April is here, and you know what that means: rising temperatures, spring blossoms, and sun-soaked afternoons outdoors. Though it’s not quite warm enough for overnight camping trips yet, there’s plenty to do in the city’s green spaces. Here are our picks for seven of Beijing’s best urban parks.
Si’de Park 四得公园
Beloved by Lido families, the “park of four gains” is a modest but well-maintained green space with jogging paths, a children’s playground, a fishing pond, a roller skating rink, and recreational facilities for tennis, basketball, and soccer. Family-friendly dining options abound nearby, including Parkside Bar and Grill, Eudora Station, Element Fresh, Comptoirs de France, and Baby International Blu.
Free. Daily 6am-9pm. 9 Jiangtai Xilu, Chaoyang District (6438 6093) 朝阳区将台西路9号
Ditan Park 地坛公园
This venerable park contains the 486-year-old Temple of Earth, where Ming and Qing emperors made ritual offerings to the Goddess of the Earth every summer solstice. Ditan’s square footprint is in direct contrast to the Temple of Heaven, its larger, circular counterpart in the southeastern part of Beijing.
Nowadays, you’re more likely to see people taking a leisurely stroll through the peony garden than engaging in worship. Kids will enjoy chasing pigeons in the square and playing hide and seek among the park’s fine old pine, cypress, and gingko trees.
RMB 2, RMB 1 (students). Daily 6am-9pm. A2 Andingmenwai Dajie, Dongcheng District (6421 4657) www.dtpark.com 东城区安定门外大街甲2号
Olympic Forest Park 奥林匹克森林公园
At 680 hectares, Olympic Forest Park is more than twice the size of Chaoyang Park. Though originally built for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, the park has since become a genuine local fixture thanks to its functional design as an urban green space. Features include several walking and jogging paths, a children’s playground, and a sustainable ecosystem of wetlands with a public education component.
Thanks to its biodiversity, Olympic Forest Park has become a sanctuary for local bird species such as grey herons, little egrets,common kingfishers, and red-rumped swallows. Nature lovers should consider joining Terry Townshend’s birdwatching group, Birding Beijing, for one of its regular excursions to the park.
Free. Daily 6am-9pm. 15 Beichen Donglu, Chaoyang District (Southern Garden: 6452 9060, Northern Garden: 6452 9090)
Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Park 明城墙遗址公园
Along with the Yuan Dynasty Wall Relics Park, the Ming Dynasty Wall Relics Park is perhaps the purest example of an urban park of the green spaces included on this list. Extending from Chongwenmen to Dongbianmen and north to Beijing Railway Station, the park contains a well-preserved section of the Ming Dynasty city wall. Built in 1419, the wall was largely torn down in the 1960s to make way for the Beijing subway; of the original 40km, only 1.5km remains.
The park is free and accessible at all hours, but admission to the Southeast Corner Tower (东南角楼 dongnan jiao lou) ramparts costs an extra RMB 10. The 577-year-old watchtower also houses the Red Gate Gallery, a free, privately-owned gallery that exhibits Chinese contemporary art.
Southeast Corner Tower: RMB 10 (adults), RMB 5 (students), free for children under 1.2m and seniors. Daily 8am-5pm (last entry 4.30pm). 9 Chongwenmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng District (6522 6008) >东城区崇文门东大街9号
Chaoyang Park 朝阳公园
The mother of all urban green spaces, Chaoyang Park is the default weekend stomping ground for many downtown families. Along with its various attractions – including artificial ponds, a children’s fairground with amusement rides, boats and quadricycles for rent, and a Sony ExploraScience museum – the 288.7-hectare park regularly hosts fitness events like weekly Yoga in the Park, Heyrobics, and the monthly People’s Run. Just north of Chaoyang Park is Solana, a sprawling village-style mall with family-friendly dining options like Moka Bros, Element Fresh, Tube Station and La Pizza. There is also Alio Olio, Annie’s, and Muse near the west gate and The Rug near the south gate.
RMB 5, RMB 2.5 (students), free for kids under 1.2m. Daily 6am-10pm (last entry at 9pm). 1 Chaoyang Gongyuan Nanlu, Chaoyang District (6506 5409) www.sun-park.com 朝阳公园南路1号
Yuyuantan Park 玉渊潭公园Can’t make it to Tokyo for sakura season? Don’t worry, Yuyuantan Park is right around the corner. Every spring, the 137-hectare park in central Beijing becomes a riot of white, pink, and magenta cherry blossoms. Yuyuantan’s more than 2,000 cherry trees owe their lineage to 180 trees gifted to China from Japan in 1973. From the end of March to the end of April, families, couples, and amateur photographers can be spotted picnicking and taking pictures under the heavily-laden branches.
Try to avoid going on weekends; the crowds can be overwhelming at the height of the cherry festival. To round out the day trip, visit the nearby CCTV Tower for sky-high views of Beijing or Military Museum to see real rockets, missiles, tanks, and fighter jets.
RMB 2, RMB 1 (students). Daily 6am-9.30pm (summer), daily 6.30am-7pm (winter). 10 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District (8865 3800) www.yytpark.com 海淀区西三环中路10号
Yuan Dynasty Wall Relics Park 元大都城垣遗址公园
Extending 9km across Haidian and Chaoyang districts, the Yuan Dynasty Wall Relics Park is the longest linear park in Beijing. Construction took place from 1267-1276 during the reign of Kublai Khan, when the city was known as Dadu (“Grand Capital”) or Khanbaliq.
Get off at Xitucheng subway station on Line 10 and walk east along the Xiaoyue River. You’ll see sections of Yuan Dynasty city wall, a statue of Kublai Khan, murals, sculptures, and crabapple trees in bloom. The river goes all the way west until Shaoyaoju subway station, but you can hop on at Jiandemen, Beitucheng, or Anzhenmen whenever you’re ready to go.
Free. Beitucheng Xilu, Chaoyang District (8464 8252) 朝阳区北土城西路
This article originally appeared on page 54-57 of the April 2016 Issue of beijingkids. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.