Things to Do in Penang with Kids (or Without) – What to Do in Penang

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Things to do in Penang…wondering what to do in Penang with kids? Or looking for Penang attractions for the foodie, the romantic or the history lover? Looking for fun Penang activities? You’ll find plenty of insight on Penang attractions here. There are so many things to do in Penang Malaysia that you’d have to stay for months to do them all. Well, that’s what we did. In fact, I often recommend this little Malaysian island as a starting point for first-time family travel in Southeast Asia, and for anyone new to traveling in Asia in general.

You’ll find lots of fun things to do in Penang, no matter what kind of traveler you are: from 20-something backpackers to retired luxury travelers, there are Penang attractions for all of you — especially adventurous family travelers like us! Read on to find out about the best Penang attractions, Penang tours, Penang street food, Penang weather and much more.

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Things to Do in Penang With Kids…or Without

Penang is a fantastic window into Asia, and Penang travel is safe, affordable, and welcoming, with a unique mix of the familiar and the exotic. Most locals are helpful and fluent in English (especially in the cities), and there are a dizzying array of cultures and cuisines to experience. We love the food in Penang — both the spicy and non-spicy versions.

Like the rest of Malaysia, the mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and British history permeates all Penang attractions. While Kuala Lumpur has the urban sprawl, this little island near the Thai border has beaches, parks and the UNESCO Heritage site, Georgetown. Want more of a tropical island vibe? Langkawi and Krabi aren’t far away.

We’ve been in and out of Malaysia with kids multiple times since 2013. I can say that Penang is one of the best destinations in Southeast Asia. Below I’ve listed up a few of our favorite things to do in Penang with kids, but most of these Penang attractions are great for travelers of any age.

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Penang Tours: What to Do in Penang

If your time is limited or you want the insight of a local, then arrange some Penang tours early in your trip. There are many things to do in Penang, and some are more interesting and enjoyable with an experienced guide. For example, without a guide at the Tropical Spice Garden (listed below), we wouldn’t have learned about the spice trades that enriched Penang, or how each of the plants around us played a role in all the delicious food in Penang we had grown to love. In other words, the Spice Garden would have been boring, but instead, it was a highlight. Out of all the things to do in Penang, plan a Penang tour based on your interests near the beginning of your trip so that you can use their advice (or return to a recommended restaurant) before you leave.  

Private Historical Georgetown Tour (Half Day)

Georgetown Heritage Tour

Morning Discovery Penang Tours

Penang City Tour

Penang Hill & Kek Lok Si Temple Afternoon Penang Tours

Small Group Penang Food Tour

Explore Georgetown Penang Tour

Penang Attractions – Top Things to Do in Penang Malaysia

There are many things to do in Penang with kids, and the Penang tours above are a good place to start if you’re new to the island. For those who want to explore on their own, here are our family’s favorite things to do in Penang. There are even more Penang attractions that I could recommend, but let’s start with some of our top choices.

Entopia (The Butterfly Farm)

Penang butterfly farm - what to do in Penang with kids

This Penang butterfly farm is one of the most popular things to do in Penang with kids and for good reason. Bring the camera, because everyone will want a picture when a butterfly lands on them. Expect hundreds of them fluttering around this indoor greenhouse.

Please make sure the kids know NOT to touch the butterflies — even if they see other people pawing at them. Anyone walking in this Penang butterfly farm should know that it’s ok for the butterflies to land on them, but don’t grab them out of the air. Also, remember that the garden is only half of the facility. Save some time for the indoor exhibits as well. You will see spiders, snakes, scorpions, and other creepy crawlies in there. Oh, and nice cool air conditioning inside, as well.

Buy Tickets to Entopia Butterfly Farm

The Tropical Spice Garden

Things to do in Penang Malaysia: Tropical Spice Garden

Spices and the spice trade played an important role in Malaysia’s history. At the Tropical Spice Garden, you get to learn a bit about the spices grown here and their uses — both in the past and present day. It doesn’t appear very manicured, so to the untrained eye, the place may look like an abandoned, overgrown park, but this is one of our favorite Penang attractions. There is a lot to learn here. This is what to do in Penang for anyone with an interest in history, botany and culinary traditions.

You should definitely pay for a guide. Their knowledge and presentation made it interesting for all of us. Without this guy telling us the history and application of these plants, the kids and I would have grown bored rather quickly. But because this was a Penang tour with a professional guide, it became one of our favorite things to do in Penang with kids.

Buy Tickets to Tropical Spice Garden

Read our full review on the Tropical Spice Garden in Penang

Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang)

Hike in the Taman Negara National Park - Penang attractions

The hike at Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang) was one of our favorite things to do in Penang with kids, and we brought visiting guests to hike with us regularly. It is a mix of paved paths, steps and dirt trail. It’s not a difficult hike, but not stroller-friendly at all, FYI. The first 20 minutes are the hardest/steepest.

Our usual routine was to hike to Turtle Beach where there is a refuge for baby sea turtles. From there, we have a hired boat meet us (80-120RM, depending on the number of people). The boat would then take us to Monkey Beach, where we stop for a snack. After snack time and some rope swings on the beach, the boat would bring us back to the park entrance. There is a canopy walk in the park, as well, but I’d advise you to skip it. It’s not en-route, not that high off the ground and frequently closed anyway.

Monkey Beach in Penang Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia - Penang attractions

For the boat ride, there may be a number of stalls and dudes on folding chairs near the park entrance who will offer their services. In our experience, they are more expensive than the main stand: a wooden pavilion right next to the main parking lot entrance (see image below).

Taman Negara Penang National Park - Boat Ride - Penang activities

The hike usually took us about 45-75 minutes, depending on how many kids we had with us and how often we stopped for water breaks. We usually asked the boat to meet us at Turtle Beach 90 minutes later. That was usually enough time for us to check out the turtle reserve or splash in the water for a bit before we headed out. Penang beaches aren’t great in general, compared to places in Thailand, but the beaches here are worth a little time. Monkey Beach has changed a lot over the years, and I’ve heard the place has gone downhill. That’s because of more jet skis and other tourist stuff in the area, but I still think it’s one of the fun things to do in Penang.

