Things to do in Osaka with Kids or Without: Osaka Travel Blog

This post may contain affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure page for details.

I have spent many school and work holidays looking for things to do in Osaka with kids. My wife grew up there, and her family still lives there now. I love Osaka. During many family visits since 1997, I’ve explored what to do in Osaka Japan. And I’ve found a lot! Read on for more Osaka attractions and other unique things to do in Osaka Japan. 

cover Things to do in Osaka with kids or without

Things to Do in Osaka Japan

I love both people and food in Osaka, but looking for what to do in Osaka can be a little different than in other major cities in Japan. A former industrial town, Osaka is an urban wonderland full of neon and great food, but it lacks the parks and green space that you find in big Japanese urban centers like Tokyo and nearby Kyoto and Kobe. What it lacks in natural greenery, however, Osaka makes up for it with great shopping, incredible restaurants and the best people in Japan.

Related Links:

Save & Share with Pinterest!

Things to do in Osaka with kids or without PIN 1

Osaka Travel Blog: What to Do in Osaka 

There is plenty to do in Osaka with kids, but most Osaka attractions are just as fun for adults, as well. This is a family travel site, so many of the things to do in this Osaka travel blog post relate to families. That said, we think it’s important for parents to find places that both kids and adults can appreciate. Below I list our recommendations for Osaka attractions, and I’ve divided them into two sections: what to do in Osaka for all, and what to in Osaka with kids. Keep in mind that I would take my kids to basically all of these Osaka attractions and activities. 

What to Do in Osaka for All

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Take an Osaka Tour: Best Tours in Osaka

If you’re new to the country and don’t speak/read Japanese, then I suggest one of the best things to do in Osaka Japan soon after arrival is to take a tour. That way you have someone showing you around and helping you get your bearings. Most Osaka tour guides speak English, and so they can help you with any questions you may have. Here are a few Osaka tours worth looking into:

Walking Tour with the Osaka Locals

Osaka Walking Tour

Learn The Katana ‘Sword’ Technique of Samurai and Ninja

Soul of Kansai Tour with Japanese Snacks

Evening Food and Drink Tour in Osaka

Shotengai (Japanese Shopping Streets)

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

A typical Osaka shopping street is covered with a decorative awning or other roofing, making them a good backup activity in bad weather. The purpose here is to eat, wander and window shop. They’re not exactly Osaka tourist attractions, but they’re one of the more authentic and unique things to do in Osaka.

Most cities in Japan have shotengai, but Osaka’s are known for being large and diverse. Sure, there is stuff to buy and plenty of kid-friendly restaurants, but there are also good bars, arcades, and the occasional vinyl shop. The real fun here is the people-watching and the simple pleasure of stumbling upon the unknown. Here are a few of my favorite places to wander.

Dotonbori – What to Do in Osaka

This is probably one of the most well-known places to go in Japan, and if you’re coming to Osaka, it’s certainly worth your time coming here. All the neon here at night is a spectacle. Keep in mind, though, that many of the shops close around 8 pm and beyond, but most of the restaurants stay open late.

Shinsaibashi Shopping street – Things to Do in Osaka

This shopping area is more heavily influenced by youth culture — several rock n’ roll clubs around here, too. So you’ll see more trendy clothes and art school kids in the mix. Osaka’s Apple Store is in this neighborhood too, if you need it. Their Genius Bar has English speakers, but they are often booked or busy.

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping street – What to Do in Osaka

At just over 2.5 kilometers long, this is actually the longest shopping street in Japan. There are many things to see, do and eat here. On one end, the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living sits just off the strip. Here you can walk through a recreation of what the city looked during the Edo period. English audio guides are available.

On the other end of the strip, you’ll find Tenmangu Shrine, which is worth a visit if you haven’t seen enough shrines already.

Osaka Museum of Housing & Living

Osaka Museum of Housing and Living 3

If you want a small (and fairly accurate) look at what Edo-era Japan was like, then take the elevator up to this high-floor recreation of a typical village. It’s a bit cheesy, but fun. For a small fee, you can don a kimono as well for photos with the rustic backdrop. 

