15 Ideas For What To Do In Penang With Kids
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Penang is one of the most fascinating and diverse destinations in Malaysia. It’s an island located on the western shores of the country, connected to the mainland by bridge.
It’s known for its UNESCO world heritage site of Georgetown, which is decorated with colonial buildings and street art. The island is also where you’ll find stunning beaches, gorgeous ancient temples, and hearty food (locals call it the food capital of Malaysia, and there’s a reason for it).
It’s a melting pot of culture, welcoming both Indian and Chinese influences into its heritage. So, when looking for ideas on what to do in Penang, you can be sure to find a diverse array of attractions to add to your itinerary.
In this guide, we’ve listed all the best things to do in Penang and all the top attractions, so you can make planning your visit easy. It’s one of the best places in Malaysia, and you’re soon going to find out why.
What to do in Penang with kids
Regardless of where you stay and how luxurious it may be, please get out and explore Penang, Malaysia. We have been there twice with our children; both times we had a baby who was welcomed by every local.
Here is a list of things to do in Penang in no particular order.
1. Walk Around George Town
A typical shop in George Town, Penang
George Town, one of the great and dynamic cities of Penang, is a cultural melting pot filled with a vibrant energy that lures travelers from near and far.
It was founded in 1786 by Captain Francis Light, who was sent by Britain to secure the island from Kedah sultanate.
Ever since, Penang has been a melting pot of culture, drawing its influences from its ethnic mix of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures as well as colonial European architecture.
It’s no wonder George Town has become a mecca for tourists looking for amazing experiences filled with history and culture.
Street art in George Town, Penang
Here you can wander amidst streets lined with fascinating traditional shophouses, and incredible street art and visit historic sites like Fort Cornwallis or enjoy some delicious street food at the iconic food court on Penang Road.
Downtown George Town is quite walkable and there is so much to see and explore. From taking in the architecture to sipping Milo ice in cafes, I recommend taking time to just walk the streets and take it all in.
2. Take the Kids to Entopia Penang Butterfly Farm
Kids of all ages will love it here. You can get up close and personal with so many different kinds of butterflies, they flutter by freely and if you keep still – one might just land on you.
The farm is filled with stone paths leading around ponds and up bridges where beautiful orchids are home to even more butterflies.
Allow 2 hours for a relaxing visit here. It is the last stop on the bus, so very easy to find.
3. Learn About Spice Trading History at The Tropical Spice Garden
Explore the Spice Garden
Not far from the Butterfly farm (a quick taxi or bus trip), you will find the Spice Garden.
We had Grandpa with us who loved reading all about the Spice trading history, looking at all the signed plants, and smelling the spices.
Hubby and the little kids didn’t bother so much with that but had a ball running along the beautiful paths and roaming freely amongst the gorgeous gardens.
There is a giant swing that swings you out over the edge of the rainforest. There are numerous waterfalls, ponds, and bridges to find. It is a lovely place to stop for an hour or two. Nice tree-top cafe too!
4. Take the Funicular Railway Up Penang Hill
Penang is hot and very humid. A great way to escape the heat is to head to the top of Penang Hill.
Catch the funicular all the way to the top; in just a few minutes you will be at the top to have a gorgeous view of Penang. It is much cooler up here.
If it is a rainy morning, don’t bother as you will be unlikely to see much at all. You are best to wait until later in the day when the rain clears. There are a few cafes and exhibitions to look at also. (If you have little ones, avoid the owl museum – found out the hard way – lots of little breakable things in there!)
Top Tip: When you are ready to return, line up so you are first in line to board the funicular…then race to get to the front carriage. (Speeding down the track with a front-seat view is awesome!)
View of George Town from Penang Hill
5. Explore Penang Botanical Gardens
When travelling with kids, sometimes you need to let them loose.
The botanical gardens are a must for energetic kids. They can run along set paths, climb bridges and watch waterfalls. For one ringgit you can jump aboard the mini train for a ride around the gardens.
For mum and dad, you can enjoy learning about all the native plants and flora of Malaysia while you’re kids enjoy the attractions.
On Board the Botanic Garden Train
Part of Entopia is the Natureland, a living garden vivarium where animals and insects can thrive.
You can see everything from reptiles to snakes, and be sure to head over to the largest butterfly garden in Malaysia which contains 15,000 free-flying butterflies.
The living garden is one of the highlights of the gardens. It has more than 200 species of fauna, which can be best seen from the mezzanine terrace in David’s Garden.
Entopia is not just a place where jungle plants can thrive, but it’s an educational resource. Be sure to take the kids to The Cocoon indoor discovery centre to learn about the plants and wildlife here.