Penang Hiking Tips

I highly recommend wearing both sunscreen and insect repellent. Penang weather is hot & humid, so bring plenty of water, of course. We usually brought two large water bottles (one frozen, one unfrozen) and two small water bottles. The frozen bottle will keep providing cold refreshing water as it melts throughout the hike.

Read More Tips on Travel in Southeast Asia with Kids.

Penang Hill

Penang Hill - Things to do in Penang with Kids, Malaysia Family Travel Guide

The funicular train station here dates back to the 1700s and is one of the main Penang attractions for some tourists. This is a fun thing to do in Penang with kids or with anyone, but avoid going on a weekend unless you have no other time available.

We foolishly went there on a Sunday when we were new to the area. As a result, we were completely stuck in the traffic on the way there. Then we couldn’t find a place to park. When we finally arrived, there was a “2-hour wait” sign for the train, so we just left and came back the following Tuesday. It’s still one of the most enjoyable things to do in Penang on a weekday, with nice views of the area (Penang weather permitting). There are a few restaurants and minor attractions at the top of the hill.

Penang Hill is open daily from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm (last train from the top). Round trip tickets for the train to the top are 30RM for adults, 5RM for 4-6 y/o, and 15RM for students (up to University). You can get there by bus#204 from Komtar at 2RM.

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani (a.k.a. Waterfall Hilltop Temple)

Things to do in Penang with Kids: Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani (a.k.a. Waterfall Hilltop Temple)

This Tamil Hindu temple I’m recommending here is simple and plain compared to Kek Lok Si and other Chinese temples, Yet we still consider it one of the interesting things to do in Penang Malaysia, especially if you’re not familiar Hindu religious sites. It’s also recommended thing to do in Penang with kids because the path is relatively easy and spacious. The view from the top of a hill overlooks a nice part of Georgetown and the ocean beyond.

It’s not stroller friendly, but I also recommend it as a thing to do in Penang with kids because the path is relatively easy and spacious. The 511 steps to the top are clean, wide and at a slowly ascending angle, making it an easy hike for kids and parents who enjoy climbing hills without huffing and puffing. The temple itself is interesting, too, especially if you aren’t as familiar with the Hindu deities.

If you’re in Penang with kids near the beginning of the year, the Thaipusam festival is observed by thousands of Tamil residents here and is definitely worth a visit. I’ll admit that it can be rough for some families — there is lots of piercing and other bloody expressions of spiritualism — so judge for yourself. This only happens during Thaipusam

Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani is located on Jalan Kebun Bunga, about a 10-min drive from Gurney Plaza. They open at 6:45 am and close at 12:30 pm, but reopen from 4:30 pm until 9:15 pm. If interested, please check their website for a detailed prayer schedule. 

The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion & Pinang Peranakan Mansion

what to do in Penang with Kids, Peranakan Mansion

These Penang attractions are under-appreciated gems. Lots of people talk about the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion as what to do in Penang. We thought, however, the Pinang Peranakan Mansion was a much better option for several reasons. But they are both fascinating things to do in Penang. At Peranakan, you’re free to walk around as you please. While at Cheong Fatt Tze, you must stay with a group guide and enter/exit at designated times (only 3 times a day for a 45-min tour). The story of Cheong Fatt Tze and his home is very interesting, but my kids were ready to wander around, which is not allowed at the Cheong Fatt Tze. That said, the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion is one of the most popular things to do in Penang Malaysia, so get there early for the set tour start times. 

Read More: Things to Do in Penang: The Blue Mansion vs The Peranakan Mansion

Pinang Peranakan Mansion is open every day, even on National holidays, from 9:30am-5: 00 pm. It is located on Church Street in Georgetown. Admission is 20RM, but free for kids under 6 y/o.  

Within 10min walk, you can get to Penang 3D Trick Art Museum, Fort Cornwallis, Little India, Kapitan Keling Mosque, and more. All extra things to do in Penang worth your time. 

Penang Movie Theaters

Want to escape the heat for a few hours? Need some shelter during an afternoon rainstorm? Head to the cinema. It’s what to do in Penang on a rainy day. Malaysia has top-class cinemas, and unlike some places in Asia (I’m looking at you, Thailand and Japan), Malaysian box office prices for first-run movies are incredibly cheap. For example, tickets for two adults and two kids cost about 40RM (less than USD $10 at the time of writing). Going to the movies is a great thing to do in Penang — and in Malaysia in general — but there are a few things you should know:

Tips for Malaysian Movie Theaters

  • Bring a jacket: I know, I know, Penang is hot and humid year-round. Thus, Malaysians love air conditioning, and their shopping malls can feel downright frosty. The movie theaters are even colder.
  • See featured movies soon. These cineplexes may have a dozen theaters, but movie turnover is fast and merciless here. In Malaysia, there are a lot of English language movies. There are also the latest films in Bahasa Melayu (Malay), Cantonese, Mandarin, Tamil, Hindi and occasionally other languages.
  • And finally, no outside food & drink allowed. Yes, I know, most theaters in the West are the same. But when you’ve got used to carrying in a sandwich, a six-pack, and some dessert while living in Japan and Taiwan, I just have to mention it.

The malls with our favorite movie theaters Penang were Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon. They are less than a hundred meters from each other so check the times at both.

Kid-Specific Things to Do in Penang

Here are a few Penang attractions for the young and young-at-heart. If you are specifically looking for what to do in Penang with kids, then check these out.

ESCAPE Adventure Park

Escape Adventure Park - Things to do in Penang with kids

This Penang attraction is what happens when you mix a jungle gym, an obstacle course. and an amusement park. There’s plenty of action here, with zip lines, rope ladders, and other opportunities for a child to test their strength, balance, and imperviousness to danger. Parents of daredevils will consider this one of the best things to do in Penang with kids.

