Thailand’s 2nd largest and most populous city behind Bangkok is known as the Temple city and for a good reason. There are over 300 temples around the Chiang Mai area, but temples might not be at the top of your kids’ list of places to visit or things to do. But Chiang Mai has so many other things to do with kids, you won’t be disappointed.
Chiang Mai has found a place in many digital nomads hearts and they now call this place home. The town has a pleasant climate and a great standard of living. If you are looking for the beach Chiang Mai is not the place, as it is landlocked. You will want to check out Phuket or Krabi if you are looking for a wonderful beach vacation in Thailand.
If you are looking to give your kids an experience of a lifetime that they will remember forever, Chiang Mai might just be that place.
Thailand can and is an incredible cultural experience that makes it memorable for everyone, but there might come a point where the kids are bored with the temples and Buddha statues. Similar to if you have been to Europe and you pass another 16th-century cathedral.
This is not to say either of these are not incredibly important and beautiful but you begin to lose perspective, and a simple reset might be needed. One way to do this is to focus on activities that the kids will want to experience.
So let’s talk about some fun things to do with kids in Chaing Mai that aren’t temples!
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Chaing Mai things to do with kids list of top places
#5 The Umbrella Village
These colorful and unique umbrellas make for great Instagram photos but they are much more than that. The art and the technique of making these umbrellas is something you have to see with your own eyes.
Traditionally, the Bo Sang umbrellas are made from bamboo and sa paper which are both sourced locally with the sa paper coming from the bark of the paper mulberry tree.
In addition to the traditional designs, Bo Sang now produces a range of umbrellas made from a variety of materials including canvas, cotton, rayon, and silk.
The Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
If you love festivals or umbrellas you will not want to miss the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival. The Thai Festival is held annually and is one of Chiang Mai’s top things to see. If you happen to be in Chiang Mai around the time of the Festival you will want ot make sure you venture to Bo Sang to see it. The small town will be even more extravagant with umbrellas.
On arrival in Bo Sang, head to the Umbrella Making Centre where you can watch artisans at work in the outdoor area. Informative displays and guides also help to explain each part of the umbrella making process.
It’s fascinating to see how much work and attention goes into making each individual umbrella. From the crafting of the bamboo frames to the waterproofing techniques used on the cover your kids will love to watch this! Even we were fascinated by the process.
The artists working at Bo Sang have also learned to diversify and not only do they hand-paint the umbrellas, but they will also paint your cell phone cover, give your kids temporary tattoos, or paint a picture on any surface you’d like.
Inside the umbrella making factory, you can see more displays and there is also a large shop where you can buy umbrellas and parasols in a variety of sizes and a multitude of designs. The Bo Sang Umbrella Making Centre is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
#4 – Night Market and traditional food
The night market is a kids’ paradise. There are thousands of toys and trinkets that they will beg you to take home. Parents love the night market because the prices are great!
The night bazaar in Chaing Mai has been in business for many years. Originally the market was started by the Chinese but it is now run by mostly local Thai people.
This market is known for its handicrafts. You can find some beautifully handcrafted souvenirs to take home. It’s fun to take home a one of a kind souvenir!
You will also find loads of purses, shoes, and clothes.
Do be cautious while you are at the night market, most of the name brand items are actually imitation brands. But this also gives you a chance to buy that Gucci purse you’ve had your eyes on. The vendors do a great job of making these brands look real.
Your kids will love all the unique toys that the night market has to offer. My kids love buying things that can be personalized such as a purse with their name on it.
Best Markets to visit in Chiang Mai
Markets are a great way to experience some of the cultures and find something a little different. The markets that only pop up once a week will have more of a local flair than those that operate all the time.
- Chiang Mai Sunday Market, also known as the Walking Street. Located in the Old City of Chiang Mai inside the old walls. It is also located in front of the Wat Phra Singh. Let your taxi or Tuk Tuk drive to drop you off close to the Wat.
- The Market Runs along Ratchadamnoem Road and is only open on Sundays. Opening at 4:00 pm and staying open till late, 12:00 AM.
- Chiang Mai Night Bazaar & Anusarn Market. Probably one of the largest street markets and one of the easiest to get to. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is easy to walk to from many of the hotels, located just up the street from the Shangri-La. Walk the streets for some fun souvenirs and then hit the Anusarn Market for some local Thai food and mango sticky rice.
- Open every day till 12:00 AM, most vendors start setting up around 4:00 pm but not all will be ready until about 6:00 PM. Located between Chang Klang Road and Tha Phae Road
- Chiang Mai Saturday Night Market – Wualai. The Saturday market has limited hours and is only open on Saturday from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM. This market is located close to the Old City and just around from the Tha Pae Gate entrance.
