Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids (or Without)—Thailand Travel

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If you’re looking for things to do Chiang Mai, you’re in the right place. We loved exploring Chiang Mai with kids and on our own. Thailand’s northern capital gets lots of press as a hub for digital nomads in Asia, but it’s a great family travel destination as well. Here are our tips for the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids 2017: Our Family Travel Guide graffitti

Things to Do in Chiang Mai

There are lots of fun things to do in Chiang Mai with kids…or without them. I’ve listed a lot of recommendations below, but there are even more. Have I missed something? Tell me about it. What fun Thailand activities do you or your family enjoy?

Despite the drama that befell us there, our time in Chiang Mai with kids is full of great memories, and we plan to return. We’ve had friends in and out of the city for years, and I hear more and more about great things to do in Chiang Mai from my podcast guests and other fellow travelers we meet along the way.

Here’s a rundown of tips and other recommendations for things to do Chiang Mai with children, with a partner or by yourself. We stayed a while, so I’ve included things to do in Chiang Mai for both short-term and longer-term visitors.

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Contents

WHEN TO GO TO CHIANG MAI

Before we talk about things to do in Chiang Mai with kids, let’s talk about when to go. I think the best time is usually September through February. The rainy season runs (approximately) from June through October, but it’s perfectly feasible to go during it. That goes double if you’re willing to trade some rainy days for fewer people and lower prices.

Climate-wise, however, November to February is great weather, although we were cold enough during January and February that we bought blankets and sweatshirts for the evenings. Basically all of our recommended things to do in Chiang Mai are available year-round.

Chiang Mai’s Burning Season

Most importantly, I highly recommend avoiding Chiang Mai with kids during the burning season — that’s when local farmers scorch their fields and a thick smoky blanket engulfs the city. March is the worst month, but it begins in February and can last into early May.

Like the haze in Penang, Chiang Mai’s burning season is unhealthy and entirely avoidable. If you’re planning to spend time in Chiang Mai with kids, avoid the city for March and April. If you’re planning an extended stay in Chiang Mai, then simply leave northern Thailand during that time and explore elsewhere in the country (might I suggest rock climbing in Krabi?).

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Festivals in Chiang Mai

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Thailand Family Travel Guide

One of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is witness one of the many festivals and traditional events. Here are a few that we think are worth your time. Of course, there are more, and we’d love to know about your experiences.

Loy Krathong / Yee Peng

One of the most scenic and photogenic festivals in Southeast Asia, this is when you see small, candle-lit boats floating down rivers, and thousands of fire-fueled lanterns floating towards the stars. Book far ahead for this one.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Parades, street stalls, and music stands are just part of visiting the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. Yes, the flowers are beautiful, but it’s more the feel of a local festival that gives this event its charm.

Songkran Water Festival (Thai New Year)

One of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai is visit during Songkran. Imagine the biggest water gun/water balloon fight you’ve ever been in. Now multiply that by 100,000. That’s Songkran, and that may even be an understatement. Songkran is about respect for elders. It’s about purification, and it’s about soaking everyone around you with as much water as you can throw at them.

The issue with Songkran and Chiang Mai with kids is that the burning season is still on. Dwindling, perhaps, and less as pervasive, but take this into consideration.

The King’s & Queen’s Birthdays (Dec. 5th & Aug 12th, respectively)

Okay, so these holidays may not come with the same thrills or cinematic appeal as others, but they are also Father’s Day and Mother’s Day in the Thai calendar. The Thais love their monarchy, and the respect and love that flows out to them are apparent. You’ll see it in ornately decorated portraits of the King and Queen.

Chiang mai with kids -- rickshaw / tuk tuk

THINGS TO DO IN CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS (OR WITHOUT)

There are many things to do in Chiang Mai, as you may already know. You could easily spend a few weeks or months in the area and still find something new. This first list below is family-friendly Chiang Mai activities for those just passing through or staying for a week or two.

The next list includes things to do in Chiang Mai for families and other travelers planning to stay a few months or longer.

