It’s time to put away your flippers and let Beijing’s aquatic life do the swimming for you. Watch dazzling dolphins show off their acrobatic tricks at the Beijing Aquarium, and find hundreds of the world’s most awe-inspiring animals waiting for you in the surrounding Beijing Zoo. A shady oasis full of lakes and streams, the zoo provides a relaxing and educational outing for the entire family. Don’t expect to stand by idly and watch the creatures sleep; there are plenty of opportunities for interaction. Kids can spend quality time with man’s best friend or feed the goats at the Children’s Zoo. The Panda House is sure to bring delight, whether the bears are exploringtheir outdoor playground or lazily lounging in the shade. This inner-cityanimal kingdom is located mere meters from the Beijing Zoo subway station, so pack a camera and prepare yourselves for an all-day adventure.
Beijing Zoo subway exit C leads straight to the east ticket gate of Beijing Zoo. Save time and money and buy a ticket that includes both the aquarium and the zoo (RMB 120). Once inside, venture under the left archway and follow the giraffe symbols on the large signs scattered along the tree-lined path. Walking at a leisurely pace you should reach your destination within 20 minutes. The walk is worth it: just behind the giraffe enclosure is the Children’s Zoo – full of small, kid-friendly animals eager to be stroked and fed.
But first, make a stop at the Education and Conservation Center (1) and take a short tour of the three-story museum. Kids can participate in making crafts, playing games in the arcade or marveling at the exhibit of giant butterflies on display. The center also has a gift shop if you care to grab some souvenirs early in the day.
Leave the building the way you came in and make your way back to the giraffes. The spectacle is no African safari, so you may prefer to head straight to the attention-seeking zebras. They will linger near the fence and nuzzle you if you let them, but these zebras aren’t looking for playmates, they’re looking for lunch. Refrain from offering your snacks. Instead, walk a few paces west to the Children’s Zoo (2). Here, visitors can buy lettuce at the entrance and feed the goats that huddle behind the fence, eager to get their share. This feeding frenzy can become exhausting, so once your supply has been depleted, take a break and let the kids enjoy the slides and tubes in the playground. Finish your visit with a short stroll amid the cats and dogs. You can even borrow a pup to take on a half-hour walk.
Once you’ve had your share of the Children’s Zoo, take a left at the exit and backtrack a few steps until you spot the Golden Monkey House (3) on the right. This large dome is the haven for a trove of monkeys from Sichuan Province. Inside you’ll also find several mini jungles with baboons and gorillas. Spoil the children and take a break at one of the ice cream and snack stands in the vicinity.
If a meal is what you’re after, leave the monkeys and follow the path that leads west. Once you see the deer enclosure ahead, take a left. Follow the food signs for about ten minutes and you’ll come across a decent burger joint behind a grove of trees. Alternatively, grab some fried chicken near the Amphibian and Reptile House (4), which is a five minute walk up the road. The reptile house is full of slithery, slimy creatures sure to delight the snake lover in the family. Outside the House, crocodiles lie low in a small stream. If you’re lucky, one will bare its teeth to give you a heart-pounding view of its bottomless mouth.
Another 400 meters past the Reptile House, you’ll find yourself back at the east ticket gate where you came in. Now it’s time to tackle the other half of the zoo, full of tigers, elephants, aquatic life and the can’t-miss pandas. The Panda House (5) is located just inside the archway to the left, and trams (RMB 5) make regular stops in front of the ticket gate if you’re feet can no longer take the hike. From the panda house continue 10 minutes north to the Beijing Aquarium (6): a modern facility in a wide-open area that’s easy to spot. Arrive by 3pm to enjoy a dolphin and sea lion show (included in the price of your zoo and aquarium ticket). Sit back a few rows if you want to avoid a soaking. Feed the fish and check out the sea turtles in the aquarium after the show. The cool ocean atmosphere makes this the perfect place to wrap up a long day at the zoo. If you’ve missed anything, no need to worry; the kids will be begging to come back next weekend.
Beijing Zoo 北京动物园
RMB 15, RMB 8 (students). Daily 7.30am-6pm (summer), 7.30am-5pm (winter).
137 Baishiqiao Lu, Xizhimenwai Dajie, Haidian District
Education and Conservation Center 科普馆
Free. Kid’s crafts: 10am-3pm.
Children’s Zoo 小动物爱心俱东部
RMB 10. Daily 9am-5pm.
30-minute dog walking session: RMB 30 (small dog), RMB 50 (medium or big dog). Deposit required.
Panda House 大熊猫馆
RMB 10. Free for children under 1.2m.
Beijing Aquarium 北京海洋馆
RMB 120 (includes zoo), RMB 60 (kids under 18), free (kids under 1.2m).
Dolphin and Sea Lion Show: Mon-Fri 11am, 3pm; Sat-Sun 11am, 2pm, 4pm (summer).
Wonders of Coral Reefs Diving Feeding Show: Mon, Wed-Sun, 10am, 1:30pm