Beijing's Kid-Friendly Parks

Thursday, 18 February 2010

This article first appeared on the byokids website.

Beijing may be a relatively flat, grey city, but its myriad of green oases offer the illusion, at least for a short while, that you are somewhere far more exotic. Locals consistently attend the parks in Beijing, no matter the season. From the elderly and infirm to the tiniest tot, there is something for everyone and the entry fees are either non existent or nominal (2RMB or 30 cents).

Not only are the parks ripe with opportunity to witness the fascinating culture of Beijing life, they are also quite beautiful - with gates, pavilions, ponds and altars to take the breath away.

Most parks have a special area for children, complete with everything from sporting facilities to a series of carnival rides taken straight from a 1950s kids adventure novel. These rides are extra cost, but again, are nominal (3-20RMB). Some parks also have extensive water parks or theme park-style equipment.

Whichever park you visit, an intriguing, culture-saturated, rollicking time is guaranteed.

Ritan Park
Built in 1530, Ritan is one of the city's oldest parks. Its stone altar, where emperors once made sacrifices to the sun, now welcomes the patter of kids, running amok beneath a ceiling of bobbing kites.

As in many of Beijing parks, the retro kids play area is like visiting another era - with mini carousel rides, musical cars that will send you bonkers with very loud and very kitsch music, and fuzzy, leg-powered horses that lollop around a circuit. All rides are very cheap and very much good fun, though make sure your tetanus shots are current. Kids can also bounce on the trampoline, rollick in the outdoor playground, sail remote control boats or fish for goldfish under the shade of a willow.

When you're all tuckered out, the whole family can head to the tea garden in the centre of the park, for a green brew in the shade.

6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyang district (tel 8563 5038). Open daily 6am-8pm. Free.

Ella meets a local in Ritan Park. Rabies is rife in China so it's not recommended in China unless you know the dog.

Chaoyang Park

This enormous park in the east of the city is Beijing's answer to Central Park - a large green space ringed by high-rise apartments.

There is plenty of wide open spaces for kite-flying and frisbee-tossing, as well as basketball, volleyball, pingpong and tennis. Kids can paddle, row or captain a boat on the lake, take a dip in the outdoor pool or take a loo break in a giant ladybird. The huge kids play has retro rides galore from spinning dolphins to sky swings and a roller coaster.

Sony ExploraScience is now a permanent resident in the park, and in 2009, the massive Great Wheel of China will open, promising views of the Great Wall.

1 Nongzhan Nan Lu, Chaoyang district, (tel 6506 5409/ 6591 5258). Open daily 6am-9pm. 5RMB adults/2.5RMB kids.

Ditan Park

Ditan Park has a historical beauty for parents to enjoy, but it also lays it on thick for kids. Its playground (near the north gate) features typical carnival rides, plus a go-cart track, bumper cars and ear-piercing games. There is bungy bouncing, an enormous track to go sliding on, and kids can go fishing for real or magnetic fish.

In summer, a carnival atmosphere takes hold and kids can play a myriad of fairground games. The peony gardens, pond and arched bridges near the east gate are not to be missed in summer.

A2 Andingmenwai Dajie, Dongcheng district (tel 6421 4657). Open daily 6am-9pm. 2RMB adults/1RMB kids.

Yuyuantan Park

This enormous park on a massive lake features two kids play areas (south central and north west) with the usual retro rides - from bumper cars to an outdoor play area and amusing train ride. There is also a café, Aquatic Park (with toddler area) and more boats than you can poke an oar at. Boats leave for the Summer Palace near the park's south gate.

Xisanhuan Lu; south entrance behind China Millennium Monument, Haidian district (tel 8865 3804/6). Open daily 6.30am-8.30pm. 2RMB adults/1RMB kids.

Honglingjin Park

This pretty park has two separate playgrounds - one in the north, one in the south. Kids can enjoy a merry-go-round and dodgems as well as a sandpit, inflatable toys and an indoor playground. Sail a boat, feed the ducks or take a mini-car driving course. Parents, you'll be happy to find what are possibly Beijing's only adult sized swings, dotted around the park.