Arcades & Game Centers

Many people became interested in Japan because of video games. In fact, I know more than a few people who started learning Japanese that way. That wasn’t really my story, but I can appreciate spending a roll of coins playing games in Osaka with my kids. You’ll find many arcades where you can do just that in the Umeda and Namba areas. If you like video games, then visiting an arcade complex could be one of the most interesting things to do in Osaka. Here are just a few:

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle has been burned down and rebuilt and burned to the ground again several times over, so keep in mind that you’re looking at a reconstruction. It’s still what to do in Osaka Japan — just don’t expect the interior to be original.

osaka castle

It’s pretty damn impressive, and the stories that surround the place are fascinating. That said, if you’ve already been to Kyoto, you might want to give this place a pass, as it will seem less impressive. The exterior and park surrounding it still have a regal feel, but inside it looks like the concrete museum it is. There are eight floors in the castle, and if you’re up for it I suggest climbing the stairs if you can, instead of waiting in line for the elevator.

Spa World

This is a fairly cheesy (but totally fun) indoor hot spring amusement park. I love this place, and we go nearly every December or whenever we visit relatives in the area. It’s easily one of our family’s favorite things to do in Osaka.

The glassed-in roof level has a lazy river, a kids’ play area and two small waterslides, all with heated water and swimsuits required. The two floors below are divided by gender and you wear only your birthday suit. In general, kids under five can tag along with a parent/guardian of the opposite gender.

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Having a Soak: Best Thing to Do in Osaka

One floor has a European theme and all the tubs take on regional appearances. For example, the “Rome” room has a super-hot jacuzzi that looks like the Trevi Fountain, and the steam room is marked as “Finland,” with fake wolves and a tundra-like exterior.

The other floor — designated for women when we last visited — has an Asian theme but with the same layout, so Bali replaces Finland, and what was the “Roman” room on the other floor is now “Islam” (?!), with Iranian tile work replacing the Greco-roman statues.

Osaka Spa World Things to do in Osaka with Kids

Cheesy (But FUN!) Osaka Attraction

Is this an authentic Japanese hot spring experience? No. It’s about as authentic as the Roman bath is. But we can spend an entire day here, and if you’re in Osaka with kids, maybe you can too. Even without kids, it’s a great thing to do in Osaka winters.

Shinsekai

This area is old, run down and quite touristy on the main drag, but wandering this area is one of my favorite unique things to in Osaka. Spa World (mentioned above) is right next to Shinsekai so you could hit both of them in one day. The main strip is packed with kushikatsu and okonomiyaki restaurants, but the streets and alleys surrounding it are working-class people going about their lives. You may run across some small fish markets, or small halls where old men play the game go until dark. 

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel
This massive aquarium is about a half-hour from Universal Studios Japan by train. Or you can take a 10 min boat ride across Osaka Bay. The theme in Kaiyukan Aquarium is the “Ring of Fire,” with tanks that show seafaring creatures that live along this seismically active region of the Pacific. That includes sunfish, salamanders, seals, and a massive whale shark. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is walking distance from here, as well. One of the best things to do in Osaka for sea life lovers.

Asahi Brewery Tour

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Yes, I took my daughter on a brewery tour. My girl and I both really enjoyed the tour, mostly because watching the massive factory equipment and assembly lines can be kind of hypnotizing. Equally interesting were the displays showing how sheets of thin aluminum are transformed into beer cans and pop-tabs.

Oh, and you get some free beer at the end. And don’t worry: Asahi makes plenty of juices and other kid-friendly drinks and snacks, which your kids will be given ample supply (for free) while you enjoy your brew.

Udon-Making Classes

How to Make Udon Noodles: Cooking Japanese Food with Kids

One of the best things to do in Osaka exploring the food scene. There are a number of Japanese cooking classes that accept kids or groups, but we recently did this one and enjoyed it.

Take a Fantastic Cooking Class in Osaka

Sushi Cooking Class in Osaka

The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum

Ok, I have a confession to make: I like instant ramen. It’s not my first choice when it comes to Japanese food, but for some reason, it’s delicious when camping. Anyway, this is the place where it all began, and it’s pretty interesting to see how it came about. And near the end, the kids get to create their own mixture for their own signature ramen bowl. 

1-2 hours can be spent learning about instant ramen here but is slightly away from the central Osaka. Furthermore, as with many museums in Japan, all tours are in Japanese. It’d still be fun to see some visual exhibition, and it’s certainly one of the most unique things to do in Osaka Japan. Just don’t eat this every day, people. 