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Try a Fruit Carving Family Class

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Fruit Carving

This was possibly our favorite thing do in Chiang Mai with kids, and the kids still talk about it occasionally. It was fun and challenging enough for all of us, but not too difficult.

I believe that we could have gone into more intricate carving techniques — and to be honest,  I wanted to. The teacher, however, wisely kept all four of us working on the same projects. This ended up being a lot of fun and allowed our youngest to keep up.

You could ask for more advanced carving if you want to. That said, if you have younger or less-skilled hands sitting next to you, then I suggest just carving the same things together.

My daughter was about to turn eight at the time. She enjoyed every step by herself using the carving tools (under the guidance of an instructor, of course). We went with Chiang Mai Boom for our carving, and we really enjoyed our lesson.

Contact Chiang Mai Boom  by phone: +66 (0)87 182 3937 or email: [email protected] They are located close to the corner of Chaiyapoom Road and Chang Moi Road. This is trylu one of the most fun things to do in Chiang Mai.

Fishing in Chiang Mai with Kids

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Trophy: fishing in Chiang Mai

If you like fishing, then this will be one of the most exciting things to do in Chiang Mai. Mekong catfish are massive. Fortunately, they don’t have those pointy whiskers, or we’d all have been run through. Our instructor picked us up and took us to a stocked lake, where the kids were taught to cast and reel in these monsters one after the other (catch and release).

We chose Big Game Fishing Thailand, which included pickup, gear, instruction, half a day of fishing and returns to our apartment.

Visit the Elephant Nature Park

Thai elephant nature park chiang mai

This is one of the most recommended things to do in Chiang Mai for families and everyone else. If you’re in Chiang Mai with kids, consider a visit. The Elephant Nature Park is a refuge for elephants that have been abused or exploited in places like circuses or the tourism and logging industries.

You may already know about the role that elephants have played in Southeast Asia, and about how brutal their treatment can be. We rode elephants in our earlier visits to Thailand, but will never ride them again. I urge you, too to avoid riding elephants in Chiang Mai — or anywhere.

You won’t ride them at the Elephant Nature Park. Instead, you’ll help feed and bathe them, and interact with them in meaningful ways. I know many families who have been, and they’ve all spoke very highly of it. In fact, at least three or four of the families I’ve interviewed for the Epic Education Podcast, cite it as one of the most meaningful things to do in Chiang Mai with their family.

Allergy sufferers beware

Unfortunately, we could not go to the Elephant Nature Park, as we read that there are also lots of cats on the property. My son and I are extremely allergic to cats (seriously: keep them away from me).

  • If you’re interested, check out The Elephant Nature Park site. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. 

Thai Cooking Classes for in Chiang Mai

cooking class Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Thai cooking class knives — Chiang Mai with kids

We love taking cooking classes together, so this was by far my favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai with kids. I love Thai food, and it tastes even better when you make it yourself. There are plenty of these schools available around town.

We tried Siam Rice Thai Cookery School and really enjoyed it. The class included a tour of a local market with an instructor. At the market, he told us about the products we’d be using. Then we went to a nearby home, where everything was laid out for us in covered outdoor cooking stations.

The kids handled knives and made their own curry paste with a mortar and pestle. This took more work than we suspected, but it was worth it.

Classes include: Full-day course, Evening course, Half-Day Morning course with a market tour and Half-Day Afternoon course with NO market tour.  Contact by email: [email protected] or by phone: +66 (0)9 80 059 064 , +66 (0)8 50 388 600 . Definitely one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai

Take a Chiang Mai Zipline Tour

Zipline Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Thai

Wearing a harness, a helmet and a hairnet (?), you hike into the hills, climb into the treeline, hook yourself to cables running through the canopy and jump. Whooosh! The kids loved it and really felt like they’d faced a fear afterward. For daredevils, this is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai.

There are a number of companies to go for, but we intentionally didn’t go with the largest carrier, and instead chose Dragon Flight and had a great experience.

You can contact Dragon Flight by phone +66 (0)53 208 666, +66 (0)81 884 5887, or by email: [email protected] They are located close to Tha Pae gate. One of the most fun things to do in Chiang Mai. 