5 Houbalizhuang, Chaoyang district (tel 8581 9548). Open daily 6.30am-8.30pm. Free.

Liuyin Park

Kids can enjoy paddle boating on this willow-bordered lake, brimming with ducks, lotus and lily pads. They can feed the ducks, nibbles snacks at the tea garden on the island or zip around the kids playground, featuring the requisite rides. In warmer weather, they can enjoy arts and crafts, and the shoot-the-duck-with-water-cannons game.

Jiangzhaikou, Andingmenwai, Dongcheng district (tel 8411 3699). Open daily 6am-8.30pm. 1RMB.

Longtanhu Park

This picturesque park boasts elegantly arched bridges and towering petrified rock formations. Take a duck-shaped boat to the island where kids can zip around on their rollerblades or ride in the Challenger, a virtual spaceship that's not for the claustrophobic. The kids play area has an indoor and outdoor playground, plus the requisite rides - trampolines, mini ferris wheel, bumper cars, helicopter rides.

The plethora of Chinese gym equipment will attract older kids, as will a climbing wall, an old MiG fighter jet, badminton courts and other sporting/games quarters.

8 Longtanhu Lu, Chongwen district (tel 6714 4336). Open daily 6am-9.30pm. 2RMB adults/1RMB kids.

Qingnianhu Park

A very busy park, Qingnianhu features more entertainment than a clown on circus day. The usual rental boats and kiddie rides apply, as well as fishing (for something larger than a goldfish!), a karaoke parlour, a basketball court and golf driving range. The park's 'Waterworld' features any number of tall slides and even an inflatable Great Wall turret.

Andingmenwai Dajie, Dongcheng district (tel 8411 6321, Water World: 8411 6321 ext 8032, Golf Club: 8411 6911). Open daily 6am-10pm. 15RMB adults/10RMB kids.

Si'de Park

This north east park of undulating hills features tennis, football pitches, a fishing pond, rollerblading rink and boat rides on the lake. The tiled play area includes a large carousel, a go-go-gadget style leg-powered monorail, bumper cars, a sandpit and unlimited time in the outdoor playground, all at nominal cost. There is also a shallow pool with fun paddle boats and an indoor playhouse.

Jiangtai Xi Lu, Chaoyang district (tel 6438 6093). Open daily 6am-9.30pm. Free.

Taoranting Park

A clean playground with padding on the ground and enormous Water Park are attractions here, as well as a Peacock Park where kids can marvel at uncaged birds and other animals. There is a lake for car-shaped paddle boating and ponds for fishing, plus many a pretty pavilion and shady tree to perch under and watch the intriguing Beijing locals - who dance, play mahjong or perform their fan dancing and tai chi.

19 Taiping Jie, Xuanwu district (tel 6353 2385). Open daily 6am-9pm. 2RMB adults /1RMB kids.

Wanfangting Park

With the only equestrian club inside the Third Ring Road and a huge Water Park and a trampoline area, this could well be the perfect Beijing park for kids.

A2, Yangqiao Xili, You'anmenwai, Fengtai district (tel 6721 5333, Equestrian Club: 6722 7339). Open daily 8am-6.30pm. 1RMB.

Zhongshan Park

Right near the entry to the Forbidden City (Gu Gong), this little oasis is well worth a side trip before coasting Tian'anmen Square. Picturesque, coated in bamboo groves, wisteria and 1000-year-old cypress trees, the park features an indoor playground and incomparable views of Gu Gong's moat. Merry Land will keep the kids happy with its bumper cars, indoor playground and funny mirrors.

West of Tian'anmen Gate, Dongcheng district (tel 6605 5431 ext 270). Open daily 6am-9pm. 3RMB adults/1.5RMB kids.

Zizhuyuan Park

This lovely 'purple bamboo' park in Beijing's north west features a network of lakes and canals to explore by boat (or ice chair in winter). The kids playground features an indoor and outside play area to keep the munchkins happy.

45 Baishiqiao Lu, Haidian district (tel 6842 5851). Open daily 6am-9pm. Free.

Footnotes: Kids under 1.2 meters usually gain free entry to parks. All rides and additional entertainment areas cost extra, though usually at very low cost. Kids play areas are open 9am-5pm daily; many stop selling tickets at 4pm. Opening and closing hours are subject to season.

Also see Beijing Sites Kiddified.

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