There are lots of monkeys to spot – be careful to hide your food!
6. Marvel at the Kek Lok Si Temple
Kek Lok Si Temple
This is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia.
It is open to the public and a worthwhile experience for you and the kids. There are lots of steps and narrow columns to climb, so leave the stroller behind.
The temple grounds are beautiful; there are sacred ponds and manicured plants to admire. The kids will love climbing the seven-tiered Pagoda of King Rama VI and will be awed by a massive bronze statue of the goddess of mercy.
There are also glass elevators to ride in and turtles to feed. A great 2 hours of exploring and learning!
7. Eat – Then Eat Some More
First Curry in Little India
I could seriously write thousands of words here, but I won’t. Try something new every day, there is so much for your tastebuds to learn.
By far our favourite place to eat is Gurney Drive Hawker Centre. I am drooling as I remember it.
From 6pm until late there will be hundreds of Penang’s finest foods for you to sample – and will cost you a few ringgits only.
This place will be buzzing with locals; don’t be afraid to ask them for a recommendation, or follow behind and order the same. When buying food for the little ones, remember to ask the cook to not put any chili on their food.
My favourite food:
Char Kway Teow (flat noodles fried with seafood)
and Nasi Kandar: aromatic rice with curry or whatever.
We also caught the free shuttle bus to Little India. You will have a great time exploring laneways and finding the perfect curry. The restaurateurs will delight in making your kids feel at home. And at the right street food stall, samosas for $1 anyone?
8. Shop Till You Drop
You need to take advantage of great shopping and cheap prices.
Shops generally open after 10am and are open till late at night. Gurney Plaza is one of many upmarket modern shopping centres where you will find your brand-name stores with great savings.
If you want to shop with the locals, head to the Komtar (the biggest building in Penang) or Prangin Mall which is across the road.
Here you will find a myriad of interesting shops and boutique stalls. You’ll find lots of cool gadgets and knick-knacks for the kids to have fun with.
9. Catch the Ferry
Ferry to Butterworth
If you head to the ferry terminal in Georgetown, wander along the pier and food stalls and jump on a ferry – just because you can.
You will most likely be the only foreigners on it, but it is so much fun for the kids. They can sit and watch other giant ferries pass by and after about 20 minutes you will be at Butterworth, the mainland.
When you get here, it is up to you. You can turn around and go back – the return trip is free – or you can stay and explore.
The Penang Bird Park is a short taxi ride away and there is a Temple next door worthy of a look.
You could also take the bus to Sunway Carnival Mall for some retail therapy. From here you can catch a bus back to Georgetown which takes you across the bridge which links the mainland (quite a long journey, our kids fell asleep!)
10. Check out Adventure Zone
Adventure Zone is an amusement park that’s part of the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort, but you don’t need to be a guest to take your kids here.
This indoor playground is complete with slides, ball pits, climbing frames, and more. It’s the perfect place to take the kids to expel some energy.
Entrance fees cost just 35 MYR per child for two hours and it’s open every day from 10am – 1pm and 3pm – 6pm.
11. Learn About Chinese Culture at the Clan Jetties
A house in a Chinese Clan village with street art
Visitors of Penang, whether you’re travelling with kids or not, should not skip the jetty in Penang.
This is where the Chinese clans live in a sort of “Floating Village” since it sits on stilts above the water.
It began in the 19th century when many Chinese immigrants came to Malaysia, where they built their homes in clans.
These tiny villages give visitors a chance to see the old Chinese traditions, as every clan has its own temple.
There are six villages in total, each one next to the other. Each village belongs to one clan.
12. Visit the Snake Temple
The Snake Temple is a small Chinese temple in the Southwest corner of Penang.
It was built in 1805 and dedicated to Master Qingshui or Chor Soo Kong, a deified Buddhist monk.
This is a very special and sacred temple in Malaysia, and it is said that devotees from as far as Singapore, Taiwan and China come here on the monk’s birthday to pay their respects.
What’s interesting about the temple is the snakes. The temple is filled with smoke from burning incense, as well as a variety of pit vipers.
But because of the smoke, the vipers have become docile, and it is believed they are rendered harmless because of the sacred smoke. But just to be safe, they have been de-venomed.
If you’re afraid of snakes, it’s probably not an attraction in Penang for you. And maybe don’t bring any toddlers inside…
13. Go Hiking in Penang National Park
If you love hiking and getting out into nature, you’ll find two excellent hiking trails in Penang National Park; the hike to Bukit Batu Hitam, or to the reservoir.
