Taiwan, it’s a small island with a big history, there are hot springs and cool, quirky cafes, and spectacular mountain ranges too. There’s beautiful Sun Moon Lake, great biking and even snorkelling and scuba diving.
No wonder Taiwan is now an Asian hotspot.
And, these days, families are starting to explore and enjoy the island as much as backpackers and independent travellers have been doing for years.
So what joys are there in Taiwan for kids and what are the best things to do for the whole family in Taiwan?
Myself and two of my children, Dexter aged 16 and Iona, aged 10, recently visited Taiwan for over a week with a guide who showed us all sorts of kid-friendly activities that we might never have found on our own.
Here’s what the kids enjoyed the most, in the order they put them in for fun and interest.
Below that, I’ll add in a few things that are top of our list for our next family visit to Taiwan.
Here’s what I’ll share with you in this post on the best things to do in Taiwan with kids:
Eating Taiwanese Food
For a couple of kids who’ve been very fussy in the past, Dexter and Iona really took to Taiwanese cuisine with enthusiasm.
Our first meal was a hotpot into which we dipped all sorts of seafood, vegetables and mushrooms. Over the week, they ate braised bean curd, all manner of dumplings and even steamed buns with taro, pumpkin and sweet potato.
The Taiwanese themed café culture, however, were what won Iona’s heart. The Modern Toilet Café in Taipei is not to be missed.
With poo-shaped bread and ice cream and mains served in mini toilets, you’d be forgiven for wetting yourself with laughter. Drinks come in a rude assortment of bedpans too – cringe!
Other café favourites were:
- Rilakkuma Café in Tapei, Riliakkuma is a famous Japanese teddy bear character
- Kobitos’ Secret Garden in Taipei, another cute and quirky Japanese character
- Robot Station in Taichung, home of some seriously cute robots
- The Dog Café in Taipei, this café is actually called Lang Lang Bie Ku, meaning Lang Lang Don’t Cry and the dogs there are all rescue dogs looking for a home. This is a relaxed and heart warming café.
Making Our Own Bubble Tea
Now a worldwide phenomenon, the bubble tea craze all started in Taiwan. The kids and I really enjoyed learning how to make bubble tea in the very café in Taichung where it was invented, the Chunshuitang Tea House.
We mixed our tapioca pearls, hot tea and cane sugar syrup with lots of ice and then shook our shakers like crazy.
Ms10 got a fright when she sucked up the tapioca pearls, I think I like bubble tea most out of the three of us.
The Taiwanese have a passion for delicious desserts. We bravely and fearlessly tried many on our visit to Taiwan. Lots have fruit bases and the kids probably loved those best.
The Harry Potter style architecture of a historic dessert house Miyahara in the city of Taichung was a favourite. Here you can purchase all sorts of desserts and also eat in the restaurant.
But we popped over to the ice cream shop, housed in an old bank and we did not hold back.
Visit Taipei 101
The iconic symbol of Taipei, and for a short time the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is well worth a visit. The fastest elevators in the world were a thrill.
We also learned a lot about physics and mechanics because of the detailed explanation of the damper. This HUGE ball of steel is suspended at the top of the tower and helps to hold Tapei 101 steady in high winds.
I have to say the views were great too.
NB Definitely get there early in the morning like we did, there were no queues at all.
Night Markets and Shopping in Taiwan
Night markets are a great attraction for visitors and each city in Taiwan has one or two. Iona is a dedicated shopper so she was thrilled to visit them, especially the Fengjia Night Market in Taichung which has many clothes and jewellery stalls.
Myself and Dexter loved the Liu-He Night Market in Kaohsiung best, for its exotic shellfish, fruit and seafood and its laidback atmosphere. See a video of this night market here.
The best known night market in Taipei is Shilin Night Market.
If you love clothes shopping don’t miss the area called around Wufenpu near Songsang Station. The teenage girls in our group spent literally hours there and bought all sorts of new clothes at bargain prices.
