If your idea of relaxation is losing yourself in the mountains, far away from the crowd on a crumbling rampart overrun with flowers in bloom, then Huanghuacheng Great Wall is for you. Huanghuacheng literally translates to “Yellow Flower City” after the swath of yellow flowers that blankets the site in summer. The hike starts at Jintang Lake and the crescent-shaped Huanghuacheng Reservoir, which breaks the Great Wall into three segments. The hiking trail is accessible from a raised walkway, but keep an eye out for giant carp flopping around near the sides. Huanghuacheng is also known as Shuichangcheng (“Water Great Wall”) because part of the wall is underwater. After paying the RMB 3 entry fee, walk up the trail until you get to a ladder; climb up to start your exploration of the Great Wall. Proceed with caution; some sections require hikers to negotiate nearly 45° inclines, loose bricks, and plunging descents. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with soaring views, shadows playing over the mountains, and invigorating winds. Huanghuacheng is about 11km in total; at the eighth guard tower or so, there’s a little path that leads to the base of the mountain. Walk 1km along the side of the road until you get to a village; you can catch a bus back to Huairou Bus Station from here. Leave by 3.30pm to give yourself enough travel time.
Recommended ages: 14 and up (or active younger kids) To do: Hike along an unrestored section of the Great Wall Good to know: Be very careful: Parts of Huanghuacheng are quite steep and don’t have any walls or battlements to hold on to. Scattered watchtowers provide temporary relief from the sun, but a high-SPF sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, good hiking shoes, and layered clothing are essential. There are no washrooms on the Great Wall, so take care of business before heading up. Though it’s possible to get there by bus, hire a private car to get the most out of your day. The ride is quite bumpy, so those who are prone to carsickness should go with a driver to have the option of stopping.
Admission and opening hours: The only “admission” price is a RMB 3 fee levied by a sleepy farmer sitting under a parasol at the entrance to the hiking trail.
Address and contact: Xishuiyu, Jiuduhe Township, Huairou District (6165 1111/1818) 怀柔区九渡河镇西水峪
Distance: 60km (3 hours by bus, 1 hour and 45 minutes by car)
Bus: Take the 916 express bus (916快) from Dongzhimen; tickets cost RMB 12. Get off at the last station, Huairou bus station (怀柔汽车站). You’ll be beset by drivers willing to take you to the Great Wall; hire a car or walk 600m southwest to another bus stop (you’ll have to cross Fuqianjie Dongjie 府前街东街 to get there). Look for unmarked buses going to Shuichangcheng (水长城), then get off at Huanghuacheng Reservoir station (黄花城水库). Tickets cost RMB 8. You’ll find the entrance to Huanghuacheng about 100m in front of you, which ironically says, “This section of the Great Wall is closed to visitors.”
Car: From Fourth Ring Road, catch the Jingzang Expressway (京藏高速). At the Xiguan Roundabout (西关环岛), take the third exit to the Jingyin Expressway (京银高速). Turn right at Changchi Lu (昌赤路), drive for 7km, then turn right again at Huaichang Lu (怀长路). After 16km, turn left on Anxi Lu (安西路) and follow the road until you see Huanghuacheng on your right.
Badachu (“Eight Great Sites”) takes its name from the eight Buddhist temples that make up the area’s main attraction. Though most of the temples’ names and embodiments date from the Ming and Qing dynasties, Badachu’s history as a site of worship can be traced all the way back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). The first of the eight temples, Changan Si (长安寺) is actually located right outside the park. The second temple, Lingguang Si (灵光寺), is Badachu’s main attraction and the only one that still has monks-in-residence. Lingguang Si features the 13-storey Buddha Tooth Pagoda, which the faithful circle at least three times for good luck. Take the nearby chairlift (RMB 30), or continue exploring the remaining temples on foot: Sanshan’an (三山俺), Dabei Si (大悲寺), Longwang Tang (龙王堂), Xiangjie Si (香界寺), Baozhu Dong (宝珠洞), and Zhengguo Si (证果寺). There is another chairlift and a slide (RMB 40) near Baozhu Dong. For many, however, Badachu’s temples are an afterthought; the area’s hiking trails, spectacular views, and craggy peaks are distraction enough.
