When my husband first announced that we were going to an extended trip to Shanghai for three straight weeks, a thousand question marks popped up in my head. I liked Shanghai, but didn’t know if it was suitable for our seven-month old son, what with the traffic, the pollution and the size of this huge city! But baby Franky and I had a great time exploring together – visiting parks and taking pictures around in various children-friendly destinations around the city while daddy was at work!
Fuxing Park and House of Flour
Located on the beautifully tree-lined Sinan Road, Fuxing Park is a quiet place where many elderly Chinese people hang out. Strolling around the park, we spotted groups of older ladies chattering on benches, karaoke enthusiasts showing off their talent and musicians practicing classical hits in pagodas. First thing in the morning there were ballroom dancers showing off their moves, and Franky and I happily joined them for a little twirl before hopping over to the playground for a blast on the slides and bouncy horses. To complete our morning, we popped down to House of Flour on Sinan Road for the best chocolate cake in Shanghai!
Tian Zi Fang
Tian Zi Fang is a cute little neighbourhood full of European bistros, shops and trendy galleries selling artsy things. Located just further along Sinan Road from Fuxing Park, Tian Zi Fang is composed of narrow lanes dividing up rows of traditional brick houses. Here we discovered the creative side of modern China, and the artistic atmosphere made me wonder if we were still in fast-paced Shanghai! I bought myself a Tofu Fa (sweet tofu dessert), and enjoyed it on a bench with Franky parked next to me. ‘Il est beau!’ – a well-dressed French lady offered Franky a finger to play with. I thanked her for her compliment, and realised how international China had become.
Yu Garden lives up to its reputation as Shanghai’s most beautiful area. It’s everything you’d expect; pagoda roofs, hanging red lanterns and a uniquely oriental atmosphere. The bazaar was full of souvenir shops and stalls selling Shanghainese snacks such as Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), meat skewers and noodle soups. Crossing the zig-zag bridge within the bazaar, we arrived at the entrance of Yu Garden which cost RMB30 to enter. I debated whether it was worth it, and it was. The RMB30 charge kept the crazy crowd out of the tranquil, stunning and picture perfect gardens. Of course I took photos of Franky next to every dragon, phoenix and bonsai tree! This was stroller-friendly with plenty of places to stop and admire the scene.
People’s Park and New World Mall
People’s Park is situated in Shanghai’s prominent People’s Square – packed with office workers during lunch hour, and with tourists at any time of day. A precious piece of green surrounded by office buildings, this park also offers a small funfair for older kids. Franky and I had a lovely stroll through the blossoming pink cherry trees. After the park, we headed towards New World Mall, which has an indoor playground up on the 8th floor, with entrance costing RMB50. This is money well spent for parents of older kids, but as Franky was too a little too small to join in the fun, we headed downstairs to the children’s department and played with the display toys on the shelves – all for free!
Jing An Sculpture Park
Jing An Sculpture Park is a real Shanghai gem. Located just outside the financial and shopping district, this park is frequented by local parents and kids who wish to immerse themselves in 30,000 square metres of public art. Full of sculptures of different shapes and sizes, the art is scattered over a huge area of grassy, open space.
We chose to stay in a one-bedroom unit at Fraser Residence, a serviced apartment chain that has great service and was well equipped for a family, providing all the essentials like a cot. There are a few onsite restaurants and you are minutes from all the shops and transport you could need – it was like a home away from home, only better.
Shanghai may not be a conventional destination for family travels, but our decision to turn a business trip into a family trip was one we didn’t regret! By getting out of our comfort zone, we enjoyed ourselves and had a great learning experience too!
Crystal Lee is American-educated Hong Konger married to an Italian entrepreneur. Their first son, Francesco ‘Franky’ was born in July 2012, and Crystal started writing about their adventures to all the places where their little family traveled to accompany daddy’s work. Aside from her full time job as a wife and mama, Crystal also heads up the communication department of her husband’s company, which specializes in accounting, company set-up and taxes. You can contact her at: [email protected]