Take in Sand, Surf, and Sun at Beidaihe 北戴河区
Located in Hebei Province, Beidaihe is a favorite summer getaway for Chinese locals. The district is located in the city of Qinhuangdao and borders on the Bohai sea, with well-manicured flower beds and sprawling beaches. In the 1890s, English railway engineers discovered this sleepy fishing village and popularized it as a destination for wealthy Chinese and foreign diplomats. Though there are no white sandy beaches to be found here, Baidaihe still provides a cool respite from hazy Beijing. Play on the beach, shop for trinkets along the side, or rent a tandem bicycle to explore the city. To sample the seafood, visit one of the many restaurants lining the shore or look for men selling live crabs from buckets; they’ll boil and prepare them for you right on the beach.
Recommended ages: All ages
Good to know: The squeamish or very young should take heed; the restaurant staff at seafood restaurants are likely to kill fish in front of you by stomping on their heads or slamming them against the floor. If you’re staying the weekend, call the hotel in advance; some will only accept Chinese or Russian guests.
Address: Beidaihe District, Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province 河北省秦皇岛北戴河区
Distance: 250km (4 hours by bus, 3 hours by car, 2 hours by train)
Car: Take the Jingshen Expressway (京沈高速) and exit at Beidaihe.
Bus: Take a long-distance bus to Beidaihe from Lize Qiao (丽泽桥) or Bawangfen (八王坟) bus stations. During high season, express buses for Beidaihe depart from Beijing Railway Station every hour.
Train: Nine trains depart from Beijing Railway Station to Beidaihe every day.
Rough it in Cuandixia, a 500-year-old Ming Dynasty Village 爨底下村
Cuandixia is a "folk village" with around 70 courtyard homes, many of which have been converted into simple guesthouses. The main attraction is an abandoned Ming dynasty settlement, but the many nature trails around the village are definitely worth checking out. The path that surrounds Cuandixia is well-maintained, not too demanding, and requires only a couple of hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll get fantastic views of the village, fields, and temples. Older kids and teens can take on the more difficult trails leading up the hill. Locals are happy to open up their homes and kitchens to city folks looking to escape Beijing’s muggy summer heat. Prices average RMB 60 per room, depending on whether you want amenities like TV and a view.
Recommended ages: 5 and up
Good to know: Expect public toilets, simple accommodations, and home-style Chinese food. The weather in Cuandixia is a bit cooler than in Beijing, so pack light layers. Basic spoken Chinese is an asset.
Address and contact: Cuandixia Village, Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District (6981 9333) www.cuanbai.com 门头沟区斋堂镇
Distance: 90km (4 hours by bus, 2.5 hours by car)
Bus: Take subway Line 1 to Pingguoyuan station, then walk 150m west to the bus stop. Take Bus 929支 to Cuandixia Lukou (爨底下村路口). There are two departures a day: one at 7.30am and one at 12.40pm. Buses back to Beijing leave at 10.30am and 3.30pm.
Car: Head to Jinding Xijie (金顶西街). Note that the road eventually changes into National Road 109 (109国道). When you reach a forked intersection, turn left and follow the signs toward Hebei (河北). Follow this road for 90 minutes, past the Danli Tunnel (担礼隧道) and Yanchi Town (燕翅镇). When you reach the town of Zhaitang (斋堂镇), follow the signs for Cuandixia until you reach your destination.
Tour Historical Tianjin 天津
Once the imperial port of China, Tianjin has a long and storied history. Attractions include Tianjin Museum, Dule Temple, Jiefang (Liberation) Bridge, the French-style Xikai Church, and a selection of Buddhist monasteries. One must-do is the boat ride on Haihe; visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city’s colonial and modern architecture. At night, take a walk through Jinwan Plaza along the river or catch a glimpse of the lit-up Eye of Tianjin ferris wheel. Don’t forget to try the city’s famous goubuli (狗不理) baozi. The story goes that its inventer, Gouzi focused on the business that he didn’t have time for friends or family. Thus, the joke goes: “Gouzi ignores people when he’s selling baozi” or “Gouzi ignores” for short. If you have time, visit the kidfriendly Tianjin Binhai Aircraft Carrier Theme Park, a 30-minute train ride from Tianjin.
Recommended ages: All ages
Good to know: Bullet trains to Tianjin leave every 20-30 minutes from Beijing South Railway Station, making this the most convenient form of transportation.
Distance: 120km (30 minutes by train, 2 hours by car)
Train: Take the bullet train from Beijing South Railway Station to Tianjin Railway Station (also known as East Railway Station). The journey takes only 30 minutes.
Car: From Fifth Ring Road, access the Jingjin Expressway (京津高速). Drive for 46km, then switch to the Jintai Expressway (京台高速) via the Hepingzhuang Interchange (和平庄互通). After 6km, switch to the Jingjintang Expressway (京津塘高速) and follow the signs for 47km until you reach Tianjin.
