Japan's northernmost region, Hokkaido, boasts vast expanses of untouched nature. Even in the urbanized cityscape of Sapporo, you can still experience the serene ambiance of the great outdoors in its parks. For parents eager to immerse their children in a natural environment, it's undoubtedly an excellent destination for a family getaway.
We've invited Chingyu, a Sapporo tourism ambassador who has lived in the city for over ten years, to share some essential tips for traveling with kids in Hokkaido. She has also curated a 5-day itinerary featuring family-friendly attractions that make exploring Sapporo a breeze, even for first-time travelers with children. So, get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Hokkaido!
Getting Started with Your Hokkaido Family Trip! Sapporo Locals Share Tips and Tricks
Chingyu, our interviewee, has lived in Sapporo for over a decade and runs the popular "Life of Taiwanese Women in Hokkaido" Instagram account, where she frequently shares her daily life and exciting experiences in Sapporo.
She's even authored "Hokkaido Style Slow Travel," a book all about her adventures in Hokkaido. As a local Sapporo resident, Chingyu is here to give parents key pointers for planning a DIY family trip and share her top recommendations for family-friendly attractions. With her expert advice, you'll be all set to have a fantastic time exploring Sapporo with your little ones!
Key Considerations for Planning a Family Trip in Hokkaido
1. Carefully Plan Your Itinerary and the Length of Your Trip
Hokkaido is huge, and trying to cover it all in one vacation is not feasible. Considering everyone's stamina and interests, planning a trip for around 5 to 7 days and focusing on exploring a smaller region is recommended.
However, Chingyu also mentioned that if parents are experienced campers and want to camp in Hokkaido with their children, she highly recommends extending the duration of the trip. Places like Lake Shikotsu and Lake Toya offer campsites perfect for letting kids enjoy the outdoors and get closer to nature.
2. Pay Attention to the Location of Hotels and Transportation
Choosing a hotel with essential amenities and proximity to transportation facilities is crucial when traveling with children.
Firstly, it allows you to rest after a day of activities quickly. Secondly, it's much more convenient to be near the station, especially when dealing with a stroller and bulky luggage while caring for the little ones.
During the winter in Hokkaido, there might be snow and icy roads, making it hazardous to walk long distances outdoors. It's important not to compromise by choosing a hotel solely based on cost, as the safety and comfort of your family should be the priority.
3. Avoid Driving in Winter and Rely on Public Transportation
If your itinerary mainly involves exploring areas like Sapporo or Hakodate, where public transportation is well-developed, relying on public transit to hop between attractions is a good option.
Although some families with kids might find driving a car more convenient, if you're considering renting a car, Chingyu suggests that it's best to travel before winter. Even local residents are cautious while driving in winter, and for tourists, the risks of driving in Hokkaido during winter are considerably higher.
4. Be Aware of Hokkaido's Seasons
Be cautious of the changing seasons in Hokkaido. The winter here is known for its extreme cold, but sun protection's another aspect to be mindful of. In winter, the sun reflects off the snow, exposing the skin and eyes to harmful UV rays. If you plan to visit snowfields, wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen on your face.
In contrast, Hokkaido's summer climate is generally pleasant and comfortable. However, Chingyu advises paying attention to temperature differences. The temperature range between indoors and outdoors, as well as between day and night, can sometimes be over 10 degrees Celsius. Therefore, it's wise to bring a light jacket that protects you from cold and sun during the summer.
Additionally, Hokkaido does have mosquitoes and other bugs during the summer. Chingyu warns that Hokkaido's mosquitoes can leave quite a large, swollen bite. To counter this, she recommends purchasing peppermint oil from a local pharmacy. A simple peppermint oil spray can act as an effective mosquito repellent, making it a handy trick locals use during the summer.
5. Consider the Convenience of Using a Stroller in Hokkaido
Chingyu: "Actually, it's rare to see parents using strollers in Hokkaido. Baby carriers are more commonly used here."
In winter, the roads in Hokkaido are often icy and snowy, making it inconvenient and unsafe to push a stroller outdoors. Even during the summer, many outdoor attractions in Hokkaido involve natural landscapes, where strollers might not be easily maneuverable. As a result, Chingyu has noticed that local parents don't often use strollers when going out and recommends opting for baby carriers instead.
