As a child, my summers were divided into two very different segments. Ever since I was 3, my family and I made an annual pilgrimage to Hawaii – we spent sun-filled days on the beach, building sand-castles and swimming, and returned each night with browned limbs and sunburnt noses. However, the rest of the summer was spent in small town Texas where my best friends and I passed the hot days sleeping in, lying on sidewalks under shady trees while drinking juice boxes and occasionally seeking refuge at the local pool. My hometown was limited to these options, but my friends and I reveled in the luxury of boredom. The lack of activities often forced me to escape into the imaginary worlds of books (also known as brain food for kids). This summer, though, I find myself in another sweltering part of the world.
Shakespeare famously compared a beauty to a summer’s day. If he had written the sonnet while living in Beijing, his comparison may have included the innovative Beijing “bikini” that men don on the streets (with their shirts rolled up to their chest), the sight of girls wielding umbrellas to shield their skin from the sun, and the distinct smells that hang in the sticky air. Would I dare lay my head on the sidewalks of this city? Even potent nostalgia couldn’t bring me to such action. A tropical paradise or sleepy neighborhood the capital is not, but its bustling energy pulses with each heat wave and thunderstorm. And now that summer is officially upon us, what’s the best way to fill the long, hazy days of this season?
Boredom need not be a factor when in Beijing. Need proof? We’ve compiled over a hundred ways to pass the days of summer. From homemade ice granitas, to the coolest ways to break a sweat (rock climbing, horseback riding, tennis), to the best indoor sports (laser tag, bowling), to beating the heat inside an air-conditioned movie cinema (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian is out this month), or walking through the capital’s most scenic streets (Gulou and the Legation Quarter), to a guide to the best ice cream, this issue has you and your family covered. Even in this concrete land, we’ve compiled the best pools for your family to make a splash. When the family gets stir crazy and wants to get out of town, we also present some close getaways that are hassle-free and offer an escape to a beach oasis or a mountainous landscape. If your kids are older and love to read, flip to our Close Up on Justina Chen Headley, a must-read writer who used to be a China expat.
But let’s not pass these days too quickly. Summer will be over before we know it, class back in session, and the sweltering, lengthy days of a summer a too-distant memory. So put on your flip-flops and sunscreen, grab your beijingkids summer survival guide and hop to it – you’ve got over a hundred things on your to-do list!