Getting the most out of the Capital
Hot Pot: Hai Di Lao
This hot pot joint is a favorite among Chinese families. Noodles are a must order item, as they come with an impressive noodle pulling display. English is limited here so best to bring someone with Chinese language skills. Alternatively, you can simply point to the dishes at other tables and say "Na ge."
For locations, see Directory under Chinese.
Yunnan: In & Out
Situated on the third floor above the Sanlitun Jenny Lou’s, this high ceilinged restaurant serves up delicious Yunnan fare. The interior is rustically decorated, the environment is clean, and the wait staff are dressed head-to-toe in kitsch minority garb. Try the lemongrass beef, potato balls with dipping sauce, and of course, a meal here isn’t complete without a fresh peppermint salad. The price, among other things, will keep families coming back.
Daily 11am-10pm. 1 Sanlitun Beixiaojie, Chaoyang District (8454 0086/6467 5235) 朝阳区三里屯北小街1号
Sichuan: Jin Shan Cheng
Affordable and authentic is the aim of the game at this eatery. If the little ones aren’t fans of spicy food, sample some of the Taiwanese and Cantonese alternatives. It can get a little rowdy but with multiple locations, you’ll be sure to find one that suits you.
1) Daily 10.30am-10.30pm. 99 Jianguomen Lu, CBD (6581 1598) 建国门路99号; 2) Daily 9.30am-10.30pm. Tian Zhao Hotel 1/F, 18 Gongti Donglu, Gongti (6592 4939, 6508 8178) 工体东路18号天照饭店1层; 3) Daily 10am-10pm. 15 Xiaoyun Lu, Sanyuanqiao (8451-8913) 霄云路15号
The main appeal of this 15th century Tibetan Buddhist is its grand architecture, sculptures and display of calligraphy – all demonstrating the artistry of Chinese craftsmen from the Qing dynasty. Don’t miss the 26-meter-tall Buddha statue carved from a single piece of wood in the rear of the complex.
RMB 25 (student discount available). Take subway line 2 or 5 to Lama Temple. Daily 9am-4.30pm. 12 Yonghegong Dajie, Dongcheng District (6404 4499) 雍和宫, 东城区雍和宫大街12号 www.yonghegong.cn
Start from the northern gate located on Di’anmen Xidajie, opposite Houhai. From the entrance, walk over low bridges and through weeping willows until you reach the lake. If you’re lucky, you’ll see groups of Beijingers singing in one of the many lakeside pavilions. Follow the signs to see some of Beijing’s best attractions, including Buddhist temples, hill tops offering grand views, and Bai Ta – the temple made entirely of white stone, located on the south side of the park. Some temples have additional charges, so families should take a few extra kuai to enjoy the full tour.
Daily 6am-8pm. RMB 10 (Apr-Oct), RMB 5 (Nov-Mar), students half-price. 1 Wenjin Jie, Xicheng District(6403 1102, Chinese) 西城区文津街1号
Chinese Ethnic Culture Park
Though the educational value of this park is what gets visitors in the door, it’s the kitschy staff members dressed in minority clothing that keeps them coming back. For a small fee, kids can don an outfit and get their photo taken. Aside from regular live shows and festivals, the park is filled with temples, totem polls, Buddhist shrines and scenic spots. Bring a picnic and spend the afternoon.
RMB 90, RMB 65 (students). Daily 8.30am-6pm. 1 Minzuyuan Lu (near the Olympic Green), Chaoyang District (6206 3640/6, Chinese) www.emuseum.org.cn 朝阳区民族园路1号
Panjiayuan Antiques Market
This tourist magnet and mother of all "antique" markets is home to over 3,000 dealers who scour the countryside in search of antiques and family heirlooms. The central location makes this market a great place to visit with the kids, without the hassle of trekking into the unknown. Find vintage photographs, porcelain vases and figurines, Qing-style furniture and much, much more. The best trinkets for kids can be found at Jin Changqing’s toy stall (Stall 26, Row 1, Area 3). Full of ’50s Americana and wonderfully detailed tin toys, you’ll find the perfect gift for the kid who has everything.