Alternatively, some tourist attractions and department stores provide stroller rental services, so you can easily rent one locally without the hassle of bringing your own stroller from overseas.
6. Mind Your Health When Consuming Seafood
Hokkaido's seafood delicacies have captured the hearts and palates of countless food enthusiasts. Chingyu mentioned that many families in Hokkaido introduce their children to seafood from a young age, which speaks to the evident quality of local seafood.
While some tourists might avoid letting their children consume raw food abroad, they feel at ease letting their children try Hokkaido's sashimi or oysters.
However, it's important to remember that everyone's seafood tolerance can vary, and children's digestive systems might be more sensitive. To avoid potential allergies or other unforeseen reactions, you must be aware of your and your child's health needs before indulging in Hokkaido's seafood delights.
Easygoing Fun! 5-Day Family Trip Itinerary for Sapporo
- Day 1: New Chitose Airport → Sapporo City Center (Drop off luggage at the hotel) → Sapporo Beer Garden, Ario Sapporo Mall
- Day 2: Hokkaido University → Moerenuma Park → Susukino
- Day 3: Shiroi Koibito Park → Maruyama Park (Maruyama Zoo, Hokkaido Shrine) → Mt. Moiwa Ropeway Night View
- Day 4: (Car Rental / Train + Bus) → Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck → Takino Suzuran Hillside Park → Okushiba Soup Curry, Tanukikoji Shopping Street
- Day 5: (Check-out of the hotel) Sapporo City Sightseeing (Former Hokkaido Government Office Building, Sapporo Clock Tower, Odori Park, etc.) → (Drive / Train + Bus) Heidi Farm → New Chitose Airport (Return the rental car)
Day 1: New Chitose Airport → Sapporo City Center → Sapporo Beer Garden, Ario Sapporo Mall
After arriving at New Chitose Airport, the first step is to head to Sapporo. You can choose between taking the JR train or a high-speed bus to Sapporo.
Both options typically take around 1 hour. The bus offers the advantage of having guaranteed seats, but seating is limited, and travel time might vary depending on traffic conditions. On the other hand, the JR train is less affected by traffic but may not always guarantee seats.
For more detailed information on airport transportation, see the article below:
Once arrive in Sapporo, you can proceed to your hotel to drop off your luggage. Most hotels in Japan provide luggage storage services for their guests, even if it's before the official check-in time. This thoughtful service allows travelers to leave their bags without the need to search for lockers or storage facilities. To enhance the convenience of your trip, we have selected a few accommodations that are well-located, family-friendly, and easily accessible for your reference.
Recommended Family-Friendly Hotels for Your Stay in Sapporo
On the first day, start your Sapporo City tour with a visit to the Sapporo Beer Garden, a popular tourist spot. Take the JR train from Sapporo Station for about 3 minutes to Naebo Station, just a 10-minute walk from the north exit.
The Sapporo Beer Garden is a former brewery turned into a tourist museum. Within its vast grounds, you'll find historic red brick buildings, massive brewing vats still in use, agricultural tools, and more, all contributing to a sense of history.
The indoor spaces offer comprehensive historical information and exhibitions, allowing visitors to easily understand the origins of the renowned Sapporo Beer.
Obviously, children can't drink beer, but the outdoor area of the beer garden is perfect for them to run around and explore. There are also many exhibits that will capture children's attention and are easy to understand, so they can learn and be entertained.
Chingyu adds, "For beer enthusiasts, you can learn about the story of Sapporo Beer and even have the chance to taste some on-site!"
On the 2nd floor, you'll find "Kessel Hall," which offers a must-try all-you-can-eat Jingisukan (grilled lamb) menu. The most affordable option is the "Classic All-You-Can-Eat Plan" (100 minutes), priced at 3,600 yen for adults (junior high school and above) and 1,800 yen for elementary school students. Some options include unlimited lamb, pork, and chicken, as well as specific portion sizes.
Chingyu also recommends the large Ario Sapporo shopping mall next to the Sapporo Beer Garden. This three-story mall features a variety of stores popular among tourists, including Loft, a Japanese lifestyle goods store, Hokkaido's famous souvenir brand Rokkatei, UNIQLO, and the Ito Yokado supermarket.
