These five Nanjing attractions will please the “little emperors” and keep everyone in the family smiling.
Gan’s Grand Courtyard (甘家大院)
Families can start exploring the grey-shingled white-walled estate by wandering through the 46 maze-like rooms, which are now the Nanjing Folklore Museum.
This 200-year-old compound was once the private residence of the influential local Gan family. Most rooms are restored to their early 20th century appearance, with carving-laden mahogany furniture, water-color paintings and lanterns hung from the ceilings.
The real fun lies in the west wing. A dozen or more rooms carry exhibitions and interactive activities to display Chinese folk culture from marriage to child-raising. Master artisans showcase the making of traditional crafts, such as bamboo carving and opera mask painting.
No. 15, Nanbuting, South Zhongshan Road, Baixia District 白下区中山南路南捕厅15号; admission: RMB 20 (US$3.2); open daily from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; official website.
Nanjing Paleontology Museum (南京古生物博物馆)
Even the pickiest kid will be blown away by the star of this museum: a 22-meter-long, nine-meter-tall skeleton of a Mamenchisaurus. Displayed near the entrance hall, the herbivorous dinosaur, unearthed in central China, has a neck almost long enough to reach the moon.
Visitors will have plenty of opportunities to play Darwin. As an affiliate of the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology, this little-known austere space boils millions of years down to two stories of fossils and bones of ancient plants, insects and animals.
Most explanatory text is in simplified Chinese only.
No. 39 East Beijing Road, Gulou District 鼓楼区北京东路39号; +86 25 8328 2253; admission: RMB 20 (US$3.2); open on Saturday and Sunday only from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; official website.
Nanjing Olympic Sports Center (南京奥林匹克体育中心)
The sports facilities in this Olympic-standard four-stadium center are enough to train a family for a decathlon.
Sporty locals jog around the 60,000-seat outdoor stadium or shoot hoops in the outdoor basketball courts.
The clean and spacious Swimming Center contains an Olympic-length pool, a six-meter-deep diving pool and a kids’ paddling pool. For non-swimmers, the 13,000-seat indoor stadium hosts anything from a ping pong game to squash combat to a round of snooker.
Ice skating, tennis and golf are also available.
Built in 2005 for China’s 10th National Games, these stadiums will host the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games.
Metro Line 1 Aoti Station or Metro Line 2 Aoti East Station 地铁1号线奥体中心站或地铁2号线奥体东站;official website; price list (in Chinese only).
Hongshan Forest Zoo (红山森林动物园)
More than 3,000 animals call this tree-blanketed hill home, including rare native species like cuddly giant pandas and ginger-furred snub-nosed monkeys.
Quite randomly, the sprawling zoo has a dedicated “Australian area” to accommodate all animals from the land down under.
Note for sensitive visitors: China’s zoo culture is rather different from the West, which can be exemplified by adults dangling toddlers over the edge of the Tiger Mountain to gain a better view, or kids banging on the glass walls to get the attention of gorillas.
No. 129 Huangjia Wei, Xiaguan District 下关区黄家圩129号; +86 2585430087; admission: RMB 40 (US$6.4) for adults (each adult can bring in one children for free); open daily from 7:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Nanjing Underwater World (南京海底世界)
The four-story aquarium greets visitors with an impressive “ocean tank” at the end of the first floor.
More than 200 marine species swim, rest or play in a 4,000-cubic-meter water cube, which is cut through by a 74-meter-long, three-meter-wide and 2.4-meter-tall transparent underwater passage. Shark feeding and mermaid-acting performances take place here twice a day.
Next to the mini Atlantic is an RMB 8 million jellyfish quarter. Nine different species of these umbrella-shaped sea creatures bob around in breathtaking numbers and in a dazzling array of colors.
Other attractions at the Sino-Singapore joint venture include the penguin pavilion, polar bear section and dolphin and seal theater.
No. 8, Sifang City, Wenzhong Road, Xuanwu District 玄武区瓮仲路 四方城8号; +86 2584441119 ext. 210 or 232; admission: RMB 150 for adults, RMB 80 for kids between 1.2-1.5 meters, free for kids under 1.2 meters; open daily from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; official website; allperformances schedule.
The ultimate guide to Tangshan hot springs
These mineral baths are one of Nanjing's best kept secrets