MORE THINGS TO DO IN CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS

Thai temple wat Chiang mai with kids

So now that I’ve told you our top family-friendly Chiang Mai activities, let me tell you about a few more fun things to do in Chiang Mai for kids or long-term travelers.

Go to the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park

You read that right. This small eco-park makes paper products using the fibrous droppings of elephant dung. It’s more interesting than you think, and the resulting products are quite beautiful. And just think about all the poop jokes you’ll come up with! One of the most unique things to do in Chiang Mai.

Visit Art In Paradise

You’ve probably seen places like this before: large 3D paintings on rooms to create the illusion of you standing next to a gorilla or an erupting volcano. We’ve been to similar places in Japan and Malaysia. Kids love these places and they are great spots for family selfies.

Go Cliff Jumping

Just a few kilometers south of the city is a flooded rock quarry rock with several places to jump in. It can be a great place to cool off in the hotter months. Another of the best things to do in Chiang Mai for thrill-seekers.

Chat with a Monk

Ever wanted to ask a monk a question? Maybe strike up a conversation? You can do that in Chiang Mai with kids. At Wat Chedi Luang and other temples around town, monks make themselves available for conversations and the opportunity to improve their English. Don’t forget to drop something in the donations box if you go.

Get a Massage

That’s right: whether you’re in Chiang Mai with kids or on your own, one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai is get a massage. A let the kids get one, too. It’s a fun experience to do as a family, especially if you’re all in the same room together.

We’ve had family massages in numerous countries — Taiwan, Malaysia, and Indonesia, for example — and Thai massages might be our favorite. They’re ubiquitous around town and good value for money.

Marvel at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep

Visiting the Thai wats (temples) is one our recommended cultural things to do in Chiang Mai with kids, but this particular wat is in a class by itself and is often considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand. It’s out of town, though, so you’ll need your own transport or seek out a driver or songthaew to take you there.

It’s quite a few steps to the top, but the walk is a rewarding one if you and the kiddos are up for it. Visiting with small kids and/or a stroller? Then take the cable car to the top.

Hike up Doi Intanon

Southwest of Chiang Mai is the highest point in Thailand, with beautiful wats at the top. This can be an easy day trip from Chiang Mai, and one of the best hikes in Chiang Mai.

Visit Siam Insect Zoo

Southeast Asia is teeming with biodiversity. This can be seen starkly in its insect population, which is visible to all at the Siam Insect Zoo. Butterflies, giant beetles and much more. A fun scientific thing to do in Chiang Mai.

See Some Waterfalls

If you’re renting your own wheels, then there are a number of waterfalls outside of town that are worth an afternoon. Follow Huaykaew Road past the university, past the zoo and out of town, and there are a number of them off small side roads on the way up the mountain to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep.

The Bua Thong Waterfalls are some of the most interesting for families in Chiang Mai because of the “sticky” nature of the rocks, which make them much easier to climb on (older kids only).

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ANIMAL ATTRACTIONS IN CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS

As far as zoos go in Southeast Asia, the Chiang Mai zoo is above average. The aquarium, too. This, however, is a low bar. Then there are the other animal-related attractions in Chiang Mai. I’ve mentioned a few above, but there are many others we didn’t visit.

You will likely read about other animal attractions in Chiang Mai and elsewhere in Thailand: tiger selfies, night safaris, elephant rides, and more. Some businesses are legitimate, and others not. I’m not an expert on these, nor claim to be.

That said, many were not places my kids and I want to go. We are not fervent animal rights activists, but we also don’t like to give our money to parks, zoos, circuses, and other organizations that make their living exploiting animals that are obviously suffering. Do your research before visiting some of these places.

We’ve ridden elephants before, but we won’t again. And we didn’t go see the tigers, simply because there is too much evidence of drugging and exploitation. There are loads of fun things to do in Chiang Mai. Skip this and the elephant ride and choose from dozens of other fun activities.

I’m not here to tell you what to do and I understand the joy of watching a child interact with wildlife. I just encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself what is best for your family in Chiang Mai.

