Beijing’s winters are nothing to scoff at. Cold and gray, when the thermometer drops, many of us flee to climates with palm trees and jackfruit to escape the plumes of smog. But for those of you not up for traveling long distances, there are several options for weekend trips and staycations within Beijing proper or a relatively short train or car ride away. Here are five options with varying price tags for a luxurious get away with the family this holiday season.
Great Wall Excursion
A sprawling architectural marvel, The Commune houses forty villas and a dozen presidential suites over acres of rolling hills near Badaling. The villas, with whimsical names like “the Suitcase House,” work as visions by a dozen different architects, but manage to link cohesively aesthetic-wise. A superior room with a “hotpot package” (RMB 1,988) includes breakfast and a hotpot dinner. Beautiful design, hiking, and spa relaxation along with private access to hotel guest only part of the Great Wall, it’s the ultimate easy escape from the city.
Hitting the Slopes
Even though snow doesn’t generally blanket Beijing, there are several ski resorts in nearby Hebei province with artificial snow-covered slopes. The brand-new Thaiwoo Ski Resort, located a three-hour drive northwest of Beijing, houses ski facilities as well as restaurants, bars, a spa, and a movie theater. Several hotels are in the works or newly opened, including a Hyatt and Element by Westin. The suites (RMB 2,580) at the Thaiwoo Hotel are modern designed, spacious rooms, perfect for a weekend getaway. For budget options, Thaiwoo Ski Resort also has the Eagle Nest Hostel, with beds at only RMB 150 per person in a four bunk room.
Ultimate Luxury Option
Part of a chain of luxury resorts located worldwide,The Aman Resort Summer Palace is one of Beijing’s most luxurious hotel accommodations. Located right inside the Summer Palace, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into another time altogether, and you and your family are free to stroll the Summer Palace off hours as the resort provides private access to guests. If you’re positively bathing in pink bills, try the family suite for a night (RMB 7,500) and enjoy the eye-dropping 5,000sqm spa and pools, all of which are indoors, underground, and winter-friendly.
Chengde’s history as a playground for Chinese royalty is literally ancient history, but the contemporary city, with its well-manicured parks, great food, and 18th-century miniature Potala palace make it a pleasant and relaxing weekend trip. Morning and afternoon trains (RMB 41 hard seat, RMB 95 for a bed) take about five hours. Stay at the highly reviewed Chengde Imperial Mountain Resort (discounted winter rates as low as RMB 430 a room), located inside the Imperial Mountain Resort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city of Chengde itself is small, mostly walkable, and pleasant. There is also a glut of good restaurants with massive portions for day trippers and locals. Try Daqinghua for creative dumplings, and for the adventurous, try some of the luxurious game meat Chengde is famous for, like deer, hare, and pheasant.
Roughing It, Village Style
Cuandixia Village resembles a fairytale version of China we’ve all imaged at some point. Dozens of rustic, roofed farmhouses dot the mountainside, villagers raise goats and donkeys, and the smell of sandalwood wafts from an open-air altar. It’s also the only actual Ming Dynasty village near Beijing left standing. Within the village, staying at one of the several Yiqing Chen Courtyard Inns (around RMB 180 for nicer rooms) means a rustic, but decent, experience with a kàng (炕), a traditional bed that’s heated from a cavity underneath. Guangliang Courtyard is known as one of the nicest options. None of the guesthouses have a good online presence, but poking around the village and finding a free room in winter will be easy, as the villagers are well accustomed to accommodating tourists. If timed well with a rare snowfall, the landscape is incredibly enchanting, although watch out for the camera crews filming period dramas when the mountain has particularly scenic, snowcapped views. Chinese skills are likely necessary for this one.
Photo: Dave’s Studio
This article appeared on p18-21 of beijingkids December 2017 issue.