From the rag tag amusement parks of yesteryear to a group of shiny new ones down south, Malaysia has come a long way with its adrenaline-inducing plastic attractions. All of a sudden, a theme park-themed vacation in Malaysia actually sounds like an attractive suggestion. One important consideration: which theme park caters to which age group? The older ones would love to take on the challenges from Escape Theme Park, but the baby in the family might be left acorn-hunting. Toddlers would love meeting their favourite characters in the Little Big Club, but your teen might raise objections to Hello Kitty Town. Get more whoops than wails from your kids with the recommended parks in Malaysia, sorted by age.
Best for rug rats 4 and below: Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park
First things first, parents will rejoice to hear that Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park is an indoor theme park, which means no hot sun and no cutting short the outing due to sudden rainstorms. Housed in a four-storey air-conditioned building, Little Big Club and Hello Kitty Sanrio Town is a toddler's dream outing. Calling it a theme park might be stretching it a bit, but honestly, the space is manageable for young kids. The rides are relatively tame and heavily feature toddler celebrities such as Pingu, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, and Thomas & Friends. Take note of mascot appearance times before your visit if you're keen for photos.
Themed games are aplenty, but we particularly like the Friendship Land Playground, a space where only three-year-olds and below are allowed. Highlights for older kids allergic to Hello Kitty will be the Thomas & Friends bumper cars, while girls will love ballet lessons with Angelina Ballerina donning mice ears and tutus. Be warned that there are Barney sing-alongs.
Persiaran Puteri Selatan, Puteri Harbour, Nusajaya, Johor (1300 88 326 459, playtime.com.my). Daily 10am-6pm. Prices start from $31.50 for children, $40.75 for adults.
Best for kids 8 and below: The Lost World of Tambun
A two-hour drive from KL brings you to Ipoh, where gorgeous limestone peaks surround Tambun, creating Lost World vibes. Any kid worth their explorer salt would enjoy The Lost World of Tambun with its extensive list of entertainment: rides at the amusement park, paddling at Swan Lake, tin mining activities at Tin Valley, and even a nicely laid out petting zoo. Raccoons taking food from your hands, anyone?
Apart from the usual menu of wave pools and exciting racer tube rides, Lost World also features the Explorabay, a child-friendly water playground with spraying elephants and water curtains, where our test subjects were reluctant to leave after splashing about for the whole day.
Come evening, the six pools at the Lost World Hot Springs and Spa light up in different colours. Highly recommended by all who visited, Saphira's Lair and Saphira's baby pool at the hot springs are for kids while parents can retire to the Steam Cave for some relaxation or get a hot stone massage at the Crystal Spa.
1 Persiaran Lagun Sunway 1, Sunway City Ipoh (05 542 8888, sunwaylostworldoftambun.com). Mon-Fri 11am-6pm; Sat, Sun & PH 10am-6pm. Hot springs 6pm-10pm. Closed Tue. Prices start from $11.90 for children, $14 for adults.
Best for tweens 12 and below: Legoland
The first LEGOLAND water park in Asia celebrated its grand opening in 2012 with 20 rides and counting. Older kids may turn up their noses at the limited rides on offer, but that’s the exact reason LEGOLAND is slated under the Tween category. LEGO merchandise aside, this theme park exclusively caters to young families looking for some quality bonding time with their kids aged 12 and below. For example, Kid Power Tower in the dry park is a hand pulley system where kids can hoist their parents up easily and Build-A-Raft River in the water park lets families float lazily down a river while collecting LEGO soft bricks to customise their own raft. Those colourful soft bricks also mean that it won’t hurt when someone throws them at you.
The well-designed park has thrown in plenty of educational opportunities such as Imagination Stations for kids to build bridges and dams to test water flow. Look on proudly as your kids frown in concentration and construct LEGO masterpieces. Meanwhile, toddlers can hang out at the 30cm-deep Duplo Splash Safari, which has thoughtful canopies for sun protection. One thing to remember, the Johor sun is terribly unforgiving and most rides are at the mercy of the weather. Be prepared for the long queues with snacks and lashings of sun block but for maximum comfort, just rent a cabana. You won’t regret it.
7 Jalan Legoland, Bandar Medini Iskandar Malaysia, Nusajaya, Johor (07 597 8888, legoland.my). Daily 10am-6pm, longer opening hours on selected days; check website for more info. Prices start from $51.80 for children, $64.50 for adults.
Best for teens 16 and below: Escape Adventureplay Penang
For the teenage category, we’ve chosen something different: Escape Adventureplay Penang. Located by the Teluk Bahang Dam, Escape does not do brightly coloured plastic rides but rather gives you a legit reason to climb trees and yell like Tarzan. We really love the environmentally-friendly measures in place such as rainwater harvesting, miniature chickens roaming freely, grassy roofs, and the no outside food policy in an attempt at waste-control. The jungle-like Escape-themed highlights include Monkey Business, a gigantic treetop balancing act categorized into three levels (bring gloves), Flying Lemur, a zip lining challenge, and Tubby Racer, where one races down a dry ski slope on a tube.
A day at Escape certainly feels like an escape from the ordinary, and a certain level of fitness and endurance is needed to enjoy the challenging games, which is why your energetic teen will like this the most. Don’t worry though, Escape also offers some child-friendly activities for the younger ones, such as the newly launched Monkey School. If you’ve always wanted to remind your teen of your physical prowess, this is it.
828, Jalan Teluk Bahang (04 881 1106, escape.my). Daily 9am-6pm. $18.50 for children, $26.70 for adults. Free entry for kids under the age of three and for citizens, when accompanied by a ticket-paying adult.