Adrenaline – Theme Parks and Other Thrills in Taiwan
Each of Taiwan’s major cities has some cool theme parks and exciting entertainment for children and teenagers. Here’s our list with the most popular first:
Lotus Lake in Kaohsiung is most famous for its temples, but we bypassed them all and spend an afternoon learning to kneeboard and wakeboard instead.
Dexter had to try many times before he got up on his wake board and whizzed away. Iona also face planted often. What a great lesson in persistence. I liked it too and almost made it round the course a couple of times. This is also a great spot to cool off in this hot, tropical city.
This new development has the only Suzuka go-kart course outside Japan. You only race for eight minutes but even kitting up is a thrill. Iona was appalled not to be allowed to drive herself, Dexter was thrilled to race alone.
The shopping centre also has heaps of sporting activities itself.
This theme park and water park complex is close to Taichung. The theme park has many rides, the Wild River Canyon was a hoot but the Gravity Max is unique: the rail tips up and goes vertical then the carriage free falls and then whizzes around. Terrifying! Iona loved it, I was too scared to go on.
Close to Taipei, this is a large theme park with fun rides and a water park which is open in the summer. There’s also a zoo here where you can meet lemurs face to face and see many other animals. The zoo has areas which are in need of upgrade and expansion, but fortunately changes are happening.
In Taipei itself, Taipei Childrens Amuseument Park has many rides and is very popular with locals and visitors too. It’s definitely on the list for next time.
History and Culture in Taiwan
Now don’t shoot us, but we managed to spend more than a week in Taiwan without visiting a temple. I think this worked well for the kids!
We did, however, learn loads about Taiwanese history, culture and everyday life through visits and hands-on activities.
(PS See the YtravelBlog post on Things To Do in Tapei to learn more about temples and museums there.)
Chiang Kai-shek, and two million of his followers, were defeated by the communists in mainland China, in 1946 and they escaped to Taiwan.
With such a massive influx of people, small and simple military dependent housing was built very fast. Over recent years many have been pulled down for new development.
One redoubtable elderly gentleman, Huang Yong Fu, wanted to save his simple home and began painting it in bright murals. He was successful and still lives in there today. His Rainbow Village has become a popular place to see and he greets visitors with great verve, his fiercely independent spirit still shines.
Dragon Eyes Community Farm, Kaohsiung
A third generation pineapple farmer took us into his fields and explained how his crops grow and are harvested. We picked pineapples ourselves and then met other members of the community and enjoyed a pineapple themed lunch.
This was so interesting for the kids and very hands on. There was also a bit of political insight as the farmers explained how farm land is often compulsorily purchased and sold to developers.
Kuo Yuan Ye Museum of Cake and Pastry, Taipei
We learned to make the famous Taiwanese pineapple cakes at this museum and we also learned the history of the cake shop, founded in 1867. The museum explained the important role of cakes and sweets in Taiwanese culture, both in the past and present.
Iona loved dressing up in Chinese bridal clothes though we reckoned the girls looked more like ninjas than anything else.
Tea Making at Maokong
Visiting the hills around Taipei makes a terrific day trip. You take the gondola from right beside Taipei Zoo and swing high over the trees and far away to the tea plantations.
At the Tea Master Chang Nai-Mao Memorial Hall we met the grandson of Chang Nai-Mao who had brought 3000 tea plants from Fujian province in China in 1895.
We learned how the small plantations of very high-quality tea are still picked by hand in Maokong. The complex drying, fermenting and rolling process was explained and then we tried a type of tea called tiekuanyin.
A walk through the tea plantations and then a tea-themed lunch at the Dragon Inn was followed by the gentle gondola ride back to Taipei. Quite a magical, and certainly an educational, day out.
Hot Springs in Taiwan
Taiwan is famous for its many natural hot springs. We visited Beitou a renowned hot spring area which is within the Taipei metropolitan area.
But at first, we couldn’t work it out at all… Beitou looked like any other suburb. In fact, you need to walk about half a kilometre to find where the hot springs steam forth from the ground. And the water really is very hot and cannot be touched at all.
There are public hot spring baths but we didn’t use these as most hotels pipe hot spring water into each room. So our room at the Hotel Royal had its own hot spring tub with the mineral rich water literally on tap.
