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Sri Lanka, the tiny island on the Indian Ocean, has been listed as a top place to go according to outlets including the New York Times and Travel and Leisure. Colombo, the capital city and the main port of entry, is the likely home base for many visitors. The city offers beach time, good eats along with a glimpse to the country’s post-colonial history. Cosmopolitan with Kids Traveling Mom knows how to explore Colombo like a local and for good reason. She grew up there! Her recommendations for families traveling to Colombo, Sri Lanka with kids? Visit places of worship, indulge in savory treats and take evening walks by the beach.
Since emerging from civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has risen to the height of popularity. For the past few years it has been on many coveted travel lists as a top destination for cultural and Eco-friendly travel. Located right below India in the Indian Ocean, it might seem like an exotic destination for family travel, but more and more parents are discovering it a worthwhile and easy place to visit with kids.
Visiting Sri Lanka with Kids
What makes it truly special – and easy for families – is that it offers a wealth of diverse cultural and natural attractions. World-class beaches, rain forests, tea estates and ancient cities are all attractions in a country about the size of West Virginia. Colombo, the country’s capital city, is not particularly touristy, but offers many wonderful opportunities to experience the country like a local.
Having visited Sri Lanka with first-time visitors on a couple of occasions, I definitely recommend taking a few days to explore Colombo. The post-colonial architecture, places of worship, shopping malls and eateries are places that reflect the multi-cultural influences on the island where many ethnicities and religions co-exist. With English being an official language and very friendly locals, Sri Lanka is an easy country to navigate with kids.
Destination: Colombo Sri Lanka
With easy connections to nearby countries, add Colombo on to a longer trip to destinations such as India, Thailand or Maldives. While a typical trip to Sri Lanka will be centered around exotic adventures on other parts of the island, I recommend spending at least two days in Colombo. Located about an hour from the airport, Colombo is a good place to start or end your trip. Here is a round-up of our favorite activities in Colombo suited for families with young kids.
1. Visit Independence Memorial Hall
This building commemorates Sri Lankan independence from the British in 1948. The open stone pavilion is based on Celebration Hall, where Sri Lankan royalty held audiences prior to British occupation in the early 1900s. The large stone lions, a symbol of the “Sri Lankan lion nation,” that stand guard around the hall intrigued our 2-year-old.
The surrounding park is also one of the best places in the city to let kids run free. As one of the local favorite places for outdoor exercise, especially among the elite crowd, it is an ideal spot for people-watching during the morning and evening hours.
2. Grab a Bite at Dutch Hospital
This is an open-air structure built during the Dutch Colonial period (roughly the late 1600s). Now it’s an exciting dining and shopping pavilion. The open courtyard space allows the little ones to run about and interact with other kids while the parents indulge in variety of food and drink. Offerings include a tap house, seafood specials, European and East Asian options along with traditional Sri Lankan fare. Head there for dinner or evening drinks and enjoy the refreshing evening breeze. I don’t recommend lunch, as there is not much of a shady area to protect from the sun if you want to dine outside.
3. Watch the Sunset at Galle Face Green
This promenade stretches for about a quarter mile along the coast in the city’s business district. The lawn is scraggly but there is a stroller-friendly walkway. The sidewalk vendors selling cheap food and toys entertained our toddler. I don’t recommend buying food from street vendors, so bringing in some snacks to enjoy is ideal. Enjoy a spectacular sunset from any place in the district.
4. Visit Gangaramaya Temple
One of the most famous Buddhist temples in Colombo, Gangarmaya Temple is known for its architectural significance. Designed by the most famous architect in Sri Lanka, Geoffrey Bawa, Gangaramaya Temple shows a strong influence to East Asian Mahayana practices, unlike other temples in Sri Lanka.
The temple consists of two buildings with one located in the middle of the serene Beira Lake. If you are limited on time, I recommend taking a quick trip across the foot bridge. Experience the calming atmosphere and admire a beautiful view of the city from the middle of the lake. The other is the main temple building, located a few blocks away. There, you can see more statues and perhaps catch sight of the temple’s elephant.
5. Play at Viharamahadevi Park
This is the most well-known public park in Colombo. Built during the British rule and formerly known as Victoria Park, it is located opposite the colonial style Town Hall. The entrance to the park features a large Buddha statue, a series of water fountains and beautifully landscaped walkways. Evening hours are the best to visit with kids. During the afternoon, it is a well-known meeting spot for college students. There is also a kids play area with slides and a mini train.
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