The 10 Best Family Friendly Activities in China Last updated on 2018-08-09
China is a great place to travel with children. Not only will you find that your children get heaps of attention piled on them (which can be a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it), there are also hundreds of things to do across the country that will keep even the most active of little minds occupied.
Popular things to do with kids on tour include walking or sleeping on the Great Wall; riding a toboggan down the Great Wall; driving electric boats on historic lakes; enjoying amusements in local parks; riding a cycle rickshaw through the old town; making dumplings in a Chinese home; visiting a kindergarten or school; seeing a cricket show; making kites; and attending a kungfu show (and that’s just naming a few!).
Below, we have picked our 10 favorite activities and given a few more details about each to make it easier for you to start planning your next family vacation.
Shanghai Disneyland Resort
The opening of Shanghai Disneyland Resort in June 2016 quickly launched Shanghai to the top of the ranking of China’s best family-friendly destinations! This huge resort includes a Disneyland park, two hotels, and multiple entertainment and dining outlets. The Resort is described as “authentically Disney, distinctly Chinese,” which means you will find classic Disney attractions alongside Chinese-themed areas, such as a garden designed around the Chinese zodiac. The Resort can be reached from downtown Shanghai on Metro Line 11. A one-day ticket to the park costs starts from RMB 370 for adults and RMB 280 for children (1-1.4m tall).
The Great Wall at Mutianyu, Beijing
A visit to the Great Wall is a must on any China itinerary and our recommended section for people traveling with kids is Mutianyu, which, while still accessible and equipped with good facilities, is slightly less crowded than tour group favorite Badaling. The wall here has been well restored and once you reach the top some parts of quite flat, making it safe and less tiring for little legs. The very best thing about Mutianyu, however, is that you can take a hair-raising toboggan ride on the way back down – don’t worry though, the toboggans are all equipped with hand brakes!
Shaolin Temple, Henan Province
Boys and girls around the world dream of becoming a kung fu master like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. If you’ve got a couple of kung fu buffs in the family, why not take a trip to the home of the most famous type of kung fu, the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. Older kids can take a one-hour class in the basic principles of Shaolin kung fu, while younger ones will enjoy watching the thrilling kung fu performance. Just don’t blame us if they come back hooked on this thrilling sport!
Chaoyang Acrobatic Show, Beijing
The Chaoyang Acrobat Show is in our opinion one of the best shows to see while on tour in China. It appeals to all ages, from young children to adults - you won’t be bored taking the kids to this one! Rather than cheap "tricks," the show is full of feats of skill and fitness. It is comparable to many international Cirque de Soleil type shows but at a price much lower and an opportunity to sit much closer. Having seen all the acrobat shows in Beijing and Shanghai, we consider this one to be the best of the lot.
Seeing Pandas in Chengdu
China’s cute, clumsy national treasures will thrill little kids and big kids alike. While other zoos in China, including Beijing Zoo, do have pandas, the very best place to see them is in Chengdu. Located just 30 minutes away from the center of Chengdu, Chengdu Panda Base is an important breeding and research base. Families with older kids may want to volunteer at Dujiangyan Panda Valley, where you can spend a day or two learning more about the facility and helping to prepare food for the pandas. Note that whichever place you decide to visit, the pandas will be most active in the morning, so encourage everyone to get up early.
Hands-on Handicrafts, across China
Interactive activities are a great way to help kids to engage with the culture in China. Wherever you are traveling in China, there are plenty of opportunities to get stuck in and get your hands dirty, including painting Peking opera masks in Beijing, trying out the art of calligraphy at an ancient museum in Xi’an, watching demonstrations of niche crafts in Hangzhou, and painting delicate paper fans in the 1,000-year-old town of Fuli near Yangshuo - and that’s just naming a few!
Biking through the countryside around Yangshuo, Guangxi Province
The countryside around the popular town of Yangshuo near Guilin is lush, green, and perfect for cycling. You can choose to cycle as far as you want and then chill out as you return to town on a bamboo raft on the river. Everyone is sure to be tuckered out by the time you get back. (Note that children must be age seven or above to join a cycling tour)
Chimelong Water Park, Guangzhou
Disney aside, China also boasts several other world-class amusement parks. A water park, in particular, can be an incredibly fun way to kill a few hours, especially in the hot summer months. One of the best water parks in China is Chimelong Water Park in Guangzhou, part of Chimelong Paradise, the largest amusement park in Asia. The park can be reached from downtown Guangzhou on Metro Line 3. A one-day ticket to the park costs starts from RMB 280 for adults and RMB 175 for children (over 1.3m tall).
Camel Ride Through the Singing Sand Dunes, Dunhuang
Not far away from the city of Dunhuang in Gansu province is an area of spectacular sand dunes known as the Singing Sand Dunes Park. Part stunning natural landscape, part desert amusement park, this designated natural scenic zone offers something for everyone. There are sand slides, jeep rides, and camel treks, all of which are great fun for children. Since it is a desert and temperatures are high, be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and protective clothing.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
The northeastern Chinese city of Harbin hosts the world’s largest snow and ice festival every winter. Kids will love exploring the huge carvings and sculptures built out of ice and snow, many of which are modeled after popular cartoon characters. The sculptures are particularly impressive when lit up at night. Winter temperatures in Harbin frequently dip as low as -30℃ so you will need to plan in advance and bring suitable winter clothing - heavy-soled waterproof boots, warm layers, and windproof coats and pants (ski clothing is ideal).
And a bonus… food!
Even the pickiest eaters will find something to enjoy among China’s incredibly diverse dining options. One dish you certainly shouldn’t miss is Peking duck — kids will love wrapping up their own pancakes. Another favorite with families is nationwide chain Din Tai Fung, famous for its xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings filled with soup). Kids will love to slurp these soupy treats — just make sure they wait until they cool down a bit first! Friendly service, clean toilets, and kids’ playrooms round out the experience. ■
Images: Pixabay, The China Guide, Wikimedia, Flickr, Chimelong Water Park