It also houses the beloved Japanese baby and toddler brand stores, Akachan Honpo and BABYDOLL. Additionally, you'll find restaurants like Yayoi and Gyoza no Osho, as well as many stores offering duty-free services.
After some shopping, you can return to your hotel to rest. If you plan to do some shopping in Sapporo on your trip, Chingyu highly recommends exploring Ario Sapporo!
- Address 9-2-20, Kita 7-jo Higashi, Higashi-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 065-8518
Ito Yokado: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Specialty Stores: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
2nd Floor Food Court: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
1st Floor Restaurants: 11:00 AM - 9:00 PM
*Please note that some stores may have different operating hours. For the latest information, please check the website.
SPA & Leisure Facilities: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
*Please note that some facilities may have different operating hours.
Closed: Open all year round
*Please note that some stores may have different holiday schedules.
Day 2: Hokkaido University → Moerenuma Park → Susukino
On the second day, after breakfast, you can start your day with a stroll at Hokkaido University, also located in central Sapporo, just a 7-minute walk from Sapporo Station.
The campus offers an expanse of natural greenery and showcases well-preserved historic buildings and museums from the Meiji era. It's a perfect place to take children for a walk and play. The campus transforms into a golden avenue of ginkgo trees in the fall, attracting numerous photography enthusiasts.
Next, return to Sapporo Station and take the Toho Subway Line to Kanjodori Higashi Station. From there, transfer to a bus that will take you to Moerenuma Park. The park is beautifully landscaped, combining nature and art. It was designed by the renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi and stretches across 189 hectares. The park features a glass pyramid, Mount Moere, large fountains, and playgrounds, all of which make for stunning and picturesque sights.
Chingyu comments, "Both parents with children and young adults in their 20s and 30s will find this place appealing. The interplay of light and shadow in the indoor structures and the geometric sculptures outdoors create fantastic photo opportunities. Residents often bring their kids here to relax. I highly recommend coming here with children and renting bicycles to explore the park!"
Riding bicycles within Moerenuma Park is comfortable and won't make you sweat, and you'll have numerous picturesque spots to capture happy memories. Food stands offer ice cream and other treats, and the park provides free baby stroller rentals, making it an ideal destination for family sightseeing and picnics.
In September, Moerenuma Park hosts the Moerenuma Artistic Fireworks, a fun event requiring admission tickets. Chingyu also shared her experience of attending the fireworks festival at Moerenuma Park with her friends in the past. The dazzling fireworks display left a deep impression, and it was such an emotional moment that one of her friends even proposed on the spot, making it a truly memorable and meaningful occasion.
After leaving Moerenuma Park, you can return to the city center for some rest. If you're looking for a place to eat, Chingyu recommends taking a tram from Kanjo-Dori-Higashi Station directly to Susukino. There, you'll find a wide variety of dining options, including yakiniku (Japanese BBQ), ramen, and Jingisukan (grilled lamb) restaurants, with something for everyone's taste.
Day 3: Shiroi Koibito Park → Maruyama Park (Maruyama Zoo, Hokkaido Shrine) → Mt. Moiwa Ropeway
Shiroi Koibito Park is a famous tourist factory that produces one of Japan's most beloved souvenirs: Shiroi Koibito cookies. The entire park is themed around European-style architecture and landscapes, featuring enchanting elements like fairy-tale-like dwarf houses, vintage British double-decker buses, and adorable steam-powered mini trains. Stepping into this park feels like entering a dreamy European fairy-tale kingdom.
At Shiroi Koibito Park, visitors can not only witness the production process of Shiroi Koibito cookies but also participate in a hands-on session to make their own cookies. It's an excellent half-day activity for parents to enjoy with their children.
The park's location offers convenient access from downtown Sapporo. Take the Tozai subway line to Miyanosawa Station and walk for about 7 minutes to reach Shiroi Koibito Park.
To reach Maruyama Park from Miyanosawa Station, take the subway for around 11 minutes, and to Maruyama-Koen Station. It's a short 5-minute walk from the station to Maruyama Park.
This expansive urban park incorporates natural landscapes, a zoo, and a Shinto shrine, attracting many visitors for leisurely walks and outings. Chingyu highly recommends that families on vacation explore the attractions within Maruyama Park, including the Hokkaido Shrine and Maruyama Zoo.