Night Markets are a must when visiting Chiang Mai or any parts of Thailand. Our kids love shopping as we allow them some small spending money, and we love it as the items are usually affordable.
Thai Street Food
While you are at the Chiang Mai night market, you need to try some local food! You will find vendors on every corner. Some of my favorite Thai dishes are Pad Thai and mango sticky rice.
I also love to indulge in a giant fruit smoothie when I am at the night markets. It’s such a great way to keep yourself cool and enjoy the local fruit!
#3 – Flight of the Gibbon Zip Line
Zip lining through the rainforest of Thailand. Jumping from tree to tree as a monkey gives you the exhilaration and thrill of being Tarzan for the day. One of the creatures you might spot along the way is the wild Gibbon, as the name suggests.
You will fly through the canopy treetops on zip lines, attached by a harness. You jump from platform to platform, walking up and downstairs, across bridges, and repelling down abseils. The platforms are secured to the trunks of enormous trees.
This activity might not be suitable for all ages. Our 10-year-old daughter was the only one of our 3 kids that went on the adventure. The Flight of the Gibbon staff was great. Since she was younger, then she had to zipline with the guide.
This wasn’t a bad thing, but one that gave me a sense of safety. It also worked out that I was able to go before or after her to get great videos and pictures of the experience.
To book your tour for the Flight of Gibbon zip line, you can arrange everything through Klook before you even leave home.
#2 – Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary
You need to take your kids to an Elephant sanctuary. There are a number of elephant sanctuaries around the Chiang Mai area. Most are located in the mountainous jungle around the city. They will take up to 45 minutes to 90 minutes to get to any one of them.
Please make sure that you are visiting an elephant sanctuary and not a riding camp. There is a big difference.
An elephant sanctuary is effectively a retirement home or care center for elephants. Many of the elephants have been rescued from the logging industry or tourism industry. Yes, there are tourist attractions that make the elephants do circus tricks, and they place large steel chair/saddles on their backs to carry tourists.
There are many elephant tourist attractions where the animals are mistreated behind the scenes. Please do not support these places, it’s our responsibility to take care of these amazing animals.
Sanctuaries allow you to still interact with the elephants up close. You get to feed them, touch them, walk with them, and even bathe them, but riding is not allowed. As a family, this is one of the things that we all collectively remember and enjoyed doing.
Chiang Mai Elephant Rescue Park
We loved this experience! Since we visited in October (least busy season for tourists) we were the only people on our tour. This meant we had the elephants all to ourselves and it was amazing!
You start the day by changing into your elephant caretaker clothes. The park has you wear these outfits so the elephants know that you are not going to hurt them. They recognize these outfits as safe and will be more relaxed around you.
Then you get to meet the elephants! You feed them and we quickly learned how playful these giant elephants are. You can tell the elephants are well-loved because they are happy and playful from the moment you meet them.
Next, you take them on a short walk through the jungle and end with bathing them in a small lake. Then you head back and change while the staff prepares lunch for you.
This is an amazing experience that is worth every penny we spent! Please support these wonderful sanctuaries so they can continue to take care of our elephants. Save the elephants! You will not be disappointed.
#1 – Night Safari
The Chiang Mai Night Safari is the best that I have been to anywhere in the world. This rivals the first-ever night safari at the Singapore Zoo. The night safari aims to recreate the experience of having the animals in a natural habitat in the wilderness.
The night safari is broken up into three different habitats or zones to visit. They are called the Savanna Safari, Predator Prowl, and the Jaguar Trail.
You start by getting the open-air tram that will take you along the path through the 3 zones. The night safari offers you a chance to see lions, giraffes, elephants, pumas, tigers, zebras, flamingos, and one of our favorite hippopotamus.
Feed the animals from your hands
One of the great experiences on safari is the chance to feed some of the animals. From the open-air tram, you will be able to feed on hand or throw some carrots, leaves, potatoes and other vegetables to the animals. The tram starts out by having small deer approach the tram and you are able to feed them from the tram.
But our top 2 animals that we fed were the hippopotamus and the giraffe. As we approached the hippos in the tram. They swim up to the edge of the small pond. They plop their head down on the concrete wall and open their gigantic mouths. You can toss your vegetables into the open mouth of the hippo.
The best experience and one that has now made the giraffe the favorite animal of our 10-year-old is when the giraffe stretched its head into the tram and ate directly from her hand. She was able to feed the giraffe a couple of times. What an experience that she and her sisters still talk about to this day.
