Kirsty is a Londoner (she has already written for Dreamista about London with toddlers here) that now lives in Malaysia. She blogs about her travels with her family in World for a Girl – but today she is sharing her inside tips with toddlers in Kuala Lumpur!
Tell us a bit about your family and your life in Kuala Lumpur.
We live in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our apartment is located in Petaling Jaya and we have views over the Petronas Twin Towers and Menara Tower from our balcony. We moved here when our daughter was 2 and a half and our son was 4, and have been here for 8 months now.
How does a perfect day out with your kids look like?
We love to grab a Roti Canai for breakfast. These are super cheap pancakes that we dip in a mild curry sauce. The kids prefer Roti Pisang – a version with banana in. Afterwards, we drive to one of the many eco-parks near us. One of our absolute favourites is TTDI Park which has a playground, rainforest walks, canopy bridge and hundreds of monkeys. We also enjoy short hikes at Rimba Kota Damansara and traversing the canopy walkways at KL Forest Eco Park in the city centre. We go as early as we can to avoid the heat.
Next we head for lunch in TTDI, Bangsar or Desa Park City where there are loads of great restaurants. We often opt for banana leaf curries (the kids love eating off leaves instead of plates) or Japanese maki rolls.
In the afternoon, it’s normally time to cool off with a dip in our condo pool or sometimes if we’re further from home, we find an air-conditioned indoor playroom for the kids to let off steam in.
Of course, the evening is all about food again…
What are your favorite toddler friendly restaurants and cafes in Kuala Lumpur?
Malaysia is famous for its food. Three main cultures reside side-by-side: Malay, Indian and Chinese as well as many other smaller groups. This diversity makes eating an amazing experience. Whilst it’s a fantastic experience to pop to Chinatown, Little India or a local Nasi Kandar to eat, these areas can be crowded and not geared up for small children.
Instead, toddlers will love the plethora of cafes aimed just at them. Some of our favourite toddler friendly restaurants in Kuala Lumpur are:
– Out of Africa in Petaling Jaya. This African-themed al fresco restaurant is part of an outdoor swimming pool complex. The kids can have a swim first before lunch. There’s a shallow kids pool with a small slide. There’s also a playground on the restaurant’s terrace and some hearty South African dishes.
– Ben’s – right in the middle of the Gardens Mall (next to Mid Valley) there’s a branch of the chain Ben’s with a kids’ play area. Go early and grab a booth.
– The Social – this is a chain of restaurants which you can find in most up-market shopping areas. The menu is really diverse. What’s great though is the kids’ menu which has healthier and tastier options like Stuffed Potato Skins and Chicken Dianne as well as the usual Fish and Chips. There are branches in Publika Mall, Bangsar and Desa Park City
What would you recommend to a family traveling with young toddlers in Kuala Lumpur?
Kuala Lumpur is an important hub city for lots of major airlines, including budget airline Air Asia. This makes it a great place to break up a longer journey when you’re flying with toddlers. You don’t need long to see the main sights but there are so many toddler-friendly places to go.
For first-time visitors, I would really highly recommend KLCC park. This lovely park right in the shadow of the Petronas Towers is fantastic with young children. There’s a gigantic playpark (one of the largest we’ve ever seen), a public splash pool to cool off in as well as attractively landscaped lawns. It’s best to go in the evening so that you can see the light and sound show that takes places at the fountains.
Sticking in the city centre, toddlers will love running across the canopy rope bridges at KL Forest Eco Park and spotting monkeys in the trees. Unless you have an infant back carrier, skip Batu Caves as there are lots of steep steps, crowds and agressive monkeys everywhere. It can be quite overwhelming for toddlers- our 2 year old daughter didn’t like it.
Within Suria Mall (under the Petronas Towers) are two great toddler-friendly attractions Petrosains, a science centre and Aquaria, an indoor aquarium. Our kids love all the hands-on activities at Petrosains and there’s a small soft play area. For a less touristy alternative, take a taxi to Pusat Sains Negara, the National Science Centre. It’s a little less flashy but there’s a splash pool (take your swimming gear), hundreds of hands-on exhibitions and play areas.
There are so many indoor playgrounds in KL pretty much every mall has one – and pretty much every street has a mall! All the ones that we’ve been to are good quality and clean. For something more cultural, pop into a Chinese or Hindu Temple our toddlers love the explosion of colours, scents and spotting dragons.
Like in most highrise Asian cities, visiting a rooftop bar/pool is a must. If your hotel doesn’t have a pool, arrange a day-pass to use the pool at a different hotel. Toddlers will love the idea of swimming and floating so high up in the sky.
What are some toddler friendly hotels or accommodation that respects little kids and their needs in Kuala Lumpur?
When we visited Kuala Lumpur before we moved here, we rented a 3-bedroom apartment at Regalia Residences through Booking.com. Not only did it have amazing views over the cityscape, a playground and an awesome rooftop pool but it’s nextdoor to a huge mall, Sunway Putra, which has soft play and a supermarket. Our toddler loved the pool with a view but also having an apartment gave her plenty of space to play in.
If you prefer hotels, there are all the major international chains here in Kuala Lumpur and most are done up to an amazing standard. I’ve heard great things about the Shangri-La in Bukit Bintang. Definitely choose one with a fun kids’ pool to cool off in. KL can get very hot and humid.
What are some cool one day trips one can take with young toddlers from Kuala Lumpur?
There are so many amazing days out from Kuala Lumpur. We are still working our way through our bucket list! We highly recommend Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre at Pahang. Here, they care for elephants and provide educational activities, like feeding and washing, to help promote better treatment for Malaysian elephants. Zoo Negara is also a short drive from the city centre and if your toddler is into pandas, they will love it.
A little known secret is Mari House at Templar Park. If you have your own car, you can drive to this gorgeous rainforest-surrounded house around 45 minutes from KL for afternoon tea or an organic picnic. There is a huge lawn for toddlers to run around on, craft or gardening activities for kids and delicious, wholesome farm-to-table food. You will need to book in advance.
At weekends, we really like driving out of the city and spending the night at an eco-lodge in the lush rainforest that still surrounded urban Kuala Lumpur. Driving time can be as little as an hour and most eco-resorts have swimming pools, playgrounds and can suggest short hiking trails suitable for toddlers. We particularly like the senere and rustic Dusun Rainforest Retreat just one hour south of KL but a world away in every other respect.