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Hong Kong's 10 Best Early Entertainment: A Guide for Fledgling Night Owls



Never mind that old cliche about "The City that Never Sleeps." There's no need to party all night in Hong Kong if you simply want to head for bed not too long after dinner. And there are plenty of options to keep visitors entertained early in the evening.

Quite the best – simply because it doesn't cost a cent – is the Symphony of Lights, a spectacular sound and light show that flashes and reverberates around the skyscrapers on both sides of Victoria Harbour every evening at 8pm. Grab a good viewing spot, upload some shots to social media, and then you can make a beeline for your pajamas. Just as thrilling, an evening at Happy Valley Racecourse provides dual entertainment – horses galloping around the track, and thousands of spectators frantic with excitement. Again, things have pretty much wrapped up by 10pm.

There are lots of other options to while away an evening. Heading to one of Hong Kong's parks – or theme parks – is a local favorite. The grand parade and firework display at Disneyland caps the day perfectly. 

And as Hong Kong is pretty compact, it only takes a train, taxi or bus ride to get back to wherever you're staying in time for bed.


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10
Lantau Island
Po Lin Monastery
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


Po Lin translates to "precious lotus," and this monastery is one of the most famous of Hong Kong's numerous attractions. In addition to being one of the most opulent and grandest temples in the country, this is also home to the "Giant Buddha," which measures more than 100 feet high. Made of bronze and seated in the mythical cross-legged repose, this statue is an attraction on its own. The views of the countryside are spectacular, and an excellent vegetarian cuisine is served by monks in the canteen. Most people come here by road or cable car, both exciting journeys in themselves.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is quite the most spectacular sculpture in Hong Kong, and ending the day here is an unforgettable experience.

Ed's expert tip: Po Lin closes at dusk, so visitors should be able to get home in good time.

Read more about Po Lin Monastery →


Wong Tai Sin Temple
Photo courtesy of Wong Tai Sin Temple


Wong Tai Sin winds down by early evening, so it makes a neat ending to a day's sightseeing. This well-known attraction was built in 1973 and is still one of the most active Buddhist temples in the city. The lush gardens, with their waterfalls, ponds and pavilions, inspire numerous photographs. Be sure to wander through the arcade, where a palm reader will tell your fortune – some will even do it in English. This temple, named for a shepherd boy said to have mystical healing powers, still has a magical feeling. It's especially popular at major festivals such as Lunar New Year.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is one of the most important temples in Hong Kong.

Ed's expert tip: Fortune tellers here deliver a no-nonsense homily to children: work hard, obey your parents, be kind and you'll do well in life!

Read more about Wong Tai Sin Temple →


8
Southeast Hong Kong Island
Tai Tam Country Park
Photo courtesy of Tai Tam Country Park

Tai Tam Country Park sprawls over 3,249 acres, an amazing one-fifth of Hong Kong Island's total area. Tai Tam Valley, a verdant hollow surrounded by rocky cliffs, is a favorite destination. Also within the park's boundaries are four reservoirs, and several war-related ruins such as forts and magazines. During the second world war this was a major battlefield, one of the places where the invading Japanese troops met with truly strong British resistance. Like much of the island, this area was almost completely deforested by the time the war ended, and only the stringent efforts of the government kept the land from completely washing away.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is a great place to catch the sunset, looking down over Stanley or the city.

Ed's expert tip: On the south side of Hong Kong Island, this park can be reached by taxi in about 20 minutes from the city.

Read more about Tai Tam Country Park →


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Happy Valley Racecourse
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


Surrounded by a curtain of high rises, this downtown racecourse is one of the greatest stadiums on earth to enjoy a sweaty, noisy and adrenaline-pumping horse race at night. With a history dating back to 1844, the 55,000-seat racecourse is one of the earliest public facilities in colonial Hong Kong. Regular race takes place every Wednesday from 7pm on the 30-meter-wide grass track from September till June. A 978-seat iPad-equipped betting hall is located on the second floor of platform one. Visitors can either pay HK$10 (US$1.3) to sit on the public spectator seats or HK$100-150 (US$13-19) to enter the members-only zone. There are a total of seven restaurants and bars in the complex from Cantonese dining to al fresco drinking. On the second floor of the Happy Valley Stand of the racecourse, there is a 670-square-meter museum, Hong Kong Racing Museum, tracing the past and present of the city's enduring pastime.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is some of the best evening entertainment on offer in Hong Kong.

Ed's expert tip: Grab a place down by the rail – the horses thunder by just inches away.

