It’s been a restless 2017 for our team in terms of traveling. In my case, I embarked on a year-long trip across China and Europe, but I also made surprising discoveries and met a lot of awesome people. My colleagues, on the other hand, gave their thoughts and experiences about amazing (and sometimes funny) family-friendly areas in the city and nearby provinces.
When I continued the Beijing Bucket List series, I was thinking of using my free weekends to explore the city and make recommendations for families and young adults. Now, the travel section on our website has grown to have several series: China (and Beijing) Bucket List, Family Day Out, Weekend Warrior, Travel Stories, and Subway Sunday, all reflecting the vibrancy of Beijing expat life.
It’s not too late for you and family to explore the capital. Here we list our best travel blogs to help you get started in planning (note that some of them are seasonal or already finished). After all, you have 365 days to explore this beautiful city and China and the world! If you find other wonderful family-friendly spots in town, or any stories about family travel, we welcome you to write about them and be featured in any of our travel series!
If the cold never bothers you (anyway), then have some frozen delights at the iced waterfall attraction in Taoyuan Xiangu scenic area (桃源仙谷冰瀑) in Miyun District (first picture below).
And for those who have already gone to the more “touristy” Great Wall sections like Mutianyu and Badaling, the Huanghuacheng (lake-side part) of the wall is an amazing sight without the usual crowds.
Hebei Province: The Molten Iron Performance at Nuanquan (Hot Spring Town) in Zhangjiakou
Shining, shimmering, splendid. That’s probably the best way to describe a bright spectacle, akin to a fireworks display, that happens in the ancient town of Nuanquan in Zhangjiakou City (河北省张家口蔚县暖泉镇), just west of Beijing.
Heilongjiang Province: A Winter Weekend in Harbin
Winter was coming to an end when my colleague Annie Wang went to Harbin in February. So instead of the -30 degrees Celsius that they had expected, the temperature stood at a “cool” -12 degrees Celsius, still low enough to freeze toes and tears without the proper attire!
My colleague Pauline’s wish for my birthday was to visit the Great Wall of China. When she asked around in WeChat groups, that one name that always popped up is Tom Dong, who seemed to be taking lots of people up to the wall.
The Killeens decided to round out our tour of Beijing’s imperial heritage, with a trip to the Ming Tombs, where they opted for hiring a bus with a group, which was a great thing… especially because the tomb site was huge!
Beijing: The Killeens View More Colors of Chinese Art at the National Art Museum of China
The Killeen’s previous family samplings of Beijing’s artistic offerings have been in the hip and funky/commercialized tourist areas of 798 and Caochangdi. So Dad Andy wondered how his kids would respond to the more formal setting of the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC)…
Shandong Province: The Story of the “Eight Immortals” on Long Island
This was the second entry in my month-long A to Z Challenge, in which I blogged 30 travel articles in April. It was also my first trip to Shandong Province. While on the way to Miaodao village, or technically one of the islands that compose the county, our tour manager shared with us a folk story that happened there over a thousand years ago…
Former managing editor Vanessa blogged about the surprise staycation from her husband, Bobby. After their date, Bobby brought her to a mystery location, which was later revealed as one of the restaurants at Nuo Hotel.
Beijing: Biking, a Ride or Die Experience
Pauline’s Beijing escapades continued with her story about bikes. “I have stopped holding on to my heart because there is really nothing we can do, but smile, and enjoy the wild ride Beijing is taking us on,” she said of the wild ride on the city streets.
Managing editor Kipp went to Huairou district to get a feel of the wonderful library that is Liyuan for our Weekend Warrior column in the magazine. It was good while it lasted — because the library was shut down by the authorities in September, following complaints about pirated and uncensored material. We’re not sure if this is a permanent thing as recent reports have stated otherwise, but it still a great day trip during the spring months.
A part of 798 Art District shimmered when a foreign company brought its light exhibition. But the feat of this extravaganza was that it challenged the imagination and perception of reality of the visitors. Many of my WeChat friends, in fact, used the pictures they took at the exhibition as their profile photos!
Beijing: Camping on the Great Wall
One of my first Beijing bucket list items that I ticked off was a visit to the Great Wall. Now that I’ve visited three sections of the wall in Beijing (Badaling, Mutianyu, and Huanghuacheng), that bucket list became expanded with another thing about the Great Wall: camping.
After a long two weeks of a husband working non-stop, Pauline thought to find out if the rest of EAST Hotel was as child-friendly as the weekend brunch. True enough, she felt at home in the hotel situated in Lido, which she likened to as the new Sanlitun.
Jiangsu Province: Zhouzhuang: Around a Water Town
The Killeens went south to Zhouzhuang, one of the oldest of the “water towns” which lie between Shanghai and Suzhou. Like Venice, a network of canals criss-crosses this ancient settlement, and flat-bottomed punts with a remarkable similarity to gondolas still throng the waterways – although these days it’s almost entirely for the benefit of tourists.
In one of my Subway Sunday articles, I went to a station named after a park that used to be the breeding ground for mosquitoes. Okay, so why on earth would we go to such place? It may not be as majestic as other imperial palaces in Beijing, but the park gives you a sense of what a “downgraded” Summer Palace is.
Pauline and her family went to neighboring Tianjin, where she recounted experiencing everything the city had to offer. They boarded the Tianjin Eye, China’s “answer” to the London Eye. Pauline said she never rode the expensive London Ferris wheel so she took the chance to sit on its Chinese counterpart.
Andy (not me, but our senior editor) had had a fair share of a visa nightmare when he applied for one at the Russian visa center. To help others planning to go to Russia, he wrote this article detailing what went wrong and what to do next.
Our blogger Rebecca shared with us one of the things that she love most about living in Beijing: the opportunity to take her young family camping. She rounded up her favorites — a mere 1.5 to 2 hours drive from the city center.
Our resident Weekend Warrior Kipp recalled his childhood memories of long car rides that featured roadside attractions: fruit vendors and farms. This feel can be recreated in Beijing, thankfully, in an autumn weekend trip to the city outskirts.
Philippines: The Encyclopedia that Inspired Me to See the World
After four weeks of loitering in Europe, I went back to my home country and revisited the source of my travel escapades: the encyclopedia set that my mother brought when I was young. That 10-volume set of encyclopedias basically widened my view of the world.
Athens, Greece: When Black Cats “Ruined” My Trips in Athens
I had a lot of remarkable experiences on my trip to Greece, but there was this certain part that made it more interesting: that black cats had been present before an untoward incident. But are these felines to be blamed whenever bad things happen to us? Ancient beliefs may have an answer to that…
Beijing’s winters are nothing to scoff at. In this magazine article, our resident Weekend Warrior Kipp rounded up several options for weekend trips and staycations within the city proper or a relatively short train or car ride away.
Toledo, Spain: Finding Your Power Source
My experience with fellow family travelers outshone every bit of outstanding feat the medieval city of Toledo had to offer to me when I visited there. I recounted the incident when I shared my power source with the wrong people.
Photos: Kipp Whittaker, Andy Penafuerte, Andrew Killeen, Pauline van Hasselt; courtesy of EAST Hotel, Vanessa Jencks, Annie Wang, Rebecca Archer, Commune, visitmysmokies.com