Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids (or Without Them)

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We love to travel in Vietnam, and exploring things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids is one of our best memories in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is a tricky place for some travelers. Yet for us, it was one of the most fondly remembered spots and one of the most interesting and exciting places for family travel in Asia. Read on to hear our tips for things to do in Ho Chi Minh City and beyond.

Shooting pool: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids (or Without)

We love exploring things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon). So much so that Keiko and I actually considered planting ourselves there for a few months or longer. From a distance, Saigon looks like the kind of dystopian metropolis that one tries to escape from. Perhaps it is for some. Yet for us, we found our weeks in Saigon fun, exciting and educational.

I know that my kids were wary on the bus ride in. Once inside the city, however, their aversion quickly turned to endearment. It took us less than two days to pull back the curtain of noise and trash to reveal the warmth and sophistication hidden underneath. Before we arrived I had done a little research on things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids. To be honest, just about everything we did would have been just as fun with friends or when traveling solo.

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Why Visit Ho Chi Minh City?

propaganda: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

If you want to dive into Southeast Asia head-first, then head to Ho Chi Minh City.

Is Ho Chi Minh City the cleanest and most modern city in the world? Nope. Streets are dirty, traffic looks insane, and you’ll come across people who want something from you. It’s loud, chaotic and in your face.

And we love it. Don’t let first impressions lead you astray. Give Saigon time, and you’ll see the possibilities.

I’m certainly not the first to consider moving to Vietnam. Think of Ho Chi Minh City (from now on called HCMC) like a really hot jacuzzi. It stings when you first step in but sit there for a minute and you settle in comfortably. By day two in the city, we had met really nice people and eaten several incredible meals. What’s more, we had ridden through the city’s insane and beautiful traffic without fear (no seriously, watch this traffic).

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Ho Chi Minh City Weather / Best Time to Visit Ho Chi Minh City

HCMC Street Stalls: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

The weather in Ho Chi Minh City can be divided into wet and dry seasons, but the average temperatures don’t change dramatically. The “coolest” temps are in January. Lows are around 71ºF and highs are around 89ºC. May through November is often considered the wet season, with the heaviest rain and most typhoon-like weather from July to November. The driest part of the year is December through March

We think that the best time to visit Ho Chi Minh City is the first three months of the year. In fact, we hope to visit again during the Tet festival. Tet is the Vietnamese New Year — usually in Jan or Feb depending on the lunar calendar. We’ve heard that this can be one of the best times to visit Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City weather is at its best and the entire country is in a celebratory mood.

Having said that, most of our time in Vietnam has been in the wet season and it was perfectly manageable. Rain in southern Vietnam usually arrived as strong squalls that stopped completely within an hour or two.

Getting Around Ho Chi Minh City

HCMC bikes: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Getting around Ho Chi Minh city is easy and safer than it looks. There are plenty of taxis everywhere. Ask for the latest rates at your accommodation. And always confirm the price before getting in the taxi.

Buses in Ho Chi Minh City are also an option. We used them a lot once we figured out specific routes. The bus station near the Ben Thanh Market is a decent-sized hub. That’s where we caught buses to/from the airport, to the Suoi Tein Waterpark and other places around town.

HCMC scooter portrait 2: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Then there is the option of renting a scooter or motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City. We’ve done it several times and loved it. Yes, the chaos of Saigon streets is real, but it’s not as lawless as it looks. As long as you drive slow, it’s not that hard.

Walking in Ho Chi Minh City is often the best mode if you’re staying in District 1. There are plenty of sidewalks and walkable roads for all. Crossing the street is what always looks so dangerous, but here’s the key: walk slowly and intentionally. As long as oncoming drivers know your intended trajectory, they will weave around you like a school of fish.

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City

Silverland Yen Hotel. Best Hotels in Ho Chi Minh City. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

From backpacker hostels to 5-star luxury, there are lots of great hotels in Ho Chi Minh City. No matter what your budget is, there’s something for you. Unless you’re going for a super luxury package, I recommend staying in District 1. That way you’re within walking distance or a short taxi ride from all the main sites.

Eating in Ho Chi Minh City

HCMC fest with noodles. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

There are many great things to do in Ho Chi Minh City, but there is one above all. The best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is to EAT! We love Vietnamese food, and Ho Chi Minh City street food is some of the best in the world. Another thing we like about food in Vietnam is that spicy stuff is often optional. For example, in Thailand, chile peppers are often cooked right in. Yet in Vietnam, the peppers are served on the side.

Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City

Here’s a breakdown of some of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City by category. I’ve divided them into sections such as Museums in Ho Chi Minh City and tours in Ho Chi Minh City. If you know if some more fun Ho Chi Minh City attractions, let us know.

Buildings, Architecture & Museums in Ho Chi Minh City

_Saigon Opera House. Things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

More than any other city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City is the most eclectic. New and old, modern and traditional. Colonial and futuristic. You’ll find it all in Saigon. One of my favorite things to do

War Remnants Museum

We definitely think that the War Remnants Museum is an essential thing to do in Ho Chi Minh City. That said, use judgment when visiting with kids. We took ours (8 and 12 at the time), but one of us scouted out each room before the kiddos entered. There are some gruesome visuals in the War Remnants Museum, but they can be avoided. What’s more, this can very interesting for young kids as they there are helicopters, jets, tanks and other large vehicles. This museum tells the Vietnamese side of the war. Whether you believe everything they say is up to you. Listen anyway. It can be an interesting exercise in realizing that there is always more than one side to a story.

Vietnam History Museum

HCMC Museum: Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

When most people think of Vietnamese history, they rarely think past the war and the French occupation. You may be surprised to know about the many civilizations that lived here. If you travel to Hue in central Vietnam you’ll see some of it, but here is all is in glass containers.

Reunification Palace

Also known as the Independence Palace, this is one of the best places to visit in Vietnam for both the history and ambiance. This was home to the South Vietnamese President. That is until he famously rescinded power to the North after they crashed through the gates in tanks. The building and its contents have been preserved as if a day hasn’t passed since April 1975. The furniture, carpets and other decorum are with seeing with or without kids.

Saigon Opera House

First opening its curtains in 1900, this French-built opera house is a beautiful building. Yet what makes it one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is the shows that happen there today. Modern dance and acrobatics meet history in productions here. The performers are amazing, relaying the stories of the country through flips, jumps and other feats of physical skill.

Central Post Office & Notre-Dame Cathedral

If you want to see conspicuous reminders of the city’s French influence, then this would be one of the most interesting things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. The Saigon Central Post Office is a testament to French colonial architecture. Across the street is the Notre-Dame Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. It may look out of place sitting in the middle of the chaos of Vietnamese traffic, but it’s a beautiful building inside and out.

Bixteco Financial Tower

If you like getting the best view of an entire metropolis, then this is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City for you. There’s a bar on the 52nd floor, but I’d aim to visit the Saigon Skydeck a few floors down instead

  • Admission at the time of writing 200,000 VND for adults, 130,000VND for kids between 4-12.

Temples in Ho Chi Minh City

_temples in Ho Chi Minh City. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

There are a number of temples in Ho Chi Minh City. If interested, the two temples we’d recommend visiting are the Thiên Hâu Temple and the Jade Emperor Pagoda. The Thien Hau Temple is in Cholon, Ho Chi Minh City’s Chinatown. Often cited as one of Vietnam’s most beautiful temples, Thien Hau Temple is frequented by those who work on the sea. The temple honors a child nun born in 11th century China who is believed to give sailors and travelers safe passage.

In contrast, the Jade Emperor Pagoda is dedicated to the highest deities in Taoism. However, there is a room here that honors the goddess of motherhood. Here you’ll frequently find dozens of women here praying to conceive. Lots of travel websites mention the turtle pond here as something to see, but I suggest lowering your expectations.

Markets & Shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

ben thanh market. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Vietnam is a very budget-friendly place to travel, it is also a great place to spend some money. Most travel guides steer you towards the Ben Thanh Market in District 1. You should definitely check it out, but I found the indoor stores far too set up for tourists.

Ben Thanh Market

The side streets around Ben Thanh Market, however, are a good spot to look for knockoff backpacks and travel gear. If that’s your thing, that is. The shops around this market and in places like Saigon Square do some great bootleg copies of travel packs. You’ll find knockoffs from North Face, Kelty, Jack Wolfskin and others. Some look identical, but there are TONS of crappy jobs. If you choose to buy a knockoff backpack, and you want it to last, check everything. Check the stitching and the webbing straps. Run every zipper up and down multiple times. I’ll be honest with you: I’ve bought several packs in Ho Chi Minh City. One of them we still use today, years after purchase. The others? Broken within a year.

