We were re-expatriated to Beijing around this time last year, and my husband and I had different reactions. He was really excited; I was nervous. He was excited to travel and rediscover Beijing, while I was nervous because of all the negative things I had heard. But truth is, we hope we can stay longer. Beijing is very kid-friendly in many ways, but it’s not something you’ll see much around the web. This is why I’m grateful to be given a chance to share our love with Beijing with everyone through this blog post and tips on traveling to Beijing with kids.
The pollution was one reason. Beijing pollution is notorious for being so bad people are wearing masks. Well… kinda true.
Fortunately, someone invented masks that protect us from pollution (Here are a few from Amazon). And even if you choose not to wear a mask, the city has some great malls and restaurants that have air purifiers. But let these just be your back-up plans. The city has so many beautiful places to see—don’t let the pollution stop you from exploring all that!
We also worried about not being able to communicate. The first time I traveled in Beijing was more than two decades ago. We booked a tour group because of language barrier. But we didn’t like it very much because we were brought to places that sold overpriced products. Nowadays though, there are many English-speaking (even foreign-run) on-the-ground tour groups that can easily be hired through the internet. Through these companies, tourists can put together their own DIY China adventure.
For those who want to look at their options: Trip Advisor to the rescue. Here are some other local tours with English-speaking guides:
1. An adventure with The Hutong‘s includes tea tours and culinary tours.
2. For those who have a knack for the road less traveled, reach out to the Beijing Hikers.
3. Or do it on two wheels. A tour with Bike Beijing is something older children will appreciate as well!
4. Or if you prefer to gaze and learn more about the traditional Chinese courtyards, Beijing Hutong Trips can guide you.
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Is food safe?
If you are coming with children who drink formula, I recommend bringing a container or two from your home country. Also some young children are not used to filtered Beijing water, which is why I recommend drinking bottled water for those with sensitive children. Again, for those with sensitive children I would visit bigger, more popular restaurants. Check out the Beijinger’s list here.
5 Tips on Traveling to Beijing with Kids
There are a number of sites across the World Wide Web that share great family-friendly places to bring the kids to. Let me list my top five places to visit in Beijing with kids:
1. If you’re going to visit a section of The Great Wall, then I highly recommend paying the Mutianyu section a visit. This is probably the most (older) kid-friendly part of the wall because of the fun toboggan slide you can ride going down the wall. But expect a long walk!
2. I was worried about taking my toddlers to an acrobatic show awhile back because I was worried that they might be too young. Fortunately they loved it! So here’s an activity that is definitely for all ages.
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3. The Shine Hills lifestyle complex in Shunyi is a beautiful strip of restaurants and fun sure to entertain the kids! There’s a petting zoo, the trampoline park, baking class and indoor playgrounds here.
4. A visit to the local parks (Beihai Park is a popular option) is a must! There are a lot of activities available such as biking, kite flying, boat riding, and even small amusement parks. But because of the amount of walking that might have to be done, I recommend bringing a stroller along. Also, if you’re lucky, there might be a temple fair going on! Check out the performances!
5. One thing I love about visiting Beijing with kids is that they seem to have a museum for everything! Beijing has an aviation museum, a few dinosaur museums, a railway museum, a bee museums…they even have a watermelon museum! Also if you’re willing to venture further into Tianjin, they even have an aircraft carrier museum…on an actual aircraft carrier!
I’d like to add that there are a LOT of places to get to know Beijing on a more cultural level, but these kinds of places are not necessarily places young children will enjoy. So if you are planning to take the kids to places such as Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden City, please bring a stroller along as well!
Also, many more historical places still use squat toilets. Don’t be surprised if you can’t find soap when you’re washing your hands. I recommend still bringing a diaper for older toddlers just in case, and also bring your own hand sanitizers.
Here are some links to see what others recommend:
Family Travel Scoop shares 23 places they recommend.
Here are some ideas from Tour Beijing, although I find the Beijing Zoo more of a sad place rather than a source of entertainment.
Here are ten suggestions from luxury travel blogger La Jolla Mom.
When is the best time to visit?
For those who are worried about pollution, plan your visit during an important event in Beijing. Clear blue skies have been reported during such events (like the 2008 Olympics, the G20 summit and the recent China Congress Meeting).
The best time to come also depends on what you’re looking for. Beijing parks come alive with blooms during spring and have a wistful song to it in Autumn. Skiing, snowboarding and riding toboggans in parks are some popular activities in winter. But if you are visitng Beijing with kids, be aware that the pollution is a bit more challenging during winter because more coal is burnt to help keep homes warm.
What about commuting?
Beijing’s subway is the second longest subway in the world and has a total of 19 lines, 345 stations. Any place is reachable thanks to their public transportation! But i t can get a bit challenging with those bringing along strollers with them. It is not always convenient to find which exit exactly has an elevator, and even the staff themselves sometimes don’t know as well. There’s usually an escalator nearby, but not always. Not just that, Beijing subway is the busiest and has the most ridership in the world according to Wikipedia here.
My experience with kids on Beijing subways is that people tend to give up their seats for those with young children. So it’s not too bad—just try to avoid rush hours! Otherwise, get ready to be squeezed like a sardine!
Thank you very much for reading all the way to the end! I hope you found my information above helpful. I hope you also enjoy visiting Beijing with kids as much we enjoy living here!by