With travel limited and Singapore residents largely spending their holidays within the country, there has been plenty of time to explore the Little Red Dot’s backyard. After the must-see museums and parks have been ticked off your list, consider the city state’s unusual and lesser-known gems. From walking trails and cycling routes to road trips and spots that make you feel like you’re abroad, Singapore is a fascinating place with plenty to unearth. Below are some quirky cafés, museums and video game spots if you’re looking for a day of fun.
1. Play Nation
Play Nation is the perfect place to while away your time. One of the largest gaming cafés in Singapore, with multiple branches, Play Nation offers a wide selection of board games and console games that will satisfy both the young and young-at-heart. Try your hand at Wii- and Xbox-exclusive games, or relive your childhood with classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble. There is something for everyone – whether you’re looking for a place to hold your next family gathering (be sure to make a reservation) or to have plain silly fun with your friends in fantasy battles and ruthless business deals, Play Nation guarantees hours of superb entertainment. If you rather play in the comfort of your home, you can rent its consoles, buy its games and takeaway its meals.
2. Central Perk
Based on the hit American sitcom Friends, the Central Perk café – which is, of course, named after the characters’ favourite hangout – is full of replicas and recreated sets from the show. Central Perk, the only Warner Brothers-licensed café outside of the United States, opened its doors to much fanfare in Singapore in 2016. Here, fans of the television series can enjoy espresso flavours based on the characters’ personalities – the Monica, for instance, is a strong, snappy, acidic brew with a clean finish. The Chandler, of course, boasts a clever and complex blend of bitter coffee and sweet chocolate. The dishes on the menu are given the same treatment – Joey’s Fisherman Stew is a hearty portion of seasonal seafood. Going meat-free? Channel your inner Phoebe and order the vegetarian pizza. Visitors can immerse themselves even deeper by sitting on the iconic orange couch where Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe would always gather. The café also hosts trivia nights, open mic sessions and standup comedy shows. The eccentric ambience and good food make for a one-of-a-kind experience that even those who are not familiar with the show will enjoy.
Games@PI boasts the largest collection of board games in Singapore. Located in a shopping mall along Orchard Road, the specialty store draws both loyal fans and new enthusiasts with role-playing board games such as Dungeons & Dragons. Think you’re a D&D pro? Take part in one of the shop’s Adventurers League Nights, a regular gaming event. Or if you’re looking for something more casual, you can book a table where you and your friends can outplay each other in a variety of wargames. When you’re finished slaying dragons, continue the entertainment with many more board and card games, such as Dixit, Catan and Cards Against Humanity.
4. The Mind Café
Located in a conservation shophouse along Prinsep Street, The Mind Café specialises in renting out board games from its 500-strong collection. With rates that begin from S$5 per person per hour, The Mind Café offers quality entertainment that’s reasonably priced too. For a dose of local flavour, pick games like The Singaporean Dream – a humorous hit party game – and The Durian Game, a card game based on the beloved “king of fruits”. For more classic choices, you can count on The Mind Café to have Monopoly and Snakes and Ladders on its shelves.
5. Trick Eye Museum
At this museum on Sentosa island, there isn’t a single “do not touch” sign in sight – guests, after all, are encouraged to interact with its 2D paintings, which incorporate optical illusions to appear 3D. The mind-boggling artworks were hand-painted by Korean artists, and most visitors enjoy taking funny photos with them. With the introduction of augmented reality technology, Trick Eye Museum has made the experience even more immersive. Explore the different exhibits that make use of – and baffle – all of your five senses. Be sure to make reservations before your arrival. Book online and save up to 20% on your tickets.
6. Hatter Street
This rather small but homely café nestled in the heartlands takes inspiration from The Mad Hatter, the iconic tea party-loving character from Alice in Wonderland. The food, like The Mad Hatter, is quirky – here you’ll find unconventional takes on the usual café dessert offerings. Hatter Street’s specialty is combining familiar and comforting flavours to present truly worthy treats – think: peanut butter and cheesecake, Horlicks and Ovaltine. If you’re in the mood for something more classic, the waffles and ice cream are something regulars rave about. Coupled with the whimsical décor, this café has a charming ambience.
7. Mint Museum of Toys
Mint Museum of Toys houses a truly world-class collection of more than 50,000 vintage toys and collectibles. With items from over 40 countries, the catalogue includes toys from as early as the 1800s. Regional toys such as capteh (shuttlecocks used for a kicking game) are on display too. The museum’s most valuable toy is a rare Mickey Mouse Hurdy Gurdy worth US$35,000. There is also a doll that once belonged to Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and even a Batman robot toy with a cape and a sword – the only one of its kind in the world. A visit here is perfect for a walk down memory lane. It is temporarily closed, but look out for an upcoming virtual museum where you get a sneak peak into the museum’s permanent exhibition.
8. JCU Museum of Video and Computer Games
For video game enthusiasts, this museum is a must-visit – located within the James Cook University campus in Geylang, it is the first museum dedicated to video games in Southeast Asia. The collection features about 300 games and consoles, some of which are rare and vintage gems such as the Magnavox Odyssey – the first commercial home video game system, released in 1972. Best of all, visitors can play most of them. A trip here is sure to evoke nostalgia, especially with familiar titles such as Mario Bros, Pac-Man and Tetris. The museum is free for everyone, but advanced booking is required.
*Some photos were taken before Covid-19.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The story was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings and updated on 29 June 2021.