Family-friendly resorts

There's more on offer for holidaymakers than just the spin of the roulette wheel, writesLin Yang

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 5:44pm

Some cities are known

solely for being gambling paradises. Fortunately, Singapore, the city state which embraced the industry and opened its first casino in 2010, did not put all of its chips

on the gaming table.

From the beginning, the Singapore government embraced the concept of an "integrated resort", where the casino represented only a small part of the attractions resort developers had to offer. Today, the two casino resorts in Singapore also include a variety of entertainment options for any family members or friends who are looking for more than the buzz of a casino floor.

At Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), the focus on providing a family-friendly vacation experience filters into many aspects of how the resort is designed. Taking up 49 hectares, RWS has a campus-feel. A museum, amusement park, shopping mall, and soon-to-be-opened marine-life park are all located within a short walk from any of the six hotels on the property. So if parents want to take the children for a day out, they will never have to worry about them leaving the resort or getting lost.

"We pride ourselves as a family resort destination, designed to change the tourism blueprint of Singapore, and the region," says Robin Goh, assistant director of communications for RWS.

The headline attraction at RWS is the Universal Studios Singapore amusement park. Although smaller than its cousins in Los Angeles and Orlando, the park manages to pack in seven, movie-themed regions, each with its own set of rides and thrills. Its sci-fi inspired area features "Battlestar Galactica" - the world's tallest set of duelling roller coasters. The ride launches two crews of passengers, one seated and one suspended, with their legs dangling, on a 90-second trip with mind-bending twists, turns, and loops.

Universal Studios also has lower-key family activities, including a sing-a-long street show featuring adorable Sesame Street characters. At weekends and on holidays, a 14-float "Hollywood Dreams" parade runs through the park with a variety of studio characters and soundtracks from past movies.

For those looking for a more urbane vacation experience, head to the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel and casino. Located by a bay and only minutes away from Singapore's financial district, MBS's three towers, connected by a rooftop deck, have become an icon on the city's skyline. MBS was also designed with the gambling sceptic in mind.

"The casino makes up less than three per cent of the total gross floor area in Marina Bay Sands," says resort spokesman Leow Fang Yi. "Non-gaming attractions are integral components of the 'integrated resort' concept."

The SkyPark, linking the rooftops of all three hotel towers, features a 146-metre-long infinity pool that looks out onto the city's skyscrapers, and three bars.

Across the street from the hotel is a large shopping centre, the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, boasting more than 300 boutiques and restaurants. Visitors can find major international brands, such as Jimmy Choo, Dior, Fendi and Longines, and Asia-based luxury brands, such as Chow Tai Fook and Moiselle. Visitors can also use an ice-skating rink, or take a boat ride on a canal that runs through the mall.

On the waterfront, MBS built the Artscience Museum, a building that looks like a white lotus flower floating in the bay. The museum often brings top-notch exhibits from around the world to Singapore. Right now it is hosting a collection of Andy Warhol works, and an exhibit featuring props and set pieces from the Harry Potter film series.

Some may think that because Singapore has a small land area, it is impossible to get out of town for some fresh air unless you leave the city-state. But about 50 per cent of the city is covered by greenery, and a recently finished S$1 billion (HK$6.24 billion) project symbolises Singapore's commitment to sustainability.

The Gardens by the Bay, which opened in June, is a lush, 101-hectare urban botanical garden that uses modern technology to keep the attraction sustainable.

Its main attractions are two large indoor, climate-controlled plant conservatories, one with a high mountain cloud forest climate and another with a Mediterranean climate. These oversized greenhouses get their power through a biomass generator that burns waste plant material from across Singapore.

Throughout the garden, 18 Supertrees rise from the ground. These 25- to 50-metre-tall gardens are vertical frames built around large air-venting ducts that connect to the conservatories. Covered by more than 162,000 plants that will eventually climb to the top of the frame, the Supertrees offer shade for visitors during the day, and are illuminated by colourful, solar-powered lights at night.

Gardens by the Bay is located a short walk over a sky bridge from MBS, providing a needed change of pace from sounds of shuffled cards and slot machines.