Keep in mind that kids below six aren’t allowed on many of the activities, and there can be long lines, depending on when you go (ie. school holiday season, national holiday). I would highly recommend arriving right when it opens or before. Then you have a choice to enjoy the most and leave earlier, or stay there all day long and be thoroughly exhausted.

Buy Tickets to ESCAPE Adventure-play Theme Park

Adventure Zone

adventure zone - Things to do in Penang with kids

Afraid of heights? Or are your kids too small for the ESCAPE experience mentioned above? If so, then Adventure Zone is what to do in Penang. This is an indoor playground with plenty of slides, nets and padded corners. There are nets and bouncy-castle like hills to climb, as well as a maze-like structure that’s fun to play hide-and-seek in. This is one of those things to do in Penang with kids that any primary schooler can enjoy.

It’s on the grounds of the Shangri-la Hotel, but you don’t have to stay at the hotel to visit. Another benefit is that it is air-conditioned and has a cafe with wifi. You can have a coffee and check your mail (or actually work for an hour or two) while the kids wear themselves out. They sell water bottles, too, but at some exorbitant price that I refuse to pay. Kids get so hot running around — as do I while chasing them around — so we always snuck one of our own water bottles in. Definitely a great thing to do in Penang on a rainy day or when you need some laptop time while the kids play.

Remember: All children must wear socks here, and kids who do the super-duper slides (see pic) are required to wear a long-sleeved shirt. This is for a good reason: you’ll get a friction burn on your elbows/ankles if you don’t.

Penang Municipal Park (a.k.a. Youth Park, or Taman Perbandaran)

Penang Municipal Park, Taman Perbandaran things to do in Penang with kids

If you want to meet local children and their families, then Penang Park is one of the best things to do with kids in Penang on a weekend. That goes double if you just want to bring your kids to a big, clean green space. There are two large, nice public pools and lots of play and action going on. You’ll also find a skate park, a playground, exercise equipment and plenty of room.

There are a small cafe and snack bar here, but no dependable Penang food options in our experience. Occasionally a laksa or noodle stand is set up, but otherwise, it’s only chips, ice cream, and coffee from the cafe. As you can see in the picture, many (both kids and adults) play in the water wearing their clothes. You don’t have to do so, but be aware of Muslim modesty. If you wear revealing swimwear, you might be the center of the attention.

Penang Municipal Park is located on Persiaran Kuari road close to Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani, about 15 min. drive from Gurney Plaza. Plenty of parking, but it fills up quickly on the weekend. 

More Things to Do in Penang with Kids (Long-Term)

Malaysia is a great place to stay for months or longer, and there are enough things to do in Penang that you could return multiple times and not do the same thing twice. Once you’ve got the famous Penang attractions out of the way and want to settle into more than one-off activities, you might want to consider these things to do in Penang.

Penang Performing Art Center (PenangPAC)

Penang with Kids, Penang Performing Art Center (PenangPAC), Malaysia Family Travel Guide

Our girl loves dance and drama, so she attended Penang PAC’s Holiday Art Camp for two years in a row. It’s a week long, and she was there all day (bring-your-own-lunch). Each day the camp focused on a different aspect of the theater: acting, music, dance, and art (they made their own costumes), all of which culminated in a performance on the final day. She loved it. The Penang PAC now also has more drama classes for kids.

Penang Performing Art Center is located at the same complex as Straits Quay. Holiday Art Camp is usually held at the end of Nov to early Dec. They have regular dance and drama classes from March every year. Our girl couldn’t join due to schedule conflicts, but it sure seems like great things to do in Penang with kids who love the theater. If interested, check their site for more details.

Kids Computer Lessons in Penang

Once a week, our kids attended computer lessons at a place called KidsComp (now called Evo Learning Centre). We’d drop them off for group classes with local kids, where they learned how to use Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. The projects felt like fun instead of work. Our kids had never learned how to use PC at school before we left for traveling. Within 6 months they were comfortable creating their own powerpoint presentation.

Evo Learning Centre is located on 443 H Jalan Burma, about 5min drive from Gurney Plaza. They are very accommodating when we were there. If you miss a class and pre-notify them, they will reschedule your class for another date/time. Great educational things to do in Penang with kids. 

DLRC at Dalat International School

Penang with Kids, Dalat Tug of War, Malaysia

The Distance Learning Resource Center (DLRC) at Dalat International School is definitely what to do in Penang with kids if you’re staying a while. It played a huge role in our family’s time in Penang. The kids weren’t enrolled at the school. They didn’t wear the uniform or attend classes (we were homeschooling at the time).

Instead, we paid the school a set fee so the kids had access to the library and could join after-school clubs with the student body. These two things alone were priceless for us. A stocked English-language library, just when we were teaching our kids to read and write in English. Then, of course, there was the regular fun and play with kids around their age. Over the course of a year, my girl took gardening, chess, paper mache, and gymnastics, among others. My son took a handful of similar classes and was able to join the school’s soccer team.

Dalat International School is located next to Rainbow Paradise Beach Resort on the main road from Georgetown heading to Batu Ferringhi. There is a large sign facing the road. If interested, please check the school website for admission procedure to join DLRC. One of the best things to do in Penang with kids. 

Kids Guitar Lessons in Penang

At Cornerstone Music in Tanjung Bungah, instructors Nixon and Sooli met with our kids every Friday for casual guitar lessons. They teach guitar, piano, drums, saxophone and more. They were very flexible to rescheduling lessons as long as we notified them ahead of time.

Cornerstone Music is located at 125 -U, 2nd Floor, Desa Tanjung, Jalan Tanjung Tokong, across from Island Plaza where Luxfort 118 Service Suites is in. You can contact Nixon by phone: +60 (0)12 473 1916 One of the great things to do in Penang Malaysia for the musically minded.

Soccer/Football for Kids in Penang

Our son is obsessed with football, but before he played in Spain, we were looking for teams in every country we lived in. That includes Penang Malaysia. If you have kids into soccer, then joining a local team is one of the best things to do in Penang. There they get to play regularly and interact with other kids in the area — local and otherwise.