Go to a Baseball Game

hanshin tigers baseball game osaka (1)

Win or lose, Osaka loves the Hanshin Tigers, the city’s premier league baseball team. Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, going to a Tigers’ game is what to do in Osaka. This goes double if you’ve never been to a Japanese baseball game. It’s significantly different than a game in the Americas. For example, there are usually different chants for every player, and during the 9th inning stretch, they release screaming balloons. 

More things to do in Osaka with Kids below, but first: 

PIN ME!

Things to do in Osaka with kids or without PIN 2

Osaka with Kids PIN 2

Best Things to Do in Osaka with Kids

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Kids Plaza

This interesting indoor complex is a top attraction in Osaka for children. This was certainly one of the most fun things to do in Osaka with kids. It’s downtown and can keep most kids (from pre-K to pre-teen) occupied for hours.

There are indoor playgrounds with massive slides, as well as plenty of hands-on, interactive exhibits that explain various aspects of nature, physics, and technology. The multi-story indoor playground was designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (see pic above). Our kids especially liked the TV studio mock-up, where you can act out the role of a news anchor in front of a green screen and see how sound effects work.

Read more on Kids Plaza in the Japan Times

Universal Studios Japan

universal studios japan hogwarts

Okay, okay. This is the king of Osaka attractions and it’s a lot of fun, and you probably know if you’re going or not. You don’t need me to tell you it’s one of the most fun things to do in Osaka, right? In fact, that might be why you’re in Osaka with kids in the first place. We certainly enjoyed it, but if you go, I should tell you that some of those rides are scarier for young kids than they seem on the outside.

Maybe it’s just our kids were particularly sensitive (when they were 9 and 5), but we had one bad experience… We saw kids their age in line for the Spiderman ride, so we jumped in line as well. It terrified them. Then again, there were many other kids who seemed to enjoy it. Besides, that’s only one ride, and with the World of Harry Potter, there are even more ways to give your kids a heart attack.

Other Important Tips for visiting Universal Studios Japan:

Arrive early: You want to get a full day in, don’t you? And there will already be a significant line out front possibly an hour before they open. Sometimes earlier. 

Get the express passes in advance — like, as far in advance as possible, to ensure you get them. You don’t *have* to use express passes, but with them, you’ll ride twice as much (if not more) and avoid a lot of lining up.

Stay nearby the night of your visit, if possible. Universal Studios Japan isn’t really close to the city, so if you’re only going one day, it’s worth it to stay one night at a hotel right by the park.

Lines are shorter in winter, but the park closes at 5 pm.

Plan the order of your rides: If you visit in the summer, rides like Jaws and Jurassic Park have lines in the sun. Rides like Spiderman and Shrek are covered, and at certain points, they’re inside and air-conditioned. Line up for Jaws and Jurassic early, when it’s still (relatively) cool.

Pack a few supplies: a cheap poncho for rain and water rides, an empty water bottle (to fill once inside the park) and as many snacks as you can accidentally bring into the place, as the food here is amusement park quality/price and you’d rather line up for rides, not crappy food, right?

Children’s Museum BIG BANG

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

This is a pretty fun science museum out near Kansai airport. This is not one of the top things to do in Osaka, but worth a visit if you’re already in the area or your flight out of Kansai Airport has been seriously delayed. It’s fun, it’s indoors and it’s next to a shopping center with plenty of restaurant options.

The Osaka Science Museum

Lots of interactive exhibits and hands-on fun to be found at this Government-run facility. However, expect everything to be in Japanese, including the (sometimes) cool live science experiment shows that take place near the entrance on weekends. Next door is the National Museum of Art, which can be worth a visit depending on your family’s interest level and the exhibit showing at the time.

Day Trips from Osaka

If you have time, there are some great day trips from Osaka that can be built into most people’s Osaka itinerary. One of the best things about the Kansai area of Japan is that there are many cities of interest close by. In fact, Osaka is a great place to use as home base while exploring other places in Kansai. Here are a few worth mentioning:

Kyoto

Kyoto-Shunkoin

The ancient capital and cultural wonderland Kyoto are just a little over an hour north of Osaka. Here you’ll see UNESCO-acknowledged temples and shrines along with a completely different pace of life. 

Nara

deer Things to Do in Nara Temples & Nara Tours Day Trip to Nara-min

Often overshadowed by Kyoto, Nara has nearly as much historical heft and beauty but with fewer people. Of course, the tame deer that wander Nara park are an attraction in themselves, as well.