LONG-TERM CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS

Ok, so you’re planning to stay in Chiang Mai with kids for a month or more? This is a great place linger for a while with a family, especially if you work online. Below are a few activities for those staying longer-term.

If you’re just passing through Chiang Mai with kids, then you might give these a pass. However, any slow travelers, aspiring residents, or digital nomad families looking for more things to do in Chiang Mai may want to look into these.

The Chiang Mai Drama Centre

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Chiang Mai Drama Centre

Calling all kids in Chiang Mai with a theatrical bent. The Chiang Mai Drama Centre is set up in Pantip Plaza and has workshops for kids of all ages. Our daughter went to the Saturday workshops for a few months and had a blast. It was her second favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai.

A typical lesson would be Natalie telling a story from Thai folklore and then the kids acting it out. She also did a number of theater exercises that all the kids really seemed to respond to. This was the class for primary school aged kids, but Natalie has classes for kids in Chiang Mai of all ages.

The Chiang Mai Drama Centre currently offers sessions for kids 6 years old and up. Please check current details on their website.

Art Classes for Kids in Chiang Mai

Painting class Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Noina Art Studio

In the northeast corner of the city, inside the moat, a laid back lady named Noina runs an art studio. People come and go, according to whatever arrangement Noina’s made with them. There are pensioners learning to paint sunsets sitting next to young, scraggly backpackers attempting their first self-portrait in charcoal. Sometimes there are ten students or more at work at different easels. Sometimes there’s just one.

This was our girl’s favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai.

Our girl went in for a trial lesson. She left that lesson asking if she could go back every day. We compromised and sent her twice a week, for two-hour classes. That soon became three classes a week. Lessons included most of her materials: paint, pencils, pastels, paper, etc.

Noina did a great job of mixing up the assignments: she let our girl draw/paint some stuff just for fun, but most assignments had a goal or technique to work towards, such as understanding shadows and shading and rendering reflective surfaces. Our girl wanted homework, and so Noina gave her assignments to turn in by the next class. After two months, our daughter left Chiang Mai with a huge portfolio of work.

If you’re in Chiang Mai with kids who like to draw or paint, give Noina a visit.

Noina Art Studio opens daily (M-F, 9am-6pm/Sat. Sun. 9am-5pm). Noina asks to be contacted beforehand. You can contact her at +66 (0)84 042 8021 or +66 (0)96 607 2126 or by email: [email protected] or [email protected]

Soccer (Football) for Kids in Chiang Mai

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide soccer teams, soccer lessons, sports, Chiang Mai FC

Rising Stars Football Academy

If you’re in Chiang Mai with kids who love soccer, you’re in luck. The Thais love their footy, and there are several opportunities for kids to play. Our son took part in two different soccer clubs while we were living in Chiang Mai.

Rising Stars Football Academy (which used to be called Can U Kick It) is run by a British transplant and is a mix of expat and local kids. The schedule was erratic and they met at different locations. The coaches usually text you details about the next practice a day or two before.

It’s a fun and casual group. You pay by the day, so you’re under no obligation to put a lot of money down, but there was no proper league while we were there, and therefore no games against other teams. But for skills training and meeting with similarly-aged kids, it was perfect.

Chiang Mai FC

Our boy liked playing with these guys, but he loved playing with the local kids as part of the Chiang Mai FC Youth League. For this group, there are registration and uniform fees, but they usually play on nice covered turf fields with a number of coaches.

Close to zero English is spoken here by staff or the kids, but they warmly accepted our boy into the team nonetheless. The only problem — and it was a glaring one — was that the kid couldn’t play in any of the games because he isn’t a Thai national. That stung, but he put up with it because he liked these guys so much. If interested, you’ll probably have to do what we did: try calling the numbers, then just show up and work it out.

If you are comfortable writing or speaking Thai, you can contact them by phone: +66 (0)53 283 444 or by email: [email protected] Otherwise, just show up, smile, and work it out. They are located close to Central Airport Plaza.

