12 things to do with kids this winter

See a different side of Beijing through winter-coloured glasses with these fun activities and recommendations for your family

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Beijing’s a completely different city in winter. While it’s bitterly cold, there are a load of great activities and sites that you’d want to get out of the house for.
Ice-skate at Qianhai

Ice-skate at Qianhai

There’s not much that can bring out that child-like sense of holiday excitement quite like bundling up and heading over to an ice rink during the holiday season. And for centuries, Beijingers have flocked to Qianhai Lake when the ice gets thick enough – usually any time from the end of December to February. There’s a huge choice of skates, ice-bikes, carts, mini-rickshaws and bumper cars, but as Beijing’s most popular skating spot – given its location and picturesque surroundings – the crowds are hard to avoid, especially at peak times. The experience is certainly special at night, marred (or enhanced, if you prefer) by the bright neon lights of the surrounding bars and pumping EDM soundtrack. When it’s time to take a break, grab a meal from one of the hundreds of restaurants that surround the lake. With tons of families out on the ice trying out goofy ice sports, get ready for some of the best people-watching in town. Click here to see your other ice-skating options in Beijing. 

Treat your family to a staycay

Treat your family to a staycay

There’s arguably no better time to take a break from your own cold, crumbling bed and spend the night in a swanky hotel than winter: hotels are havens of warmth and comfort and, even better, low season means you can get some cheap deals. Kerry Hotel Beijing is always a good bet with its Weekend Fun at Kerry package that includes room, buffet breakfast and whole day access to its Adventure Zone. You might also want to escape the city with the family and take up Sunrise Kempinski’s Winter Escape deal in Huairou, which includes two buffet breakfast and free mini-bar while the kids have access to the Kid’s Club (for children 3-9) and its all-day activities

Play games at a temple fair

Play games at a temple fair

Since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), temple fairs have been celebrated throughout China, with some temples holding them monthly. However those that happen during, or right before Spring Festival draw the biggest crowds. 


While it’s not actually held inside a temple, Chaoyang Park’s Chaoyang International Fengqing Festival is one of the most popular fairs in town. We love this one because it’s a big hit with the locals. Expect to see traditional Chinese performances and acts put on by dance troupes. For a less-crowded and more low key temple fair experience, head over to the Hongluo Temple in Huairou district. This fair features a more authentic experience with the opportunity to learn more about Buddhist culture.

Explore the Summer Palace

Explore the Summer Palace

Don’t let the name fool you, there are loads of reasons to visit the Summer Palace in winter. Not only do you miss the majority of tourists, the cold makes the usually uncomfortably sweaty climb to the top of Longevity Hill largely bearable, and when Kunming Lake freezes over properly there’s all kinds of on-ice action. Iceskating isn’t actually allowed, but you can rent fancy electric iceboats and motorised rubber bumper cars – as well as classic ice bikes and carts – to explore the lake’s stunning surrounds. Treat yourself to a post-exploration deluxe afternoon tea at the Aman Summer Palace

Get steamy at the Beijing Botanical Gardens

Get steamy at the Beijing Botanical Gardens

Naturalists will argue that spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Beijing’s Botanical Gardens, and they’re probably right. But the indoor Tropical Conservatory is a winner year round. Pleasantly humid and home to over 3,000 varieties of colourful and exotic tropical plants that otherwise have little hope flourishing anywhere within the city limits, it’s the ideal space to breathe some life back into your oxygen-starved lungs in the depths of winter. Make it a day trip and pair it up with a visit to the neighbouring Fragrant Hills.

Hit the slopes

Hit the slopes

Indulge in this favourite winter past time and take to the slopes. And while there are some ski spots within the city, the best are out in neighbouring Chongli, Hebei, (which is also going to host the 2022 Winter Olympics despite not actually having a whole lot of real snowfall)An hour out of town and with a regular fleet of shuttle buses, Nanshan Ski in Miyun County is a low-cost favourite. A haven for fair-weather skiers and newcomers to the sport, its 20-odd slopes and snowboard park are usually rammed with skiers and snowboarders of all levels. You won’t find a much more convenient spot for an easy day on the snow. Go to nanshanski.com for resort info, snow reports and more, or check out our list here of some of the best ski destinations in and near Beijing.

Practise freeze style

Practise freeze style

Winter swimming is a tradition in a number of cold countries, which is why even as the temperature drops you’ll see keen swimmers donning swimsuits for a numbing dip in Beijing’s lakes. Crazy as it may seem, and risks aside, there’s a long list of purported health benefits to cold-water swimming – including boosting the immune system, reducing stress and even enhancing sex drive. If you think you’ve got what it takes, Beijing Winter Swimming Club are out most days around Shichahai area and are always happy to accept new members. Contact 136 5104 8360 for more information about the group.

Wrap up warm like a native

Wrap up warm like a native

Essentially a thick duvet with sleeves sewn in, a vintage Chinese military jacket won’t only keep you uncommonly warm – covering you from the neck to just below the knee – the look can be yours from on Taobao or at Tsinghua’s Tiaozi second-hand night market (depending on how hard you bargain). Matching military-style mittens are designed with a separate ‘trigger finger’, ideal for extra dexterity.

Soak your troubles away at the hot springs

Soak your troubles away at the hot springs

A hotbed of geothermal activity, Beijing is blessed with the gift of hot springs. Full of all manner of minerals, the steaming pools are a great way to escape (if only temporarily) the onslaught of winter. A lot of the more famous hot spring resorts are clustered outside the Fifth Ring in the north of the city – Jiuhua Resort, Chun Hui Yuan Hot Spring Resort and Feng Shan Hot Spring Resort – so best make it a full day or weekend trip. But for a quick dip somewhere a little closer to the city centre, Number 8 Hot Springs Club and Shunjing Hot Spring will do the trick (daylong sessions from 198RMB). Keep an eye on dianping.com for weekday deals. Check out Beijing's top hot springs.

Head for the (Fragrant) Hills

Head for the (Fragrant) Hills

Fragrant Hills Park will be heaving through November with thousands of leaf-peepers catching a final look at its famous fiery red autumnal hillsides before winter fully sets in. But after the turn, you won’t find a more secluded or striking spot to snap some Christmas card-worthy snowscapes. The pavilions, pagodas and lakes dotted through the forest park gleam in all their wintry glory. Don some extra thick socks and brave the 20-minute chairlift to the top of Incense Burner Peak for stunning views of Beijing. 

Take a hike

Take a hike

Winter might well be the best time of the year to make tracks through Beijing’s countryside: there are fewer traffic jams, tour groups dwindle in numbers and you don’t get all hot and bothered clambering up the hills. There’s just nature, and a lot of it. After 15 years of leading groups through the capital’s wilderness, guides at Beijing Hikers know all the best routes: wander through deserted canyons; pass through the frozen streams, pools and waterfalls; hike through the extra quiet country hills; or spend Christmas navigating the Great Wall. See beijinghikers.com for hike descriptions, dates and prices.

Visit the Temple of Heaven

Visit the Temple of Heaven

During winter solstice (which happened in December last year), emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1644 and 1644-1912 respectively) would leave the Forbidden City and make a trip to the Temple of Heaven to pray for good weather and a plentiful harvest in the upcoming summer months.

Completed in 1420, the temple was built in accordance with religious principles with nearly perfect symmetry. On a clear day, this spot is also perfect for a new family portrait.

More Winter in Beijing for kids
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