This man-made wonder is on everyone’s bucket list, but it can be difficult to visualise being there with children. In fact, it actually makes for a really fun family holiday destination. There are so many access points to the Wall that there are several different options to choose from – here are the ones that are the easiest ways to tackle the Great Wall of China with kids.
This is the easiest way to access the Great Wall as it’s only 50 kilometers from Beijing. The huge downside is that it’s not really suitable for younger children if you want to do any significant walking. There are some very large and deep steps and steep sections which means that most younger kids won’t finish the walk.
However, the scenery is stunning and if you’re only aim is to stand on the wall and tick the box, not hike a mountain, this may be a good choice.
This is by far the most popular way to access the Great Wall. A mere 70 kilometres from Beijing, it is also an easy day trip. But because it is so popular, expect hoards of capped tourists shouting and talking very loudly. It can be crowded, busy and you have to take a decent hike to get away from the masses.
But the commericalisation of Badaling means it also has wheelchair-friendly facilities (useful for strollers), a cable car (a fun and easy way to transport kids who can’t make the walk), restaurants, hotels and even a train that goes to Beijing North Railway Station. Around the carpark there are also numerous hawkers including locals in traditional costume with animals that will amuse children.
Beware of Badaling Shuiguan Great Wall which is on the way to Badaling itself. This is a completely rebuilt section of the wall and unsuspecting tourists are often taken there instead of to Badaling proper.
Mutianyu is a less popular part of the Wall. This is great because it means you are more likely to have an intimate and less touristy experience. There are two cable cars – one enclosed and one like an open-air ski lift. While the second might seem hairy with smaller children, the huge bonus is the toboggan run that you can take to get back down again.
The area around Mutianyu is becoming a popular spot for cycling so if that interests you, it is worth considering staying in the vicinity overnight.
This exclusive resort is well known in the architecture and design community for it’s concept of grouping together 12 contemporary residential buildings designed by Asian architects right on the Great Wall. It has private access to the Great Wall which is still in its authentic raw state – no chairlifts, broken paving and exquisitely disheveled stonework. If you can afford it (and it doesn’t come cheap), it is a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Surprisingly, Commune is extremely child-friendly. There is a Kids’ Club where they will take the children hiking up the Wall, as well as an outdoor pool and camping activities. Who says having children can’t be chic?
Obviously The Great Wall is exposed to the elements so that means you need to bring hats and sunscreen in the summer and warm jackets and hats in the winter. Everyone should be wearing proper walking shoes.
Depending where you are and how far you walk, toilet stops can be few and far between. This is something to consider if you are planning to take newly toilet trained toddlers.
Food and drinks can also be scarce, so bring those with you.
Whichever part of the Wall you choose to visit, the joy in the experience is walking to the most isolated parts. Sometimes you will have to walk a long and very steep way. Take into account the likelihood of your children being able to do this when considering whether to go.
While many of the more populated parts of the Great Wall do have wheelchair access and theoretically you could potentially push a light stroller around, you will move much faster and easier through crowds without one. If your child can’t walk and you can’t carry them long distances, don’t go now – wait until the kids are older.
The nearest city to these part of the Great Wall of China is Beijing. For ideas on how to experience Beijing with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.