China’s flashiest city is both a playground of urban delights for adults and a memorable cultural immersion for kids. The city is changing, growing and evolving at lightning speed as China heads towards super powerdom, so it’s worth doing a trip to Shanghai with kids now so they can see it before all the old traditions and heritage are lost. Here is the suitcases&strollers travel guide to old and new China with kids. 


The Destination

Head down to The Bund for the evening lights and you will understand why Shanghai is China’s darling. Trendy, modern and rapidly changing, this is a destination where it’s all about to happen.

Cool neighbourhoods like Xintandi and Tian Zi Fang are interesting to explore with their quirky boutiques and restaurants. Combine walking around these cultural enclaves and small laneways with some of the major tourist destinations and this will provide a satisfying and memorable holiday for everyone.  

Attractions

If you make an expedition to Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, you will be right in the heart of the city’s iconic landscape near the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Jin Mao Tower. The Aquarium is particularly memorable for kids because of its extraordinarily long underwater tunnel filled with sharks, manta rays and giant groupers.  

For an authentic Chinese attraction that is popular with the locals, Shanghai Yuyuan Garden is a beautiful and pleasant experience of traditional architecture and landscaping. Pagodas, rock ponds, and port-holed walls are fun to run around and explore, although be warned that it can be extremely crowded and easy for kids to get lost. Outside the gardens is a bazaar for additional tourist shopping.

High speed trains are always thrilling for children of all ages and with the Shanghai Maglev Train that runs from Pudong International Airport to Pudong running at a top speed of 431 kilometres an hour, it’s pretty exciting for adults too. The Maglev is a convenient transfer to the local metro lines if you are also considering it for transport into town. 

If you can’t get to Pudong, there is also the High Speed Rail Network (HSR) that connects the major Chinese cities. If you are planning trips out of Shanghai, going by the HSR will make the journey an adventure in itself (as well as being more efficient).

If you are open to the children staying up late, ERA – Intersection Of Time is a visual and aural spectacular that will keep everyone fascinated and entertained. Think a Chinese version of Cirque du Soleil with amazing stunts, acrobatics, melodramatic music and multimedia gymnastics that could very well be the unexpected highlight of your trip.

An inventive way to expose children to Chinese traditions and give parents much-needed kids-free time is to enroll older kids in a cultural immersion program. Schools like Mandarin House, Panda Chinese Training and That’s Mandarin offer several types of classes for adults and kids in Mandarin, Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting.

While the kids are unlikely to become fluent in Mandarin or an art master in such a short time, this is a unique way for them to gain some understanding of a long-standing heritage. (And for you to explore the parts of the city the kids don’t want to see.)

Shopping

If you are keen to have clothes tailor-made, Shanghai Fabric Market (399 Lujiabang Rd., Shanghai, China) is worth a visit. As long as you are making clothes for adults, most of the tailors will oblige with kids’ outfits too. They will even deliver the finished goods back to your hotel.

Food

While street food is relatively safe for adults, it is not recommended for young children. Instead, eat in established restaurants or hotels.

The Practicalities

Shanghai is a busy, crowded city so you must keep a tight reign on small children. In particular touts and pickpockets can be problematic in the tourist areas. That combined with very fast moving traffic means you must keep a hold of your kids.

It is not safe to drink the water from the tap in China. Only use bottled water for drinking and be wary of children drinking water in the shower or the bath.

Accommodation

There are a plethora of hotels and serviced accommodation to choose from in Shanghai. The Westin Bund Centre, Shanghai welcomes children and is very centrally located. It is especially worth visiting for their famous Sunday brunch which is a fine dining extravaganza. While you sip Veuve Clicquot and watch the grown-up entertainment (live music, dance and acrobatics), the children are entertained in the dedicated Kids’ Corner where there are nannies, Wii, XBox 360 and more. 

For more travel tips about China with kids, see the suitcases&strollers stories Beijing and The Great Wall of China