Getting to Mumbai
Mumbai is linked to most cities in the world, being a major hub in India. Similarly, within India, all domestic carriers will get you to Mumbai, as will the trains. Mumbai is also a seaport but I wouldn’t recommend a long haul to Mumbai on a boat. For more details on how to get to Mumbai, click here.
Public Parks in Mumbai
It may come as a surprise (read: shock) to you in the West that India is not the most conducive place when it comes to outdoor activities for kids. Most places are filthy and particularly in Bombay with 30 degree Celsius temperature and 90% relative humidity, an afternoon in the park is tantamount to ten minutes in the sauna. Nevertheless, kids must run, and we must follow.
Amarsons Park in Breach Candy is dotted with cute animal pictures and random fantastical elements (see mermaids), keeping kids entertained for hours.
The park charges Rs. 10 as an entrance fee and therefore keeps out stragglers and pervs, and is by the sea which is always a pleasant site in Bombay.
Cooperage Band Stand in Churchgate had a massive overhaul about 10 years ago and is a very sizable park with many jungle gyms, swings, and climbing options. The highlight is the horse and pony rides offered at the very entrance of the park. This being a very public park, it is critical that you keep your child in your sight at all times and never let him/her talk to strangers.
If you really want to make like the locals, head over to Nariman Point in the evenings for a host of fun activities for the kids. Little ferris wheels, dancing monkeys, and horse-carriages (you must bargain) that will take you up and down the Queen’s necklace are all a fun experience. Feast on roasted corn or fresh coconut water and make your way home with a balloon as a souvenir of your local Bombay experience.
Lunching with Kids in Mumbai
Mumbai is the culinary capital of India for sure but like in many developing nations, you have to be a little cautious about where you eat, ensuring that the hygiene and safety standards are up to the mark. You will have no problem at any of the many five-star hotels across the city that offer everything from Thai to Italian to Polynesian and of course, Indian, but let’s face it, that does tend to burn a bit of a whole in the pocket. Plus, you don’t get to really experience the city that way. Here are our picks for some casual places to take the bubs with kid-friendly features:
Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ):
A Belgian chain that has made its debut in Mumbai, right off Apollo Bunder in Colaba. For the Francophiles amongst you or those who simply enjoy a well-brewed cappuccino and an open-faced tartine, this is a great choice. LPQ has quickly become a favorite brunch destination but it is quite small so avoid peak time (weekend brunch) or expect a bit of a wait. Communal tables monopolize the central part of the space so get ready to knock elbows with South Bombay’s hipsters, or wait for your own table.They have high chairs but no kid’s menu. Karam had the lasagne the last time we were there and I daresay it was the most delicious thing on the table. They also do a great range of desserts as a reward for well-behaved kids (and adults!).
I don’t send people here because this place is something to write about. I recommend it because it is a clean and well-appointed restaurant to sample some of the best in local, vegetarian food. A large portion of the menu is items from the neighboring state of Gujarat but they also offer some great Mumbai street foods (not off the streets, hence, the recommendation) and popular dosas (originally from the South). The kids will enjoy paper dosas which come out as big as 2 feet long and is basically a crusty rice crepe. No high chairs.
Copper Chimney, Worli
If you are looking to sample authentic North-Indian and Mughlai cuisine, the butter chicken and naans and roomali rotis (literally “handkerchief” because of its softness) that you have heard about, this is the place to go. There are other locations but the one at Worli is the best. This food is NOT for the faint-hearted not so much because of the spice factor but because of its creamy richness. If your kids have an adventurous palate, go wild with the menu or the extensive buffet, if not, they will manage with a reshmi kebab (chicken marinated in cream cheese and grilled to perfection), rice and yogurt. The atmosphere is warm and pleasant and the smell of fresh spices will linger with you for days (as proof that you went to India). Not exactly budget dining but a reasonable price point given the quality of the food.
California Pizza Kitchen:
For those of you longing a good slice of pie or who cannot navigate the local food, head over to California Pizza Kitchen, always a safe bet with the kids. You can find one in Bandra and one on High Street Phoenix, just next to Hamley’s (you see why this is a popular choice?). Pizzas, pastas, salads, some with an Indian twist.
Moshés, Cuffe Parade:
Located in an old Bungalow in South Bombay’s prestigious Cuffe Parade neighborhood, Moshés offers a Mediterranean (ish) menu, with small plates for the family to share and a great wine list. What makes it great for kids? It has an outdoor patio which means that the kids can stretch out a bit, one of the few places with such a luxury in densely packed Mumbai.
China Garden, Kemps Corner:
You may or may not know that “Indian Chinese” is its own cuisine in India, blending the best of the flavors of India and its neighboring China. Eateries all over the world have been trying to replicate the taste of “Indian Chinese” to appeal to the Indian diaspora in those countries, but with no success. Therefore, in Mumbai, you must stop in at China Garden, a Mumbai institution at Kemps Corner and sample such favorites such as the sweet corn chicken soup, the fried wantons and the delectable chocolate mousse.
