Coming up with good family vacation ideas when you are the parent of teenagers is a struggle. Teens often lose their minds in cities. Nature trips are sometimes a hard sell, but take a teenager to New York City or London and they’re sold. So imagine instead bringing your child to Asia and having them experience streets covered in moped gangs, haggling markets with live seafood and bizarrely themed restaurants. Bringing them to Taiwan’s urban sprawls is unforgettable – especially if your teen is tall, watching wide-eyed in wonder as he staggers a foot above everyone else bustling by.
Indulge in the novelties
What’s more fun than time spent together as a family balking at the weird and wonderful? Taiwan is ideal for some ogling, as many of the shops, restaurants and even parks are super strange to first-timers. Take the girls to places like the Barbie Café in Taipei, decked out ceiling-to-floor in bright, glittery pink. Servers wear shimmering tutus and menu items include oodles of pink pastries and mocktails. It is a little crazy, but in a good way, and can be a memorable experience to have with your child. Boys might be more comfortable at the unbelievable toilet-themed restaurant that can make parents groan but teens roar with laughter. Seat are, obviously, toilets and food is served in appropriately shaped receptacles. It can be a good segway to teach the family about using squat toilets, which are common in public places around Taiwan and can be an adventure in itself.
Slow down in a spirit-filled spot
Guess how many temples and worship spots are in Taipei? I have no idea. You can plan out your trips to the temples, or simply walk around the city and you’re sure to stumble upon one or a dozen. Long Shan for its intricate rooftops and the massive Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall are good places to keep an eye out for. The Buddhist religion, the Taoist faith and the Confucius way of life are all represented in Taipei through impressive places of worship.
Gaze at Taipei’s iconic masterpiece
You can’t hang out in Taipei without seeing Taipei 101. At a towering 1,671 feet, it is the second tallest skyscraper on the planet. Tickets to get to the observation deck are a little expensive, but views are unparalleled and show the city melting into the surrounding mountaintops. On the 86th floor, which you reach on the fastest elevator in the world, there is a small booth where you can write and mail postcards. Ask the gift shop, as they sell stamps too.
Let them push their limits
Picky teenagers can’t say no to a smiling shop owner dangling a free sample in front of them. Let your teen loose a little and have them enjoy some culinary adventures, even if it might make them feel a little green—or regretful. You can handle the city on your own, but this can be a fun time to hire an English speaking guide for an hour or two. The translations of all the weird and wonderful foods at the market, from fish to flowers, are fascinating. A great place to start is a little outside the city at the Yehliu Geopark, about an hour’s bus ride from Taipei. See the oddly shaped mushroom rocks inside the park along the harbor, but make time to head to the pop-up markets just outside the entrance too. Pick up anything from wax apples to tuna-flavored hard candies. Your teen might love grabbing some strange (and sometimes gross!) trinkets for friends back home.
Take a peek at life outside the capital
I thought the capital of Taipei would be the only chaotic area of Taiwan I visited. Instead, I was surprised to find out other areas like Tainan and Kaohsuing were just as massive and urban. Splurge on a swanky hotel stay in either city for views that might even rival those seen in Taipei101. Try the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Tainan for giant, plush beds or the Grand Hai Lai Hotel in Kaohsuing for its memorable Chinese and Western style buffet.
Spark the interest in Asia early on with your teen to let them be immersed in a whole other world. Taiwan is a fantastic introduction to the giant continent, and it’s one of the family vacation ideas to inspire your teen for a lifetime of travel.