This week’s edition of “See the World”, we’ve reached the letter X! I know you were a little nervous I would find a city to cover, but thanks to Josh from TravelChinaCheaper, we’re heading to the city of Xi’an, China. I’m super excited about this destination because my three boys are studying Mandarin and we hope to make our way to China some day in the near future. If you missed last week’s destination, we visited Westport, Ireland and the week before we were in Vienna, Austria. If you missed any of the other destinations this year, you can find them here. Let’s see what Josh has to say about the best family friendly things to do in Xi’an.
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As an ancient capital of China and a key part of the old Silk Road, the city of Xi’an offers a cultural and historical view of China that you won’t find anywhere else. Xi’an is situated in the heart of Asia’s largest country and for many travelers it’s one of their favorite stops on their journey.
Unfortunately, words like “culture” and “history” automatically elicit a groan from kids and teenagers alike. “Do we have to walk through another museum?” they may say. Thankfully, the answer to that question is a definite “NO!” There are a number of great ways for families with kids and teenagers to have an exciting experience, and I’d like to share with you five of my favorite family-friendly activities in Xi’an.
#1 Skip the Museum…Visit Terracotta Warriors
Don’t get me wrong, the Shaanxi History Museum is a world-class museum that deserves a visit at some point. However, if your time is short or your kid’s attention spans are even shorter, a visit to the famous Terracotta Warriors is a must.
There’s nothing like the feeling of first walking into the covered pit filled with hundreds of these life-sized clay warriors lined up like an army preparing for battle. The more you can share with your kids about the different kinds of clay soldiers or how each warrior is unique in design (no two are exactly the same!), the more interested they will be.
Better yet, take your family to one of the nearby clay factories where you can see how these terracotta warriors were made and even have the opportunity to create one of your own!
#2 Don’t Just Walk…Cycling the City Wall
In my opinion, there are plenty of great places to walk and wander within Xi’an’s ancient city. If your kids are anything like mine, though, it won’t take but 30 minutes before you start hearing things like “My feet hurt” or “When are we going back to the hotel”!
Enter Xi’an’s ancient city wall.
Instead of walking the wall or wandering the old city, it’s possible to rent tandem bikes (~90 RMB) and get an excellent view of the old city from above. The entire ride takes 1-2 hours depending on your speed and it’s also possible to rent single bikes.
#3 Take a Break from “China”…Visit the Muslim Quarter
In the southwest corner of the Xi’an ancient city, you’ll find a place known as the “Muslim Quarter”, a place where crazy street foods and fun shopping stalls line narrow cobblestone alleyways.
Challenge each member of your family to try a new snack that they’ve never tried before and take a picture doing it. Buy a few souvenirs. Have your family sit down for an amazing plate of “DaPanJi” or “Big Plate Chicken”.
Whatever the case, the Muslim Quarter is a unique experience that will make your family forget that you’re in China for a moment.
#4 Stop Being a Tourist…Take a Calligraphy Class!
Sometimes the most memorable family activities are those where you’re not just looking at some destination your favorite China travel guidebook told you about, you’re actively participating in the culture. That’s where something like a calligraphy class can be fun.
While most travel agencies can arrange for a calligraphy class in Xi’an, it’s easy enough to visit the TangBo Art Museum, a small but fun place where ancient Chinese calligraphy is on display. Teachers at the museum can guide your family in their first attempt at writing Chinese characters – and you’ll walk away with a small souvenir to hang on your wall!
#5 Avoid the Tourists…Hang with Locals at Wild Goose
For those families that just need a place to relax or let the kids run around, the Wild Goose Pagoda Park in Xi’an is an excellent option. Located not far from the Shaanxi History Museum, this park is a favorite hangout for the locals and the namesake pagoda dates back to the Tang Dynasty (600-700 AD).
Aside from climbing up to the top of the pagoda, families can also have fun flying kites, trying new snacks, or even watching the 40-minute water show in the evening.
Conclusion | Xi’an for Families
Obviously, there is so much more to see and do in Xi’an but if your time is limited, these five options will provide your family with a couple days’ worth of activities.
One final thought: as with any destination of historical significance, the more you can prepare your family by telling stories that provide context to what they’re about to experience, the more you and your kids will connect with what they’re seeing when you arrive.
Xi’an has plenty of historical context that you can dive into – and that’s part of what makes this city such an amazing place to visit!
Ever since 2006, Josh has called China home and now lives in a remote western province with his wife and two sons. He has written about China for a number of different publications and currently uses TravelChinaCheaper as a way to help people who are planning either a trip to China or a relocation. At the moment, his favorite past time is hiking in outside the city with his 5-yr old son and riding his bike every chance he gets.