Britannic International School

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.

Parks

Chaoyang Park 

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
6506 5409
www.sun-park.com

Ritan Park

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.

6am-9pm
6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyangmenwai, Chaoyang District
8563 5038

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.

7:30am-4:30pm
10 West Third Ring Middle Rd, Haidian District
8865 3804

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.

Family-friendly Activities

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.

10am-9pm
10/F, Joy City, 101 Chaoyang Beilu, Chaoyang District
5705 0707

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.

8:30am-5pm
Liangshan Zhuang, Zhang Town, Shunyi District
6148 8111 / 6148 8222
www.ebeijing.gov.cn
lianhuashan@yahoo.cn

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.

9am-6pm
25 Shi Jing Shan Lu, Shijingshan
8892 5159

Crab Island

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.

8am-6pm
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.

8:30am-10pm
Sino-Swiss Hotel, 9 Xiao Tianzhu Nanlu, Shunyi District
6456 5588 ext. 1217
www.citichotelbeijing.com

Beijing Planetarium 

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
6836 1691
www.bjp.org.cn

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.

8am-8pm
South Gate of Workers Stadium, Chaoyang District
6591 3397
www.bluezoo.com.cn

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
5904 1000
www.cstm.org.cn

Fundazzle 

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.

Mon-Fri 9am-5:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-7pm
Gongti Nan Lu, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District
6500 4193

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