Kobe

Come for the beef. Stay for the baseball. No seriously, Kobe is a beautiful city to wander with lovely parks and port.

Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farm Houses

Time Travel in Osaka: The Open-Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses 4

So the name of the museum is a mouthful to be sure, but we think it’s a beautiful half-day trip from Osaka. It’s basically just in the suburbs outside Osaka city limits (45 minutes by train) but a world away from the neon of the city. It’s not for everyone, and I wouldn’t try to fit it into a tight Osaka itinerary, but for those of you with time and interest, it’s worth it. 

Know Other Unique Things to Do in Osaka?

Things to do in Osaka with Kids: Japan Family Travel

Our list of what to do in Osaka is far from complete. Tell us about your experiences. Do you know Osaka attractions or activities not listed here? Tell us? Help us make this the best Osaka travel blog post on the web! What things to do in Osaka would you add? 

Further Reading:

PIN THIS!

Things to do in Osaka with kids or without PIN 3

Things to do in Osaka with kids or without PIN 4

Osaka with Kids PIN 1

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 an Osaka hotel using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you find what to do in Osaka with kids or on your own.

Photo Credits via Creative Commons CC BY or Royalty-Free Image sites: #1, #4, #5, #14, #15, #20, #23, #25, #26, #27

Comments

  1. Hi Jason! I’ve been planning our family trip to Japan coming up June 30 – July 15 (we are Canadian)! Our kids are 12 year old girl and 14 year old boy. We love food and cultural experiences as well as hiking and being outdoors. What are your top suggestions for 4 days/3 nights in Osaka? I want to make sure we are seeing sights that aren’t too young for our tween and teen (i.e. Kids Plaza, Universal, and SpaWorld were not on my list). I’m leaning towards Shikoku, Nakanoshima, Dotonburi, Shotengai, Housing & Living Museum and Ramen Museum. Suggestions would be amazing! Thanks from Toronto, Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer,

      We have a tween and teen so I know how you feel. If you’re willing, there are many mountains worth a day hike in Osaka area. Mt Kongo, Mt. Inunaki, Mt. Myoken, Mt. Ponpon to name a few. Kumano Kodo is another ancient trail you may enjoy. Our kids always love a cooking class. They enjoyed this Udon making class. IMHO, Shikoku is not really a day trip, although part of it is feasible. You can take an early highway bus from Osaka station to Takamatsu. However, if you have only 3 nights, that may be too much hassle. I’m guessing you have other days to spend time in Kyoto and Nara? If not, then consider it. So many great trails in Kyoto. If you have JR passes, then Hiroshima/Itsukushima would be another option to consider. Kurashiki Bikan Historical Quarter in Okayama (closer than Hiroshima to Osaka) can be another option. Hope this helps!

  2. Genevieve says

    Hi Jason! Great site, very very helpful! We’re planning to visit Osaka in early January next year. Do you have any tips for families with kids for touring Osaka in the winter?? Thank you in advance!

    • Early Jan? It’d be cold… brrr! Don’t know your kids’ ages/interests but here are a few suggestions. Anyway, if it’s Jan 1-7, there’ll be lots of “New Year” things happening around town. USJ would be packed if that’s part of your planning. If it’s Jan 7-15, you may see some of the kids after their “Coming of Age” ceremony …the clothes are gorgeous.

      I would definitely go to Spa World to warm up (I wrote about it here). Lots of indoor museums can be enjoyed as well, the Kaiyukan Aquarium too. But remember that many are closed on Mondays. Except Jan 14 since it’s a holiday, so Jan 15 (Tuesday) they will be closed.

      Hope you have a great time!

  3. Aloha Jason,
    Thanks for the excellent tips. I do have one question regarding traveling with strollers or a kid carrying backpack. What do you recommend as the best method for lugging around a 6 and 3 years old. We plan on traveling to Kyoto by train for a few days as well. Thanks!

    • It really depends on how good of walkers they are — how much they like walking, how slow can you go and still enjoy, etc. Of course, a 3 y/o won’t be able to walk far. It may be best to have an umbrella stroller for her/him. Especially considering that some train stations may not have any elevators to go up and down. Of course, we prefer the big three-wheeled jogging-type strollers. They can carry a lot of stuff, *and* they’re easier to get on and off of trains. But the drawbacks are they are huge and heavy, so you have to commit to lugging it up stairs when an elevator isn’t an option.

