Go to the Zoo
A trip to the zoo is always a good day out for children, and the Sao Paulo Zoo is no exception. Set in a huge area of Atlantic forest, it is the largest zoo in Latin America and is home to over 3,200 animals. There are plenty of local species on show, such as howler monkeys and armadillos, but there are also lots of rare animals from elsewhere in Brazil and overseas, such as orangutans, rhinoceroses, Malaysian gharial crocodiles, and beautiful indigo macaws. The park also offers a safari, with visitors allowed to use their own vehicles or go along in one of the zoo’s own minivans.
The zoo is located to the south of the city, so you’ll need to take the car, or alternatively, there is a shuttle bus service from the Jabaquara subway station. There are plenty of places to eat within the park. If it’s a sunny day, don’t forget your sunscreen. Tickets are priced R$49.50 (£12) for adults and R$17.50 (£4) for kids, and children under 6 go free.
Visit the Science Museum
Inaugurated in 2009, the Museu Catavento is Sao Paulo’s best interactive science museum and an excellent place to take the kids. Housed in the old Palácio das Indústrias, a restored building that has remained standing for 100 years, it is located in the center of the city, directly in front of Dom Pedro II Park. It is easily accessible by car, but is also a short walk from the Sao Bento (blue line) and Pedro II (red line) subway stations.
Ideal for children aged 5 and up, the Museu Catavento has lots of fun, educational, and interactive exhibitions, split into four main areas: Universe, Life, Technology, and Society. Dotted between these areas there are lots of standalone exhibition rooms, including the recently updated Chemistry Lab, which allows kids (and adults!) to take part in some exciting experiments. There is also a brand new virtual-reality exhibition, “Dinos do Brasil,” which was opened in February 2017 and shows how the dinosaurs lived in prehistoric Brazil. Tickets to the museum are R$6 (£1.50) for adults, while children pay half price. Entry is free for all on Saturdays and the museum is closed on Mondays.
Spend a Day in the Park
Chosen by The Guardian as one of the best urban parks in the world, Ibirapuera Park is a favorite of all tourists in Sao Paulo, young and old. Its vast, green area is an excellent place to take kids on any day of the week. One of the most popular activities in the park is renting a bike and cycling around Ibirapuera’s two beautiful artificial lakes. There are hundreds of bikes available to rent for adults and children, and there are bicycles with stabilizers so that the younger ones can join in too. Speaking of which, Ibirapuera is an ideal place for kids to learn how to ride and finally say goodbye to those training wheels.
If cycling isn’t your children’s cup of tea, Ibirapuera has plenty of space for a family picnic, as well as dozens of large playgrounds dotted around its grounds. The park has ample parking facilities if you’re coming by car, though it is also easily accessible on foot from most of Sao Paulo’s central neighborhoods.
Head to the Beach
For those looking to treat the kids and get out of the city for the day, jump into the car and head to the Santos Coast and spend some unforgettable time at the beach. While they’re not as famous as those in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo state has some incredible beaches and on every public holiday, Paulistanos flee the city and head for the sand. Beach towns such as Guaruja and Bertioga are only a couple of hours away by car and the drive is very straightforward, following either the Anchieta or Imigrantes highways that leave Sao Paulo to the south and go up and over the Serra do Mar mountain range. If you’ve got time for a slightly longer drive, head further east along the coast and visit Maresias or Sao Sebastiao.
Go See Some Snakes
The Butantan Institute is one of the leading scientific research centers in the world and its large grounds and many attractions make for an unforgettable day out with your kids. The institute has a vast, green park, several museums, a library, and a Rhesus macaque sanctuary. The standout attraction of a day at the Butantan, however, is the serpentarium, home to hundreds of species of snakes that can be seen up close. The institute is a worldwide authority in studying snake venom and has a vast collection of the reptiles.
Every Thursday, the institute holds the Mão na Cobra event, where Butantan monitors answer questions about the snakes and even allow visitors to touch them and study them. The Institute is located to the west of the city, adjacent to the grounds of Sao Paulo University, and is within walking distance of Butanta subway station on the city’s yellow line. Entrance to the museums costs R$6(£1.50) for adults and R$3 (75p) for children, but access to the park, the monkey sanctuary, and the serpentarium is free of charge.
Visit the Sao Paulo Aquarium
The main thing you could criticize about the Sao Paulo Aquarium is its name. In addition to an amazing array of aquatic flora and fauna, allowing kids to get right up close to sharks, manatees, alligators, and Amazonian lontra otters, the aquarium also houses lots of land animals, such as kangaroos, meerkats, giant bats, and koalas. The highlight of the aquarium is their newest arrivals, Aurora and Peregrino, a pair of polar bears who came from Russia in 2015. They live in a large temperature-controlled environment built to replicate their natural habitat, and are always playful and love to get close to visitors.
The aquarium is located in the southern neighborhood of Ipiranga and is served by the Santos-Imigrantes subway station. It is also easily accessible by car and has parking. It is open every day, with entrance costing R$85 (£20) for adults and R$50 (£12) for kids.
Go to the Cinema
Though Sao Paulo’s tropical-yet-temperate climate is one of its strong suits, it does get an awful lot of rain. On a wet day in Sao Paulo, the Paulistanos indulge in one of their favorite hobbies: spending the day in one of the city’s myriad large shopping centers and watching a movie. As such, Sao Paulo has some pretty impressive cinemas, always a good alternative to take the kids when it’s raining outside.
One of the best movie theaters is the Cinépolis, located inside the super-swanky JK Iguatemi shopping mall. It has a total of eight screens, including IMAX and 3D, as well as the very first 4DX theater in South America – a South Korean technology that allows for your movie-watching experience to be intensified with seat movement, climactic effects and smells – which your older kids will go mad for.
Spend the Day in S.E.S.C
S.E.S.C. is an initiative headed by the Social Service of Commerce, investing in culture and the arts all over Brazil. They have built several cultural and leisure centers in Sao Paulo, where there is always lots to do all year round. Many have their own swimming pools and sports facilities, while there are also S.E.S.C locations with concert halls, theaters, and workshops for all ages. The best-known location in Sao Paulo is S.E.S.C. Pompeia, situated in the leafy western neighborhood of Pompeia, a 20-minute walk from the Palmeiras-Barra Funda subway station, or a short walk from the Água Branca overground train station.
S.E.S.C. Pompeia, Rua Clélia 93, Pompeia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, +55 1138717700