Blue Frog is Mumbai’s most popular live music destination. On Sundays however, it dishes up a great brunch for the whole family from 11am-4pm. The food selection is wonderful, the cocktails are inventive, and the dance floor is always ablaze with dads and daughters and little tots doing the cha-cha.
If that isn’t enough, miniFrog happens next door and a trained facilitator takes the kids through activities like art, music and games. All this so you can enjoy your third Grey Goose Martini or glass of champagne in peace.
It’s not cheap by Indian standards – brunch will cost you approximately USD 50/head (Rs. 2200).
Check out the Frog’s (as locals affectionately call it) website or email for reservations at email@example.com.
Shopping in Mumbai with Kids
There is no dearth of places to shop in India and Mumbai is its fashion capital. There is a great variety of clothing, accessories, toys, books for kids and here’s our guide on some of the best places to find them:
Hobby Ideas, Kemp’s Corner:
For kids that are into their arts and crafts, The Hobby Stores are kind of a paradise. They call themselves “India’s first Craft % Hobby Store” and whether or not they are doesn’t matter. What doesn’t matter is that they have everything from beads to calligraphy to stickers to whatchumacallits all under one roof. Kids can spend hours browsing or if you are able, attend one of their workshops for more fun.
Crossword Books Store, Kemp’s Corner:
Just next door to Hobby Idea is Crosswords. This chain of bookstores has a great range of books for the avid reader, but their kids’ section at the back is particularly inspiring with a huge sign welcoming you to “Hogwarts Express”. Here you will find books distributed by age and popular titles such as Dr. Seuss and Dora, as well as local favorites like Amar Chitra Katha (every Indian kid grows up on these comics based on Indian mythology). You will also find a host of DVDs and activity books. Take a load off from all these intellectual pursuits by grabbing a snack at the Moshés Cafe upstairs.
This is a very special store for babies. Specializing in “natural living” OmVed’s baby products are made of the softest organic bamboo cotton with beautiful Indian prints and motifs. They have onesies, blankets, swaddles, pillows, and much more. I actually bought five of the same baby blankets from here, for all my friends with new babies. No exaggeration. You can also choose from their beautiful collection of baby toiletries including body washes, lotions, massage oils and special products for new mums. For older kids, you can buy from eco-themed organic t-shirts (their sizing is a bit funny so make sure to look at them before you buy). You will pay for quality so don’t expect discount shopping here but it is totally worth it.
Premsons Bazaar, Breach Candy:
Before international standard malls and department stores hit Mumbai, people had Premsons. It’s a bit of a culture shock but there’s no better place to get “local” kids’ stuff like toys, Indian clothes, baby supplies (Pampers, Pigeon products), bangles, bindis, hair clips, etc. (Another alternative is Colaba Causeway where the stores are harder to find). You’ll get tons of items themed with your favorite character but beware that they are usually made in China and not the safest plastic quality. Great for fun, inexpensive things.
This chain of ethnic clothing stores has a wonderful selection of kurtas for adults and kids, in addition to shawls, dupattas, pants, and bags. Some of the larger stores carry a full range of furniture, bedspreads and lighting. Recently they also launched a range of foods, spices and condiments as well as toiletries. Reasonably priced and great for gifts as well.
For exclusive handmade chikan clothing and kurtas, Neemrana is where those in the know go. You’ll pay for the beautiful silks and cottons but be blown away by the beautiful work and colors. Kids sizes too, and you won’t find this stuff anywhere else in Mumbai. For the uber-trendy, buy a couple of georgette kurtis to wear as a cover-up on the beach. This is where Barney’s and Neiman get their inspiration, and you’ve have it a fraction of the price.
If you are looking for baby supplies, everything from well-known brands of medications, toiletries (including sunblock), bottles, diapers, car seats, clothes and toys, this is the place to go to. The owner, Vikas, is particularly knowledgeable which may be a comfort to you if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by India.
The UK-based international chain Mothercare set up shop in India a few years ago and has been a godsend to eager new mums looking for high-quality clothing, car seats, toiletries, furniture and nursing and maternity gear. This is particularly for people from the States as Mothercare has a presence in Europe, Australia and other parts of Asia. If you have an infant, I especially recommend the multi-packs of onesies in sleeveless, short-sleeved or long-sleeved options that serve as a great basic under everything.
I wasn’t going to include Hamley’s but there is truly no list of kid’s shopping stores that is complete without Hamley’s if it is an option. In Mumbai, it is at High Street Phoenix (as are many good things). Hamley’s is one of the most prestigious toy stores in the world. with its own range of toys, games, and arts and crafts. A must-stop if Hamley’s isn’t present in your country.