Penang with Kids, Soccer weekends, Penang Football Club

Basic Touch Football Academy

This group meets early Sunday mornings and is a mix of local Malay, Chinese and Indian kids, as well as some expats. When my boy attended, the focus seemed to be mostly on endurance and ball skills with a short scrimmage at the end of practice. Our boy liked the team but wanted to play more than just Sunday, so our search continued…

They practice every Sunday at 8:00 am and are open to boys or girls aged between 7 to 18 y/o. They offer a free trial. Usually, they gather at the field located off of Jalan D.S. Ramanathan (at the back side of Adventist Hospital). If interested, please check their facebook page for more details. 

Penang with Kids, Penang Panthers, Football in Malaysia

The Penang Panthers

This is a local team with local players. I think my son was one of the only non-Malay, non-Muslim players (there were a few Chinese-Malay kids on the older team). When my boy wanted to play more than once a week, one of the coaches from another team suggested this group and told us where/when they usually play.  We just showed up and asked if our boy could join.

They said yes, and were very welcoming to us. That said, a lot of the coaching was in Bahasa Melayu, the Malay language. We occasionally had misunderstandings about a change of the time/location of a practice or game. It all worked out though and one of our boy’s favorite things to do in Penang while we were there. I even helped them set up some friendly matches with the local Japanese school.

The Penang Panthers usually meet at the ground of Penang Free School, off of Jalan Masjid Negeri at 5:00 pm on Saturday and 8:00 am on Sunday (start time can be extremely loose).

Penang Hotels – Where to Stay in Penang

Where are the best Penang hotels for you or your family? It depends on what kind of travel you want and what Penang attractions you’re most interested in. Do you want to chill and eat? Or do you want to hit the town and learn about the area? What are your top things to do in Penang, and where are they? Questions like these will help you determine where to stay in Penang. For the full hotel report, follow the link below.

Read More: Best Hotels in Penang — Penang Budget Hotels, Family Resorts & More

But for just a few of the Penang hotels we suggest, here’s a quick guide:

Georgetown

Where to Stay in Penang, Blue Mansion

If your main things to do in Penang is are UNESCO World Heritage locations, then stay in Georgetown.

  • The Pros: easy access to almost all of the historic Penang attractions and the Penang street food options that surround downtown.
  • The Cons: most of downtown Georgetown is noisier and smellier than other neighborhoods.

Batu Ferringhi

what to do in Penang Malaysia. Boat Monkey Beach

If your main things to do in Penang are to relax, take in an attraction here and there, and just put your feet in the sand, then consider Batu Ferringhi. It’s located further north up a windy, two-lane road that snakes alongside the side of the island.

The pros: it’s quieter and more laid back. It’s also closer to Escape, the Butterfly Farm, the Spice Garden, and the National Park.

The cons: it’s rather sleepy in the evenings, and requires a drive or bus ride for any activities in Georgetown.

Tanjung Bungah

When we stayed in Penang longer-term, we chose an apartment in-between these two places in an area called Tanjung Bungah. The good part about this was that we were more-or-less equidistant from both Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi, and also in an expat-friendly place. The kids had guitar lessons and computer lessons nearby, and there were a variety of reasonably-priced Penang restaurants to keep us all happy. We were close to Indian, German, Vietnamese, Korean, burgers, and plenty of Malay hawker stalls. Most importantly, there was Dalat International School nearby that had a distance learning program for the kids.

Where to Stay in Georgetown

If you’re interested in the historic things to do in Penang, then stay in Georgetown. Here are a few recommended Georgetown hotels.

Eastern & Oriental Hotel

This exquisite building is a slice of Malaysian’s colonial history in and of itself. These impeccably restored buildings have seen two world wars, and the service and atmosphere have an ambiance of a time long gone. The location puts you within walking distance of Georgetown’s historic district and all the Penang attractions found there. The lunch buffet here is quite amazing, as well.

Check Availability: Eastern & Oriental Hotel at Booking.com

Compare Prices: Eastern & Oriental Hotel at HotelsCombined

Read: What others say about Eastern & Oriental Hotel

Chulia Heritage Hotel

Penang with Kids, Chulia Hotel, Malaysia Family Travel Guide

This more budget-friendly option may not be for everyone, but we loved it. This is also set in a historic building — in this case, an old Chinese shophouse — although it creaks quite a bit more than the E&O above. The showers are separate, in private stalls down the hall, and the upper floor rooms branch off from a surreal white foyer. The Chulia Heritage Hotel is right in Georgetown’s historic district, so you have the city’s sights and great Penang street food all around you.

Check Availability: Chulia Heritage Hotel at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Chulia Heritage Hotel

Yeng Keng Hotel

If you are looking for heritage experience without the price of a 5-star hotel, Yeng Keng Hotel is where to stay in Penang. Right next to Chulia Heritage Hotel, the Yeng Keng Hotel was originally built in the 1800s as a private residence and maintained very well by current management.

Check Availability: Yeng Keng Hotel at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Yeng Keng Hotel

Where to stay in Batu Ferringhi

If you want to be closer to the beach and away from the sounds of the city, then Batu Ferringhi hotels are where to stay in Penang. The national park, the ESCAPE amusement area and more outdoor things to do in Penang are here in the north of the island.

Lone Pine Hotel

Penang with Kids, Where to Stay in Penang, Batu Ferringhi, Lone Pine Hotel

Owned by the folks at Eastern & Oriental, this is a well-designed Penang hotel right on the beach. The meals here aren’t too shabby, either: we came here for their Christmas Buffet two years in a row. Close to Long Beach, a famous Penang hawker center and night market.

Check Availability: Lone Pine Hotel at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Lone Pine Hotel

Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La

This isn’t humble accommodation, but rather a full-on Penang resort with plenty of space, huge pools with mini waterslides, lounges, restaurants, and service. Adventure Zone is built into its property. Also one of the best strips of Penang beach on the island.