Read more about Happy Valley Racecourse →


Zoological and Botanical Gardens
Photo courtesy of HK Leisure and Cultural Services Dept


This combination zoo and botanical garden is the ideal place to while away the early evening. Popular among local families and visitors, the facility is divided into two sections. On one side, see plants and birds in simulated natural habitats. On the other is a diverse array of animals, including many that are on the endangered list. Beautiful fountains punctuate the landscape at this educational attraction. The park also contains some colonial oddities, such as the bronze statue of King George VI, erected in 1941 to commemorate 100 years of British rule. The park's long been a popular date venue, which may explain the large number of couples here in the early evening.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Besides being free, the park is right in the center of Hong Kong Island, so very convenient.

Ed's expert tip: Evening is the best time to observe the animals in the zoo, who tend to hide during the day.

Read more about Zoological and Botanical Gardens →


5
Sheung Wan
Man Mo Temple
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board


The gods of literature and the military are celebrated here in one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong. Built in the 1840s, you'll find two unique chairs inside that were once used to carry these deities through the city during festivals. Visitors have left sticks of incense over the years, which are now hanging from the ceiling; you can still buy one in hopes of fulfilling a wish. There is also a fortune teller. Man Mo had a brief role in the Oscar-winning film "Love is a Many Splendored Thing", although the surrounding area is now packed with skyscrapers.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is probably Hong Kong's most famous temple, and a good stop before dinner in nearby SoHo.

Ed's expert tip: Man Mo closes at dusk, though large tour groups stop coming much earlier.

Read more about Man Mo Temple →


4
Aberdeen
Ocean Park
Photo courtesy of Ocean Park


This massive Chinese wonderland is a combination of amusement park, aquarium and zoo. It has enough activity to keep everyone in the family busy for an entire day. Built around several hills near the South China Sea, the 226-acre park is divided into two sections: The Headland and The Lowland. They are connected by a circular cable car system as well as one of the world's longest escalators. The Lowland houses two giant pandas, a variety of fun animal shows and Dolphin Encounter, 90 minutes of up-close-and-personal time in a pool with the friendly cetaceans. The Headland section is equipped with several thrilling, ocean-side, scream machines (roller coasters, water rides, etc), a vast aviary with more than 1,000 birds and Marine World, a massive aquarium with a fabulous jellyfish exhibit, a shark tunnel and a gigantic reef tank with some 2,000 fish.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is Hong Kong's own-brand theme park, and a great way to end a day's vacation.

Ed's expert tip: Ocean Park closes shortly after dusk, depending on the time of year.

Read more about Ocean Park →


Kowloon Walled City Park
Photo courtesy of Kowloon Walled City Park


The Kowloon Walled City was famous for holding a unique distinction; it was the only district in Hong Kong that avoided British rule during the 1840 Qing Dynasty. So who ruled the walled city? No one! It was in a state of lawlessness and ruin until it was demolished and the site turned into an award-winning park in the 20th century. It is home to Bonsai trees, relics from the Qing Dynasty, and a popular giant chessboard. This is the ultimate urban regeneration project, not just in Hong Kong but just about anywhere in the world. There's always a pleasant air of calm, whatever the time of day.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is the classic inner city regeneration project, and a real Hong Kong success story.

Ed's expert tip: The park closes at 11pm, so there's plenty of time to enjoy it during the early evening.

Read more about Kowloon Walled City Park →


Hong Kong Disneyland
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Disneyland


Escape the city center for a family day trip to fantasy by the overly cute Disneyland Resort Line from Sunny Bay metro station. Currently one of the smaller Disneylands, the 310-acre park is compact and easily navigated (like everything else in Hong Kong). The wonderland consists of seven sections including two world exclusives: Mystic Point and Grizzly Gulch. The former features a haunted Victorian-style castle owned by fictional explorer Lord Henry Mystic as well a high-tech trackless ride. The latter is another original story designed just for Hong Kong. Set in the American West, the sandy yellow section has a hair-raising gold mine roller coaster. The comprehensive resort also contains two large-scale hotels for ultimate Mickey fans: 600-room American-style Hollywood Hotel and 400-room Victorian-style Disneyland Hotel.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The grand parade each evening rounds off the day perfectly.

Ed's expert tip: Stay at one of the onsite hotels to maximize your time here and ensure an early bed.

Read more about Hong Kong Disneyland →


Symphony of Lights


The 15-minute light and sound show is the top free activity in Hong Kong, and just right for anyone who's ready for bed not long after an early dinner. Every night at 8pm, spectacular decoration lights, laser lights and digital fireworks shoot out from 45 buildings along the Victoria Harbour on both the Hong Kong Island and Kowloon side. The US$5.7 million project is dubbed by Guinness Word Records as the "World's largest permanent light and sound show." All lights are controlled and displayed as a visual reflection of the eponymous music symphony which is broadcast at the same time.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Anywhere else spectators at this sort of show would be charged admission. In Hong Kong, it's free.

Ed's expert tip: The best places to enjoy the show are along the Avenue of Stars on Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai or, better yet, from any cruise boat on the harbor.

Read more about Symphony of Lights →


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