Our family loved Siem Reap and found numerous kid-friendly activities to keep our 11- and 8-year-old girls captivated and the adults just as happy. These suggestions run the gamut from educational to heart-warming to just plain fun—all the things that make Siem Reap and the Khmer so amazing.
1. ANGKOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
Of course, the list starts with the amazing wats (temples) in Angkor. Park passes are available in three increments, one-day, three-day (you need to use within a week) and seven-day (to use within a month). Kids 11 and under are free, you just need to show their passport at every wat entrance.
Our suggestion, if you have the time, is to purchase the three-day pass and stagger your visits with a temple day, a relaxation day, a temple day, etc. We found this prevented temple burnout.
We did the "small tour circuit" the first day, the temples outside of town (Banteay Srey and Kbal Spean) on our second visit, and then picked a handful of temples we hadn’t yet seen or wanted to revisit on our third.
Our daughters’ favorite temple was Thommanon, it was very quiet and the kids invented a game, acting as archeologists as they ran around the temple. Wikitravel has a great resource to get you started.
Our tips? Take your time and follow the pace set by your kids, let them take photos—we were amazed by what they captured vs. our photos. We also had them create their own “wat” inspired by what they saw—first by drawing and then in Minecraft. It was their favorite assignment of our trip. Also, we chose to skip a tour guide and didn’t feel as if we missed out on too much since so much has been written about each wat.
2. BEES UNLIMITED YOUR TEMPLE TOUR ALTERNATIVE
The Angkor Archaeological Park is amazing. However, it was our tour with Dani Jump of Bees Unlimited that cemented our love of Siem Reap.
Dani took us via tuk tuk to the local market for a true Khmer breakfast among the hustle-and-bustle of a dazzling display of fresh fish, pork, frog, snake in various stages of preparation, butchered, carved or cooked before our very eyes. It was noisy, crowded, smelly, and dazzling for the kids.
From there, we saw the other side of Angkor—the people who live within the shadow of the wats. Village after village we were welcomed as various Khmer showed us how they make rice noodles, or palm sugar, or spin thread, or hand roll incense. Dani is welcomed into each village with open arms, and so were we. And, if you are interested in bees (we are a beekeeping family), he will also showcase the rafter beekeeping method unique to this area.
Best of all, Dani will meet with you at your hotel the night before and brief you on the tour, a welcome and incredible rarity. Read about our experience with Dani and Bees Unlimited.
We were so impressed with the number of organizations established to help Khmers throughout Siem Reap. One of our favorites was Next Step FC, giving Khmer boys and girls a bright future in sports, starting with football (or soccer to Americans). Frankie and Jackie were included in a local soccer practice with Next Step FC’s coach, Charlie, who is currently fundraising for the program.
Our amazing hotel, Soria Moria, is a training ground for young Khmers to enter the hospitality industry.
Whatever your passion, you can find it, fund it, and support it in Siem Reap as a family.
4. CAMBODIA LANDMINE MUSEUM
Before we arrived in Siem Reap, we started sharing some of the troubling history of Cambodia with our kids so they would understand the poverty we would see and have context about the country. Trying to explain this history and the implications today was challenging, but the girls seemed to understand it a bit. However, it was the Cambodia Landmine Museum that truly brought the past and the solutions in the present to life. While small, it does an excellent job explaining the history of Cambodia by focusing it through one man’s eyes, museum founder Aki Ra. While you can do a self-tour, if you are there when volunteer Bill Morse is present, don’t hesitate to talk with him. He knows Aki Ra well and brings his story alive, while also sharing how the museum’s NGO status and work as a school is helping the next generation of Khmer.
5. POTTERY AND CERAMICS
Looking for both a great souvenir and a way to learn about a lost art? The Khmer Ceramic & Fine Arts Centre is dedicated to bringing back Khmer pottery and ceramics while also helping inspire an appreciation for this technically challenging art form. With a few locations throughout Siem Reap, the centre offers a variety of activities and classes for all skill levels.
6. MASSAGES FOR KIDS AND ADULTS
It seems as if spas and foot massage stands are everywhere in Siem Reap. After a day running around temples, I sure needed a foot rub. However, I always feel guilty going off on my own for a massage and leaving everyone behind. Not the case in Siem Reap!
There are two places we’d highly recommend, each which offers treatments for kids!
Lemongrass offers a “Kiddie Khmer” massage for kids aged 2 to 9, priced at $7 without oil, $10 with oil. It is 45 minutes long, plus a 15-minute nap so that parents can enjoy a full hour treatment while their kids are relaxing. My daughters and I enjoyed our massages in the same room - it was an incredible treat and felt amazing.
We’d also recommend Body and Soul’s Aspara Princess Package, a 75-minute session for kids aged 2 to 12 including a kiddie facial, manicure, pedicure and a special surprise. I have never seen the girls as blissed out as when they completed their facials!
7. ICE CREAM
There are many great choices for ice cream and gelato in Siem Reap. Blue Pumpkin's multiple locations throughout Siem Reap offer favorites such as chocolate and unique combinations such as black sesame. For a little bit of fun with your ice cream, we’d recommend Magic Stick, across the street from Red Piano. The crazy cone makes for some fun eating!
The newest addition to the Siem Reap ice cream scene is Gelato Lab on Hospital Street between Old Market Area and Pub Street. Boasting all natural ingredients, it also includes a small coffee bar for those missing coffee from home.
8. BOSTON-STYLE PIZZA
Sometimes, you just want a slice of pizza. We’d recommend Belmiro’s. Owned by a expat from Boston who also gives of his time to a local NGO, pizza is available by the slice or you can go for the whole pie (we did, multiple times!). Happy hour beers are 50 cents and if there is major sporting event, you can count on being able to see it here—especially if it's Boston-related.
9. PRIVATE MOVIE THEATER
We loved the private movie rooms at Angkor Cinemas, located on the second floor of the Angkor Trade Center. For $5 a person, you can select one of their hundreds of videos available and sit in air-conditioned comfort on a soft while viewing. While outside food is not allowed, they do serve popcorn and beer. Not sure what else one needs! After visiting Ta Prohm, we were excited to watch Tomb Raider! The movie hasn't gotten any better after a second screening, but who cares after you have run through the same wat at Lara Croft?
Between the night market and the old market (known as Psah Chah in Khmer), there are stalls after stalls of souvenirs and curios to satisfy any shopper. While we loved the scarves worn by Khmers, we loved haggling - which is expected - even more. In addition to the touristy markets, there are wonderful little shops all around Siem Reap, many of which feature items made by local NGOs. Never has shopping felt better!