The ZooCheck out the Chiang Mai Zoo, the perfect destination for children. It’s Thailand’s largest and nicest zoo and houses thousands of creatures, from lions and elephants to reptiles. The Chiang Mai Zoo also has a play area, a petting zoo for smaller kids, some animal shows (including an ever popular seal show) twice a day and opportunities to feed some of the inhabitants.
If even the zoo is too challenging with your little ones, or it's too hot to spend much time outside, take them to the Chiang Mai Zoo Aquarium on the premises. Aside from the usual fish tanks, coral exhibit and amphibians and reptiles, there’s a massive walk-through-tunnel under the giant fish tank that toddlers love running through. The aquarium is not cheap, it’s 450 baht for adults and 350 baht for kids, but it’s air conditioned and very popular with kids. To save a bit, you can buy a combined zoo/aquarium ticket for 520 baht for adults and 390 baht for kids. Most small kids won’t have the attention span or patience to enjoy both attractions on the same day, so buying a combined ticket might end up costing you more in the long run.
Visit the Elephants (without endangering them)There are many so-called elephant farms in and around Chiang Mai, but the Elephant Nature Park is the only one whose mission is protecting the welfare of elephants. It’s not for profit (most farms are money-making businesses) and is an excellent place to take kids, especially those old enough to understand about animal protection and conservation issues. Because the park is located out of the city and requires visitors to stay for the whole day, it would not be appropriate for toddlers who are still napping.
Take a HikeTrekking (hiking) may be out of the question with smaller kids who aren’t strong enough to walk, though older ones will certainly enjoy some of the shorter treks in and around Chiang Mai. Head to Doi Suthep, the mountain just on the edge of Chiang Mai. The zoo is at the mountain’s base, and most people head there to see the temple of the same name, but the mountain and some of the surroundings are also a national park worth visiting on its own. There are many hiking trails on Doi Suthep; stop into the visitor center for a map and the latest information about weather and conditions. Though natural loves dislike the fact that Thai national parks tend to be very car-centric, that fact can be very helpful when you’re with small children. You can drive right to the visitor center and even some of the bigger park sights, then park the car and explore a little bit on foot without worrying that you’ll have a long hike or walk back with a tired child.
Doi Suthep National Park has a number of waterfalls, including Monthathon Waterfall and Mork Fa Waterfall, which both have surrounding trails. Check out the National Park website for further information. Also keep in mind that, especially during rainy season, waterfalls can be dangerous for small kids! Though you may see lots of other people sliding down them or taking a dip in the surrounding pools, the park service does not recommend anyone swim in them.
The beautiful Wat Chedi Luang complex, right in the middle of the Old City of Chiang Mai, is a wonderful place to take toddlers and small children because there are lots of open spaces where they can run around. There are also beautiful, if decrepit, sculptures of nagas and elephants that kids will find interesting. There’s little shade, though, so plan on visiting in the morning or later in the afternoon.