There are many ways to enjoy winter with the family in Beijing. Being out in the cold with children might seem counter-intuitive, but there are many great lakes for skating. The most central and popular is at Houhai. Technically, the skating lake and bar rows and hutongs (alleys) are mostly around Qianhai, at the north gate of Houhai.
If you want to visit the hutongs, your best bet is to enter by Lotus Market on the west of Qianhai. Wander down and past the restaurants and bars until you get to the row of rickshaws. Make sure you bargain and don’t let yourself get conned. We agreed to 100 RMB for an 8 km ride, taking me, my husband and two 7 year olds in one rickshaw. Later the driver said that was the per person price. We paid him the 100 plus a tip and walked away. The ride probably wasn’t as long as advertised. It stopped at several museums and courtyard homes that we didn’t take the time to see, though that is an option.
If you just want to enjoy the ice, go toward the east when you get to the Qianhai south gate. There is one area more for serious skaters and then the big lake where it’s a free for all of ice carriages, bikes and skates. We opted for the ice chairs, two per chair and pushed around the ice. The kids went down an ice slide several times. In all a great time. We opted to eat at home, but there are plentiful restaurants with different tastes and prices, from pizza to roast duck.
Getting there: It’s close to subway Line 6, Houhai North station, northeast exit, then walk east for just a bit.
Price: Reasonable. Ice entrance fee is 15 or 20 RMB depending if it’s weekday or weekend/holiday. Then skate rental is 20, as are chairs, bikes a bit more. There is also a deposit of around 30. The slide is 5 each time and a bouncy land for little ones for 20 unlimited time. It’s all done by swiping a card that you have to load at the ticket booth.
Jenny Lin is raising 3 boys in Beijing while working as a writer/editor. You can follow her @twinlins or keep up with her sporadically updated cross-cultural familial adventures at beijingmom.blogspot.com