The Chiang Mai YMCA Thai Language Lessons

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Chiang Mai YMCA Thai class

If you’re considering taking Thai lessons in Chiang Mai with kids, we would recommend trying Thai classes at the YMCA. There are loads of places that offer courses as a class or one-on-one, but the YMCA worked best for us.

First of all, it cost much less than many of the language schools we checked out, and they also had no problem accommodating all four of us in a group class.

Some language centers told us that we’d have to hire a private teacher if the kids would take the class with us. I get it: they don’t know how my kids will behave, and even if they sit quietly, their mere presence could be a distraction for some people. However, we, fortunately, didn’t have to worry about it at the YMCA.

Thai Class Details

Our class met twice a week for three weeks. Classes were two hours long — too long for M & S, but they managed. We were the youngest people in the class, which consisted of pensioners from America, England, Japan, and Sweden. Our class was not in-depth. The Thai Daily Life Course runs quickly through basic and survival Thai on a listen-and-repeat basis: numbers, directions, shopping, food, etc.

Our teacher treated everyone equally, and the kids — with their sharp little kid brains — retained more vocabulary and grammar than any of us geezers. The Thai language would surely take years to master, but this class gave us a few basic skills, which turned out to be quite useful in the morning markets. I’m sure we’ll forget 99% of what we learned over time. Nevertheless, it was a meaningful experience for us as a family in Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai YMCA Language Center offers several language classes. Please check with them if you are interested. They are located at the same place as YMCA The International Hotel Chiang Mai. ONe of the most educational things to do in Chiang Mai with kids. 

Huay Tung Tao Lake

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Lake hut in Chiang Mai

This may seem tame compared to some of our other family fun in Thailand, but hanging out in a hut by the lake was one of our favorite things to do in Chiang Mai with kids.

After all the adventures you’ll be having, you might just want a place to chill somewhere for an afternoon. Huay Tung Tao Lake is that place. It’s not a spectacularly beautiful or exciting lake, but it’s close to town, laid back, and a great option for a lazy afternoon lunch. Small, stilted straw huts ring the lake’s shore.

Great meal by the lake

Plop yourself in one of these huts, and the lakeside restaurant that owns that particular hut will bring you a menu. Most places serve fish, grilled veggies, rice, noodles, and steamboat (also known as suki or hot pot). They also serve raw freshwater shrimp (crayfish, perhaps?) that are kept swimming in the lake near the huts right up until minutes before you start eating them.

Yes, many of the dishes are covered in chili, but there’s still plenty to eat for anyone who doesn’t like spicy food.

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Lake hut in Chiang Mai Huay tung tao lake Lake Hut shrimp

The road that loops around the lake is where I taught the boy how to ride the scooter. If you want more excitement, there’s decent hiking just off a dirt road that forks off of the paved road. Look out for dirt bikes, however — we saw tracks, and heard them occasionally off in the distance.

Chill out for a day

But honestly, our main lakeside activities were eating, reading, and napping. The food is cheap and delicious, so we frequently pigged out and then laid around until we had digested. You know that feeling when you’ve stuffed your face at some restaurant and then say half-joking: “I wish I could just take a nap right here.” Well, now you can. We’d bring a book to read, but then fall asleep before finishing a single chapter.

The kids enjoyed an added bonus of watching nature’s survival-of-the-fittest play out in miniature around the poles that held our hut above the water. Small fish, frogs, and one tiny snake swam below us, each battling the other in a silent war of eat-or-be-eaten.

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Lake hut in Chiang Mai Huay tung tao lake under the hut Huay Tung Tao Lake Chiang Mai with kids

Huay Tung Tao Lake is located at northwest of the old town. From Maya shopping mall, it takes about 20 min by scooter. Just follow the Road 121 towards Mae Rim and keep left, then turn left when you see the signs. If you take a red Songthaew or a Tuk Tuk, it may cost 400-500 THB for them to wait there to take you back to the city. It is probably the best option since no transport is easily accessible there. 

