Upon arriving in Shanghai, you might think that you’ve actually landed in New York or London. This huge megapolis, the largest city in the country, is a stark contrast to China’s capital, Beijing, steeped in history. As a city full of steel, glass and glittery skyscrapers, you could be forgiven for thinking that China’s capital of business would not be a welcoming travel destination for kids. However, what we found was that with its many parks, markets and museums, there was plenty to entertain the younger set.
Shanghai’s cityscape looms high with many tall buildings offering rooftop views, but we decided on the brand new Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, to get a panorama of the city. The elevator ride to the top was surprisingly fun and fast! A monitor in the lift showed how fast the elevator was travelling, how many floors and how many meters the elevator was travelling up into the sky. Then, in what seemed like seconds, we were there; and what a view! Photographs could not do it justice and we felt like we were on the top of the world.
Second on our agenda was the river boat tour. Shanghai at night really is something quite spectacular with so many skyscrapers and their sparkling lights and seeing the skyline from the water gave the city a different perspective. It was interesting to be on the boat with so many other tourists from all over the world and yet see every family doing the same thing; doing their best to keep their flock together long enough to take family photos with the beautiful skyline in the background. Eventually, we collaborated by offering to take a few photos of our respective families, all without exchanging a word in the same language.
With many of Shanghai’s attractions covered, it was time to venture off the beaten path to visit the Shanghai Glass Museum, which caters well for kids and has enough to see to keep visitors occupied for an entire day. There were so many exquisite glass artworks, as well as educational displays and activities to keep the kids engaged as we looked around. The 'Kids Museum of Glass' features a scavenger hunt, kid-oriented educational activities and a glass maze. In addition, the museum offers glass-blowing demonstrations, which were absolutely fascinating to watch; the speed and style with which these artisans were able to perform their craft was truly astonishing.
Another great experience for kids was Yuyuan Garden in the northeast of the Old City. Weaving through locals hawking various wares in the markets, then through a charming maze of shops and snack stalls lead us to the garden’s entrance. We spent hours exploring all five acres of the garden courtyards, dainty pagodas and enclosed huts, some with plaques explaining their significance. With the dragons and figures that decorated the rooftops, as well as the natural rock formation, sculptures, flora and fauna to be found in the grounds, this was a photographer’s paradise. A favorite feature was the Zigzag bridge surrounded by traditional-style buildings and water and, although teaming with visitors, provided a great vantage point for photos. Over all, though, Yuyuan was a great place for kids to burn off some energy and a picturesque spot full of Chinese history.
The final leg of our tour took us to the brand new Shanghai Disneyland. Although the theme park is located close to Shanghai, it’s advisable to opt for a hotel close to the attraction. All of the nearby hotels seemed to be very kid-oriented and most provide a free shuttle to and from the park, although they come and go on their schedule.
The scale of Disneyland is vast and there is plenty of walking to do so one option, as far as more convenient accommodation is concerned, is to stay at one of the Disney Resorts on site. This would cut out the long walk to and from the parking lot where the shuttle buses drop and pick up.
Although it was freezing cold and raining both days, the weather couldn’t take away the magic of Disney. As a family of two who love amusement park rides and two who really don’t, the park had more than enough to give the ride-takers the thrill of experiencing new and popular rides such as Tron until their hearts’ content, while the ride-haters could opt for a few rounds on some of the slower-paced attractions. The parade was quite short if compared to those at other Disney theme parks around the world, but it was still fun to get a wave from our favorite Disney characters. While the shows were primarily in Mandarin, the Disney story lines are familiar enough and the performances were visually compelling, so it was easy to figure out what was happening without following all of the dialogue. Hands down one of the most spectacular displays, though, was the fireworks and light show in the evening. Come dry or wet weather, the fireworks lit up the sky while the light show displayed on the famous castle covered many different characters and stories with an unexpected level of artistry. We got to sing along to snippets of lots of our favorite Disney theme songs, too!
Disneyland was a fittingly magical way to end our time in Shanghai. However, we felt we had only scratched the surface in terms of what China had to offer and we’re already looking forward to our next family adventure there. Xiè xiè China – we’ll be back soon!
Faith relocated to Singapore in January 2015 with her husband and two young children. She is a freelance writer and marketing consultant as the sole proprietor of F. Chanda Communications & Events. Faith enjoys exploring food, culture, nature and design through her travel adventures.
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