~Pro-tip: make the night safari easy on yourself and purchase your tickets before you go through Klook. They make it super easy and then you can skip the line when you arrive. Also, they usually offer a discount so you’ll save money too!
Other notable things at the Night Safari
Other animal shows and feedings. If you show up a little before dark you can enter the zoo early and take in some of the other exhibits and shows.
There are other unique animals that you can see in the Chiang Mai Zoo. Including pandas. They are kept in a special enclosure, to see the pandas it is an extra 100 bhat for adults and 50 for the kids.
What is great about the Chiang Mai zoo is that all the exhibits and enclosures are designed to get you close enough to the animals and take great pictures without an expensive camera. Don’t worry the enclosures are safe and you and your kids are not at risk, and just as important the animals are safe.
Don’t forget to put on your bug spray or bug repellant as you will be around animals and you are still in the tropics. We like these mosquito repellant stickers over most sprays, but here is a bug spray that we carry with us. The stickers are lightweight and easy to pack.
Even more bucket list Chiang Mai things to do
Chiang Mai is such an awesome city with so many wonderful things to do it is hard to wrap it all into one post. For even more bucket list things to do check out this awesome post by Global Treats on their amazing Chiang Mai adventures.
Chiang Mai Weather
The best time to go to Chiang Mai is in the fall to early spring, October to early February. The weather should be warm and most importantly dry.
Believe it or not, but for Southeast Asia standards, Chiang Mai can get a little chilly. You might even need a light jacket, especially in late December and January. The Thai people love to visit Chiang Mai this time of year as it gives them a little relief from the scorching heat of living in the tropics.
When to avoid Chiang Mai
The rainy season runs from June to October, but this doesn’t mean you can’t go during this time. Instead, be prepared that it may rain on you. Pack an umbrella so the rain doesn’t stop you!
The rain in Southeast Asia can be a downpour that lasts for an hour to all day. We got rained on a couple of days and we still enjoyed our trip to Chiang Mai with the kids.
The burning season is a time you do not want to be in Thailand. Unfortunately, Southeast Asia still has a problem with burning forests, sugar cane plantations, and palm oil plantations.
Although it is illegal it is still rampant and happens every year. This results in horrible air quality that is not healthy for you. Even though there isn’t an exact time that the burning happens, it is usually in March or April.
How to get around in Chiang Mai
If you are buzzing around the city and going place to place, a Tuk Tuk is the easiest and most convenient way to get around. The kids will love it, our kids laugh the entire ride. I enjoy how fast you can get from place to place.
From the Airport to the hotel: I would recommend using the Grab app to get a car. This is like Uber. You can book a family car very easily and quickly. Download Grab on your phone and have it ready to go.
Getting a Taxi at the Chiang Mai airport is also very easy and simple. Just go to the taxi stand and they will arrange it for you. Once you are at your hotel, you can have them call taxis for you as well.
~Pro-tip: Always pre-arrange taxi and tuk-tuk fares before you get in the car. This is the best way to avoid being scammed. Use Grab (like Uber) app to help you understand prices.
Chiang Mai Hotels – Where to stay with kids:
I have only stayed in one place in Chiang Mai and I am sure there are other great places, but our first experience was so great that we continue to go back to the same place as it offers so many things for the kids and is conveniently located. We stay at the Shangri-La Chaing Mai.
Chaing Mai Shangri-La
The Shangri-La Chiang Mai is great for families with kids and even young kids. It has an onsite kids club, pool with water slide, playground, and other activities. It is located on the same road as the famous night market, making it a short walk or Tuk Tuk ride to the market.
The pool is great! The staff is so accommodating and greets you with a pitcher of ice-cold water as soon as you sit down. The kids loved to stay by the pool because they also played a lot of games in the pool, all arranged by the wonderful staff.
This hotel loves kids and caters to them! Every night when we returned to our room, there were small gifts for our kids. They were so excited to see what would be waiting for us each night.
Their favorite surprise was a giant teddy bear that was waiting for us in our room. The kids played for days with this giant teddy bear. They begged us to take it home 🙂 and we were so sad to leave it behind.
The location of this hotel is also great because you can literally walk out the front door and easily get to the night market and a ton of restaurants.
Chiang Mai Four Seasons
Let’s talk about some real luxury! I have heard from many people that the Chaing Mai Four Seasons is the best place to stay. I have not been able to stay at the Chiang Mai Four Seasons, but I have heard so many good things that I thought it was worth talking about.
