Best parks for families

Make the most of the outdoors this summer by visiting the city's best parks

Dongping Forest Park on Chongming Island
Century Park


As the largest park in central Shanghai, Century Park is rarely quiet. Though it gets busy, convenience is Century Park’s greatest strength. Get on Line 2 and wherever you are in the city it won’t be long before you arrive. Kerry Parkside being located close by is another strength and makes the area a great place to spend an entire day.

The park’s mixture of English, Chinese and Japanese gardens makes it a pleasure to visually admire. But if the children are looking for more than just a relaxing stroll amidst the flowers, there are various activities to let them burn off some of their youthful energy. The tandem bikes are the best way to see all 140 hectares of the park. The bikes are robust creatures, but their gears are fairly loose and peddling around the park is good exercise as a result. If the kids want to head on to the water, they can paddle around the fringes of the park, the Zhang Jia River, and in the central Bright Lake. If the mini-golf housed in the park sounds like an ideal way to entertain the tots, unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. It’s a proper par-3, not a putting course, suitable only for older and more experienced kids.

Century Park 1001 Jinxiu Lu, near Fangdian Lu See full address details.

Changfeng Park


The 366,000sqm Changfeng Park is one of the more fun parks in town and was featured in Time Out Shanghai’s May 2014 issue, winning a place on the magazine’s ‘best places to picnic’ list (hint: duck behind the Haibaos near Exit 1 for the best spot). But even if you’re not visiting the park for some al fresco dining, there’s still plenty to do. Best of all is Changfeng Ocean World (open 9am-5pm daily, last entry 4pm; 160RMB/adult, 110RMB/child). The aquarium, built under Yinchu Lake is home to 300 different species of fish and 10,000 marine specimens. The venue puts on regular sea life shows in its 2,000 capacity auditorium featuring whales and sea lions, which are sure to delight both kids and grown-ups alike. Up above families can ride in the boats, get behind the wheel for some go-karting, or visit the newly opened Jackie Chan Film Museum.

Changfeng Park 525 Zaoyang Lu, near Guangfu Lu See full address details.

Dongping Forest Park


We were excited about Dongping Forest Park (pictured above and top) on Chongming Island for one reason – apart from the fact that it’s the largest man-planted forest in eastern China – it’s the only place in town that offers grass skiing (30RMB).

Getting all the way to Chongming Island isn’t the easiest. The simplest method is to hop on one of the regular buses that run between the bus station on Jinxiu Lu beside Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and Chenjia on Chongming, which take 50 minutes and cost 12RMB – look for Shenchong Line 2 (申崇二线). From Chenjia bus station, it’s a 95RMB taxi journey to Dongping Forest Park.

Sadly though, for grass skiing alone, it’s not quite worth the trip – you trundle gently down the bare slope wearing ski boots attached to a kind of rotating belt, forced into a kind of squatting position and looking very uncool in a helmet. It’s strictly novelty and comedy value. The rest of the park has activities like rock climbing, paintballing, go-karting and horse riding – but it all looks quite worn, and a lot of it was shut on our visit. Though it has size on its side (it’s almost double the size of Gucun Forest Park), it’s not really worth the lengthy trip to get there unless the kids are desperate to try their hand at grass skiing or you want to get as far from the concrete confines of the city as possible.

Dongping Forest Park Beiyan Gong Lu, Chongming Island See full address details.

Fuxing Park


For a park adjacent to the North-South Elevated Road, Fuxing Park is a surprisingly quiet space. One of the smallest parks on this list, its position smack in the middle of downtown Shanghai makes it a useful green escape in the heart of the city. Activities are limited, though there is a kids’ area with rather tame rides for young children. The classics are accounted for in the shape of a gentle rollercoaster and bumper cars, whilst for creative children there are tables set up where they can paint on washable tablets (see picture above). Other highlights of the park, which youngsters may or may not appreciate, are the frequent musical performances members of the public provide. Wandering around the park it’s not uncommon to hear practitioners of Peking Opera, guqins being played and even drummers banging along to their favourite classic tunes. It’s a touch of culture that adds a rather unique tone to Fuxing Park.

Fuxing Park 115 Yandang Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu See full address details.