Recommended ages: 3 and up
To do: Visit Buddhist temples
Good to know: Of the eight temples, five have teahouses where you can refresh yourself with a quick drink. Two of the temples have adjacent lodgings.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 10. Daily 5am-7.30pm (summer), daily 6am-6pm (winter).
Address and contact: Badachu Lu, Shijingshan District (8896 4661) Distance: 19km (1.5 hours by bus, 40 minutes by car)
Bus: Take Bus 972 from Pingguoyuan subway station, Bus 347 from Xinjiekou, Bus 389 from Yuquan Lu, or Bus 958 from Shijingshan Amusement Park.
Car: From West Fourth Ring Road, exit at Dinghui Beiqiao (定慧北桥). Go west on Tiancun Lu (田村路) past West Fifth Ring Road and turn north on Badachu Lu (八大处路).
Shengquan Mountain 圣泉山
Located six kilometers from the town of Huairou, Shengquan (Holy Spring) Mountain is sandwiched between Hongluo Temple and Mutianyu Great Wall. Highlights of this huge park include an active Buddhist temple, vendors selling local products, a petting zoo (with rabbits, deer, sheep, goats, and more), and several easy hiking trails around the mountain. Non-hikers can catch a bus ride to the top (RMB 15 one way, RMB 30 roundtrip). You’ll see waterfalls, shrines, temples, caves, a suspension bridge, gourds on the vine, and – once you reach the top – a sea of clouds weaving between the mountains.
Recommended ages: All ages
To do: Experience an active Buddhist temple
Good to know: The best way to reach Shengquan Mountain is by car. Hiking trails are one of the park’s main attractions, but families with younger children can opt to spend the day ambling along Shengquan’s stroller-friendly paved walkways.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 26, RMB 13 (students), free for kids under 1.2m. Daily 6.30am-8.30pm.
Address and contact: Koutou Village, Qiaozi Township, Huairou District (6063 7288/9, email@example.com) www.bjshengqs.com 怀柔区桥梓镇口头村
Distance: 70km (5 hours by bus, 1 hour by car)
Bus: Take Bus 916 or Bus 936 from the Dongzhimen long-distance bus station to Huairou Beidajie (怀柔北大街). Then, switch to a mini-bus bound for Shengquan Mountain.
Car: Take the Jingcheng Expressway (京承高速) until you reach Huairou Qiao (怀柔桥). Switch to Jingmi Lu (京密路) and drive north for about 1.3km. Turn left at Huaichang Lianlu (怀昌联路), then right on Nanhua Dajie (南华大街). After 1.3km, turn left on Qingchun Lu (青春路) and drive until you reach a roundabout. At the roundabout, take exit 3 to Huaihuang Lu (怀黄路) and drive for 6.4km until you reach the destination. Shengquan Mountain will be on your right.
Longqing Gorge 龙庆峡
Longqing Gorge is known for the Longqing Gorge Ice Sculpture Festival in the winter and peaceful mountain vistas in the summer. Often compared to the Yangtze River’s famous Three Gorges, Longqing Gorge also ranks favorably with Guilin’s mountain and water vistas. Visitors can ride the world’s longest chain of escalators (surrounded by a bright yellow dragon-shaped shell, no less). The five-minute ride takes you to the
reservoir behind the dam; from there, you can catch a 30-minute boat ride down the river (longer tours can be arranged). Besides sightseeing, tourists can bungee jump, zip line, kayak, rock climb, go horseback riding, and go-karting. Hundred Flowers Cave or Baihua Dong (百花洞) is best avoided, as the only sign of “flowers” are dusty plastic replicas. For those with plenty of energy to spare, combine this day trip with a
morning visit to neighboring Badaling Great Wall.