Chingyu notes that in Hokkaido, where people deeply respect nature, shrines, and temples are not as prevalent as in other parts of Japan. For visitors interested in experiencing Japanese shrine culture during their trip to Hokkaido, she enthusiastically recommends visiting Hokkaido Shrine.
Chingyu excitedly shared her experience at Maruyama Zoo, saying, "Maruyama Zoo has such a welcoming atmosphere, making it perfect for parents who want to take a relaxed and leisurely approach with their kids! One of my favorite spots is the Polar Bear Pavilion, where there's a tunnel allowing visitors to watch polar bears swim overhead. It's fascinating and offers a great opportunity to learn about the habits and behaviors of Hokkaido's wildlife. Many locals opt for an annual pass, so they can visit regularly with their children and have a wonderful time together!"
After leaving Maruyama Park, as evening approaches, it's time to visit one of Sapporo's must-see attractions, Mt. Moiwa, one of "Japan's Three Great Night Views."
From Maruyama Park Station, take the subway to Nishi-Juitchome Station and transfer to the Sapporo City Tram to Ropeway Iriguchi Station. From there, you can either walk or take the free shuttle to the ropeway station. The entire trip takes about 25 minutes.
Alternatively, you can take a bus heading to Moiwa Sanroku Station or Ropeway Iriguchi Station directly from Maruyama Park, which takes around 14 to 20 minutes.
Mt. Moiwa is a popular destination for summer hiking, or you can choose to take the cable car directly from the foot of the mountain to the summit.
Even if you're traveling with children or it's getting late in the evening, there's no need to worry about the safety of climbing. The only thing to remember is that the temperature can be lower at the summit, so be sure to bring a jacket to stay warm.
Day 4: (Rental Car / Train + Bus) → Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck → Takino Suzuran Hillside Park → Okushiba Soup Curry, Tanukikoji Shopping Street
On the fourth day, let's explore the outskirts of Sapporo City! If you can rent a car, it's recommended for this day's activities as it will make the trip more convenient. However, if driving is not an option, relying on public transportation is still viable, although it takes a bit more time.
The first stop is the famous Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck, known for the iconic statue of Hokkaido University founder Dr. Clark with the inscription "Boys, be ambitious!"
Behind the statue lies a picturesque vista of blue sky and green pasture dotted with sheep, truly embodying the essence of Hokkaido's charm. Near the observatory, you can find attractions such as the Sheep Farm, a foot bath with a beautiful view, restaurants serving Jingisukan, shops offering soft-serve ice cream, and stores selling Hokkaido souvenirs. It's a delightful spot to immerse yourself in the Hokkaido experience.
The Takino Suzuran Hillside Park, located just a 25-minute drive from Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck or approximately a 30-minute bus ride from Makomanai Station, covers an impressive area of 400 hectares. Throughout the year, the park showcases different floral arrangements and colors, providing unique delights in every season.
"I highly recommend visiting this place! In summer and winter, they set up play areas for kids; in winter, you can even enjoy activities like sledding. Moreover, during autumn, the park displays vibrant colors rarely seen in Hokkaido," says Chingyu. It's a must-visit destination offering a kaleidoscope of colors and activities for families to enjoy.
There are plenty of places in the park for children to run, jump, and play. Along the walking trails, you can also find flower fields, waterfalls, and small streams. If you're hungry, there are restaurants and shops, too, making it a perfect place to spend the whole day with your kids, enjoying the lush greenery of Hokkaido.
After returning to the city, Chingyu recommends visiting the famous Okushiba Shoten Jikka for some soup curry! The main store was originally located inside Sapporo Station PASEO but moved to a new location about 5 minutes away from Odori Station on April 27, 2023.
The restaurant has a nostalgic, retro atmosphere, and English and Chinese menus with helpful pictures are available. Their hearty miso curry with generous servings of snow crab and the tempting cheese and flame-grilled hamburger curry are some of the classic delicious dishes that Chingyu highly recommends - you should give them a try!
Okushiba Shoten Jikka奥芝商店 実家
- Address 100 President Matsui Building, 5-16 Minami 1-jo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0061
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM (Last Order)
5:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Last Order)
If you still have energy and want to do more shopping, you can walk to Tanukikoji Shopping Street from Okushiba Shoten Jikka in less than 5 minutes.
