Popular Singapore Shore Excursions
Every day is a shopping day in Singapore, as the city is a well-established retail Mecca. Most malls and department stores are open daily from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (The Mustafa Center in Little India operates round-the-clock, and it has an awesome selection of cheap goods -- but no alcohol or books.)
Orchard Road, particularly at its junction with Scotts Road, is the place to start -- and possibly finish. (Take the MRT to the Orchard Road station.) The area offers a vast array of retailers, such as Tangs department store and the fantastic Kinokuniya, a vast bookstore that ranks as the most comprehensive in Singapore. Popular shopping centers also include the ION Orchard, Wisma Atria and Ngee Ann City. The last of which houses the Japanese department store Takashimaya (which even has a department of London's famed Harrods); the food court on the basement level is a great place for lunch and people-watching.
Take time to stroll at Boat Quay, which is a mixed development of old wharf houses (converted to commercial use -- mainly as restaurants) and modern skyscrapers of international corporations. During the night, the Boat Quay is a bustling spot, with ethnic restaurants serving every type of Asian meals.
Close to Boat Quay, Esplanade -- Theatres on the Bay is undoubtedly the largest and most comprehensive performance arts venue in Singapore. Nicknamed the "Durian" by the locals, the complex resembles the round, spiky and notoriously pungent Southeast Asian fruit in its design. Located under the distinctive dome-shaped floors are a concert hall, theater, several recital rooms and an arts library, as well as an array of shops and food outlets. Esplanade also features an outdoor bar on the roof terrace, Orgo, which offers great views overlooking the bay.
Singapore is flat, so you can get a great view of the city from the City Space bar on the 70th floor of the Swissotel Singapore. Across the street is a more famous spot for libations: the Singapore Sling was invented at Raffles hotel's Long Bar. The Long Bar is, perhaps, the most touristy spot in town. Prepare to pay for the pleasure; on our trip, a pair of cocktails cost about $62. And, by the way, it's not the "real" Long Bar; this one is, according to Raffles' Web site, "inspired by the Malayan plantations of the 1920's." Note: Raffles is closed through 2018. A pop-up bar selling Singapore Slings is at 3 Seah Street.
Singapore's colonial district, which lies roughly between Boat Quay and the vast Raffles City shopping and hotel complex, is full of charm. Among the sites that hearken back to the city's English past are the Old Parliament House, the gorgeous Fullerton Hotel (which used to be the General Post Office), the Anglican St. Andrew's Cathedral and the Singapore Cricket Club.
Put your camera to work at the lush Singapore Botanic Gardens, a 120-plus-acre playground for nature lovers. The site features a rain forest, lake and all manner of gardens -- some showcasing medicinal herbs, others different types of ginger. The National Orchid Garden is there, as well. (There's no fee to visit the Botanic Gardens, but there is an admission charge for the orchid garden.)
One of Singapore's newest attractions -- conveniently located close to the Marina Bay Cruise Centre -- is Gardens by the Bay. It opened at the end of 2011, and visitors can stroll through several domed gardens, such as the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. Its "vertical gardens," called Supertree Grove, are gaining acclaim.
The Singapore Zoo, one of many animal parks in the country, offers a chance for visitors to have breakfast with an orangutan. The zoo features more than 3,200 mammals, birds, reptiles and fish in its 70-acre park.
Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system -- in essence, a subway -- is a tourist attraction in its own right. It's the cleanest you'll ever see -- no trash and no graffiti. You buy tickets from an automated machine, so make sure you get cash from an ATM beforehand. You'll need to use S$5 (Singapore) bills or smaller. A good sample ride is the two-stop trip between Orchard Road and City Hall (for the colonial district).
Go to the beach. The only spits of sand in Singapore are located on Sentosa Island, but we'll warn you: Most locals don't actually swim there. Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong represent the popular beaches. (Siloso overlooks oil refineries on the opposite shore.) If you are looking for history, 1880-built Fort Siloso is the place to go. The ride over to the island on the cable car from the Harbourfront Centre is the best part of the outing! On the way, you'll see gorgeous views of the city and cruise ships docked underneath.
Visit Universal Studios -- Asian style. Sentosa Island has received a major facelift, with new hotels and attractions, including Universal Studios. Singapore's second casino and a Hard Rock Hotel also are located next to the studios.
Another exciting outdoor experience is the canopy walk in the Southern Ridges. The six-mile walk can be started from Mount Faber Park (conveniently close to the Singapore Cruise Centre). On the walk, you'll see the rich vegetation of Singapore and wild monkeys.