One of the advantages of living in Beijing is the seemingly limitless number of things to choose from for a family outing. Chinese culture places a high value on children and learning, and consequently there are plenty of outdoor and indoor options for family outings, including elaborate play centres, science exhibits, waterslides and Asia’s largest aquarium. Beijing has a vibrant middle class of parents all too eager to please their only child. To accommodate them, the government and opportunistic businesses go to great lengths to attract families in a competitive market. Most parks (and some malls) have playgrounds and tacky amusement rides. Museums have child exploration exhibits, and seemingly adult activities, such as visiting a market or going shopping, are circuses of excitement for a youngster, with the mix of colours, people, sideshows and commerce. Beijing is one of the most culturally rich cities in the world. Exploring the city and its surroundings will invariably provide opportunities for fun, learning and adventure.
This is Beijing’s largest park and a favorite for expat families, not least because it’s near the most popular expat housing in the city. Chaoyang Park features a multitude of recreational facilities and spaces for all ages. This is one of the few parks that is not designed exclusively for strolling and admiring gardens. Here you can almost feel liberated throwing around a Frisbee, kicking a football or just lying around without being pestered by a security guard. The large lawns are open for picnics, a popular recreational area offers amusement rides and you can rent boats on the lake. Chaoyang Park’s sports area includes volleyball, basketball, ping-pong, football and tennis.
Chaoyang Gongyuan Nan Lu, between Third and Fourth Ring Roads, Chaoyang District
Ritan Park is the largest and best green space in the otherwise concrete CBD and manages to pack a lot of child-friendly activities into a small space. Gracefully sitting in the ruins of the Altar of the Sun, it has trampolines, a climbing wall, a bouncy castle, a fishing pond and mini-golf.
6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyangmenwai, Chaoyang District
Yuyuantan (Jade Lake) Park
This park is enormous, with its own 61-hectare lake, and attracts families for full-day outings. Enjoy a picnic and the incredible landscaping while the kids enjoy the open lawns and the aquatic park. Check the website for the spring Cherry Blossom Festival, which boasts over 200 species of cherry blossoms.
10 West Third Ring Middle Rd, Haidian District
Old Summer Palace
It takes a bit of effort to get here, but it’s well worth it. As the name implies, the Old Summer Palace was a getaway for the elites of the Qing dynasty. Once called the Versailles of the East, the grounds blend classic Chinese landscaping with Western architecture. While you’re there, visit the Ocean Observatory and have a run through the labyrinth. Otherwise, you can picnic among imperial ruins. The west bank and back hill contain ‘secret’ ruins and caves for exploring.
Joy City Chaoyang Park
This is technically a shopping mall; however, the 11-storey citadel provides plenty of entertainment and is a great outing during winter months or sweltering July afternoons. Families certainly shop here, but you can also enjoy a film, ice skate, find almost anything to eat or bring the little ones to the play center. The real highlight, however, is the sprawling 18,600 sqm EE City. Designed to be a mini community, it allows children to dress up in an appropriate uniform and play out the career of their choice. There’s a bank, fire station, TV studio, submarine and art rooms – just to name a few of the 84 options. It gets crowded on weekends.
10/F, Joy City, 101 Chaoyang Beilu, Chaoyang District
Lianhuashan Ski Resort
This conveniently located snow sports resort, just 25 km from Shunyi, covers over a million sqm and has five ski trails. There’s a children’s snow world with snow tubing (RMB50/hour) and a rather sparse playground. Lianhuashan also has an eco-restaurant with bamboo surroundings, a waterfall, glass walls and a Chinese-style buffet.
Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park
Famous for tis copyright run-ins with Disney, the park is accessible via the Line 1 of the Beijing Subway and now has its own stop—Bajiao Amusement Park Station.
25 Shi Jing Shan Lu, Shijingshan
Developers spared no expense in recreating the Crab Island tropical beach, the water park answer to Beijing Amusement Park, with real sand delicately caressed by fake waves. There’s also a relaxing lazy river, go-karts, an amusement park and waterslides.
1 Xiedao Lu, Chaoyang District (near the airport)
8423 4851 / 8433 5566
Splash Recreation Club
In the winter months, try out the Sino-Swiss Hotel’s Splash Club. It boasts a large outdoor-indoor pool, sand volleyball court, playground, gym, ping-pong, poolside bar and a restaurant. The hotel also has a sauna, squash and tennis courts. Fees are charged per day.
Sino-Swiss Hotel, 9 Xiao Tianzhu Nanlu, Shunyi District
6456 5588 ext. 1217
Like all planetariums, the Beijing Planetarium is a bit cheesy. However, your kids will love the modern SGI Digital Universe Theater, which takes them on an intergalactic tour with six Carl Zeiss laser projectors that simulate the movement of the stars and planets. There’s also a 4-D theater, where visitors strap on goggles and watch a visually stimulating film about the creation of the solar system and the Earth, completing the effect with snarling sabre-tooth tigers.
Wed-Fri 9am-3:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4pm
138 Xizhimenwai Dajie, Xicheng District
Beijing Blue Zoo
Beijing Blue Zoo has a 3.5 million-liter tank that maintains a complete ecosystem with sharks, rays, eels, reef fish, lobsters, sea horses and starfish. At 120 meters, it’s advertised as the longest underwater tunnel in Asia. If you make a reservation, there’s a possibility of scuba diving with the fish.
South Gate of Workers Stadium, Chaoyang District
China Science & Technology Museum
This recently renovated museum features nearly 50,000 sqm of sights and activities that run the gamut from ancient Chinese inventions to future technologies. The Children’s Paradise has a fossil digging area and robots comically doing tai chi.
9am-4:30pm (closed Mon)
5 Beichen Dong Lu, Olympic Area
Fundazzle is legendary among expat parents and also a great place to meet people if you’re new to Beijing. The indoor playground has a two-storey jungle gym, trampolines and a toddler area with miniature swings and toy houses. On weekends, staff put on shows, lead kids in song and dance and teach arts and crafts.