China is a wonderful country to visit with kids under five because actually, it’s incredibly child friendly. You’ll find that the locals won’t whisper “Why can’t you control your child?” and might even lend a helping hand if your child is unhappy. To top that off, there are decked out playgrounds everywhere, though there is a fee, but some free playgrounds can be found in almost every city.
That doesn’t mean, though, that everywhere in China is kid friendly. In planning your trip, we definitely recommend you steer clear of these places:
1. The Forbidden Palace, Beijing
To enjoy this you’d need to understand a bit of the history of China or listen along to the tapped tours. Otherwise to the eyes and imaginations of a young child, it’s just a bunch of walking around and staring at walls. Oh look! Another crack.
2. Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Again, not fun for little eyes, especially if they’ve just walked through The Forbidden Palace and are getting tired of taking pictures of this structure and that. You’ll be hearing cries meaning “break free, break free” at this point.
3. Tiananmen Square, Beijing
The wait to get into this square is sometimes unbearable, even though, to a child’s mind, it’s just a big square with people snapping pictures next to the square’s obelisk and a very large picture of Mao (across the street above the Mausoleum and at the entrance of The Forbidden Palace). You’ll have to bribe your child with something fun before or after if going here means a lot to you.
Since the above 3 places are right next to each other, if you’ve come with another family and can swap babysitting, then no fear, just visit all of these places on one day without the young ones.
4. Pearl Market, Beijing
Shopping can already be boring enough for littles, but the Pearl Market is even worse. It’s three massive floors of shopping, and you’ll always want to barter prices. That means lots of talking equating to lots of crying for your littles. And cries kill bartering every single time. Shop owners know they’ve got the leg up if you won’t give in on price but the cries continue.
5. The Eye Library, Tianjin
As much as these beautiful pictures will allure you to visit this library, formerly known as Binhai Library, don’t go with a child under five years old. Queues for entrances are LONG. Imagine Black Friday lines when Xbox 3 was released. Now triple that. That’s what you’ve got when we say China long lines. And once you get in…. it’s just a library. What’s worse, most likely it won’t have a copy of “Guess How Much I Love You?” Ok. Maybe that’s not actually such a bad thing.
This is a tourist trap town in China that many locals might suggest you go to, but truth be told, it’s average and not worth the travel. Some of the facilities are dirty and broken down, the horses offering rides are sad looking and clearly not treated well, and the lift is expensive with a long line. The sight at the top isn’t worth the pain of bumping bodies.
7. Badaling, Beijing
Now, we’re all for the Great Wall, and we highly recommend visiting a hotel that has wild wall access for intimate experience, but Badaling is a no-no for little kids. First, many Chinese tourists will visit this area. Many Chinese tourists from outside of Tier 1 cities have never seen foreigners in person. That means your child will become a walking billboard. If you’re uncomfortable with being a celebrity, or if your child is shy, we advise you to check out resort-style hotels in the area instead. Not all are pricey, but they do book fast.
8. Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an
This would be much more interesting of a stop if children could see and feel the weight and magnitude of the army, but the current structure of the building has tourists looking down into the army. Children, then, are just looking at statues from their heads down. What’s interesting about that for kids under 5? Riding here from downtown can also be a long taxi trip for young kids. Translation: potty breaks mean potty on the side of the road. Hey, when in Rome, right?
9. The Bund, Shanghai
Now, this is a must-do for many who visit Shanghai, and there are things to do around The Bund for kids, but after all, it’s just a boardwalk. (What do you mean we can’t get into the water?) If it’s a particularly windy day, your children might not enjoy this stop. Secondly, Chinese tourists may give your kids more attention than what they wanted.
10. Harbin Ice Festival, Harbin
Just like The Bund, we put this as a possible fun-killer but not necessarily. If you’re taking your child under five to the Harbin Ice Festival, make sure they are very, very warmly dressed. The winters here are incredibly cold, otherwise the structures would certainly melt. We heard especially small children screaming from the cold, and that’s never fun for anyone.
Is there someplace in your city you wouldn’t recommend for parents of children under 5?
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Photo: Akkupa John Wigham (Flickr)