There was also a pool on the top floor of the hotel, plus some single-sex nude hot spring tubs. Neither Iona nor Dexter was keen but I joined other ladies in the nude tubs joyfully.
My favourite part of Beitou was visiting the Hot Springs Museum, a very beautiful building made by the Japanese. It’s such a beautiful piece of architecture and the information about the hot springs and the history of the area was very detailed and beautifully illustrated and explained.
I got to enjoy this museum in peace and at length as Dexter and Iona and the other kids had decided to explore the local 7-Elevens and other shops. So we all enjoyed the local culture in our own way.
What’s On The List for Next Visit to Taiwan?
Bike Trails in Taiwan
Biking is very popular with Taiwanese families and there are some excellent trains we’d love to explore.
We’ve heard good things about the Old Tsaoling Bike Trail which goes through tunnels and is also close to the lovely beach at Fulong, just an hour from Taipei. The Houfeng Bike Trail near Taichung comes highly recommended too.
Hiking The Mountains in Taiwan
My children would claim not to like hiking but they’d be fine once they got started. Next time, I’d love to explore Taroko National Park and Yangmingshan National Park which is just to the north of Taipei.
There are lots of things to do around Sun Moon Lake, a gondola ride, a , ropeway, boatrides, hiking and biking, and a peacock garden. Book us in there for a few nights next time.
Snorkelling and Diving in Taiwan
We heard great things about the aquatic adventures off Green Island, off the east coast of Taiwan. Noted for next time as we three all love these water sports.
Taipei Must-Dos Next Time
Dexter and Iona claimed not to be keen to visit the National Palace Museum with the best collection of imperial Chinese treasures in the world. I’d love to spend hours there myself though so that would suit me on another trip.
Cool and Kid-Friendly Hotels in Taiwan
Dexter and Iona both gasped with joy when they saw the huge slide in the foyer of the Red Dot Hotel on our first night in Taiwan. They then immediately belted up to the first floor to slide down it.
I’d actually thought that at 16 and 10 they might feel they were too old and cool for a slide, but no such thing.
This child-friendly feature at a boutique art house hotel was a great introduction to the design style of Taiwan for us adults too.
Other hotels we can recommend ourselves are:
Leofoo Resort Guanshi is on the outskirts of Taiwan. The hotel is part of a complex with a theme park, water park and a zoo. There are zoo animals living right alongside the hotel rooms. So expect to see rhinos and giraffes and all sorts of other animals from your room.
Grand Hi Lai Hotel in Kaosiung has a terrific swimming pool which both my kids loved, it has wonderful views over the city and beyond. This five star hotel shares a block with a huge department store which was also popular.
Home Hotel Da’an is very centrally located in Taipei, near Taipei 101 and many other attractions. It has a very eclectic design style, a great example of the new boutique hotels now popular in Taiwan.
Hotel Royal Beitou Hot Spring Resort is very close to the Beitou station and is a luxurious five-star hotel. Each luxurious room has piped-in mineral-rich hot water so you relax in the hot tub in your own room. There are also larger hot spring pools in the hotel, plus it’s close to the Thermal Valley, Hot Springs Museum and Public Baths.
Another place that was highly recommended to us in Beitou is called Villa 32, though it may be more adult-orientated.
Plan your trip to Taiwan
Tours of Taiwan
For another trip, I’d look at two tour companies we heard about:
- My Taiwan Tour: can organise family tours and group tours
- Taiwan Adventures – can organise hiking and other adventures
My ideal would be to start with a three-four day tour with an expert guide and then to have one or two weeks to travel by ourselves.
Taiwan – Take Me Back!
There are heaps to see and do in this rather tiny jewel of an island, so many areas of natural beauty and a rich and complex history of colonisation by both the Japanese and Chinese. This has led to a very individual and independent spirit in the Taiwanese, and a unique culture of their own.
Taiwan is also one of the safest countries in the world for tourists, so that’s another plus for family travellers, as is the deliciousness of the desserts and ice cream!
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Seana, Dexter and Iona travelled to Taiwan on this occasion as guests of Taiwan Tourism.