Mon-Fri 8.30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 4.30am-6pm. West of Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang District. 朝阳区潘家园桥西边
Fatou Qiao Flea Market
This weekly outdoor flea market – still off the tourist radar – has a unique mix of authentic and cheap antiques, retro trinkets and other household miscellanea. Browse through stalls, eat greasy Beijing snacks, and get a feel for one of Beijing’s last traditional markets. There’s been talk of turning this old gem into a squeaky clean indoor market, so go now before it follows the fate of Xiushui.
Sundays. Fatou Qiao exit on the Jingshen Expressway, in between the Fourth and Fifth Ring Roads, Chaoyang District. 垡头桥市场, 朝阳区京沈高速垡头桥(四环和五环之间)
This market isn’t necessarily lao Beijing, but it’s still the best (and most convenient) for purchasing tailored clothing and beautifully detailed qipaos (traditional Chinese dresses). Head to the third floor to choose your fabric, chat with a tailor and get your measurements taken. A few days later and your garment is ready to collect. The best thing about this market is that you can always find a vendor who speaks English. After some serious haggling, a child’s qipao should cost you no more than RMB 600.
Daily 9.30am-9pm. 58 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District. 朝阳区工体北路58号
China Culture Center
From its Beijing headquarters, the Chinese Culture Center plans and organizes a wide range of trips and cultural events, including: kite making, papercutting, pulled noodle workshops, Great Wall and hutong tours. They have a full events schedule on their website, and are a one-stop-shop for families looking for kid-friendly activities.
Kent Center, 29 Anjialou, Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (6432 9341/1041) www.chinaculturecenter.org. 朝阳区亮马桥路29号安家楼肯特中心院
Fly a Kite
If there’s one thing Beijingers love, it’s kites. So head down to your local park and try your hand at this local obsession. Basic tips: Don’t run. Hold the kite string, and when a gust of wind blows, swing the kite upward. As the kite rises, give the string some slack as it becomes taut. If the kite begins to fall, tighten up on the string to catch more wind. Don’t have a kite? Make a day of it and find the perfect one at the San Shi Zhai Kite Store.
Daily 10am-7pm. 25 Di’anmen Xidajie (east of Lotus Lane) (8404 4505, 6403 0393) 三石斋风筝，地安门西大街25号（天荷坊东边）
Made famous by the Shaolin Temple monks, this traditional Chinese martial art teaches disciple, patience, and self-defense. Sign the kids up for bilingual martial arts classes at Chi Life Studio, which caters specifically to the younger crowd (ages 3 and above). Lucky Street, Solana Vivid Center F/3 (5905 6898, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.kungfubaobei.cn . 朝阳公园西门蓝色港湾活力城三楼
Two hundred meters east of Muxidi subway station, the Capital Museum has state-of-the-art technology, thoughtful exhibits, and decent English signage. Within its six stories are 11 exhibition halls displaying ancient Chinese art such as bronze statues, jade utensils, ancient calligraphy and paintings, restored old Beijing city views and precious relics of old Beijing operas. Audio self-guided tours in Chinese and English available for rent at the entrance.
RMB 20. Tue-Sun 9am-5pm. 16 Fuxingmenwai Dajie, Xicheng District (6337 0491/2). 西城区复兴门外大街 16号
Chinese Comic Book Museum
Opened by Chinese talk show host Cui Yongyuan in September 2009, this is the Mecca for kitsch comic book lovers. The two-storey museum houses nearly one-thousand comic book paintings and illustrations, many of which from the Mao era. Daily 9am-5pm. 1368 Huashengtian Qiao, Gaobeidian, Chaoyang District (8773 9768, Chinese). 朝阳区高碑店华声天桥
The Chinese Museum of Women and Children
This modern facility pays tribute to the contributions and history of Chinese women and children. Housing everything from revolutionaries and historical figures, to children’s toys and art. Conveniently located within the second ring, it can be incorporated into any weekend.
Daily 9am-5pm (ticket booth closes 4pm). 23 Jianguomennei Dajie, Dongcheng District. 中国妇女儿童博物馆, 建国门内大街23号