Non-Gambling Activities in Macau
Do you love gambling? If so, you'll love Macau—it's a paradise for gamblers. It's unusual in that respect, too, because it's not located in what you'd traditionally considered a part of the world that's friendly to gamblers.
The Macanese government's economy is enormously dependent on gambling revenue. In fact, most of the country's revenue comes from the gambling industry. 25% of the people living in Macau work in the gambling industry, too. Just last year, visitors spent $13 billion in the casinos there.
Are you visiting Macau soon? If you are, then you're probably either on vacation or attending a business conference. Gambling destinations are perennially popular with the meeting and trade crowd. Macau has some other points in its favor for conventions—its tropical climate is perfect for visitors. It's also close to mainland China.
But since the deregulation of gambling in 2002, the area has been known mostly for slots, baccarat, and VIP versions of table games like Pai Gow.
If you're reading this and thinking, maybe Macau doesn't have anything for me to do if I don't gambler, well… you're probably not alone.
But the fact is, there are some cool activities available for non-gamblers in Macau. In fact, there are plenty of kid and family friendly activities in the country. All of them are a total blast.
If you're planning a visit to Macu and don't want to gamble at the two dozen or so casinos there, look to the below activities to keep you entertained.
- The Historic Ruins of St.Pauls
- The A-Ma Temple
- Senado Square
- Fortaleza do Monte
- AJ Hackett Macau Tower
- The Rua Do Cunho
- Black Sands Beach
The best thing about these activities?
You won't lose any money to the house.
You can read more about each of these activities further down this page. To start with, we've provided some general advice for choosing a non-gambling activity in Macau.
Tips for Picking a Non-Gambling Activity in Macau
We've presented pages about non-gambling activities in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, and on all of those pages, we've recommended that the best approach to figuring out what to do is to answer some questions.
These questions apply to Macau, too, although possibly less so. That's because Macau is so laser-focused on gambling that the number of activities available to you there are limited. In other words, you don't have to narrow down your choice much, because there just isn't that much to do here.
Macau is a tropical climate with dry and wet seasons. You can expect warm and foggy weather in the spring. In the summer, it's hot and raining. In the fall and winter, you can look for clear weather. It's cool in both of those last two seasons, but it's cooler in winter, of course.
If you're traveling during the rainy season, from April to October, you might consider planning more indoor activities. The best time to visit, especially if you want to plan outdoor activities, is from the middle of October to December.
If you look through the suggestions below, you'll find that many of them are especially appropriate for families visiting with their children. Some are more likely to bore kids, but they might be a real joy for couples there on a romantic vacation. Just keep in mind who's traveling with you when deciding on activities.
We've tried to provide rough estimates of how time-consuming most of the sights and activities below take. Many of them are flexible, though. Some people can kill hours in a museum. Others get bored within minutes.
Much of what's available in Macau is affordable. But you can spend a lot of money if you want to, also. Probably 90% of the suggestions below are cheap or free, but keep your budget in mind when planning. Here's another tip related to your budget:
Everything in Macau is negotiable. Don't hesitate to haggle and dicker to your heart's content. The locals won't look at you funny or be the least bit surprised, because it's more or less a national tradition to negotiate.
If you negotiate a 20% savings on everything you do here, you'll save a significant amount of your hard-earned cash. Macau isn't the place to be shy about haggling.
Once you've thought through these four factors, you can pick and choose from the activities below. We've listed 20 or so activities in most of these kinds of pages, but Macau is smaller and offers less options. Still, we've narrowed it down to a little over a dozen choices that are suitable for a wide variety of travelers who aren't interested in gambling.
The Historic Ruins of St.Paul's
The Historic Ruins of St. Paul's is the best-known and most beautiful landmark in the country. The Ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the grounds of a 16th century religious and educational complex. This was originally the site of St. Paul's College and the Church of St. Paul. The Portuguese settlers called this "Mater Dei". That was in the 17th century. The Pope dedicated the buildings and the grounds to Saint Paul the Apostle.
At that time, St. Paul's was the largest Christian church in Asia. European royalty donated amazing amounts of money and artifacts to its construction. The complex was carved by hand by exiled Japanese Christians. The façade is a must-see for families and/or couples looking for a romantic spot in which to be photographed.
The A-MA Temple
The A-Ma Temple is one of the oldest continuously-used Taoist temples in Southeast Asia. Built in 1488, the temple pays homage to Matsu, the god of fishermen. In fact, the name "Macau" actually comes from the Chinese name of this temple.
The A-Ma Temple is a large, beautiful temple complex built by the earliest settles of the area. Their goal was to provide safety and guidance to fishermen and other navigators. Classical Chinese architecture is the main draw.But spiritual people from all walks of life also visit A-Ma as a pilgrimage.
Senado Square (or "Senate Square") is the biggest public space in the city, spreading out from the large Senate building in the center of town. Senado Square is sometimes called "the Fountain" for the giant fountain at its center, built to replace a memorial to a Portuguese soldier renowned for killing lots of Chinese people.
The square itself is the attraction, since it's the best place to see and be seen while in town. Some decent Chinese and Portuguese restaurants line the square, and shopping is a possibility, too. But if you want to kill a couple of hours for free, the people-watching here is second to none.
