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China is a country of superlatives with huge scope for family adventures. Inspire your children and broaden their worldview when you introduce them to the time-worn traditions and headlong modernity of the world’s most populous country, taking them on a magical voyage of discovery through China. Older children in particular will love the scope for adventure in China, and can perhaps appreciate the cultural context more than younger children. That said, there are plenty of options to keep children of all ages interested – hiking the Great Wall, visiting giant pandas, travelling by bullet train and cruising the river Li through fairytale countryside among them. Here we’ve gathered a bit of a round-up of child friendly activities and destinations in China: some inspiration for your next family adventure!
Maybe this bustling megacity would not be the first place to spring to mind for a family friendly holiday in China, but in fact Beijing is a great place to visit with kids of all ages as there is lots to keep them entertained. No doubt the must see sights such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City will inspire awe with their epic dimensions and historic significance, but there is plenty more fun to be had besides. Ride a rickshaw through the traditional hutongs – narrow lanes of centuries old courtyard houses that once made up much of the city; visit one of the expansive parks and hire an electric boat for an hour or two; shop for toys and gadgets at the markets; or make time for The Water Cube, Asia’s largest indoor water park.
Culinary heritage is strong in Beijing, so why not arrange a family cookery class and learn to make your favourite Beijing dishes? The Temple of Heaven park and palace complex is a crash course in Chinese culture, with the historic pagodas surrounded by formal gardens which make the perfect space to burn off some energy, while in the mornings the area is full of locals doing their Tai Chi and karate practise.
The self styled ‘finest landscape under heaven’ is a truly awe inspiring sight. Drift along the river Li on a cruise through the verdant pastures framed by the dramatic hills beyond, each bend in the river opening up new vistas more spectacular than the last. This is arguably the most relaxing way to take in the scenery with the kids in tow, though you may want to take a few distractions for smaller children. Older kids might enjoy taking a raft or canoe trip along one of the quieter tributaries nearby, or consider a cycle tour of the beautiful countryside. Take your time pedalling through the daydreamy pinnacles of the karst scenery around Yangshuo and the rural communities en route, stopping off in timeworn hamlets to admire the otherworldly landscape.
There’s one famous attraction that is likely to be near the top of your children’s China holiday wishlist, and that is to see a giant panda. From an initial three pairs of Giant Pandas, the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu has now successfully bred around 150 individuals, and has enabled scientists to discover much more about successfully increasing the panda population, treating panda diseases and rehabilitating and re-releasing injured wild pandas back into their habitats.
The enclosures are large and well spread out, linked by trails in among the stands of bamboo. It can get busy as the day goes on and the pandas often become less active in the afternoon so it’s a good idea to visit early if possible. Cubs are usually born over the summer months so visit in autumn and winter to see them playing with each other. As well as giant pandas, there are more than 70 red pandas which roam free in the reserve, so you can see these cute little creatures up close with a bit of luck.
Back in the city, don’t miss Renmin Park which is great for kids and adults alike with a boating lake, teahouses and a mini fun fair. Jinli street should be top of the list for souvenir hunters, and makes an atmospheric place for a stroll.
Many of the most impressive and accessible stretches of the legendary Great Wall are most easily reached from Beijing, and some sections are more suited to groups with kids in tow than others. If you plan to visit with younger children, well maintained stretches of the wall will be preferable, even though these are often quite busy. The Mutianyu section of the wall is a good choice for families as there are lots of features that make it an exciting trip.
To save little legs, why not enjoy a cable car ride up to the Great Wall itself, a great way to admire the wonderful scenery. Once you arrive, spend some time hiking along this incredible structure, admire the architecture, the far reaching views, and imagine its watchtowers in use by soldiers many centuries ago. Once you have seen enough, you could take the adventurous route down, on a toboggan!
A huge metropolis it may be, but Shanghai has a lot to offer for families. Stuffed full of museums, parks, attractions and history, there’s lots to pack into your time in the city. See the oldest parts of the city with a boat tour of Zhujiajiao Water Town, a picturesque area of stone bridges, weeping willows and traditional architecture. Explore Shanghai’s beautiful parks, fantastic green lungs in the urban sprawl, all with plenty of child friendly activities. Don’t miss the Ocean Aquarium which is an impressive set up with the world’s longest underwater tunnel.
Wander the historic riverside Bund for a taste of the old city, most atmospheric in the mornings when local groups are busy doing their Tai Chi in this atmospheric spot. A short Huangpu River trip is a nice way to familiarise yourselves with the city without wearing out little legs, and a ride to the top of one of the high rises such as Jin Mao tower or the Oriental Pearl will afford great views of the Shanghai skyline.
Make it happen
China is a land of mystique where the breadth of cultural heritage is world renowned and instantly recognisable. See young minds expand as they take in iconic cultural treasures and get to grips with the way that ancient heritage informs modern life. Tailor make your family trip according to your own personal preferences with the local expertise of our handpicked partners to help you. Send an enquiry directly to our trusted China experts, or to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.
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