Thanks to the pandemic (or no thanks to the pandemic, haha) we’ve traveled around Taiwan more than ever in the past two years. This included two trips down to Kaohsiung by high speed rail, which is pretty amazing considering I had only been to Kaohsiung once in my life, more than 20 years, ago, for maybe three days.

But, my daughter loves it there. She still talks about wanting to go to Kaohsiung, which baffles me. I get it though. It was the first time she ate at Haidilao and experienced the dancing noodles. And we loved staying at the InterContinental Kaohsiung despite an insane earthquake one night that made the entire building creak and sway.

Please make special note: the breakfast buffet at InterContinental Kaohsiung is one of the best I’ve had and the bakery has maybe the best chocolate croissants in Taiwan. We also enjoyed getting a pre-dinner glass of wine in the fancy lobby bar. I blew through most of my hotel points staying there both trips. Worth it.

So what is there to do with kids?

First, the next block over from InterContinental Kaohsiung is the Kaohsiung Main Public Library. This place is a gem. The B1 floor has a massive children’s section with Chinese, English, Japanese and other international sections.

There are hidden reading nooks that only fit little kids, tables and chairs for those who want more structured seating, and a massive, heart-shaped padded area where everyone can lounge with their shoes off. Just in terms of size it beats any children’s library or bookshop in Taipei.

You’ll definitely end up going to the Pier 2 Art Center to walk around, though hopefully not in the peak of summer when it’s blindingly hot. Taking the light rail there is perfect because you’ll curve through Glory Pier and pass by the eye-catching Kaohsiung Music Center.

The best thing to do at Pier 2 is the Hamasan Museum of Taiwan Railway. The model train exhibit is incredibly detailed and depicts the history of rail in Taiwan, from north to south, from day to night. We spent around a full hour moving through the model train exhibit. Outside, you simply have to do the mini train ride. It’s a little pricey, but the kids will love it.

There are a couple of theme park-style places to visit in Kaohsiung. We really enjoyed Suzuka Circuit Park, which is about a 20-minute subway ride from central Kaohsiung and next door to Kaohsiung Airport. It’s connected to SKM Park Outlets, where you can stop to grab lunch, and get out of the sun for a while.

Suzuka is known for their super fast go kart circuit (the Suzuka logo is the shape of the race track) but there are lots of rides for all ages from the carousel to a ferris wheel, and driving courses for little kids.

A few more things we enjoyed in Kaohsiung: exploring the grounds of Weiwuying (National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts), and visiting Little House Bookstore, a cosy little independent bookshop. They show original art from Taiwanese illustrators and have a beautiful reading room on the second floor.

After these two trips to Kaohsiung, I think of it more as a staycation city than a destination city. Especially because I loved the InterContinental so much. There was more to do than I imagined, and things that we don’t have in Taipei, but transport is a significant issue in Kaohsiung if you don’t have a car, which we didn’t.

The main issue: the city is very spread out. For instance, the Golden Lion Lake Butterfly Garden was definitely not worth the taxi ride out there. We also skipped cool places that would have required half a day to experience, like the Taiwan Pineapple Factory, located near the Pingtung border.

Not to hate too much on Kaohsiung, but tourist sites can be hit or miss. I love taking my kid to museums, for example, but the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts was not worth the entry fee or the time spent. It doesn’t compare at all to the Tainan Art Museum. And we skipped E-DA Theme Park entirely because it looks kind of corny (it has a Greek islands theme, for whatever reason) and you’re out in the middle of nowhere for a full day.

I have no idea if we’ll be back in Kaohsiung soon since kids grow up and their interests change so quickly, but I do have very fond memories of our trips. Shame it took the pandemic, and limits on our travel options, to finally get down there.