Recommended ages: 3 and up
To do: Take the world’s longest chain of escalators
Distance: 85km (8 hours by bus, 1.5 hours by car)
Good to know: This is not a stroller-friendly day trip. Longqing Gorge is usually a few degrees cooler than Beijing, so pack an extra layer of clothing. Small restaurants by the Longqing Gorge parking lot serve cheap and filling home-style dishes. Longqing Gorge is reachable by bus, but the trip is very long; save yourself the trouble and hire a driver instead.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 40 (park admission), RMB 40 (all access), RMB 20/50 (students). Daily 8am-9pm. Address and contact: Longqing Xia, Yanqing County (6919 1020) 延庆县龙庆峡
Bus: From Deshengmen subway station, take Bus 919 to Yanqing Station (延庆站). Catch a cab to the gate of Longqing Gorge (RMB 20, about 15 minutes).
Car: Take the Badaling Expressway (八达岭高速公路), get off at the Yangqing Exit (延庆出口), and follow the signs for Longqing Gorge.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall provides a good middle ground for families; there are fewer tourists than at Badaling, but it’s an easier hike than Huanghuacheng or Simatai. The fastest way up is via cable car (RMB 30/60 one way, RMB 40/80 roundtrip); you can also hike up and take the toboggan down (RMB 60/80). At the foot of the Great Wall, there are vendors selling food, drinks, hiking gear, souvenirs, and more. The neighboring villages of Mutianyu, Beigou, Xinying, and Tianxianyu are also worth exploring. Both The Schoolhouse and The Brickyard are located near Mutianyu Great Wall, making overnight stays an easy option. The Schoolhouse features courtyard homes renovated with salvaged materials, a restaurant with bilingual staff, a glass-blowing studio with daily demonstrations, and more. The Schoolhouse’s sister establishment, The Brickyard, is just a shuttle bus away and offers rooms with view of the Great Wall, a slow food restaurant, spa treatments, and a variety of activities.
Recommended ages: 3 and up
To do: Visit the Great Wall and walk through local villages
Good to know: The weather gets quite hot during the summer; sturdy shoes, comfortable clothing, sunscreen, hats, and plenty of water are a must. There are no washrooms on the Great Wall, so make sure everyone takes care of business before heading up. Parking isn’t a problem, but strollers are better left at home.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 45, RMB 25 (ages 12 and under). Daily 7am-6pm (Apr-Oct), daily 7.30am-5.30pm (Nov-Mar).
Cost: Approximately RMB 1,000 for family of four (includes parking, tickets, and lunch). Accommodations cost RMB 2,600-3,800 per night at The Schoolhouse and RMB 1,380-3,380 per night at The Brickyard.
Address and contact:
Mutianyu Great Wall Park: Mutianyu Village, Huairou District (6162 6022, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.mutianyugreatwall.net 慕田峪长城，怀柔区慕田峪村
The Schoolhouse at Mutianyu: 12 Mutianyu Village, Huairou District (6162 6506, email@example.com) www.theschoolhouseatmutianyu.com 小园，怀柔区慕田峪村12号
The Brickyard Inn and Retreat Center: Beigou Village, Huairou District (6162 6506, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.brickyardmutianyu.com 瓦厂，怀柔区北沟村
Distance: 90km (1.5 hours by car and 2 hours by bus)
Bus: During high season, Bus 936 (RMB 14 per ticket) goes straight from the Dongzhimen long-distance bus station to Mutianyu Great Wall. It departs at 7am, 8am, and 9am, then leaves Mutianyu’s parking lot at 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm for Dongzhimen. If you’re staying at The Schoolhouse, you can take their shuttle bus which leaves from Kempinski Hotel at 9am every Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are RMB 100 for same-day round trips, RMB 120 for a one-way trip, and RMB 200 if you leave Saturday and return Sunday.
Car: Take the Chengde Expressway (京承高速公路) towards Chengde (承德). Take Exit 13 at Beitai Lu (北台路) towards Kuangou (宽沟) and Qiaozi (桥梓). After the toll booth, at the third set of lights, there will be a white sign with brown writing and a large digital screen pointing towards Mutianyu Great Wall. Get into the right lane at a sign that says Beizhai (北宅), then continue driving for 2.7km. When you get to the Huairou Tourist Info Center, wind around to the right and follow the main road. At the T-intersection, turn left towards Mutianyu and drive another 8km up the mountain. Bear right at the Mutianyu traffic circle (慕田峪环岛), go straight, drive 1.7km up the hill, and you’ll see The Schoolhouse’s logo.
