We loved northern Thailand’s beautiful, relaxed, temple-filled Chiang Mai. For us, it was the perfect balance of relaxed old town beauty, stunning Buddhist temples and gold pagodas, accessible nature and jungles, fabulous restaurants and so many super cool activities for kids.
We were so lucky to stay at what we consider the best hotel for kids in Chiang Mai, the Shangri-La Chiang Mai. It’s no secret that we love staying at Shangri-La properties, we have always been so well looked after and Emmie is treated with such care by all the staff who are genuinely interested in making sure every guest has the perfect stay. It’s a true five star Chiang Mai hotel, and we all love a little luxury, especially after a day of action with kids.
There are so many things to do in Chiang Mai that we were busy each day exploring, adventuring and getting to know this beautiful part of the world. Thailand is so much more than gorgeous beaches and long-boats, and Chiang Mai is the perfect place to experience Thai hospitality while surrounded by wild nature, traditional daily life and northern history. You can read all about our incredible visit to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary here.
And each day when we finished our adventuring, we returned to the luxury of the Shangri-La for a swim in its huge sparkling pool, a meal at China Kitchen (they serve awesome xiao long bao and green beans with pork - Em was in heaven!) and a massage at Chi the Spa before setting off on new adventures, like the Chiang Mai night bazaar that is just a short walk down the road. And I must admit there were also days where we didn't leave the pool!
The special touches when staying at a luxury hotel like the Shangri-La Chiang Mai certainly gave our visit some extra shine. Everyone loves attentive friendly staff, beautiful surroundings and being made to feel special, right? Check in was a breeze and the lobby is an open, stunning space with traditional decoration, soft lighting, comfy lounges, huge windows looking out over the grounds and elephants of all shapes and sizes designed by local artists for sale - with profits donated to the Elephant hospital in Lampang province.
Location is important when you’re with kids and the Shangri-La Chiang Mai is in a great spot just down the road from Chiang Mai’s night markets, beautiful Buddhist temples - make sure to check out Si Supan and try fish feeding at a temple just around the corner - and a short walk to the old city. It’s a great base for exploring the old town and for taking longer trips out to the surrounding nature and wildlife.
Porters will grab you a songtao (red truck taxi) in the street which for 20 baht per person will take you to any part of the old town - negotiate your price for longer rides. Your truck may stop to pick up others heading in your direction and it’s a fun and easy community transport system.
Our room at the Shangri-La was beautifully decorated in the northern Thai style, with a huge comfy bed with soft doonas and pillows, a huge bathroom with delicious L’Occitane toiletries, a daybed, coffee table and desk and enough space for us to spread out. Space is always important! We ordered room service twice and it arrived quickly and of course was delicious. Em was so pleased to scoff down some fish and chips after weeks of rice and Asian dishes! Housekeeping left little treats and snacks for Emmie each day and oh, isn't it nice to come back to a crisp spotless room after a day out adventuring?
The Shangri-La’s pool is a kids kind of heaven, and when they’ve had enough sun they can go and play at the indoor Kids Corner, which is right next to the gym. It’s stocked with a big ball pit and lots of climbing and play toys. While it’s not staffed, it’s a great opportunity to rest while your child runs off their extra energy.
Every day kids activities are listed in the fitness centre, including leaf weaving - Emmie made some gorgeous woven flowers and traditional fish hanging from a fishing line - and traditional painting.
Emmie also enjoyed a junior massage at Chi the Spa while I had my massage right next to her. She fell asleep hugging a big teddy bear and it was a fun way for us to end the day after being out and about.
And if you’re keen for a romantic night of drinks and dinner you can organise an in-house baby sitter to keep the kids happy while you unwind.
The Shangri-La prides itself on its environmental focus - from bee farms on the roof at the Shangri-La Sydney Hotel to a desalination plant at the Shangri-La Mactan - every single property offsets its environmental impact and contributes to protecting the world around us. At the Shangri-La Chiang Mai recycled water is used on the grounds and vegetables from its gardens are used in its restaurants.
The Shangri-La boasts the biggest hotel pool in Chiang Mai city - and it’s for sure the best hotel pool for kids - a beautiful blue oasis surrounded by frangipanis and gardens, where wait staff greet you with iced water and a cold fruit tray and make your sun lounge up with fresh towels. It has shallow covered areas for small children, pool toys and balls to play with and hot spa for adults.
A trolley filled with fresh juice ice blocks is also wheeled around during the day with complementary ices for everyone. We had pineapple and orange and they were delicious - of course Emmie was then over at the Pool Bar intermittently asking for more (and telling them I had asked her to get them - mischief!).
Super importantly - the pool has three lifeguards on duty at all opening hours. While we always watch our kids of course, it’s a great added security to know there are trained professionals also on the lookout to care and protect our children while they’re in the water.