Heading to Tianjin? Hyatt Regency Jing Jin City Resort and Spa has two new family packages for summer and a kids’ club called Camp Hyatt. Designed for ages 4-12, Campy Hyatt’s activities include treasure hunts, cooking, movies, pottery making, arts and crafts, swimming, and card making. The Family Fun Package (RMB 1,888 per person) includes a one-night stay for two adults and two kids under age 12, a family buffet breakfast and dinner, four hours at Camp Hyatt, one hour of bowling, and access to the swimming pool and sports facilities. The Family Day Package (RMB 2,888 per person) does not include access to bowling or Camp Hyatt, but families can enjoy a full day’s meals (breakfast buffet, Japanese lunch, and dinner) in addition to a one-night stay and use of the swimming pool and sports facilities.
Lose Yourself at Fog-Covered Yunmeng Mountain 云蒙山
Located at the border between Miyun County and Huairou District, Yunmengshan National Forest Park looks like something out of Jurassic Park. The best time to visit is July and August, when the mountain peaks are shrouded in mist – a welcome respite from the smoke and haze of Beijing. Shutterbugs should wake up early to catch the sunlight piercing through the clouds. Most of Yunmeng Mountain is covered with greenery; the flora includes white birches, wild flowers, azaleas, and pines. There are also several scattered pools and waterfalls, the largest of which drops down from a height of over 80m. Outdoor activities include mountain biking, hiking, and boating.
Recommended ages: All ages
Good to know: Temperatures range from 20-24°C in the summer; pack accordingly. The park offers spartan but clean accommodations and simple country food. Visitors can also camp in designated areas.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 35 (admission), RMB 50 (zip line one way), RMB 80 (zip line roundtrip). Daily 8am-6pm (Apr-Nov).
Address and contact: Yunmeng Mountain National Forest Park Resort, 2 Qidaogou Village, Liulimiao Town, Huairou District (6353 8136, 136 9306 6895 Mr. Ma, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.yunmeng-mountain.com 怀柔区琉璃庙镇七道沟村2号云蒙山国家森林公园
Distance: 82km (3-4 hours by bus, 1.5 hours by car)
Bus: From the Dongzhimen long-distance bus station, take Bus 916 or 936 to Huairou Bus Station (怀柔汽车站), then switch to a mini-bus to Yunmengshan National Forest Park (云蒙山国家森林公园). Alternatively, take a tourist bus directly from Tiananmen or Xuanwumen to Yunmengshan (available on weekends and holidays between April 7 and October 15).
Car: Take the Jingcheng Expressway (京承高速) towards Huairou, then switch to National Highway 111. You’ll reach Yunmeng Mountain in about 20km.
Play Paleontologist at Liaoning Fossil and Geology Park 中德化石地质公园
Liaoning Fossil and Geology Park is a budding paleontologist’s dream. This museum, quarry site, and research center brings together fossils of plants, birds, dinosaurs, and sea life. The park offers one to four-day trip packages chock-full of activities, including private guided tours, film screenings, quarry work, fossil digging, and more. Accommodations consist of Mongolia yurts – a perfect base for stargazing. Alternatively, guests can stay at the nearby Yizhou Hotel (怡州宾馆).
Ages: 5 and up
Good to know: Experts speak English, French, and Chinese. There are no restaurants at the park, but there’s some good hotpot to be had in Yizhou, a 30-minute drive away. Alternatively, park staff can place a delivery order for you.
Admission and opening hours: RMB 788 (one-day package), RMB 1,388 (two-day package), RMB 2,088 (three-day package), RMB 2,588 (four-day package). Daily 9am-5pm.
Address and contact: Hejiaxin Village, Toutai Town, Yi Country, Liaoning Province (416 7575 088) www.dinosaurchina.com 宁省锦州市义县头台满族乡河夹心村
Distance: 500km (5 hours by car, 3-14 hours by train)
Car: Take the Jinsheng Expressway (京沈高速公路) and turn right onto Jinfu Expressway (锦阜高速) after 470km.
Train: There are two trains you can take: the fast train from Beijing to Shenyang (which stops in Jinzhou after 3 hours) or the overnight slow train that arrives in Yi County during early morning (14 hours).
Relax at Shan Li Retreats 山里逸居
North of Beijing in a sleepy village called Huangyankou, visitors can stay in beautiful secluded converted farmhouses. Officially opened on May 1, Shan Li Retreats is the brainchild of Beijing-based designer Naersu. Since discovering Huangkouyan four years ago, Naersu has converted five farmhouses into elegant weekend accommodations. Each house has its own courtyard or garden and offers a view of scenic mountain landscapes. Shan Li Retreats uses recycled materials and was built with the help of local villagers. Huangkouyou is a great starting point for hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities.
Recommended ages: All ages
Good to know: Each house is equipped for self-catering, but food can also be provided upon request. The weekend can be combined with a visit to Simatai Great Wall, a 30-minute drive away.
Address and contact: 351 Xiangdao, Huangyankou Village, Beizhuang Town, Miyun County (138 117 16326 English and Chinese) http://shanliretreats.com 密云县北庄镇黄岩口村351乡道
Distance: 128km (2 hours by car)
Getting there (by car): Take the Jingcheng Expressway (京承高速) and exit at Shatai Lu (沙太路). Turn left after the toll booth and follow signs for Beizhuang Town (北庄镇). Once in Beizhuang, keep driving on the country road to the valley for about 10km. You’ll soon reach Huangyankou, which can be recognized by the two Great Wall watchtowers.