Things to Do in Shanghai with Kids

Jade Buddha Temple

For some parents, visiting a big city causes big worries. I look at it just the opposite. Big cities mean there’s a bigger chance your family will have a great time. An added bonus, regardless of the where, language is rarely a barrier in big cities, making places like Shanghai a great family travel adventure.

When you travel to China from the US, chances are your flight will bring you in or out of Beijing or Shanghai. See my tips for traveling to China with children.

Beijing got a big boost from the 2008 Summer Olympics. But don’t let all the press cloud your judgment. Shanghai was the last stop on my family’s 15-day adventure. We were tired, but the city gave us a surprising energy boost.

I’m not a fan of tour buses, but if it’s your first time in China, and you’re traveling with kids, a good tour is the way to go. It doesn’t matter whether you’re floating down the Yangtze or fighting traffic in Shanghai. Some things are just better left to the professionals.

Shanghai offers a combination of the old and the new. The wow factor is huge.

Our Favorite Things to do in Shanghai with Kids

View of Pudong in the rain

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

The Bund is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Shanghai. It’s home to more than 50 buildings of various architectural styles. A little Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque, even Art Deco — something for everyone. It was pouring rain when we were there, but it was worth getting wet! Take a walk and enjoy the modernistic skyline of the Pudong district. Though my kids and I had seen many pictures of the skyline before our visit, they didn’t do it justice. Think Europe, the space age and modern design all rolled into one Chinese city. Simply put, it’s just cool even when you’re looking from beneath a bright yellow rain poncho.

Jin Mao View

Up, Up and Away

For another stunning view of Shanghai, head up to the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower. The elevator ride is like something from Disney World, taking a mere 45 seconds to reach the top. That’s almost 30 feet (9.1 meters) per second! Once you’ve arrived the view will be the first thing that catches your eye, but it’s not the only thing that will keep you and the kids entertained. The observation deck is the biggest and tallest in China.Grab a snack. Buy some jewelry. If you’ve got the stomach for it, walk to the center of the floor and peer down into the atrium of one of the highest hotels in the world, the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Once was enough for me, but my girls thought the rush was the best thing since chocolate.

Go Bargain Hunting

It’s like a math lesson and shopping trip in one. You won’t find it listed on any itinerary, but ask your tour guide to take you to a knock-off market. At first your guide may not seemed excited about the idea, but keep asking. Even if you’re not a bargain hunter, walking the market is an adventure in itself.My girls love to bargain. Armed with the equivalent of about $2, my 7 year old walked out the door wearing a new pair of pink “nike” sneakers. (They made it through a few months before practically disintegrating.) My older daughter, on the other hand, could barely walk, sporting her new pair of very Chinese looking heels. Even my husband, so not the shopping type, came home with new pants, sunglasses and a belt.

Including my shoes, all said, as a family, we spent less than $20. New found treasure from what my girls called the ultimate dollar store.

Jade Buddha Tea House

When in China, Drink Tea

By the time we made it to Shanghai, my kids (and I) had pretty much had our fill of temples. But the Jade Buddha Temple is worth a trip. While best known for its two white jade Buddha statues, the temple has a quiet, neighborhood feel. Smoking incense, and burning candles add intimacy to the temple’s peaceful and colorful courtyard. It also houses a great tea house. Even if you’re not a tea drinker, (most kids aren’t) the do’s and don’ts of Chinese tea drinking is an art in itself. Our tea expert was fabulous with our girls. She helped them find a few teas they liked and taught them a little “tea science” along the way.

Shanghai Acrobats

Take a nap, caffeinate, give the kids double dessert. Do whatever it takes to stay energized after dinner and go see the Shanghai Acrobats. The performance will leave you and your kids breathless. My daughter claims I never closed my mouth during the entire performance — though I doubt she spent much time looking at me. The show moved a mile a minute, from one unforgettable feat to the next. We did it on the last night of our trip and packed for home on a huge China high.

Levitate to the Airport in Record Speed

Getting to the airport was never so smooth. Forget a cab, take the Maglev, the world’s fastest magnetic levitation train to the Pudong International Airport. Woke up late, no problem you’ve still got time for breakfast. Travelling at speeds as high as 267 mph, the train will cover the 20 mile stretch in less than 8 minutes. No time for rest. Save the nap for the long flight home.

Need help planning a trip to Shanghai or anywhere else in China? Our Family Vacation Planning Service can help! Request assistance on My Trip Planner

Relevant Links:

Tips for traveling in China with children

Top activities in Hong Kong with kids

Exploring Singapore with kids

Favorite activities in Kyoto with kids


  1. Wow, moving post!
    I have been to Shanghai twice, but all in a hurry, so i guess I have missed a lot!
    I really like your post!

  2. And by the way, I am in process of writing a article about things to do for kids in shanghai, and I think you’ve gave me some inspiration! Thanks a lot!

  3. I wish I could say I will make it back before summer.. but most likely no.. sorry.

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