It’s so relaxed you can easily spend the day poolside - and the great news is that you don't have to be a guest to do so. This wonderful Shangri-La offers day pool passes for 500 baht for adults and 250 for kids that give you use of the pool and gym for the day, so if you’re not staying at the hotel its a great opportunity to enjoy its luxury and hospitality.
And since most people are out and about exploring, the pool is never crowded and is a peaceful, calm and relaxing way to finish your day…or enjoy a whole day, as we did!
Breakfast is a huge buffet of everything you could possibly desire, the only challenge is when to stop eating! We were also lucky enough to experience the Shangri-La’s Horizon Club lounge where we sat quietly overlooking the pool from Level 11 and enjoying the delicious food on offer plus a la carte treats like poached eggs and pancakes delivered fresh to our table (all available at the buffet also). And oh my gosh..the pastries! Daily diet blowouts.
We ate at China Kitchen - a fabulous Szechuan restaurant that serves up the most delicious dishes like Emmie’s favourite xiao long bao (soup dumplings) and green beans with pork, lettuce in sesame - oh my gosh you must try this! - crispy prawns wrapped in rice paper, roast duck and so much more.
And it’s very reasonably priced- mum, Emmie and I had a feast each time we ate there and it would cost around $30 - $40 Australian dollars. There is a special room where you can watch the chefs prepare the food through a huge window. It's so cool, make sure you book it for your lunch or dinner - it's open to everyone so even if you're not staying at the Shang you can treat yourself.
The Shangri-La’s Pool Bar has wonderfully attentive staff and a good selection of poolside snacks like traditional rice paper rolls or kids favourites like hot dogs. They do mean juices too - our faves were coconut of course, and fresh chilled mango juice.
CHI THE SPA
After hiking mountains and swimming in waterfalls you’ll probably be a little sore and will definitely need to book into Chi the Spa for a soothing massage.
And if you need to bring a child with you then that’s okay. The team at Chi the Spa have turned one of the private villas (yes, at Chi the Spa you’re treatment is given in a private villa) into a child friendly space, with a huge lounge for children to play on while mum or dad (or both) have a massage or treatment, and staff can share activities like bamboo weaving or leaf painting . Kids can also get massages, and Emmie had the most wonderful massage she was asleep for hours afterwards, after falling asleep hugging a big teddy.
My massage was absolutely delicious. The massages at Chi are very personalised and attentive and are in such luxurious surroundings that it’s so easy to drift off into a lovely sleep. I tried very hard to stay awake to enjoy the perfect pressure and long, releasing strokes of the therapists hands - which managed to pinpoint every sore or tired spot on my lower back and legs. I felt longer and leaner after it and almost floated out of the villa.
I am one of those people that carries their gym gear around and never uses it. But if you use yours then you’ll enjoy the Shangri-La’s fitness centre. It has organised classes- including yoga and Muay Thai - and all the machines you’ll need to work up a sweat and you can use the steam room and spa afterwards. Whilst I forgot to use the gym I did try a Muay Thai class and it was amazing! If I hadn't been so unfit that I was sore the next day I would have done another one! The beautiful outdoor pool is big enough for laps, and you can also use the Shangri-La’s tennis court for a game or a lesson.
WE FELT SPECIAL
Its not simply luxury that makes the Shangri-La special. One of the things we love about the Shangri-La hotels is its family focus. Families and children seem to be special at the Shangri-La and staff are always doing extra to make sure children have a wonderful stay.
And that’s important in an activity rich town, because kids need their calm downtime. They need their pool time and rest time to recharge and to be at their best for experiencing wonderful mind opening adventures likes caring for rescued elephants, meeting ancient tribes, riding downriver on bamboo rafts and trekking through waterfalls.
During our time at the Shangri-La Chiang Mai we saw other guests children being looked after with special meals when staff overheard they couldn't eat from the buffet, and Emily was absolutely delighted to find a surprise giant teddy bear left in our room for her by housekeeping. She loved that teddy. Housekeeping also left milk and cookies in the room for her every afternoon - so kind. The staff interact with the children so nicely, they are friendly, helpful and love making them smile. These acts of kindness towards families are so beautiful and make a huge impact on the children’s stay at the hotel and make me love the Shangri-La even more. If you’re looking for the Chiang Mai’s best hotel for kids, then in our opinion, this is it.
We loved our time in Chiang Mai, and we loved spending our days at the Shangri-La Chiang Mai. We’re sure you will too. You can check out prices and availability here - enjoy!
Note: We were hosted by the Shangri-La Chiang Mai for some of our time in Chiang Mai, and we later paid to use the pool and facilities when we stayed in an AirBNB rental.