This stunning hotel provides endless luxury. It is located out city so you can soak up every minute in the is a peaceful retreat. I have heard from many people that the Chiang Mai Four Seasons provides an experience unlike any other in the world.
How to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
It is actually pretty easy to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. There are 4 ways to get from Chiang Mai from Bangkok.
You can fly, come by bus, take a train, or hire a private car or taxi. Chiang Mai is about 700 km from Bangkok. There are pros and cons to getting to Chaing Mai from Bangkok especially when traveling with kids. Obviously flying to Chaing Mai from Bangkok will be the fastest. The train will take the longest but might just be the most scenic.
Flying to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
There are a number of airlines that fly to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, and flights can be relatively inexpensive and possibly even cheaper than the train.
There are 2 airports in Bangkok that you can fly out of. Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) or Don Mueang Airport (DMK). Chiang Mai international airport (CMX) takes about 1.5 hours flight from Bangkok.
I have flown a number of different airlines from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You will want to check google flights for the cheapest options but here are some of the airlines that you can pick from Air Asia, Thai Airways, Thai Lon Air, Bangkok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Airline, and Nok Air. A ticket will set you back for a one-way about $25 to $75 USD.
Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
This might be one of the best ways to see lots of Thailand. The train ride will take you anywhere from 12 to 15 hours to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train.
If your kids love trains, this would be a great adventure! There are about 5 trains every day from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
There are 3 classes of tickets that you can choose from on the train.
- 1st Class: The first-class ticket option offers an air-conditioned train car and a sleeper car option.
- 2nd Class: The second-class has AC sets only, but you can buy a 2nd Class Sleeper option. There is also a 2nd Class ladies only cabin. If you are a woman and traveling alone or with a group of friends, this might be a good option.
- 3rd Class: If you are on a tight budget this is your best option. Some 3rd class cabins do offer AC but most don’t. Most 3rd class seats are on wooden benches. These might become uncomfortable on the long journey.
Cost of a train ticket:
- 3rd Class ticket will cost you around $15 or 500THB. You can find tickets for as cheap as $8.00
- 2nd Class Ticket with a bunk bed is around $20-30 or 800 – 1000THB
- 1st Class Ticket Sleeper ticket is about $45 – 50USD or 1500THB
You will want to avoid Thai holidays as the train tickets will be more expensive and crowded. Check to make sure you are not traveling over a Thai holiday.
Where to get the trains
From Bangkok, you will get the train from the Bangkok Railway Station. This station is officially known as the Hua Lamphong station. It is located in the heart of the Pathum Wan District.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus
Taking the bus will take you about 10-12 hours. You’ll have plenty of options as there are busses leaving all day. The buses are modern and air-conditioned. Some of them have TV and restrooms on the bus.
There are several bus companies to pick from. I would recommend checking Trip Advisor for reviews. Most buses leave from the Morchit Bus Terminal in Bangkok but there are other pick-up points and stations available.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Car
If you are brave enough to face the Bangkok traffic you could rent a car and drive to Chiang Mai. This is another great way to see lots of Thailand. It will take you 9 – 10 hours and that’s if you don’t stop often.
If you are traveling with your family or a group, but you don’t want to drive you can hire a private driver. You can easily find a trustworthy private driver through Klook.
Although this is the most expensive option, if you were to break it down by the number of passengers it might make sense to hire someone. Prices range anywhere from $270 to $400 for a van that can hold 2-9 people. Most of the vans are spacious and very comfortable.
You can also hire a driver through Klook to take you around Chiang Mai. They will charge around $60 USD for a full day of touring.
If you decide to drive or hire a driver and want to know where to stop, check out these top 5 places to break up the journey between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Make the best decision for your family
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok can be an adventure when traveling with kids. Depending on the age of your kids you might just want to get there as quickly as possible. Flying will be your best option.
If your kids are a little older the train or road trip might be a fun option. Whatever option you pick, you won’t be disappointed when you arrive in Chiang Mai.
Wrap up on Chiang Mai things to do with kids
Chaing Mai is a wonderful place that caters to families. Chaing Mai has so many things to do with kids, you will love it. This mountainous city is so unique it has to be experienced once in your life.
Trust me when I say, Thailand is a place you should take your kids before they grow up, from toddlers to teenagers Chiang Mai has so many adventures to offer.
Staying healthy while traveling
Staying healthy while traveling right now is a huge concern for everyone. Especially with the Coronavirus spreading and just normal flu. From living in Southeast Asia when the virus broke out and we have traveled a bit since here are some of the things we have learned and do to not get sick. You can also view some of our tips on how to stay fit or diet while traveling.