Located in Fangshan District, Shidu is a rustic community surrounded by limestone karsts. Avoid the tackier tourist attractions (caves lit with neon tubes, anyone?) and go for outdoor activities like zip lining, bungee jumping, rafting or piaoliu (literally “drifting”), and horseback riding. Make no mistake – the rafting is definitely a tourist attraction, but the dramatic cliffs, gentle breeze, and buzzing dragonflies make it the perfect summer escape. Afterwards, head back to town to enjoy chicken and potatoes roasted over a spit. Cap off the day with a stroll through peaceful dirt roads lined with grape and melon vines and big outdoor patios filled with a mix of tourists and locals.
Recommended ages: 10 and up
Good to know: The days are hot and the nights are cool, so pack accordingly. If you want to stay overnight, there are plenty of country homes with signs advertising rooms for rent. Accommodations are available just behind the Shidu Xizhuang (十渡西庄) bus stop; rooms with air conditioning, a TV, and a private bathroom are available for
RMB 60 per night at farmer’s houses. Shidu is a bit rougher around the edges than other tourist sites, so it’s better-suited to older kids and teens.
Admission and opening hours: No entrance fee. Rafting: RMB 80/person. Horseback riding: RMB 30/per person (one ride). Hiking at Gushanzhai (孤山寨): RMB 80/person, RMB 40 students. Daily 8.30am-5.30pm.
Address and contact: Laibao Lu, Jiudu Village, Shidu Town, Fangshan District (6134 6396) 房山区十渡镇九渡村涞宝路
Distance: 100km (5 hours by bus, 2.5 hours by car)
Bus: Take Bus 917 from Tianqiao Terminal. Disembark at Shidu Xizhuang (十渡西庄) for nearby drifting sites. Buses leave regularly and cost RMB 22.
Car: From Third Ring Road, get onto the Jingshi Expressway (京石高速) and drive about 36km until you reach the Liuliuhe roundabout (琉璃河环岛). From there, take the first exit to Yueliu Lu (岳琉路) and drive for another 13km. Turn left at Fangyi Lu (房易路), turn right when you reach Zhouzhang Lu (周张路), and turn left again at Laibao Lu (涞宝路). Follow this winding road for about 15km more; Shidu will come up on your left.
Ancient Cliff Dwellings (Guyaju) 古崖居
About 90km north of Beijing, there’s a network of cave dwellings carved into the side of stone hills. It’s generally believed that the Xiyi ethnic minority built the caves during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), but not much is known about why or how they accomplished the task – or what made them leave. Although access to the 147 caves is mostly restricted to the lower dwellings, the largest cover more than 20sqm and are made up of multiple rooms. Kids will enjoy wiggling into the smallest ones, which have just enough room to lie down in. At the peak of the hike, there is a great view of the lake in the distance and the surrounding valley. Guyaju only takes one or two hours to tour, so this day trip can be combined with a visit to nearby Longqing Gorge.
Recommended ages: 4 and up
To do: Climb through a mysterious network of caves
Good to know: There aren’t any restaurants or vendors nearby, so pack a picnic and bring lots of water. Though Guyaju is reachable by bus, we recommend hiring a driver. Ample parking is available.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 40, RMB 20 (students), free for kids under 1.2m. Daily 8am-4pm.
Address and contact: Dongmenying Village, Zhangshanying Town, Yanqing County (6911 0333) 延庆县张山营镇东门营村
Distance: 90km (8 hours by bus, 2 hours by car)
Bus: On weekdays, take Bus 919 from Deshengmen station to Yanqing Dacaiyuan (延庆大菜园), switch to Bus 920 towards Xiaying (下营), and get off at Guyaju Lukou (古崖居路口). On weekends, Bus 919快 goes directly to Guyaju.
Car: From Madian Qiao (马甸桥) on North Third Ring Road, take the Badaling Expressway (八达岭高速公路) to Yanqing (延庆), take Jingzhang Lu (金盏路) to Dongmenying Village (东门营村), then follow signs for Guyaju for about 2km.