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WHERE TO STAY IN CHIAN MAI WITH KIDS

Villa San Pee-Seua. Best Hotels in Chiang Mai — Our Top Chiang Mai Hotels for Families

If you’re looking for where to stay in Chiang Mai, you’ll find plenty of options. From luxury resorts to cheap & cheerful guesthouses,  Chiang Mai has plenty of accommodation. Thais are warm, friendly and honest people when treated with respect. Keep this in mind when looking for a place.

We’ve written an entire piece on places to stay in Chiang Mai.

WHERE TO EAT IN CHIANG MAI

Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Thailand with Kids

One of my favorite things to do in Thailand is EAT!. In my opinion, some of the best places to eat in Chiang Mai with kids or anyone else are the street stalls and night markets. The food is fresh and delicious. Our personal favorites were the stalls near Chang Phuak Gate, just north of the moat.

There are countless great restaurants and cafes throughout the city, too. Here are few places to eat in Chiang Mai that I can recommend without hesitation.

Lemon Tree

This was our regular dinner spot, as it was right across from our apartment. Expect good food with friendly, attentive staff that are sweet on children. We ate there at least once a week — often twice if you count takeout. There were a few tables on the roof as well.

Salad Concept

There are many excellent food options along Nimmanhaemin road. Salad Concept does high-end veggie well, with amazing desserts.

When we craved raw veggies, we ate here. Raw salads are actually hard to find in some places in Southeast Asia. Thai street food is great but usually cooked well with oil and spices.

Burmese Food and Library

This is one of our favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai with kids. No, there aren’t books for you to check out. A simple stall where you can fill up on catfish and pennywort salad for next to nothing. They offer quite an extensive range of food to try. This is more like a street stall with indoor seating.

Dash

If you are looking for something more upscale, I’d head to Dash for fine dining in an old teak house. It gets super crowded with tourists for dinner, so it’s better to go early to get a table. If not, make a reservation. If you try to avoid the crowd and go there later, you may have less to choose from since they run out of food.

  • Read what others say about Dash.

Amazing Sandwich

The shop Amazing Sandwich scratched an itch for us. Exactly how “amazing” the sandwiches are to you may depend on how long it’s been since you’ve actually had a sandwich. We loved it, but then again we hadn’t eaten western food in months by that time. They also have an extensive western breakfast menu, with maybe a dozen egg-bread-and-coffee-or-tea combinations.

Blue Diamond Breakfast Club

This was my daughter’s favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai. We often ate here after her art classes at Noina’s. Huge variety of dishes, and plenty of veggie/vegan options, too. Plenty of yummy baked good to buy on your way out for breakfast the following morning as well.

Free Bird Cafe

And finally, there’s Free Bird Cafe, a nice veggie restaurant along the moat run by activist-leaning expats. This would be a nice option for vegans. It’s a small cafe with just enough staff. So expect to wait to be seated and to be served. Their profits support Burmese refugees in Chiang Mai.

COFFEE SHOPS IN CHIANG MAI

There are countless coffee shops in Chiang Mai, and I could tell you about every cafe that I worked in on my own or hung out in with kids. However, to be honest, I’d just rather tell you about two that I frequented and I thought were good for both solo online work or family time. There are many more, but these two were my main stops.

Akha Ama

As for cafes in Chiang Mai, they’re all over the place, and the coffee is usually good to great. Akha Ama’s coffee, however, is by far the best coffee I had in the country.

Chiang Mai: Akha Ama cafe, Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide Chiang Mai with kids

Akha Ama is a fair trade coffee company with locally sourced beans which they roast themselves. It’s a great place to buy some beans as souvenirs, as well.

I discovered that they’re getting involved in the cold-filtered coffee in bottles. Great stuff. Don’t expect to eat here, though.

iBerry Garden

As much for desserts and scenery as it is for coffee, the grounds of iBerry Garden are a thing to do in Chiang Mai with kids in itself. Bizzare statues and sculptures provide the backdrop while you drink iced lattes and eat waffles with ice cream.

FAMILY SHOPPING IN CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS

Chiang Mai with Kids: Market sepak takraw. Chiang Mai: Akha Ama cafe, Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide shopping

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There are at least a dozen fun markets to explore in Chiang Mai with kids, but your enjoyment of these can vary depending on how many Southeast Asian markets you’ve already seen.