Check Availability: Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La

Hard Rock Hotel Penang

This Penang hotel is very family friendly. They not only have the best pool in Penang but also offer a kids club (4-12 y/o) and a teen club (for 12-18 y/o) with no extra fee. This gives tired parents an opportunity to chill while kids tire themselves out. The Hard Rock is located near the end of Batu Ferringhi road, less than 10 minutes from Tropical Spice Garden, Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang), and ESCAPE. If you’re in Penang with kids on the first Saturday of the month, their foam parties are a huge hit. Because of the location and amenities here, many guests who choose this place skip most of the things to do in Penang and just relax here.

Check Availability: Hard Rock Hotel Penang at Booking.com

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Read: What others say about Hard Rock Hotel Penang

Airbnb: Where to Stay in Penang

We stayed at two different AirBnB apartments while in Penang and had interesting experiences. The first, in the Sri Sayang Building in Batu Ferringhi, was excellent. The owner understood the needs for long term travelers like us and helped us accordingly. That said, the quality of places here can vary wildly.

The second, closer to downtown, started off as a challenge. We stayed at a place where it was secretly set in a “tenant only” complex which created small issues between travelers like us and residents there (some residents complained about us using the pool which was only for residents). And there were other challenges, but in the end, it all worked out, the owners were nice and the location is pretty good.

Get US$40 off for your first stay at Airbnb!

Where to Eat in Penang – Penang Food

Okay, so you probably already know that Penang is considered a culinary destination and that many food tourists have it on their bucket lists. We *love* Malaysian food! One of the best things to do in Penang with kids is to EAT all the things. It’s what to do in Penang for most Asian travelers. And unlike Chiang Mai, Thailand where chili pepper is cooked into most dishes, it’s easy to eat in Penang with children or anyone who can’t take spicy food. Listed below are just a few of the many, many places we frequented. I’ve divided them into the top-3 areas where we ate most often: Georgetown, Tanjung Bungah, and Batu Ferringhi.

Read More: Non-Spicy Food in Malaysia – Malaysian Food You Should Try

Georgetown – Where to Eat in Penang

where to eat in Penang with Kids, Dim Sum, Malaysia Family Travel Guide

Walking and eating. Walk some more, eat some more. It’s my favorite thing to do in Georgetown. There is so much good food in the old town that it’s hard to limit to just a few places!

NR Sweets (Indian confectionary and Vegetarian Food)

As the name suggests, this place is best known for the Indian sweets in the glassed-in counter up front, but they also have a cheap and amazing vegetarian menu. In fact, we only liked their vegetarian meals. The confectionaries are a bit too sweet for us.

Red Garden (Hawker Stalls)

There are many hawker centers in Georgetown, but this was one of our favorites. It’s right next to some big Penang attractions like the Cheong Fat Tze Mansion, so it’s easy to find, and they seemed to have a wider variety of Penang street food stalls. Along with the requisite Chinese, Malay, Indian/Sri Lankan, and Western stalls, Red Garden also had Taiwanese, Filipino, Korean and Japanese food available. At one point they even had a great Western desserts stall, with killer brownies and crème brûlée (but that stall closed, sadly).

Sin Kim San Cafe (Hawker stalls)

Not the most famous of hawker centers, but one we frequented a lot. Hokkien Mee and Curry Fishhead for me. Satay, popiah, oyster pancakes and pineapple pizza for the family. Yes, pizza. To our surprise, their pizza is pretty good for Hawker stall standard. Not frozen and microwaved pizza, but handmade baked in the wood-fired oven.

Nasi Kandar Line Clear

This is the famous Nasi Kandar (Indian-style curry rice) cafeteria in Penang. It’s good. It’s dependable, and it’s 24 hours. You pick your rice (white rice or biryani) and then add your choice of curried and cooked meats and vegetable in steel trays. This can be spicy, so ask what isn’t if that’s not your thing. To be completely honest, I like Lidiana (Nasi Malayu) for a similar taste, but when I’m downtown, this is where to eat in Georgetown.  

The Wan Tan Men Lady

I wish I could give you an address, but this little grandma just has a cart on the side of the road. The link here is for the exact location where I’d find her, but I have no idea if she’s still setting up shop there. This was my son’s and my favorite place for lunch.

Tanjung Bungah – Where to Eat in Penang

Penang with Kids, Where to eat, Ghee Thosai at Sri ananda gawan

Sri Ananda Bahwan (Indian, Sri Lankan, and Malay)

This is another Penang restaurant chain found all over the island and in many other cities in Malaysia. Dinners are good, but we went there mostly for roti and dosa breakfasts. I miss this more than almost any other places to eat in Penang. Some of the best Indian and Sri Lankan food in Penang. 

Lidiana (Malaysian)

Hands-down my favorite restaurant in Malaysia. Not favorite restaurant in Penang. In Malaysia. It’s just an open-air cafeteria in a wall-less shack near the famous Floating Mosque, and it serves the best Nasi Malayu (Malaysian-style curry rice and vegetables) that I’ve ever had. This place was in walking distance of our apartment and we ate lunch here at least twice a week. At least twice a week. I loved it so much that I wrote a full review on Lidiana.

Sunshine Bay (Chinese-Malay seafood)

Not far from the Floating Mosque and up a small hill, is Sunshine Bay is a seafood grill. All manner of fish, chicken, tofu, and shellfish are flash-fried here, and everything is good. Popular dishes with us: Clams with vermicelli, XO Tofu, razor clams, some stir-fried greens and TomYam-style coconut shrimp (too spicy for the kids). The menu doesn’t have everything they offer each day. Ask what’s good today.

K-Pot (Korean)

This is confusing, but there are TWO restaurants in Penang called K-Pot, and they are not affiliated with each other (at least not anymore). Both are good but completely different. The one I’m recommending and linking to has good gimbap, toppoki, and other Korean lunch standards. Kimchee, egg, and broccoli or some other green are brought to the table as service.

Ingolf’s Kneipe (German)

Aside from hawker stalls, this is one of the most popular places to eat in Penang for non-locals/pork eaters. It sometimes fills up before noon because of its excellent lunch menu. Huge portions, made on site. Stuff like sausages, schnitzels, bacon sandwiches, and meatloaf. All excellent, and comes with large salads. Just so you know, it’s more expensive and hard to find pork in Malaysia. That said, their lunch is fairly affordable.