All Day Entertainment at High Street Phoenix
If you want to spend a day away from the traffic and chaos of Mumbai’s streets, make your way over to Phoenix Mills, or High-Street Phoenix, as it is sometimes called. South Bombay’s answer to a mall, this massive compound may overwhelm you at first (the signage is pretty crap as well), but with a few hours (and this guide), you will familiarize yourself with all its several nooks and corners.
The area is made up of five parts: Phoenix Mills, Skyzone Mall, the Galleria, PVR Cinemas, and the (wi-fi enabled) Palladium Mall (newest). The Palladium is closer to your idea of a traditional mall with super designer brands and enclosed circular floors. Here you can find international brands such as Diesel, Estee Lauder, Paul Smith, Burberry and Bo Concept, in addition to upper scale Indian names such as AND (Anita Dongre’s casual line), Shantanu and Nikhil and Satya Paul. Head to the top floor to Urban Yoga for ridiculously cute kids’ yoga wear (organic cotton they can wear anywhere actually) and to Sayonara Toys just for a peek. For charming homewares, stop by Earth, particularly if you are into Ganeshas and Buddhas. When you are done there, pop in for a bite at the Indigo Deli, one of India’s premier gourmet chains.
When you are ready for a little more Indianness, step out to the rest of Pheonix Mills, an indoor-outdoor complex with everything from a Big Bazaar (India’s CostCo equivalent), to Hamley’s and McDonald’s. You can also feast on Indian street food (NOT recommended for the weak of heart or stomach, this is pretty hardcore stuff – the rule of thumb is if you are going to eat off the streets, make sure it is cooked and hot. Avoid the chutneys, for example). Around the corner, enter the Skyzone Mall where you will find international treasures like Marks and Spencer (best quality kids’ underwear in the world) and Crocs (with a wide selection of kid crocs). You can also stop into Soma and Mogra for Indian apparel and homewares.
Move onto the section called the “Galleria”, where the highlight is definitely OmVed, an all-natural enterprise that produces mesmerizing incenses and body products. My favorite however is their children products: an all-organic range of spiritual and earth-friendly t-shirts and the softest, most beautiful baby blankets (I bought three: one for me, and 2 for my best friends!). Definitely worth the hunt for this Bombay-exclusive store. Across from OmVed is the famous Bombay Store, with a good sampling of Indian stationery, artifacts, and candles. Try the Khadi brand of body products sold here. Finally, always worth a stop into FabIndia, for Indian kurtas for all ages, and home products (try their teas!).
When you are done with all the shopping, make your way to the PVR cinemas, not for a movie but for a snack at the eclectic food court. Try a saada dosa (south Indian crepe-ish, very kid-friendly), or grab an ice-cream and a falafel.
If you were lucky enough to have a car and driver bring you here, make sure to call your driver a good 20 minutes before you head to your pick-up point (which you should have agreed on at drop-off). The parking lot is crazy.
If you find Phoenix is too much for you, cross over to Good Earth at Raghuvanshi Mills, and walk up a flight (caution: no elevator but you can leave your pram at the bottom of the stairs and the guard will watch it for you) to The Tasting Room. Great salads, sandwiches and crepes in a refreshing, cool environment that will calm even the most hyper baby.
On your way out, check out the homewares in the store – a personal favorite.
India – General Travel Tips
1) Contrary to popular belief, travel to a third world country doesn’t have to put you on high alert. Almost all baby products are available in India. Diapers can be bought at any local druggist and many local and domestic brands are available. I personally like the Saudi Arabian Pampers (they have arabic writing on them), as they are lighter and fit better. The Indian ones tended to cut Karam above the thigh.
2) Upscale stores like Just Moms on Bhulabhai Desai Road in Bombay and others in major cities stock all imported baby brands such as Mustela and Aveeno, in addition to Nuby and Avent feeding products. In addition, department stores stock brands such as Pigeon and Johnson and Johnson and local companies such as Himalayan Concepts do wonderful organic lotions and powders for baby that are well-suited for Indian weather. Unless your baby has sensitive skin, don’t be afraid to try local!
3) Food-wise, it’s always possible to get a butter naan, plain dosa, or rice if you need an emergency meal. As long as food is cooked, it’s generally safe to eat. I would stay away from canned food because I have only seen Heinz available and they are usually not stored in a way that would preserve them well in the Indian heat. When all else fails, there’s always chicken nuggets at McDonald’s.
4) Always check the seal on your mineral water to ensure that you have a new bottle. In fact, whenever possible, I would boil Karam’s water just to be safe.
5) Car seats are few and far between. Look around you: families of five are making their way around on scooters. Just hold on tight and avoid auto-rickshaws and trains if possible.
6) India is one of the cheapest places to buy books, from as low as 50cents. Toys are cheap too but if you’re anal about plastic, be aware that this isn’t the best quality material.
7) Always use a mosquito repellent when outside for extended periods of time. Malaria and other insect-borne diseases attack the unsuspecting in India. Sunblock is also a good idea.