Agrilandia Italian Farm 意大利农场
Located in northern Shunyi, Agrilandia is a pick-your-own produce farm with an Italian twist. Agrilandia’s 500sqm restaurant is designed to look like an Italian village, with rustic décor and wood-fired pizza ovens. The outdoor lawn can be rented for events like weddings, community flea markets, and family barbecues. Agrilandia uses green technology to grow its crops, including waste water recycling, organic fertilizers, and a geothermal heat pump. Families can pick their own pears, prunes, apricots, apples, strawberries, cherries, herbs, and more. There’s also a store with imported Italian products like wine, cheese, gelato, olive oil, spices, chocolate, and ready-to-eat items. Kids will enjoy the inflatable castle and mini-zoo with rabbits, pigeons, ostriches, squirrels, sheep, and peacocks. Don’t want to leave? Stay overnight in one of Agrilandia’s country-style rooms.
Recommended ages: 3 and up
To do: Pick your own fruits and vegetables on an organic farm
Good to know: Most visitors visit Agrilandia in view of eating at the restaurant or staying overnight. The farm is dog-friendly, so you can bring Fido along. Lunch starts at 11.30am every day.
Admission and opening hours: There’s no admission price per se; prices vary according to activity. Daily 9am-late.
Address and contact: Agrilandia Organic Farm, Baigezhuang, Mapozhen, Shunyi District (6940 7801, email@example.com) www.agrilandia.cn 顺义区马坡镇白各庄
Distance: 45km (50 minutes by car, 2 hours by bus)
Bus: From Sanyuan Qiao subway station on Line 10 (exit C1), take Bus 916 to Meiyu Xueyuan (美语学院); Agrilandia will be across the street, 200m in front of you. You can also take Bus 987 from the same subway station and get off at Mapo (马坡); walk back 500m to reach Agrilandia.
Car: Take the Capital Airport Expressway (首都机场高速公路) towards Shunyi, then switch to the Jingping Expressway (京平高速公路). From Litian Qiao (李天桥), get on Sixth Ring Road heading north. Get on Jingmi Lu (京密路) heading northeast, exit on the left at Fumi Lu (富密路), then do a U-turn to reach Agrilandia.
Beijing Botanical Garden 北京植物园
Beijing Botanical Garden’s various gardens provide the perfect setting for a family picnic; there’s a lilac garden, penjing garden, magnolia garden, peony garden, peach tree garden, cherry garden, bamboo garden, lily garden – you name it. Chinese literature fans can tour Cao Xueqin’s Memorial in the eastern part of the park, where the author worked on the manuscript for Dream of the Red Chamber. The memorial houses several Chinese-only exhibition rooms detailing Cao Xueqin’s background, influences, and research for his novel. At the northern end of the park lies Wofo Si, or Reclining Buddha Temple. The site was built during the Tang dynasty over 1,300 years ago, making it one of the oldest in Beijing. Don’t miss out on the main draw: an enormous reclining bronze Buddha statue that dates back from the Yuan dynasty and weighs 54 tons. The carp and turtle pond in the courtyard features dozens of painted turtles clambering over each other to secure the best sunbathing spot.
Recommended ages: All ages
To do: Have a family picnic among blooming flowers and trees
Distance: 36km (2 hours by bus, 50 minutes by car)
Good to know: The park’s wide, paved walkways make this day trip stroller-friendly, but you might have trouble getting up the stairs at Wofo Si. There’s a small cafe and souvenir shop located within the Tropical Conservatory, but prices are marked up. Washrooms are clean and easy to find and there’s enough privacy in the park to breastfeed away from prying eyes. Parking is available for a fee.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 5, RMB 2.5 (students with ID), RMB 45 (includes admission for outdoor gardens, Conservatory, and Wofo Si). Daily 6am-8pm (summer); daily 7.30am-5pm (winter).
Address and contact: Xiangshan Lu, Haidian District (6259 1283, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.beijingbg.com 海淀区香山路
Bus: Take Bus 318 from Guzhen subway station on Line 1; Bus 563 from Xizhimen station (exit D); or Bus 331, 696, or 563 at Beigongmen station.
Car: From Fifth Ring Road, exit at Fragrant Hill (香山), continue driving for 800m, and turn right into the Beijing Botanical Garden parking lot.