Batu Ferringhi – Where to Eat in Penang

One of the most popular things to do in Penang is head to Batu Ferringhi on a weekday evening and stroll through the night market. Of course, hit some hawker stalls afterward, of course. There is some great food in Batu Ferringhi. Here are a few spots.

Long Beach Cafe (Hawker Center)

All your Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western favorites here. I wouldn’t say that this is the best hawker food in Penang, but it’s certainly the most popular in Batu Ferringhi and was a frequent meeting point for us and other traveling families. This is more or less our “go to” spot for dinner after our hike at Penang National Park.

Restoran Khaleel (Indian, Malay, and breakfast)

The Nasi Kandar here is quite good (same goes for all the branches around the island), but we come to Restoran Khaleel for the roti in the mornings. I like mine savory, with egg and daal dipping sauce, the kids like theirs sweet, with bananas and condensed milk, but they beg us to get the supreme roti offered here, covered in honey and ice cream. We give in occasionally. It’s located in a small shopping area, on Lorong Sungai Emas, across from Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La

Golden River (Chinese)

You won’t find this place in the afternoon — just an empty shack with a stove locked up in the corner. But near sunset, they set everything up and open. Great Cantonese and Hainanese style Chinese food, with a few Thai-style dishes as well.

Bora Bora by Sunset (Southeast Asian and Western)

Lots of people say this is a great place to eat in Penang on the beach. You can if you like. It’s not bad. But I much prefer drinking here. As their name suggests, this is a great place to see the sunset. The tables in the back are in the sand, so you can watch the days last rays fall as parasailers and horseback riders pass by. It’s a great place to chill with a few beers and friends while the kids play in the sand in front of you.

Best Time to Visit Penang with Kids

Penang with Kids, Penang National Park Canopy Walk, Malaysia Family Travel Guide

You can visit Penang with kids just about any time of year and expect warm, humid and sunny weather. Penang weather is divided into two seasons. The wet season is April to November, and the dry season is December to March. During the wet season, it can rain off and on for a few days, or just pummel down for 90 minutes and then be sunny again. Either way, exploring Penang with kids or friends is enjoyable almost any time, and you can swim year-round. But if you can be flexible and have time on your hands, I would recommend coming in the wet season for two reasons.

Avoid the hazy season

Firstly, spring to fall (Northern hemisphere) is the low season in Penang, so hotels could be cheaper, and the streets, restaurants, and Penang attractions will be less crowded. Also if you haven’t heard about “the haze,” you should know that the deforestation of nearby Sumatra by forest fire can blow smoke towards Malaysia and Singapore, and it can really change your day.

For example, here’s the view from our balcony most days of the year:

Penang with Kids, best time to visit Penang

And here’s that same balcony view when the haze rolls in:

Penang Haze season

Ridiculous, right? I used to suggest people visit in the high season simply because it is so nice to leave wintry weather for the balmy climes of Penang. Now, I would suggest the wet season because if the haze shows up, there’s a better chance that it will be washed away quickly. This doesn’t happen all the time, but Sumatra is being razed faster than ever now, so when and where the haze goes has become less predictable. If you’re in Penang with kids, you really don’t want to be breathing this. 

Penang Weather: Penang with Kids

Penang’s weather is the tropics, and it’s very hot and humid. Don’t attempt to do too much in one day if you’re not used to this climate. Walking in Penang with kids in this heat can sap you of all energy, and kiddos can get especially tired or irritated. A good rule of thumb is to have one activity or Penang activity planned per day. That’s it. Of course, you know your family’s capabilities best, but remember that staying out all day can be draining.

Internet & Phone in Penang

Unfortunately, Penang’s internet is not as fast and ubiquitous as Chiang Mai’s, but it’s getting better. Sure, Penang supposedly has “free wifi” island-wide, but it rarely worked when I tried it (readers: let me know if/how you had a good experience with it or if it has improved!). Some backpacker hostels have good access, and there may be somewhere I just don’t know about (if you know somewhere, PLEASE contact me so I can share it).

You’ll find many internet cafes and “cyber cafes,” but a lot of these places are more for local dudes to play video games online. Am I wrong? I’d love to be wrong on this. We had an apartment with high-speed wifi installed, so I stopped looking for places to work.

As for prepaid SIM cards for smart devices, Malaysia has a lot of options, and you can pick them up at any mall or at the airport. We went with Celcom because we were told it worked best in our part of Malaysia. That seemed to be right, but we had terrible reception on the east coast of the peninsula, where DiGi seemed to work better. It’s easy to top-up your phone in Malaysia as well. Just go to a major convenience store chain and tell them which company you’re with. You pay, and they give you a receipt with a number you punch into your device through a few steps, and boom, you’re done.

Getting Around Penang with Kids

Burmese Temple, Malaysia Family Travel Guide

On Foot

One of our favorite things to do in Penang with kids is to walk around Georgetown. You can do a lot of walking in Penang, but there are a few caveats. Most importantly is to watch your step, as there are many dips and trenches for the sewer, and you wouldn’t want to fall in there. Also, sidewalks come and go — sometimes ending abruptly at a busy intersection. This can make pushing a stroller challenging in places. Also, there is no real way to walk between Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi, so you’ll need to ride some vehicle between them.

By Bus

Getting around Penang with Kids, Public Bus

It’s easy to take the bus in Penang with kids. In fact, Penang’s public bus system is one of the best in Southeast Asia. It’s clean, air-conditioned, and runs with decent regularity, and we used these buses a lot. Since we stayed in the north part of the island, we used bus #101 frequently because it covers the road between Batu Ferringhi and Georgetown, passing close to many Penang attractions along the way. Fares vary depending on distance, but most journeys are covered with less than US$ 0.60 per person. Children pay even less. Fees may change over time, so please check the Penang Bus System Website.