For example, many people recommend the Night Bazaar, but if you’re tired of stands selling knockoff watches, novelty T-shirts, and other low-end souvenirs, then there’s not much reason to go here except for people-watching.

That said, here are a few of the markets that I would recommend when in Chiang Mai with kids.

The North Gate & South Gate Markets

These were regular places for us to eat, and when friends visited, it was a place to have a few beers, as well. Not much shopping here, but we enjoyed the food.

The Warorot Market

This one’s in Chinatown. I know that I just implied that I’ve tired of knockoffs, and I admit that you’ll find many here, but the food options, Chinese herbal stands and sheer vastness of it all appealed to us. And also it had utilitarian benefits: need a new flashlight? Maybe a cheap poncho or a set of hair clippers? They’ve got you covered. Great place for practical shopping in Chiang Mai with kids.

The Saturday Night Walking Street Market

Not to be confused with the Sunday Walking Street Market, which was much larger and much, much more crowded every time we went. Sunday’s night market is nice but damn near impossible to find a place to stand or to eat.

We preferred the Saturday market. That’s where our boy found his sepak takraw ball.

Kham Tiang Flower Market

Just for the photo opportunities, really. Lots and lots of tropical flowers. There are many, many more markets, and feel free to explore them all. These were just the specific ones that we enjoyed.

Chiang Mai Malls & Shopping Centers

If you’ve been traveling a while, then you know that your kids may need some downtime away from the unfamiliar. For better or worse, the mall is the “familiar” for many kids. Malls are climate-controlled and a refuge from motorcycle traffic. We used them here and there for shopping, for wifi, for food and for entertainment, such as a first-run movie at Maya or the strangely fascinating cover band in the basement food court on the weekend at Kad Suan Kaew. 

If you’re in Chiang Mai with children and looking for an indoor, air-conditioned refuge, here are a few we can recommend.

Kad Suan Kaew

A bizarre mix of shops, night market eats, abandoned spaces, and purveyors of digital nomad gear such as external hard drives, headsets, and wireless keyboards. We ate many meals at the weekend market outside and the stalls in the basement any day of the week. Keiko had several good, cheap foot massages here. Free wifi available here and there.

Maya

This high-end shopping mall opened in January 2014. You can find pretty much anything you see at home here with high-end prices for Chiang Mai standard, as you can expect. There’s a co-working place called CAMP on the upper floor and many affordable takeout eateries in the basement.

Central Airport Plaza

This cavernous and comprehensive shopping center is close to the airport (thus the name) and is replete with a western-style food court and clothing shops.

Pantip Plaza

Shop after shop of electronics. It’s famous and loved by many, but I found it random, confusing and (to my eyes) full of crap. Then again, perhaps I just don’t know where the good stuff is. The Chiang Mai Drama Centre meets here as well.

Need Luggage? Read About the Best Backpacks,  Carry-on Bags and Check-in Suitcases 

GETTING AROUND CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS

songthaew getting around Chiang Mai with kids

Compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is very small. Once a walled city, people still refer to “inside the moat” and “outside the moat.” This makes getting around Chiang Mai with kids relatively easy.

On Foot

Much of Chiang Mai City is walkable — the old city inside the gates is not that large, and many of the main roads outside the city have decent sidewalks. If you’re willing to walk and don’t want to rent a scooter, you can easily navigate all of Chiang Mai by walking.

On Wheels

Songthaews are trucks with seats in the back that act as minibusses. They are ubiquitous and cheap. Just make sure to confirm where you’re going and have exact change (or close to it), as sometimes drivers can’t/won’t break big bills. Tuk Tuks are fun as a novelty and sometimes required when no other choices exist, but in general, run more expensive than the alternatives in the long term.

Scooter Rental

Personally, we like riding together and the freedom it gives us, so we rented scooters. Scooters and motorcycles are fairly cheap by the week or month and having one really opens up more opportunity to see and do more in a day.

