China: A Wonderland for Kids

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Bracken adds that the tours “offer a special opportunity to travel as a family, while experiencing a nation bursting with future possibilities and at the same time discovering its fascinating, millennia-old history.”

She says that during the China trips “learning comes naturally, whether it’s practicing tai chi, ascending the Great Wall, learning to make dumplings in a traditional Chinese home, or admiring the alluring giant pandas. The groups are led by local guides who reveal the subtleties of authentic Chinese culture, adhering to a well-balanced itinerary designed for active, inquisitive families who love to explore and learn.”

In addition, the tours include riding a bamboo raft along Yangshou’s gasp-inducing scenery, stops in monasteries, taking in acrobatic shows, studying the Xian’s terracotta warriors up close and even a climb to the world’s tallest observation deck to admire the dazzling panorama of Shanghai. And once the kids are ready to hit the sack after an adventure-filled day, accommodations include Western-style hotels such as Hilton Hotel Shanghai, Crowne Plaza Beijing, Sheraton Chengdu Lido Hotel, Sofitel Xian and Green Lotus Yangshuo Hotel.

Departures for 2012 will take place from June to August and prices range from $5,190 for children and $5,490 for adults. Airfare is not included.

China Odyssey Tours, a subsidiary of Tang Dynasty Tours, one of China’s premier travel companies, has a long relationship with U.S. travel agents who find that dealing with local travel experts eases the frustration that often accompanies arranging tours from the other side of the world.

China Odyssey’s forte is custom-designed tours. Often this is a daunting task because China is approximately as large as the whole of Europe. With that in mind, it offers trips that mix exploration, adventure, education and exotic experiences, bookmarks to any journey to China.

The company’s philosophy is that China isn’t just a country but a whole new world and that its hidden corners are a national treasure.

Its 5-day Guilin-Yangshou family tour (prices vary, but generally run from approximately $1,500 to $2,500 pp, airfare not included) showcases a side of China sure to enthrall young travelers.

The tour stops in Guilin’s Seven Star Park to admire a hill shaped like a camel and at the Seven Star Cave, a magnificent natural wonder full of stalagmites. Youngsters are taught the rudiments of calligraphy while exploring the ancient carvings that adorn the landscape before proceeding down a 125-ft.-deep cavern where they will embark on a boat journey down an underground river.

There are also pauses in authentic villages, cooking classes, hikes under waterfalls, bicycle trips along the banks of the Li River, and a chance to taste singular food at quaint restaurants in Yangshou.

The tour ends in Impression Sanjie Liu with an astounding light show produced by the director of the 2008 Olympics ceremony. This extravagant display features more than 600 actors performing on a natural amphitheater carved by the rushing waters of the Li River.

Accommodations range from three- to five-star hotels including the five-star Sheraton Guilin, or alternatively the three-star Hotel Universal Guilin, with a variety of other options, and in Yangshuo, it ranges from the three-star Yanghsuo Rosewood Inn to the five-star Yangshuo Green Lotus Hotel, with many more choices available.

Journeys International, meanwhile, also specializes in appealing itineraries tailored for family travel. It was founded by Drs. Will and Joan Weber out of their experiences as Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal in the ‘70s.

According to Kerina Rowley, Asia destination specialist, Journeys International is the longest-standing family-owned global ecotourism company and has been lauded by a large number of publications for its superb personal service and innovative cross-cultural and wildlife offerings on six continents. “A division of our company is devoted to family travel,” she adds.

The company’s Enchanted China for Families is a 12-day excursion full of exciting adventures for the entire family. At a cost of $2,450 to $2,850 pp (land only), families stay in excellent hotels (best available Western-style four-star) throughout China. Rowley says that the best seasons to experience the tour are spring and fall.

The tour begins in Hong Kong and winds through Guilin and Yangshou where travelers can experience the thoroughly Chinese landscape of limestone karst formations before exploring the countryside on bicycles and during boat trips in Fuli.

Of course, there is the obligatory visit to the Giant Panda Research Center where youngsters are given the opportunity to study the creatures up close.

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