By Taxi

You can easily hail a Penang taxi at the port or near a shopping center. Just be sure that they have a working meter and then insist on using it. If not, then negotiate the price and agree before you get in. However, it is not so easy to grab a taxi on the street unless you are near a mall.

At Penang airport, there is a set taxi system. You’ll see the desk to the right as you exit. This is a legit service, and I’d recommend using them instead of trying to hail a taxi on your own. The prices are listed on the cashier window and are measured by distance. Be aware that some taxis don’t have seat belts in the back. 

By Ride Share App: Uber in Penang

For all other situations, apps like Grab and Uber can be extremely useful. That way, you can always get a taxi pretty much anywhere you are, and you don’t have to haggle because the price is fixed before you get in.

Recommended: Get a Rental Car

Penang with Kids, Rental Car, Malaysia Travel Guide

Taxis and buses cover a lot of ground, but they can be quite limiting when traveling in Penang with kids. Places like the Penang War Museum and half a dozen other locations would take two to three times longer to reach on a bus, and the taxi costs would add up.

Scooters weren’t an option for us, either. For one, the road between Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi is just two-lanes that zig-zag along a small cliff with no guard rail, and it rained a lot when we arrived. Also, in Malaysia, it’s (technically) illegal to have more than two people on a scooter. Sure, many locals do it, but I didn’t want us to be an easy target for a ticket. Instead, consider renting a car. Our monthly car rental costs ended up cheaper than the combination of bus and taxi for our everyday commute to shopping and all other activities. 

We can certainly recommend our guy Cedric who became a good friend to us there. He and his company were quick to help and super easy-going. His mechanic was very helpful too and always available. One time, I had to call him at 7:30 am on a Saturday and he came to help us very right away.

Overnight and Day Trips from Penang

Langkawi - Overnight trips from Penang Malaysia

There are lots of fun things to do in Penang with kids, but where to go next? Or where to visit on your way to visit Penang? We have lots of suggestions.

Langkawi

A short flight or ferry ride away is the beautiful island of Langkawi. Here you’ll find beaches, waterfalls, snorkeling & scuba, an amazing cable car ride and more.

Langkawi to Penang / Penang to Langkawi: Flights between Penang and Langkawi take only 30 minutes, but keep in mind that the airport is a half hour from Georgetown. We took the ferry (3 hours) each time we visited, but keep in mind that it is FREEZING on that boat.

Read our Full Guide to Things to do in Langkawi with Kids

Ipoh

This inland Malaysian town is a short car or bus ride from Penang. There are lots of fun things to do in Ipoh. Great food, amazing caves, a super-fun waterpark, and more.

Ipoh to Penang / Penang to Ipoh: It’s easiest to reach Ipoh by car, which takes about 2 hours.

Find out What to do in Ipoh with Kids

The Cameron Highlands

Malaysian heat and humidity got you down? Then head to the hills. There are lots of fun things to do in the Cameron Highlands with kids, and the weather is much cooler.

Cameron Highlands to Penang / Penang to Cameron Highlands: Buses from Penang to the Cameron Highlands take around 5 hours by bus or three hours by car.

There are many Things to do in the Cameron Highlands

Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s dynamic capital can keep you busy for months. There are museums, shopping, culinary delights and much more. It’s safe, has a great public transportation system and loads of great places to stay.

Kuala Lumpur to Penang / Penang to Kuala Lumpur: Driving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur takes less than 4 hours, and around 5 via bus. Others fly in (1-hour flight).

Discover Some of the Things to Do in Kuala Lumpur

Kota Kinabalu

Looking for adventure? You’ll find it in Kota Kinabalu. This is a large and developed city, with loads of outdoor and watersports opportunities.

Kota Kinabalu to Penang / Penang to Kota Kinabalu: Flights from Penang to Kota Kinabalu are usually less than 3 hours.

Discover Some of the What to Do in Kota Kinabalu

Kuching

We loved this city in Borneo. It’s a lot mellower than Kota Kinabalu, with loads of opportunities to experience nature and wildlife.

Kuching to Penang / Penang to Kuching: Flights from Kuching to Penang are around 2 hours long.

Discover Some of the Things to Do in Kuching

Krabi, Thailand

This spectacular area of southern Thailand is a short flight away, but you can also take a charter bus, as we did. Great beaches, good seafood, and world-class rock climbing.

Krabi to Penang / Penang to Krabi: There are multiple land options between Penang and Krabi, and they’re all upwards of 9-10 hours. You can fly in over 6, but that requires a stopover in Kuala Lumpur.

Here’s our full review on Rock Climbing in Krabi with Kids

Sumatra, Indonesia

The flight from Penang to Medan, Sumatra, takes about 45 minutes and opens the door to another world of experiences for you and your kids. Jungle trekking, caving, volcanoes, and orangutans.

Sumatra to Penang / Penang to Sumatra: Flight from Penang to Medan in Northern Sumatra are only 40 minutes.

Read our Tips for Sumatra with Kids

Orangutans in Sumatra

Do You Know What to Do in Penang?

This list covers only our favorite things to do in Penang with kids, as well as my own favorite Penang attractions. We could add more things to do in Penang. Perhaps you could too. Have you been to Penang with kids? Or on your own? What Penang attractions did you enjoy? Where was your favorite place to stay? Which Penang restaurants did you enjoy most? Please leave your insight in the comments below or contact me. I would love to hear from you.

Further Reading:

***PIN THIS!***

Things to do in Penang with kids PIN 3

Things to do in Penang Malaysia PIN 2

Things to do in Penang Malaysia with kids PIN 1

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, that means that if you book any Penang hotels or Penang tours after clicking one of my links, we might get a small commission. You pay no extra, so don’t worry. Also, everything you see here is just my personal opinion. I only recommend places and activities that I believe will genuinely help you find what to do in Penang with kids or without. If you know of other things to do in Penang that should be added, let me know!

Photo Credits via Creative Commons CC BY or Royalty-Free Image sites. Some images may have been altered slightly via cropping or color enhancement: #21, #22, #31

Comments

  1. HI, Jason
    Im a Malaysian. But i’m not living in Penang. I found your article very useful for me to plan my trip to Penang with my child. Really informative even for the Malaysian who lives in Malaysia. Thanks alot. ps: keep on writing your amazing travel experiences.

