Despite its size and density, Shanghai does its best to be a family-friendly city. Partly as a result of the one-child policy, there are numerous playgrounds, amusement parks, activity centres and interactive museums focused entirely on kids’ interactive entertainment and education. For the most part, they do it well. Our listings contain some of the most popular family excursions, although there are many more options.
Since this is Shanghai, expect the museums and amusement parks to be crowded, particularly during the weekends. It doesn’t take away from the fun however, as people in Shanghai are accustomed to this atmosphere and eventually you will be as well – like it or not.
For further options, check the listings in Shanghai Family magazine for arts and craft centres and outings. If you’re looking to get your children involved in organized sports, City Weekend has an exhaustive list of events and organized sporting groups for kids of all ages.
This French-style landscaping gem is the central park of the French Concession. To get the most out your experience visit early in the morning when it’s filled with dancers, mahjong players and tai chi practitioners. It’s a great window into local life.
Puxi: 105 Yandang Lu, by Nanchang Lu
Daning Lingshi Park
This walled park, often overlooked by expats and the largest in Puxi, offers plenty of areas to find urban solitude. You can sit undisturbed on the grass in the company of doves, visit a beach along the park’s substantial lake and even take a small boat out for a paddle if you fancy. The city spent RMB1.5 billion renovating this park and the results are evident.
Puxi: 288 Guangzhong Xi Lu, by Gonghe Xin Lu
Sprawling and open Century Park, located at the end of Century Avenue in Pudong, covers 140 hectares next to the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. The open green lawns, wooded areas and various facilities make it an ideal place for family outings during the warmer months. Families can rent bicycles, navigate the park’s canals by electric boat or try the amusement park. The children’s play area has forts, swings and slides.
Pudong: 1001 Jinxiu Lu, by Minsheng Lu
For those residing in the western suburbs of Hongqiao and Huacao, Changfeng Park is a good option. There are rental boats and winding creeks to navigate and it’s close to Disc Kart indoor go karting and Changfeng Ocean World.
Puxi: 525 Zaoyang Lu, by Jinshajiang Lu
Gongqing Forest Park
Gongqing Forest Park is far enough from the downtown noise and commotion for some serenity, although it’s still accessible by Metro Line 8. As the name suggests, there’s an actual forest here, with more than 300,000 trees. It’s not entirely wilderness, of course, but the closest thing to it in the Shanghai metropolitan area. You can also ride a horse or fire up a rented barbecue for a picnic. And if that doesn’t entertain the kids, you can fall back on those old forest standbys: the carousel and the roller coaster.
Puxi: 2000 Jungong Lu, by Yinhang Lu
Not far from Daning Lingshi Park, this smaller park has a decidedly more local feel and is often bustling with socializing seniors. It’s interesting and worth a stroll.
Puxi: 1555 Gonghe Xin Lu, by Luochuan Dong Lu
Science and Nature
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
This Chinese-Singaporean venture, opened in 2002 next to the Oriental Pearl Tower, is one of the largest of its kind in Asia. The highlight is a 155-metre underwater clear viewing tunnel, which provides visitors with 270-degree views of sharks, giant turtles and other exotic fish. The surrounding galleries feature over 15,000 fish representing 360 species.
1388 Lujiazui Huan Lu
Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom
It’s neither entirely natural nor entirely wild, but this place contains more than just bugs, and kids enjoy the somewhat tacky insect models. Despite its location in the shadow of the Oriental Pearl Tower, the galleries feel peaceful and allow children to focus on the exhibits. The display of lizards is particularly comprehensive. Visitors are free to feed the rabbits, goats and chinchillas. Admission is RMB40 per adult and RMB25 per child, with discounts for families.
1 Fenghe Lu, by Lujiazui Xi Lu, Pudong
Science and Technology Museum
This is an incredible attraction for both children and parents. The space-age glass and steel building alone is worth the trip. It contains hundreds of high-tech, interactive attractions focused on natural history, health, science, technology and space. The complex also contains a space theatre, an IMAX and an Iwerks ‘4D’ theater, which incorporates 3D technology with moving seats, water-spray rain simulations and even air blowing through the cinema to recreate wind.
