Family Fun In Shanghai

Expat life in Shanghai often seems to revolve around eating, drinking and general debauchery – all done to excess. But this doesn’t mean the city isn’t also a kid friendly place to hang out. Here are Talk’s top ten picks for family fun in the city.

Under The Sea

Lujiazui’s Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is one of Shanghai’s most enduring family activities, which is why we advise you avoid weekend trips if at all possible – this place gets packed! It’s one of the largest ocean aquariums in the world and is home to more than 10000 varieties of creatures from the deep, as well as the world’s longest underwater tunnel (which weighs in at an impressive 155 metres).

Unlike many other zoos and animal-related activities in China, the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium actually has a really good international reputation, so you don’t have to feel bad about enjoying the spectacle. Adult tickets are priced at RMB 180 and kids under 1.4 metres are RMB 110 (shorter than one metre and your kid gets in for free).

Open daily. Hours: 9am – 6pm (extended to 9pm during holiday periods). 158 Yincheng Bei Lu, near Lujiazui Huan Lu. Tel: 5877 9988. Web:


Toon Town

In the rather out-of-the-way location of the Zhangjiang Hi-Technology Park, the Shanghai Animation & Comics Museum, is a fantastic choice for kids of all ages. This three-storey museum features interactive exhibits, and on the second floor families can even design their own short animated films, which they can then watch at the 3D movie theatre on the third floor.

On the first floor there is a 7000-piece collection of cartoon stills and life-size models of animation icons, from Marvel's favourite superheroes to Kungfu Panda, Mickey Mouse and even Astro Boy.

Another exhibit on the first floor details the history of comics and animation in China, introducing visitors to some of the country's most important historical comic strips and characters. And it’s all yours for the bargain price of free!

Open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours: 10am – 5pm. 69 Zhangjiang Lu. Tel: 5895 7998. Web:


For Your Amusement

Happy Valley is Shanghai’s favourite amusement park and features rides (including China’s first wooden rollercoaster) for kids of all ages. Within the park there are seven sub-sections: Happy Times, Typhoon Bay, Sunshine Beach, Ant Kingdom, Gold Mine Town, Shanghai Beach and Shangri-la Woods. Ant Kingdom is best for younger kids.

As is to be expected in China, when the weekend weather is nice, the crowds descend, so be prepared for a decent chunk of your day to be spent queuing. Prices are RMB 200 for adults and RMB 100 for kids shorter than 1.2 metres.

Open daily. Hours: 9am – 6pm. Happy Valley. 888 Linhu Lu, Songjiang. Tel: 3355 2222.



Everyone knows Shanghai expats love getting their nails done; it doesn’t matter what age they are. A couple of salons around town are welcoming of smaller customers, including Frangipani, which only uses products free of chemicals like formaldehyde, camphor, DPB and toluene, meaning their nail polishes are totally safe for kids (and expectant mothers too).

Kids’ mani is RMB 55, kids’ pedi is 85, nail art for kids is RMB 10 per finger, or RMB90 for a full set.

Open daily. Hours: 10am – 10pm. 204 Xinle Lu, near Donghu Lu. Tel: 5403 0227. Web:


Flipping Out

They say that kids today are pretty cynical, but even the hardest little heart will beat a little faster watching the incredible feats of strength, speed and altitude on show at ERA: Intersection of Time.

This acrobatic performance, which combines ancient Chinese acrobatic arts with modern technology, also loosely follows a story that travels from China’s olden days, to today’s futuristic urban landscape.

There’s juggling, tumbling and balancing galore (all taken to what must be the limit of human abilities) – then for the finale, an unbelievable number of dudes ride motorbikes around a comparably small sphere, certain death a millimetre of miscalculation away. Tickets are RMB 200 to RMB 600 and advance booking is recommended.

Open daily. Hours: 7:30pm. 2266 Gonghe Xin Lu, near Guangzhong Lu. Tel: 5665 3646. Web:


Brunch Time

Though mountains of chilled seafood and free-flow champagne are distinctly adult endeavours, there’s no need to forego one of Shanghai’s greatest pleasures – a decadent Sunday brunch – just because you have kids in tow.

