What are the best things to do with kids in Singapore?

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Despite its reputation as a fast-growing economic metropolis, Singapore is very much a haven for kids. Uncover the history of a Japanese-occupied World War II, explore the nature trails of a tropical rainforest, delve into the world of cultural performances or simply hop onto roller coasters for a thrilling ride — there is much for young minds to do in this small but adventurous city.

1. Universal Studios. Just off the south of the city on Sentosa Island is Universal Studios, Southeast Asia’s first blockbuster movie and television show theme park. In this fantastical enclave, the world’s tallest dueling roller coasters — the Human and Cylon routes of Battlestar Galactica — fill the skies at 140 feet, vintage desert jeeps roam ancient Egyptian lands, and pterodactyls soar through the Lost World. Eighteen of the theme park’s 24 attractions were specially adapted.

2. The botanic gardens. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a rich 183-acre cluster of flora and fauna in the middle of the city. What started out as rainforest has long been landscaped into a public park. Plus, the gardens have free entry, open from 5 a.m. to midnight every day of the year. Have a picnic, roam or slide out of tree houses and mazes. Or bring the little ones and take part in educational workshops at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, one of the first kiddie gardens in Asia.

3. The Night Safari. Set in a secondary rainforest, the world’s first night zoo houses more than 900 nocturnal critters from 130 species. Opened in 1991, the Night Safari was the first to use special lighting techniques to highlight animals in their original surroundings without barriers. Observe in awe as lions gnaw on big-boned carcasses, mountain deer stop in their tracks and, if you’re lucky, rhinoceros taking their bath. Hop off the tram to go in search of flying squirrels, hanging bats and roaming leopards. As if that weren’t exciting enough, a River Safari will open in 2012.

4. Take the kids to the East’s Broadway. Catch some big productions at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. The Lion King musical had a nice run in the 1,900-seat Sands Theatre. Though it’s too late to see the colorful life-sized animal puppets and hear African melodies composed and adapted by Elton John, the theater stages other popular shows like Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz.

5. Fort Siloso. Go back in time with country’s largest collection of World War II memorabilia at Fort Siloso. Sign up for the tours that include a Fort Siloso History Passport — the passport route will take you through old tunnels of this vital point of defense for the Malayan region. Check out cannons and original guns — don’t worry, it’s all safe — from the Occupation era.

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