      Also, if you plan to be in Japan for the summer, it’d be humid and hot so it would tire people out easily. I plan one thing in the morning (outdoors) and another in the afternoon (indoor) if possible. Or maybe just one thing a day. Take it easy in the hot & humid Japanese summer!

      as for kids-carrying backpack, it also depends on the child/children and where you plan to go. If you want to hike, then sure, but otherwise I would recommend a stroller. definitely. They are heavy, clunky and raise the kid’s head high where they can bump it on low ceilings and doorways (like in the subway)

  4. alona sanico says

    Hi Jason,

    We will be in Osaka in November for 3 days then will go to Nagoya to attend a wedding and then tour there for 4 days. We have a 5-yr old daughter travelling with us. From your review, I think Universal Studios is not for her (yet) as she is usually scared of rides.

    Would you be able to recommend best places for us to go in that 3 days?

    Thanks,
    Alona

    • Hi Alona

      5 is a great age to travel! If only 3 days in Osaka, I’d consider Spa World, the Kaiyukan (Aquarium), and/or the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. If you’re interested in Instant Ramen, The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum would be an entertaining place to go too. It’s a hit with a lot of travelers. Of course, just walking around Dotonbori is fun day or night. Enjoy! And let us know what fun you find!

  5. Hi, thanks for all the information. After two weeks of cultural sightseeing, we promised our boys (4 and 2) some real fun. The aquarium was a hit! Tomorrow we go to Kids Plaza, I am almost as excited as they are!

  6. Andi Haryadi says

    Hi Jason, it was a great tips. I am planning to got to Osaka with my kids aged 4 and 9 this October. I noticed you went to a glico tour as well as to the asahi brewery tour, can you share with me what the least time in the morning that we have to leave the hotel, so hopefully we still have time for a night stroll. And also do you recommend the osaka tennoji zoo? Many thanks and all the best for you.

    • Hi, Andi. As for both tours in one day, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Glico Factory is in Kobe and approx 2 hours away by train (at least an hour by car). Do you live in Japan or just visiting? The brewery tour I think is interesting for both tourists and residents alike. The Glico tour? More for people who live in Kansai looking for something to do. It’s out of the way and not worth spending half a day to visit if your time in Japan is limited.

      Keep in mind that both places require reservations, as well. Don’t know about Glico, but I would highly recommend booking the Asahi Brewery ahead of time.

  7. hi! awesome tips! We’re planning to go to Osaka mid to end of June and thinking of renting bikes. Do you know any good places to rent bikes with a child seat? My 2 yr old is coming along 🙂 thanks

    • Hi Elva. Like most Japanese cities, Osaka has lots of bike friendly areas. Keiko and I have looked around and we couldn’t find bikes with kids seats for rent. Of course Japan is full of these, but I couldn’t find rentals. Perhaps you’ll be luckier. Search words like “mamachari” (housewife’s bike) with other keywords and there may be something in there we didn’t find. Good luck! And enjoy! We’ll keep looking.

  8. Shannon Ball says

    Thanks for all the great & insightful tips!!!
    Am planning a trip to Osaka for Thanksgiving week. (Airfares are so cheap right now, can’t resist). Your relevant descriptions for a family are awesome. Ours are 4 & 6yo, and going with another family with similar ages. You covered all the bases I think to occupy us for 6 days and everything I’ve seen anywhere else too. Also glad for the comment above with the Legoland tip too.
    Wish I could tag this directly to our facebook group for this one. 🙂 Best to you. Cheers!

  9. I am gong to be in Osaka March 26 to March 28 with my husband, daughter, son-in-law, and 2 YEAR OLD, GRANDSON! I was thinking of walking around Osaka Sunday afternoon. Hiring a guide to show us around Osaka Monday morning. Going to the aquarium Monday afternoon. Tuesday going to Kyoto for the day with a guide. March 29 we will drive to Hiroshima for 2 days. Again, hiring a guide for one day and discovering on our own the second day. Can you give me any updated suggestions/tips or names of guides?

    • Hi Connie! That sounds like a great trip. Unfortunately, I don’t know any personal guides. Perhaps a company like Voyagin or ToursByLocals would help? I’ll be updating our Kyoto and Osaka posts during our next visit this summer. Keep in mind that the Kaiyukan (aquarium) is a little removed from everything, so give yourself enough time. There’s a Legoland discovery center near the aquarium, too 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php