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Things to Do in Hong Kong

You are not going to run out of things to do in this city.

While we found many of the artificial things to do cheesy (wax museum, video arcades), there are still a lot of kid-friendly places to see, including some very accessible parks and green spaces. There are also toy stores for grownups and kiddies scattered everywhere. We'll start at the top.

The Peak

Not surprisingly, the top of Mt. Victoria, the mountain that sits astride Hong Kong island is called "The Peak" (it would be dumb to call it say, the valley, right?). While you could kill about two days walking up, most normal people ascend via the Peak Tram (though the name "Valley Tram" has a nice sound to it). The price is HK$30 for adults, HK$9 for kids and the tram runs from 7am to midnight everyday.

If you are hard-core Hong Kong fans, then you need to do at least two trips up to the Peak, one in the daytime and one at night to see the lights of the city. For the rest of us, either day or night is good enough. If it is your first trip to Hong Kong, maybe go for the day view, as you can orient (get it?) yourself quite easily with a map and the view. Challenge your kids to find the hotel, or maybe just the way down

Which brings us to the Parenting Practice Tip for the Peak: while the view is excellent, the rest of the junk on the Peak is, well, junk. The restaurants are over-priced with the exception of a McDonalds; bring a snack and eat elsewhere. We're talking too tacky to be even retro-cool wax museums. Worse yet, the darn stairs, elevators and escalators are all set up to keep you going between floors, assuring that you'll pass each crappy gift shop at least twice before you escape. Keep the kids blind folded, or set ground rules (get it?) before ascending or pay the price (get it?). There are renovations underway, to be completed in 2006.

If you are in desperate need of something non-tacky to do after enjoying the view, there is a very nice paved “trail” that you can enjoy which begins just near where you get on and off the tram. Look for the Lugard Road sign. The full trail is 13 kilometers and takes you all the way to Aberdeen on the other side of the island, a serious walk with kids. Instead, have a stroll as far as you like, enjoy some quiet and nature, and then turn around. As noted the path is fully paved and is flat, so it is fine for strollers. There is no water along the way, but toilets are located at beginning. You can see some nice bamboo, and additional views out over the city.

You can learn more from their website including maps on how to get to the tram.

Hong Kong Park

After all the high times on the Peak, and that tasty McDonalds lunch and overpriced souvenirs, it is time for some simpler fun, and a bit more of greenery right in central Hong Kong. Sort of across the street and up some stairs (as you exit the Peak Tram, go under the highway overpass and work up toward the Racquet Club and Sports Centre above you) is Hong Kong Park.

There is plenty of space for kids to run around, though no playground gear per se. One cool place is the fountain you can walk into, always a favorite with the children. They do get their feet wet however, and plenty of splashing, so this is not the place to wear the kiddy Armani. You can get some great views of the city, including the famous Lippo Building (photo below on the right). Many people think the extensions on the side of the building look like koalas clinging to a tree trunk, and so it is known locally by many as the panda building.

For most kids, however, the highlight of Hong Kong Park is the shallow ponds, called “lakes” on all the signs for some reason. They are jam-packed with giant carp and armies of turtles. Big ugly turtles, tiny cute baby turtles, turtles swimming, turtles sunning themselves, you get the picture. You are not supposed to feed or touch the turtles, but it is great fun to watch them in (non) action.

Oh, the Hello Kitty picture? Hong Kong Park sits adjacent to the city's largest marriage registry office, and the park is often as well-stocked with brides and grooms as it is with turtles, albeit out of the ponds. You can find all sorts of bizarre wedding stuff around, including the happy Hello Kitty couple. You can't feed the wedding couples either, though, like the turtles, you can take pictures.

Star Ferry

Before somebody invented subways, the only way to get to between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon was via the Star Ferry. Unless you are in a real hurry (and then slow down, this is a vacation!) or a B-I-G subway fan, the best way to cross the harbor is via the Star Ferry.

Running constantly between about 0630 to 2330, the ferry costs only HK$2.20 for adults and HK$1.30 for kids, something like about 28 US cents. Those prices are for first-class, the upper deck, which is where you should be for the best skyline view of the famous office towers of Hong Kong. This is the view they show on CNN during their promos.

Here you really should ride the ferry at least twice, once in the day and again at night, as the view is just unbelievable. At night the lights reflect off the water, and if it is clear you can even see a few stars. The ride lasts only about ten minutes, but the view will stay with you forever. We've talking something new for the children, and quite romantic for Mom and Dad, holding hands and thinking sweet things silently, independently, together.

The Ferry deposits you in Kowloon, a place we have a whole page devoted to.

As always, you can learn more from their website.