China is a vast country, both in population and the span of history, the oldest continuous civilization in the world. China also has bunches of “earliest” and “firsts” – earliest writing and code of laws, first to use paper money, first to make silk, kites, gunpowder, paper and fireworks, first to print books. Poetry, painting, music and theater are highly developed arts, astronomy and medicine have always been important in Chinese life.
Traveling with kids in China, there’s so many directions to go, and here’s some great places to start in Beijing and Shanghai:
Beijing – Beijing, is the capital of China and contrary to what you might expect, the city has amazing green parks and lakes, where emperors and empresses once composed poetry amidst nature. Be sure to visit:
- Tiananmen Square – Tiananmen Square is a vast area, truly in the heart of Beijing. Here the modern era of China literally intersects the ancient past – the square was constructed in between the Imperial Palace to the north and Temple of Heaven to the south. Walking around Tiananmen Square with kids, don’t be surprised if people come up and want to practice their English, or have their picture taken with your children. Western kids are still a novelty, and people are very interested.
- Imperial Palace (The Forbidden City) – For centuries, the Forbidden City was the palace for the Ming and Qing emperors. The Imperial Palace, begun during the reign of the third Ming emperor in 1406, was a complex of palaces and halls, nearly 10,000 rooms, including workshops where exquisite artworks were produced. For nearly 500 years this mysterious and secret city was a world unto itself for the emperors and their families. Today, as kids blithely walk through the gates of the Imperial Palace, just remember that a century ago, for outsiders to get close to even the Imperial Walls was – forbidden.
- The Great Wall – The Great Wall is one of new seven wonders of the world, and nothing can prepare you for the heady sensation of actually looking at the Great Wall as it winds through miles of steep hills and rugged countryside. Standing on the ramparts, kids can easily imagine they’re defending against the Mongol hordes. Traveling to the Great Wall is a truly unforgettable experience for everyone in the family, and you’ll want to spend the whole day.
Shanghai – is the nation’s business and financial center and one of the world’s most vibrant cities. Even though Shanghai does not have the historical treasures that Beijing has to offer, or the amazing archaeological discoveries of Xian, a trip to Shanghai is a trip into the future of this nation. Shanghai is a great city for kids to explore, from the top of the pink Oriental Pearl TV Tower overlooking the skyline, to classical Chinese gardens and zig-zag bridges, to boats on the Huangpu River, there’s always something new to see.
- The Oriental Pearl TV Tower – The most recognizable landmark of the modern Shanghai skyline is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. It rises 1,500 feet (457 meters) on the Huangpu’s east bank, in Shanghai’s newest district of Pudong. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower holds up three metallic spheres that are supposed to resemble jewels.
- Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe – This is a spectacular show for kids, dazzling color, magic effects, juggling, balancing acts, and amazing, “pretzel-like” acrobatics. Shows are every evening at the Shanghai Center Theatre.
- Zhujiajiao – Zhujiajiao is an ancient water town in the western side of Shanghai. Chinese traditional water towns are notorious for their very old houses lined up along canals and the bridges criss-crossing them. Water towns sprung up along the many waterways as these have always been historically important means of communication and supplies distribution. Zhujiajiao is about 1,700 years old. Here, residents strive to maintain their traditional custom and heritage. The town is relatively peaceful and quiet, a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Whether you’re visiting Beijing or Shanghai you’re sure to find something that your kids will be excited to tell their friends about!