According to Austin, one of the most popular stops is in Beijing’s Forbidden City, “where children can participate in an active game based on the Disney movie ‘Mulan.’ Here children actually fight invading Huns. After that, we visit the Nine Dragon Wall located in the city’s BaiHai Park. Then we hop on pedicabs and spend time in the old district of Beijing where we enrich the experience by visiting local homes. The first stop is at an artisan studio where we learn an ancient art form that uses fortune knots to make intricate patterns. We follow that with a demonstration by an acrobatic master who teaches the use of ancient Chinese yo-yos.”
He adds that more than 400 families visited China under the auspices of Adventures by Disney last year and that number is growing. “We attribute this to the fact that the world has always been fascinated by this huge country,” he adds. “Youngsters and their parents alike are fascinated to see how Chinese cities are developing while at the same time visiting a country where about 90 percent of all consumer products are made. China as a destination is as limitless as its boundaries. The World’s Fair shows how successful travel there can be. More than 193 countries are taking part and the crowds are almost beyond counting.”
Another commendable tour operator focusing on China is China Prep, a U.S.-based travel company founded about six years ago when it expanded from exclusively guiding students to China to include adults and families interested in seeing the country through the educational prism of its youth trips.
Says Brantley Turner-Bradley, owner of the company: “I come from a background of studying the Chinese language, culture, history, art, etc. I first parlayed my knowledge and experience into eight years of professional work in Beijing and Shanghai, but I created China Prep to ensure that more young people would have the opportunity to fall in love with China as I did.”
She adds that an understanding and first-hand experience in China are “wonderful gifts to give your child. After all, the country’s rise to the status of a true superpower is rapid and will be integral in generations to come.”
She recommends that those interested in introducing their offspring to the country should begin when the child is at least 8 years old, as this is the age when “they can begin to grasp the differences in culture and the rich, immense history of China.”
As a result, China Prep builds its itineraries around the interests and routines of individual families. In addition, the tours are full of activities that include “bike riding and boating around the picturesque West Lake in Hangzhou, climbing the Great Wall, visiting the Olympic stadiums outside Beijing or going to the top of the Pearl Tower in Shanghai.”
Turner-Bradley maintains that China Prep’s custom trips can be, “…as off-the-beaten path or as structured and mainstream as the client prefers. The tours range from visits to the Chengdu Panda Reserve to conducting personal tours of “edgy” art galleries and auto assembly plants.
The tours may also include kung-fu, cooking or calligraphy classes and even dinners “with Chinese journalists to learn first-hand about their experiences and about media censorship. There are also visits to antique dealers in Hong Kong, basic language lessons and even stops in hidden flea markets in Hong Kong.”
Prices for the customized trips vary greatly. China Prep also arranges accommodations and transportation for its clients.
Of course, there’s a multitude of tour companies taking visitors to China, but family travel there doesn’t have to be as hazardous and lengthy as it was when a Venetian youngster along with his father and uncle made the trip to see the wonders of Cathay.