Gongching Forest Park


Ride Line 8 all the way north to its terminal station - Shiguang Lu in northern Yangpu district - and you’re only a short cab ride (16RMB) from Gongqing Forest Park. The site remains one of our favourite big parks in Shanghai due to its large green spaces, fir groves, verdant forests and pretty lakes.

In summer, you can expect to encounter the usual hordes and their tents though it’s big enough that you can find a shady spot to yourself. You can do what you want on the grass, though there are designated kite-flying areas, and there are barbecue pits (from 60RMB/four people up to 120RMB/ten people for two hours) with a shop for supplies. If you’re done with bucolic bliss, the park boasts too many activities to mention, from a loop-the-loop rollercoaster (20RMB) and other classic rides (log flumes, pirate ships, etc) to airgun rile shooting (10RMB/five bullets), rock climbing (20RMB), paintball (20RMB/five bullets), go karting (15RMB/lap) and a fun electronic toboggan ride (20RMB). The kids won’t know where to start.

If you or the children can’t bring yourself to leave, you can stay the night in one of the cabins at the Hongsen Forest Park Hotel (6532 1296. Rooms from 280RMB. Cabins from 580RMB). Just remember to bring your passport and plenty of food.

Gongqing Forest Park 2000 Jungong Lu, near Yinhang Lu See full address details.

Gucun Forest Park


Gucun Forest Park is Shanghai’s newest forest park and the largest in the city itself. Renowned for its thousands of cherry blossom trees which bring in the crowds during spring, Gucun doesn’t have quite have the same natural feel as Gongqing Forest Park. But it’s slightly easier to get to, and is big enough that you and the kids can find a rolling grassy meadow, daisy-spotted field or forest area to get lost in.

The highlight of the park is possibly the 40 tented waterside barbecue pits (including a VIP area with bigger and better pits) which together, look like a small medieval village. A pit costs 90RMB/six people and 180RMB/12 people. There’s a shop selling charcoal (18RMB/bag), meat (15RMB/three skewers), fish (12RMB/two skewers) and vegetables (6RMB/three aubergine or pepper skewers and 3RMB/three mushroom skewers), plus condiments, beer, and ice creams.

Elsewhere, there’s the usual options for familial fun: inflatable hamster wheels on the water (30RMB/hour); three different types of tandem bikes (from 10RMB/hour); a fairground area with a rollercoaster; and the slightly rusty ‘children’s carnival’ zone, complete with giant toadstools, floating galleons, a ropey rollercoaster and a merry-go-round.

Gucun Forest Park 1 Huandao Lu, near Zhenhutai Lu See full address details.

Soong Chingling’s Mausoleum


Recommending a mausoleum always seems an odd choice, but if Shanghai’s other green spaces are often overcrowded, the small park dedicated to Soong Chingling, the wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen, is the exception. The air is suitably solemn and you’re more likely to hear noise emanating from one of the guards’ pocket radios than from other visitors. There are pleasant amounts of shade to sit in and if you’re seeking to avoid the bustle of the city then this site is the best location for doing so in the centre of town.

If the children require extra stimulation, then parents need only take them to the Shanghai Children’s Museum (free entry), which can be accessed via the Mausoleum grounds. It’s certainly no Science and Technology Museum and in fact it’s pretty naff from an adult’s perspective. But there are enough models and play areas to keep young children entertained and allow parents a breather.

Soong Chingling's Mausoleum 21 Songyuan Lu, near Hongqiao Lu See full address details.

Zhongshan Park


Zhongshan Park underwent a huge redevelopment last year and reopened in the autumn with much improved public spaces and extra rides for children.

One corner of the park now houses a popular carousel, as well as a short sky track for seeing the park from above. Although these are welcome additions for families with children, Zhongshan Park remains busy because unlike so many other parks in central Shanghai, individuals are allowed on the grass. Although park wardens have seemingly tried to limit this since the space reopened – with sections roped off – members of the public have taken little heed of the restrictions and enjoy the space as they did previously. This casual atmosphere is what makes Zhongshan Park a great place to take the kids.

It frequently gets busy, but since it’s a place where many come to let their children off the leash, no-one minds a few more running wild. Bring a football, a frisbee or a kite and join the fun.

Zhongshan Park 780 Changning Lu, near Dingxi Lu See full address details.