Located just 42 km from Georgetown, visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the city to the solitude of nature in less than an hour.
Penang National Park has hundreds of species of birds, including the White-bellied Sea Eagle, White-throated King Fisher, White-rumped Shama, and Emerald Dove.
If you’re lucky, you may also see some squirrels, otters, deer, pangolins, and pythons.
Be sure to check out the canopy walkway, which is 210 meters long and sits high in the canopy of Sg. Tukun.
The park is also home to the Turtle Conservation Centre, a Meromictic Lake, and the Muka Head Lighthouse.
14. Go to one of Penang Island’s Beaches
Aerial view beach at Batu Feringghi
Penang is widely recognised for its cities, but not so much for the beaches. The nearby island of Langawai gets most of the credit for having some of Malaysia’s top beaches.
But that does not mean that there are not gorgeous beaches in Penang.
The most popular beach in Penang is Monkey Beach, which gets its name because, you guessed it, monkeys live there.
The monkeys are used to people but do be careful with plastic bags, bottles, and food, as they will be more than happy to take them out of your hands.
Once you’ve seen enough monkeys, you will find a small bar on the beach where you can purchase refreshing juices, or enjoy the gentle waves of the beach – since it’s in a bay, the waters here are usually very calm.
For a relaxing day on the beach without monkeys, head to the Batu Ferringi Beach in front of the Shangri-La Golden Sands Resort, as this is where you’ll find a nice, clean beach that you can swim in.
15. Go to the Toy Museum
Kids will love exploring the Penang Toy Museum, which has more than 110,000 toys, dolls, miniatures, and other collectible toys on display.
You may even be shocked to learn that it’s the largest toy museum in the world!
Come and explore what toys looked like in the days of old. This is a nostalgic visit for parents, and an eye-opening experience for kids.
Getting Around Penang
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with organised tours. You can get package deals through various operators who will pick you up from your hotel and take you to three attractions in one day – Easy!
When you have kids you need that flexibility to stay longer or leave earlier, it’s very easy to flag down a taxi driver and negotiate his services for the day.
This way you can see two or three attractions in one day and your driver will be waiting patiently until you are ready for the next one or to return you to your hotel. He’ll let you leave the stroller and umbrellas in the boot too.
The bus system is so fantastic and cheap. You can reach most destinations by bus and the drivers are happy to point you in the right direction. You can buy prepaid bus tickets to give you unlimited hassle-free travel.
Where to Stay in Penang
Now you know what attractions in Penang are at your disposal, it’s time to get your bearings. Penang is an island composed of 121 km², so making sure you have the right base is essential for making the most of your trip.
Where you stay in Penang will be determined by the attractions you want to see. But there’s two main places tourists choose to stay in, Batu Ferringhi and George Town.
Here’s a quick overview of each neighborhood.
Batu Ferringhi, Penang
Most people choose to stay at Batu Ferringhi (The locals call it ‘foreigners rock’).
This is where you will find all the big-name resorts with kid’s clubs, and buffet breakfasts, and most of them are right on the beach.
While it is a beach and you will find many water sports, be aware that it is not really a swimming beach – the water is not as clean as you may expect it to be.
Batu Ferringhi comes alive at night. The main street is transformed into a bustling marketplace, with every type of ware (including genuine fakes) available. Feel free to haggle and barter for your best bargain.
Don’t eat at your over-priced hotel restaurant, walk to the Long Beach Hawker Centre with some spare change and you will experience some of Penang’s best food.
Batu Ferringhi is the best place to stay for families or groups of people who enjoy nightlife. If you decide to stay here, please leave your resort to explore Penang. There are attractions easily accessed from the bus stop in front of your hotel.
George Town, Penang
If you are after something less ‘foreigners rock’ then George Town is the place to stay. It’s grown in popularity over the years as it offers affordable accommodation options in unique, traditional guest houses.
As the capital of Penang, it has something for everyone. It is a place where there is a Catholic Church next to a Mosque next to a Temple.
In George Town, there is a range of accommodations available for families from large hotels, homestays, and self-catering apartments.
You won’t find a resort here, but there is something about living amongst locals that really does it for me. You can even find VRBO rental properties to give you that more local experience.
George Town is best suited to couples, backpackers, solo travelers, families, and well, everyone!
Top Tours for Penang
Check out these most popular tours in Penang, Malaysia
Final Thoughts on What to Do in Penang
I love Penang, it is my spiritual home. As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in Penang to keep you and your family busy.
I do hope your visit is as much fun as ours, and that you love it as much as we have.
Make sure you stay for at least one week, more if you are able. There is so much more to see – and eat!
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