Riding motorcycles is one of our favorite things to do in Southeast Asia, but we urge you to use caution and restraint when considering this option. If you’re not familiar with ri riding scooters or motorcycles in Thailand, then really think about if you should. Thailand has very high traffic accident rates.

Coocase Scooter. Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide

We rented our wheels from Coocase Boutique, the company that makes those stylish, lockable cases you see on the back of scooters around the country. Whether you’re toting kids around or not, it’s nice to have one of these cases behind you to store your stuff, and it’s an added bonus to know that your kid/passenger is safer & more comfortable with something to lean back on.

Riding scooters opens up more chances for injury as well, but if you drive carefully and learn the flow of traffic, it’s worth it. Thais drive on the left side, so make that mental adjustment if you are not used to it.

When renting your ride, don’t forget to make everything clear: scooter conditions, accident policy, theft protection, etc. Also, when picking up the bike for the first time, take photos of any scratches or dents. The rental staff may do this too, but do it yourself. It doesn’t hurt if they see you doing it, as well.

But to be clear, scooters are not essential. If you are not comfortable with driving in this situation, there’s no need to push yourself. You can still enjoy Chiang Mai with kids without riding scooters.

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INTERNET & PHONE: CHIANG MAI FAMILY TRAVEL

Internet cafes are everywhere in Chiang Mai and wi-fi is all over. You should find internet access in nearly any hotel and guesthouse, as well as many restaurants aimed at tourists, too. There are a number of high-speed wifi coffee houses inside the moat, but the highest concentration of places is probably the Nimmanhemin are and the roads surrounding it.

If you have an unlocked smart device, then I’d recommend picking up a SIM card at the airport. We used Thailand’s True, but I’d check each provider’s stall to see what is best for you.

Chiang Mai-Related Posts:

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Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Thailand Family Travel Guide PIN

Long-term: Chiang Mai with Kids or Penang with Kids?

Southeast Asia with Kids: Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Our Family Travel Guide, thailand, thai,

We’ve spent extended periods of time in both Chiang Mai and Penang, Malaysia. When we were looking for a place to settle for a year or so, we chose Penang instead of Chiang Mai. I wrote a post explaining why we chose Penang, but other families may come to a different conclusion.

I’ve met several families who prefer Chiang Mai to Penang, but if you’re wondering our logic, you can read about it here.

Further Reading:

HAVE YOU BEEN TO CHIANG MAI WITH KIDS?

This list covers a lot, but it certainly isn’t everything we could recommend to do here. We totally enjoyed traveling Chiang Mai with kids. Have you been to Chiang Mai with children? What were your favorite things to do in Chiang Mai?

What did I miss? Tell us in the comments below or contact me.

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Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Thailand Family Travel Guide PIN
Things to Do in Chiang Mai with Kids: Thailand Family Travel Guide PIN

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find things to do in Chiang Mai with kids. If you visit Chiang Mai with children and have constructive feedback on this post, please let me know! I want to keep it updated. 

Image credit  #3, #4, #7, #10, #21, #24

Comments

  1. Lisa Reeve says:

    This page has been really helpful, thank you! We have been to Chiang Mai as a couple and now returning with kids so nice to get some ideas. Totally agree with the animal exploitation around, we won’t be riding elephants. We would like to visit a hill tribe in our time in either Bangkok, CM or Phuket. Is there one you’d recommend?

    • Hi Lisa. Our only experience with hill tribes was when we rode our scooters out to Doi Pui Mong. It seemed constructed as a tourist attraction, so the authenticity is questionable. You’ll be looking for hill tribe experiences while in the north (Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai), but make sure to research well regarding exploitation. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t explore it further.

  2. Great post! I recently stumbled upon this quirky breakfast shop in Chiang Mai that I think kids will LOVE: deep-fried dragons, dinosaurs and crocodile fritters, absolutely fun and delicious: http://ricepotato.co/pathongko-ko-neng-chiang-mai/

  3. What an awesome guide! We’re just planning a few days in Chiang Mai (in March, no less) due to the schedule on our RTW – but your post is making me wish that we had much, much longer!

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