Tanukikoji is a lively shopping street with many drugstores and popular souvenir shops like Don Quijote and TANUKIYA. These shops are loved by tourists, and some offer duty-free services. Take advantage of your last evening in Sapporo to get everything you want!
Day 5: Sapporo Sightseeing After Check-Out → (Car / Train + Bus) Visit Heidi's Farm → Return to New Chitose Airport (Car Rental Drop-Off)
After checking out of the hotel, you can go sightseeing in Sapporo. Popular attractions like the Former Hokkaido Government Office Building and the Sapporo Clock Tower are must-visit spots. Additionally, the famous Hokkaido souvenir brand Kitakaro's main store is only a 5 to 10-minute walk from Sapporo Station, so you can also explore and shop there.
6-chome Kitasanjo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-8588
Sapporo Station （Hakodate Main Line）
7 minutes on foot
- Phone Number 011-204-5019
- Address 6-chome Kitasanjo Nishi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, 060-8588
Chingyu: "If you visit Sapporo with children during the summer, I would also recommend going to Odori Park. At first glance, Odori Park may not seem like a spectacular attraction, but sitting on the grass, feeling the cool breeze, watching people bustling around, and smelling the aroma of grilled corn from nearby vendors... It creates a relaxing and healing atmosphere. It's a wonderful moment to unwind both physically and mentally."
The park is also home to the Sapporo TV Tower, one of the few tall buildings in the city. It has an observation deck and unique souvenir shops. If you have time, you can take the children up to the observation deck to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the streets of Sapporo.
Before heading to New Chitose Airport on your last day, there's a hidden gem worth checking out. Heidi's Farm is about a 1-hour drive from Sapporo and offers fun activities like feeding sheep and cows, milking cows, and horseback riding.
In addition, the farm has other hands-on activities like making butter, ice cream, and felt crafts using sheep's wool. The farm also offers various recreational activities like a miniature train ride, archery, and darts. With so many fun things to do, Chingyu highly recommends visiting. However, there's another surprise that not many people know about.
Chingyu: "Several important scenes from the Japanese drama 'First Love' (初恋) were actually filmed at this farm! The beautiful purple lilac tree that appeared in the drama was specially planted here. The farm is quite vast, so it's easy to miss the exact location. However, if you ask the staff using the keyword 'First Love,' they will be happy to guide you to the spot. It's like a hidden passcode for this special discovery! (laughs)"
- Address 2 Minami, Higashi 9-sen, Naganuma-cho, Yubari-gun, Hokkaido 069-1459
Public Transportation: Take the JR Rapid Airport Line train for about 15 minutes to Kitahiroshima Station. From Kitahiroshima Station, take the "JR Hokkaido Bus" for approximately 25 minutes to Naganuma Onsen, and then transfer to a taxi for about 5 minutes.
Season: April 8, 2023, to November 12, 2023
May to September: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
April, October, and November: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
*Hours may vary due to weather conditions
Closed: Every Wednesday; open on national holidays
Admission: Adults (junior high and above) 1000 yen, children (3 years old to elementary school) 500 yen, children under 3 years old free
After visiting Heidi's Farm, you can head to New Chitose Airport. The drive from the farm to the airport takes about 20 to 40 minutes. If you don't have a rental, you can also take a taxi directly to the airport.
Inside the New Chitose Airport terminal, there are several restaurants and souvenir shops where you can grab a meal or purchase last-minute gifts before your flight. Make sure to seize the opportunity if you still want to eat or shop before boarding the plane!
Let's Go! A Self-Guided Family Tour of Hokkaido Starts in Sapporo
Chingyu says, "Every step in Hokkaido is immersed in vast nature. Just exploring Sapporo and its surroundings offers numerous places for kids to run and play freely. During this trip, I've taken you to several family-friendly attractions that I love. The transportation is also quite convenient, making it a comfortable and enjoyable experience for both adults and children. I recommend this itinerary to all novice travelers who want to explore Hokkaido with their little ones!"
Please note that the information in this article is based on interviews conducted in May 2023 and may differ from the actual situation. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the websites of the respective attractions and facilities.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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