We’ll check it out next time we are north of the moat.
      I think we are spoiled because we had a fabulous park and playground at the end of our street when we lived in Singapore. Luckily, the area where we live in Chiang Mai has lots of kids, who play in the street every afternoon, so our little one gets to run around and chase balls and shuttlecocks and do her version of muay thai training!

  20. Emiel says:

    I am sure we will love Chiang Mai next July and August! Loved how you wrote the post from the views of Miss M!
    Emiel recently posted..My 5 favorite places in the Netherlands to explore with kids

  21. Those places look really nice. I think I’d like to add Thailand on our vacation list. It really looks interesting there. By the way, your toddler is really cute. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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