Pudong: J-06 Yataishenghui Nan Jie, 2000 Century Avenue
With over 600 species, Shanghai Zoo is one of China’s best, though the bar is set rather low, particularly with regard to animal treatment. The pandas, however, are well taken care of and worth the trip.
2381 Hongqiao Lu, by Hongxu Lu
Jinjiang Amusement Park
Jinjiang Amusement Park is a complete modern amusement park with all the classics: a looping roller coaster, merry-go-rounds, a haunted house, bumper cars and a ferris wheel. Don’t expect a Six Flags or Disney experience, but it’s still fun for kids. Six rides are included with the RMB70 entrance fee. Shanghai is planning to open a Disneyland Resort in 2016, which will likely render Jinjiang obsolete.
201 Hongmei Lu, by Meilong Lu
People’s Square Amusement Park
Most expat residents of the French Concession don’t realise that there is an amusement park tucked away in the greenery of People’s Square. It’s not huge and it’s not amazing by most standards but it can make a fun diversion for an afternoon. It’s safe and affordable (RMB10-15 per ride) for kids aged 7-12.
People’s Park, Nanjing Xi Lu side
Happy Valley Amusement Park
Currently Happy Valley is the best of Shanghai’s amusement parks. Opened in 2010, the park has more than 100 attractions including a huge classic wooden roller coaster (China’s first) called the fireball that reaches speeds of nearly 100kph. It has seven major themed areas, including Typhoon Bay, which has a number of water-based rides, and Gold Mine Town, which, as you may have guessed, is gussied up in an Old West theme. There are also circus and acrobat shows at the OCT Theater and activities for younger children at Ants Kingdom. Pizza Hut and KFC are on site, as are a few coffee shops. Admission: RMB200
18 Linying Da Dao, Songjiang
Meadowbrook Equestrian and Rural Activity Center
Meadowbrook is an accredited public equestrian center that provides riding lessons on 35 hectares of grassland, meadows and natural ponds. They have excellent English-speaking staff that give private lessons, group lessons and camps. You’ll need a vehicle to get there. Go to the website to download a PDF map with clear directions in English and Chinese.
Tue-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat-Sun 8am-7pm
2780 Shenzhuan Highway, 1.8km west of A30 Expressway Tianma toll gate
Weicheng Paintball Shooting Sports Center
Its setting in the ruins of an amusement park gives this paintball center a markedly post-apocalyptic feel. Their legions of camouflaged staff provide all necessary equipment including body armour for girls and a variety of markers (guns). They have three fields and full training for beginners. Those familiar with paintball might be surprised at how much fun it is without all those pesky safety regulations. Initial fee is RMB130 which includes 90 rounds. Additional ammo is pricey at RMB1 per ball but unused ones can be returned for a refund.
Puxi: 388 Chenhua Gong Lu, by Rongxing Lu
138 1877 3979
Asia’s biggest indoor racing circuit at 800 metres, Stampede is set up perfectly, allowing riders to drift through corners Fast and Furious style. They have weekly training sessions for novices and a racing league for enthusiasts. For the grown-ups they have a full bar and night club in the evening which Director Tommy Li fully encourages riders to use prior to hitting the track. During the daytime, the track is family-friendly. It’s RMB85 for 7 minutes and they have various options for booking the entire venue for events both big and small.
Puxi: Basement Section C, Bailian Shopping Center, 1288 Zhenguang Lu, by Meichuan Lu
Sic Kart World
Situated adjacent to the Shanghai Formula One circuit in Jiading District, SIC Kart World is one of the best tracks in Asia outside of Japan. Its 1.2km open-air track has 18 turns and has seen the likes of F1 racers Robert Kubica and Fernando Alonso, who, you may have guessed, set course records. There are several models of karts from slower dual seaters all the way up to Rotax powered pro quality rides that reach up to 120 kilometres per hour. They have a shuttle bus service leaving from the People’s Square Shanghai Grand Theater parking lot (300 Renmin Da Dao) every weekend. Prices range from RMB80-250 for eight minutes of excitement.
Puxi: 2000 Yining Lu, by Bao’an Gong Lu