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Traveling with children can be a pretty tough challenge, especially in a foreign country and if you are not sure what to expect… when it should be fun and educational. These tips and guidelines should help you prepare better, and thus make the most out of your family's once-in-a-life time trip to the Great Wall of China.
This section is the most child-friendly section of the Great Wall, and most recommended for family tours with kids. It's fully restored, so safer than original sections. There is a cable way to save energy on hiking up and down.
You can have fun with your kids by taking the toboggan down the mountain from the Wall. It takes about 3 minutes. A parent is allowed to ride down in the toboggan with their child (required if the child is small). You can control your toboggan's speed, so there is something to do, making the trip down fun for most ages.
Cable cars and "mini roller coasters" at Badaling save a hike up to the wall of about 45 to 90 minutes, and add fun to the journey down. However, it is the most crowded section of the Great Wall. Masses of Chinese tourists make it difficult to enjoy the scenery in peak season, especially on national holidays.
Jinshanling is half restored and remains half wild. It is believed to be "the most beautiful section of the Great Wall". The popular hiking route from Jinshanling to Simatai West is more rugged and with more rough terrain than Mutianyu and Badaling. It's suggested for those with older children, or those who are comfortable hiking with their very little ones strapped to their backs.
Besides being up on a castle-like wall in the mountains, and the cableway, roller coaster, and toboggan rides, the Great Wall has more to make a visit fun…
Buy lovely souvenirs for your kids: Throughout the hike on the wall at Badaling and Mutianyu there are stalls with vendors selling souvenirs. It may be fun for the little ones, especially those who weren't that excited about the hike to begin with, to know that they can get a special Great Wall medal at the end with the added personal touch of having their names carved in. There are also other great souvenirs that you can promise your children if they behave themselves!
Explore the Great Wall battlements and watch towers: There are many different watch towers, beacon towers, and flanking towers, with many windows and crenels to look out of and imagine defending against the enemy. Encourage your kids to explore the construction as much as they can safely.
Spring (around May) and fall (September and October) are not too hot or cold. But avoid China's major holidays when the wall is packed with Chinese tourists: National Day Holiday (October 1–7) and Labor Day Holiday (May 1–3).
Tell your kids some interesting stories before you go. To ensure that your kids are interested in a Great Wall tour, and will appreciate it as much as possible, tell them about Meng Jiangnü weeping over the Great Wall, it's military functions, or some other interesting Great Wall stories and legends.
What to bring: Make sure that you bring enough water to keep the whole family hydrated! Sunscreen may be a good idea, as well as hats, and waterproofs, just in case. It can get extremely hot on top of the wall as it is very exposed. Also beware in winter, and in inclement weather, when it can be extremely cold and windy.
If your children are very young, make sure that you have the carrier ready to carry them on your back, this will make the trip a lot easier for everyone. Especially for those children who are not yet walking steadily or tend to find trouble easily.
Safety on paths and stairs: Some parts of the Great Wall are not easy to climb. Besides the fact that they are steep, some steps are relatively tall, especially for younger children. Older sections may not have safety rails on steep climbs down, or may be missing bricks from the steps. Strollers are definitely impossible.
Dangers: Some dangerous areas are not properly barriered off, e.g. steep drops, and unrestored areas have loose bricks. Make sure that your children do not run off, or play where they shouldn't.
Crowds: During the peak season (July and August, and national holidays), some parts of the wall are incredibly crowded, and may be overwhelming for younger children, and easy for them to get lost.
With kids, especially the curious ones, it is great to have a tour guide along to answer all of their questions! See our Great Wall tours below for inspiration: Or just tell us your interests and requirements and China Highlights will create your own fun family Great Wall tour. And we will ensure that all the little ones' questions about the Great Wall will be answered.