Fortaleza do Monte
The Fortaleza do Monte is the "Mountain Fortress" famous from guidebooks and tourist slideshows. The Catholic Church built it in the early 17th century to protect property owned by local Jesuits. The Macanese seized the fortress a century later. They used it for protection against a Dutch invasion — a lucky move for both the Portuguese and the Chinese who lived here.
If you're feeling a little overdosed on history when you visit, don't worry. The real reasons to visit the Fortaleza do Monte are the beautiful photos and an opportunity for awesome selfies. The Museum of Macau is also here, but the views are the real treat.
AJ Hackett Macau Tower
The bungee jumping opportunity at the AJ Hackett Macau is officially the tallest commercial jump available in the entire world. If you're a thrill-seeker, and you can afford the $400 fee, there's no more interesting non-gaming event in the entire city. As an added bonus, you'll get a free T-shirt, a coupon book for meals in Macau, and a few other goodies, even if you chicken out at the last second and decide not to jump.
The Rua do Cunho
The Rua Do Cunho is an unremarkable narrow pedestrian pathway. But it does have one thing to distinguish it--the hundreds of food vendors selling delicacies from all over the world.
available on the Rua Da Cunho.
Looking for the best restaurant in Macau?
Go to Rua Do Cunho on Taipa Island with a few bucks and an empty stomach.
The food is that good. The traditional Rua Do Cunho food items are almond cakes, egg rolls, coconut, and peanut candy.
But don't think you're going to be snacking on finger-food all night. Hearty Cantonese and Portuguese street foods are available every couple of feet in this crammed and amazing little food strip.
Black Sands Beach
The only significant beach in Macau that's large enough to be a tourist destination is Hac Sa Beach, aka Black Sands Beach. This stretch of beach can be found on the somewhat sleepy and totally beautiful Coloane Island. Don't expect a totally-black beach, either — the government has brought in more stable yellow sand to assist with beach erosion.
The entire stretch is about 9 miles long, so big crowds aren't really a concern. This area is free to the public, and offers huts for picnics, a play area for kids, tennis and basketball courts, and water sport rentals.
The Gondola at the Venetian Macau
One of the most-popular attractions in Macau is the recreation of the canals of Venice and their famous gondola rides at The Venetian. Three different canals are available. You can choose to ride with a larger group OR (for a bit more money) arrange a private gondola tour.
activity when in Macau.
The guides are well-trained vocal performers who will serenade you as you travel. The price for the private gondola is steep, but it's also the most romantic start to a date in the entire city.
The House of Dancing Water
You'll find The House of Dancing Water inside City of Dreams casino. You don't have to place a bet to enjoy this unique water show. It's an incredible blend of storytelling, watersports, and acrobatics. Built for $250 million, it's the only space of its kind. It has a 3.7 million gallon water tank that can transform from a pool to a totally dry stage floor in a matter of seconds.
Along with dancing water jet displays and vocal performances, you'll experience some crazy over-the-water motorcycle stunts. The tickets are no more expensive than what you'd pay to see a show in Vegas, but the show is three hours long and entirely mesmerizing.
The Qube Arcade
The Qube is inside the Venetian. It's an entertainment complex with separate sides for kids and adults. Kids love the free video games and computer consoles. Parents love that it's supervised. You can stick around and be a kid again or go do some shopping or sightseeing. Hundreds of the most popular games are available, along with a large playground and (in the summer) an outdoor pool complex.
Lord Stow Bakery
Lord Stow bakery is where the famous egg tart was conceived. The item is still available in the same form as it was a hundred years ago. If egg tarts aren't your thing, don't worry.This is a legitimate Portuguese-style bakery with the best (and largest) coffee drinks anywhere in Macau.
The Macau Science Center
After a decade of planning and construction, The Macau Science Center was finished in 2009. It consists of eight museums under one roof. You'll find stuff for kids of all ages. Adults, couples, and anyone interested in art or history will love this place.
Luxury Goods at Grand Canal Shoppes
The Grand Prix Museum was built in 1993 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Macau Grand Prix. Here you can literally walk through racing history. Macau's street track is a legendary challenge, and this museum is home to dozens of classic machines that stood the test.
This is a smallish museum, but the history contained within isn't available anywhere else, and the Grand Prix is a big part of Macau's modern identity. The low price of the ticket combined with the attractions located conveniently close by make it a great start to a non-gambling day in Macau.
Kids and seniors (55+) get in free all day, every day
The Grand Prix Museum
This is a nearly-identical copy of the famous Grand Canal Shoppes in Las Vegas. The Macau edition offers even more luxury shopping in a unique setting, with boutique shops set among candle-lit cobblestone walkways featuring serenading musicians at every corner.
Some Final Points
Macau's heyday may be over. Gambling income is down for the first time since gambling laws were relaxed about a decade ago.Fewer tourists are visiting due to a reduction in global trade.
Now that gamblers are spending less, it makes sense to expect even more non-gaming activities and opportunities in the future. For now, it's tough to find much to do in Macau that doesn't involve placing a bet. Even more than Las Vegas, Macau is about gaming.
Whether that remains true in the future is a gamble in itself.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: February 2016
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