Tan Dinh Market

Visiting the Tan Dinh Market is another great thing to do in Ho Chi Ming City. It sells a lot of the souvenirs and tourist-centered items as well but still retains a local feel. This is a great place to buy textiles, or even have a tailor custom-make clothes for you. Like with bootleg backpacks, this can be a great deal or it can be a waste of money. If you do it, find a good tailor and ask lots of questions. Confirm the stitching, too. I designed a pair of travel pants once that I wore for years. Loved them. I also had a suit made, asked few questions, and it looked ridiculous and I never wore it once. Do your homework. The best thing to do is to bring in a shirt or pair of pants that you already like how they fit. They’ll then reverse-engineer it and make you some copies with the same measurements in the textiles of your choosing.

Parks in Ho Chi Minh City

23 September Park

This patch of green is located just south of the backpacker district in District 1. 23 September Park is the location of many local festivals and worth a look if you’re in the area. If you’re staying in District 1, as at your accommodation if there are any events here during your stay.

Waterparks in Ho Chi Minh City

Water park face — Vietname with kids: An Epic Education

There are a number of waterparks in Vietnam. However, as with many things in Southeast Asia, temper your expectations. We had a great time, but understand that waterparks in Ho Chi Minh City may not be as amazing or staffed by bubbly teens like in the US, Canada, and Australia. The rides may seem more like a local carnival than a world-class amusement park. Expect similar safety standards, as well. Also, I’d recommend going on a weekday to avoid crowds — especially if you have shy children.

Dam Sen WaterPark

The most popular waterpark in Vietnam. Keep in mind that kids under 1.2 meters are not allowed to ride certain slides or swim in certain pools.

Suoi Tein Amusement Park

Just outside of Ho Chi Minh City, the Suoi Tien Waterpark and Amusement center is one of the most surreal places I’ve ever been. We visited days before the swimming season began, so I can’t comment on the waterslides or whatever. But man-o-man, this places is bizarre in all the right ways. Keep in mind that admission is cheap, but then you have to pay for whatever rides/activities you do as you go. There’s not a lot of good food here, either, so we recommend visiting after lunch.

Shows, Lessons & Tours in Ho Hi Minh City

cooking class portrait with teacher — Vietnam with kids. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

Museums and parks are great, but some of the most entertaining things to do in Ho Chi Minh City is to see a show or take a tour. Here are a few recommendations.

Free Walking Tour

Walk around with a local is one of the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City. Like in Hanoi and possibly other Vietnamese cities, Ho Chi Minh City offers free walking tours with local students. Just remember that the students do this for tips and to practice their English.

Water Puppet Show

_water puppet show in HCMC Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

One of the most quintessential things to do in Vietnam is to see a water puppet show. The Golden Dragon Theater is one of the most well-known places to see a show. On the other hand, water puppet shows turn up in smaller theaters and local festivals as well. Ask your accommodation, or book a tour ahead of time.

The AO Show & Other Lune Productions

Performing at the Saigon Opera House, the Lune Production shows are a blend of dance, acrobatics, and history lesson. For example, let’s talk the AO show, which we saw and loved. In this production, a very talented troupe incorporated bamboo poles and giant wicker baskets into set pieces. These became like trapeze tools and catapults to relay life on the Mekong.

Cooking Class

One of our favorite things to do in Ho Chi Minh City (and any city) is cooking lessons. Cooking lessons are a great opportunity to learn about the culture of a place. For us, the cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City was one of the most memorable we’ve ever had.

We went with HCM Cooking Class. They picked us up in the city and then drove us into the suburbs to a farm where we picked our own vegetables for the meal. The lesson was partly outdoors in a covered pavilion, and all four of us had our own cooking station.

Cu Chi Tunnels

_cu chi tunnels. Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City with Kids

During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong used a vast system of small underground tunnels. Here they hid, plotted attacks and moved beneath opposing forces to great effect. It’s shocking just how small, narrow and complex these tunnels really are. One of the most memorable things to do in Vietnam is visiting these tunnels.

Are There More Fun Things to Do in Ho Chi Minh City?

We’ve been to Ho Chi Minh City with kids only a few times. What’s missing from our list? Have you found fun or interesting things to do in Ho Chi Minh City? What did you do? Where did you stay? Tell us about it in the comments!

Further Reading

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Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking after clicking on one of these links then we might receive a small commission — at no extra cost to you. My opinions are my own and I only write to help you find the best things to do in Ho Chi Minh City with kids. Or without them!

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