Finding exciting and adventurous places to explore is essential to feeling at home in Beijing, especially if you have children. While there are plenty of different activities available, pollution can be a factor in dictating what you might choose to do on any given day. With the city’s unpredictable air quality, it’s always good to have a few different options in your back pocket that you can pull out when needed. Here are some indoor and outdoor suggestions to get you started. For complete addresses, contact information and more fun ideas visit our website at www.beijing-kids.com.
Play Centers and Family Fun
All Ages. Latitude, the operator of two successful trampoline parks in Australia, recently opened a Shunyi branch that promises tons of bouncy fun. The pulse pounding activities are sure to appeal to children and it is perfect for smoggy days and muggy summers. Located on Anping Street, the Shunyi activity center boasts an array of trampolines, climbing walls, obstacle courses, a dodgeball court and more. A great option for birthday parties, especially once their café has opened.
Ages 1-8. Play centers have come and gone over the years, but this Gongti fixture has catered to local and expat families alike for over 17 years. Even though it lacks the novelty factor, Fundazzle has managed to stay a birthday party favorite. Its huge jungle gym, ball pit, arcade games, inflatable climbing wall, sandbox, and fishing pool are a real draw for little kids. Drawbacks include the Chinese-style bathrooms and non-English speaking staff. However, it is economical, consistent, and predictable, which makes it a safe choice.
StarTrooper Laser Tag
Ages 10+. Located near Caochangdi, StarTrooper Laser Tag appeals to older kids and adults alike, as it offers them a chance to live out their Star Wars fantasies by arming them with laser guns to annihilate the ‘Dark Forces’. StarTrooper also has a pool table, arcade games, and a concession stand for some post-game entertainment. The entire venue can be rented out for birthday parties.
Ages 5-12. This 18,600sqm center at Joy City Chaoyang allows kids to role-play 84 different jobs by dressing up in uniforms and trying their hand at various tasks. Careers include firefighter, cashier, police officer, travel agent, TV anchor, submarine operator, and more. There are two 4.5-hour sessions daily, with each career ‘session’ lasting 30 minutes and led by adult facilitators. We recommend planning which careers your child would like to try out in advance, as they’re likely to only do three or four per visit.
Also check out: Adventure Zone, New City Center, SMJ Bowling, U-Speed Go-Karting, Red1 Karting, Family Box, Mitty Jump, Le Kids!
All ages. Located just south of 798 Art District, Indigo Mall opened in 2012 and is a popular place for families to hangout. The mall hosts regular kids’ events in its airy atrium space. In the warmer months, families can access the free Indigo Playground out back, which features a fountain and two play areas connected by a garden. It’s always busy and lively
Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park
All ages. Located a stone’s throw away from Chaoyang Park, this family favorite has been open since 2008 and carries brand names like Zara Home, H&M, Mothercare, and more. The village-style layout offers plenty of space for kids to run around in and offers indoor, as well as, outdoor options. The central plaza, with its fountains and whimsical decorations, is particularly popular. Indoors, there’s an entire children’s wing with play facilities and family-oriented shops. Solana also has a cinema, western restaurants, and an indoor ice rink.
Tai Koo Li Sanlitun
All ages. The area in and around Tai Koo Li Sanlitun is an expat hub, with a myriad of international shops, restaurants, bars, beauty services, and more. In the summer, the fountain in front of the Apple Store attracts lots of kids, who play and run through the water jets as their parents look on. Tai Koo Li also has a Megabox Cinema that shows Hollywood films and the Coldstone Creamery is a perfect heat-buster on hot days!
Also check out: Kerry Center
798 Art District
All ages. Suitable for art lovers, 798 Art District is a complex of decommissioned munitions factories that have been turned into shops, galleries, cafes, and artists’ studios. UCCA Creative Studio runs weekly bilingual art classes and workshops, inspired by the seasons and the gallery’s current exhibitions, for kids under 12. Even if your kids aren’t really into art, they’ll have fun touching, exploring, and playing around the many sculptures and graffiti murals displayed and scattered around the compound.
The Great Wall
When it comes to Beijing’s most famous attraction, not all sections are created equal. Avoid at all costs the crowded and reconstructed Badaling in favor of quieter and more authentic segments. A good choice for families is Mutianyu, which is broad and smooth enough for even young children to walk on. The nearby Schoolhouse and Brickyard Inn and Retreat offer a great place to recharge and eat lunch. A visit to the Bohai Township can also be combined with the Great Wall for a relaxed day trip. Active families with older kids can hike wilder, unrestored sections of the Wall (see below). Note that some sections involve steep climbs and crumbling ramparts, so you’re hiking at your own risk.
Also check out: Forbidden City, Panjiayuan Antiques Market, Beihai Park and various other sections of the Great Wall (such as Jinshanling, Gubeikou, or Huanghuacheng)
As the largest park in Beijing, Chaoyang Park is a no-brainer for families; entrance fees are cheap and a myriad of activities to explpore. Young visitors can fly kites, rent a pedal boat for the lake, go on fairground rides (including a merry-go-round and bumper cars), or play on the bouncy castle. There’s also a treetop obstacle course called Happy Gorilla with a network of bridges, swings, and zip lines.
Located in Lido, this modest but well-maintained park is a popular destination for local families. Si’de Park features a running track that winds around the park, a roller skating rink, a fishing pond, soccer pitches, a playground, an indoor funhouse, a bouncy castle, and fairground rides.
This free park has stunning foliage in the fall, with the gingko trees turning bright gold. Located in the Ritan embassy district, it has a supervised outdoor rock climbing wall, an extensive ‘people’s gym’ and a central pavilion that offers decent views of the surrounding area. Some great local restaurants and quaint shopping avenues make it well worth a visit.
Also check out: Tuanjiehu Park, Ditan Park, Olympic Forest Park, and Fragrant Hills
Beijing Wildlife Park
All ages. This conservation park covers over 14,000sqm and is home to more than 10,000 animals. The park is split into two sections, with one half containing large animals such as deer, lions, tigers, and bears and the other half housing smaller animals, as well as, birds. Ideal for a family day out, they also have restaurants, cafes, and suitable spots for a picnic if you’re in the mood.
Blue Zoo Beijing
All ages. Located at the south gate of Worker’s Stadium, Blue Zoo Beijing is worth a visit. Visitors can spot parrot fish, nurse sharks, leopard sharks, stingrays, moray eels, daily mermaid shows, and the occasional underwater marriage ceremony. This is also where SinoScuba holds confined water sessions for the PADI Open Water certification.
Not to be confused with Blue Zoo Beijing, Beijing Aquarium is adjacent to Beijing Zoo in Haidian District. The aquarium features a rainforest zone where families can feed fish for an extra fee, a Whale and Dolphin Discovery zone, and a Marine Mammal Pavilion. There are also daily dolphin and sea lion shows.
Also check out: Beijing Zoo, Milu Deer Park, Hanshiqiao Nature Reserve
This article originally appeared on pages 48-51 of beijingkids Home and Relocation Guide 2016/17. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos: Ken, Mitch Altman (Flickr), and courtesy of travelourplanet.com and Startrooper