Each Sunday, guests gather around The Stage restaurant on the ground floor and Prego Italian restaurant on the second floor of The Westin Bund Centre to eat their fill and drink the freely flowing Tattinger champagne, and at the same time be entertained by awe-inspiring acts of acrobatics, clowns and martial arts, as well as a 14-piece string orchestra.

If the live shows aren’t enough to keep the little ones entertained, a Kid’s Corner is also on offer, staffed with a nanny, and packed with toys, cartoons, games and kid-friendly food options.

Prices are set at RMB 568 (+15%) per adult with free-flowing champagne; RMB 468 (+15%) per adult without free-flowing champagne; RMB 250 (+15%) per child, with kids under four dining for free.

Open Sundays. Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm. The Westin Bund Centre, 88 Henan Zhong Lu, near Guangdong Lu. Tel: 6103 5048. Web:


Channelling Dr. Doolittle

You too can walk and talk with the animals (though we can’t promise they’ll talk back) at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park, which is located 35 kilometres from the city, in Nanhui District.

The 153-hectare park boasts more than 200 species of animals from around the world, and is split into a penned area that you are free to explore on foot – the walking section includes a giant panda hall, golden monkey hall, parrot house, white lion area, white tiger area, ostrich zone, kangaroo zoo and crocodile island – and an open park for the carnivores and other big game, which must be taken in from the seat of a tour bus. Adult tickets are RMB 130, with kids 80cm to 1.2 metres RMB 65 and little ones under 80cms free.

Open daily. Hours: March – November, 8am-5pm; December – February, 8:30am – 4:30pm. 178 Nan Liu Gong Lu (S 6th Highway), near Xiayan Gong Lu. Tel: 6118 0000. Web:


Interactive Learning


Educational opportunities abound at Pudong’s Science and Technology Museum, as the exhibits fluctuate between the natural world and the impending future. With easy access from Metro Line 2, the museum draws in visitors from the first glance. The playful architecture tricks the senses from the get-go with an optical illusion that makes the building appear to be standing on a lake, but the fun really begins when you walk through the doors.

From jungle forests brimming with exotic species to a challenging chess match against robots, the four-floor museum spirals all the way around the universe. A reflection on scientific progress and a journey on a spaceship through zero gravity will bring you back to present day. Kids’ tickets are RMB 45; adults get in for RMB 60.

Open Tuesday to Sunday. Hours: 9am – 5:15pm. 2000 Shiji Dadao. Tel: 6862 2000. Web:


The Great Indoors

Fun in the sun is great, but there are lots of Shanghai days where being outdoors is unappealing for a variety of reasons – whether it is too hot, too cold, too rainy, too polluted or a combination of the above.

Of the city’s numerous indoor playgrounds, Fun Dazzle comes highly recommended by expat mums, who give the place top marks for cleanliness, safety and variety.

The cavernous space features an adventurous-looking climbing frame, tunnels, slides, ball pits and bouncy mats. According to Fun Dazzle, its play area is suitable for kids aged one to 12, but the outer edges of this age range will probably find the place a little over- or underwhelming. Entry is RMB 50 for two hours and kids are required to wear socks while playing.

Open daily. Hours: 10am – 7pm. 780 Changning Lu, inside Zhongshan Park. Tel: 6210 7388


Thomas Town

All aboard in Changning District where aspiring ferroequinologists (it’s a thing, look it up) can join Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends at Thomas Town, an indoor playground based on the muchloved British television show.

This playground covers an area of over 600 square meters and is located on the third floor of a shopping mall. About half of the space is circled by an electric railway track, which carries a small train pulling several carriages. The engine is decorated to look just like Thomas, while three other trains with the faces of Thomas' friends James, Emily and Percy are stationed beside the track.

Another section of Thomas Town features a playground for kids to run, climb and slide to their hearts’ content. RMB 65 buys unlimited play time from Monday to Friday, and two hours on weekends, plus it costs RMB 50 to ride the train for two laps. Best suited to kids aged between three and seven.

Open daily. Hours: 10am – 10pm. Room 302, Bingo Square, 341 Tianshan Lu. Tel: 6380 1799