  2. Hi, Jason,
    Every summer, I planed long stay overseas for creating kid’s English environment, we had been to Vancouver and Berth. My kids attended course when we long stayed oversea. Recently, I trying to find where we will go next summer.
    I saw your journey about Penang, it let me deciede to go next summer.
    We are planing to stay in Penang for one month during end of June to August 22, which month will more suitable for kid ( they are 6, 8, 10 years old) ?
    Is it safe, if only my three kids with me?
    Where can find a website for booking an apartment for one month in Tanjung Bungah area?
    I also want to find some Day camp or some course for kids, like cooking course or swimming course, can you recommond some website or method for me.
    Thank you so much.
    Marina Lee

    • Hi Marina,

      I’m not exactly sure which month would be more suitable for kids. Penang is warm all year around. That said, if possible, I would avoid school holiday time (dates here) since many locals travel during that time which makes for more traffic. Also, they don’t have several months of “summer holidays” as many western countries do. So most of their holiday camps are held in December (when their schools are out) Therefore, I don’t know how many short-term day camps (or lessons for kids) will be available during the summer. What I would do is to find some local lesson providers and talk to them individually to see if they would allow kids for the short-term. Or negotiate to get some immersion lessons. I have checked PenangPAC, but it seems like they don’t have any summer camp (at the time of writing). I could be wrong. If you find something please let us know!

      Penang is very safe in my opinion. Of course, you need to be mindful of the usual precautions: watch your bags (or don’t leave them unattended), confirm if the taxi has a working meter (and make sure it starts when the car starts moving), check the price before any purchase (at markets, restaurants or anywhere you don’t see price written) and such. It’s probably easier to rent a car for a month to travel around the island.

      As for booking an apartment, I’d just use Airbnb for only a month. If you hadn’t used, you can get US$40 off for your first booking using this link. Here are my tips for using Airbnb.

      Have a wonderful time in Penang!

  3. Hello,
    Great Guide!
    I am planning a trip to Malaysia with my fiance and our 6 years old son.
    Fly to Singapore, than to Penang, stay 5 days, Lankgawi maybe 3, 4 days, KL and Singapore again and back home. We’ll have only 15 days.
    I told my mom about our trip and she almost chopped off my head that I am planning to grad our little boy so far away, snakes, spiders etc.
    While I don’t agree with her at all and I will make my decision regardless to her views she put a seed of a doubt in my mind.
    Is it safe for children in Malaysia. I mean those snakes, spiders, scorpions, mosquito, sea snakes etc?
    Also if you have only 15 days in Malaysia, where would you go?
    Warmest regards from Dublin.

    • Hi Kasia. Yes, Malaysia is completely safe and fun for kids and families. In fact, I think it’s one of the easiest places in Southeast Asia to visit — most people speak English and the main cities have a high standard of living. We’ve been in Malaysia off and on for more than 15-16 months total, and I’ve only seen a snake in the wild…once? Twice? Scorpions, never. A few small here and there but nothing dangerous. Ever. The only danger I’d say is traffic: don’t let your son run into the road…but you’d say that anywhere, right? There are mosquitoes, yes, and mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever are in Malaysia, but again, the chances are very small for getting it — especially if you’re sticking to places like KL and Penang. We’ve spent over a year there and have friends who have lived there for nearly a decade — not a single case. We completely recommend Malaysia and all of Southeast Asia, really. So do tens of thousands of people who go there regularly. You’ll be fine 🙂

      As for where I’d go with 15 days, your plan sounds about right: 4-5 days in Penang, Langkawi, and KL for balance. If you like big city culture, more time in KL. If you like history, more in Penang. If you want quiet beaches, then maybe Langkawi. If you’re ambitious and want to see more, then perhaps Malacca or the Cameron Highlands, but honestly 3 places in 15 days is more than enough — especially if you’re new to the area. You could spend 3 weeks in Penang or KL alone and still have enough to do. Let us know how it goes! All of my Malaysia posts are here.

      • Thank you so much for your reply!
        I am a bit ODT as this will be our first trip to Asia with our son. So far we were sticking with Europe, mainly France :-).
        I will buy some mosquito repellents and we’ll keep all our vaccinations up to date.

        Thank you again!

  4. Hi,

    Thanks for a detailed description and tips of things to see and do in Penang! My husband and I are travelling with two girls (3 years and 5 years) to Penang for 1 week in February. Would you recommend to stay ½ week in Batu Ferringhi and ½ week in Georgetown or stay the whole week in Georgetown and do day trips to Batu Ferringhi? We are planning on renting an apartment through AirBnB so we will probably not stay in any beach resorts.

    Kind regards,
    Hai-Minh

    • It depends on what you want/like, Hai-Minh. Georgetown (GT) is where most of the history & sites are, but it’s louder and dirtier than Batu Ferringhi (BF). Then again, your kids are young enough that they’ll likely be indoors and in bed early. If I was in town for only a week and my kids were that young, I’d probably stay in GT for the week, with day trips to BF and elsewhere. That way you can have dinner at GT restaurants/hawker stalls and be back at your AirBnB by early bedtime.

  5. The bus system there is fabulous Jason. We spent a month by Queen’s Bay Mall in 2013. Had a blast. We’d bus around the island, especially from our apartment to Georgetown for walking around and enjoying the place. We also dug the National Park; stopped at the sea turtle rehab center and turned around. Twas a bit hot and humid that day. But then again it always is in Penang 😉 This is a super write up.

  6. Hi, Jason – We’ve just arrived in Penang and your guide is a great starting point for us! Our “slow travel” is a little faster than yours (we plan one month here), but hopefully, we can still take advantage of some of the longer-term educational options for the kids that you list. Love those ideas! Thanks for this informative write-up!

    • So glad you like the guide! You can easily fill a month in Penang. Please update us later on — I’d love to hear what you did and what your family liked best!

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