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Visiting the Great Wall of China With Kids

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Last Updated on May 2, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

China stands as a beacon, a world wonder, a founding civilization, and a must-visit on all serious world travel lists.  This vast country hosts layers and layers of rich history and stunning sites to visit.  We were lucky enough to visit China with our kids (and being part of our work team for a shorter time as well) on a 17-day tour.

The Great Wall of China immediately comes to mind as a symbol of China, not unlike the Eiffel Tower in France or the Great Pyramids of Egypt. This ancient, 13,000-mile stunning monument was built over several centuries by different dynasties and is a marvel woven into the tapestry of time that stands as evidence of human ingenuity and perseverance. We set out to full-time travel in 2018, and China was on our list to visit from the beginning.

Stretching across rugged landscapes, this ancient wonder whispers stories of dynasties and ancient civilizations. Each stone, weathered by centuries, tells a story of defense, trade, and cultural exchange. Now, it’s an amazing place for families to explore. 

We visited, climbed towers, and felt like time travelers in a history adventure. Our kids immediately started imagining defending our position on the wall from invaders, and we played many games of bows and arrows through the keyholes.  The Great Wall is not just a wall; it’s a colossal storybook waiting for families to flip its ancient pages.

Scenic views of the Great Wall unfold history

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Reasons To Visit the Great Wall of China With Kids

Figuring out how to visit historical monuments with kids often presents some anxiety to parents.  Will the kids get bored?  Will they enjoy it? Will they fall off?!  The Great Wall of China would take months to explore and, sadly, much is deteriorating and unsafe to visit.  Thankfully, there are still several places to visit the wall, and enjoy your visit.

I’m a huge fan of learning history IN the location where it happened.  I find these lessons to last far longer than those taught in the classroom.  We prepped the kids as best we could to visit this world wonder and also relied on our guide to teach us all as we explored.

Nothing can really prepare you for the magnitude of this structure.  Realizing the millions of lives involved (and many sacrificed) in the name of this defensive wall humbles you to your core.  The views from the wall delight the eyes, and the feel of the place, an almost sacredness, humbles you.

Of course, while you are trying to take it all in, kids want to run! The wall is safe in the maintained sections overall, but it can be dangerous otherwise.  Be wise in your planning.

Sprinkling some Great Wall Of China facts to our kids while getting the feel of a true emperor

Fun Things Children Should Know about the Great Wall of China

When you look at the Great Wall, you might wonder how something so monumental was ever built. What does it take to build such a great structure? Here is some fun trivia you should know:

  1. It’s Really, Really Old: It’s been standing for over 2,000 years, way before smartphones and video games.  While not as old as the pyramids, it’s been around since roughly the same time as when Christ was on the earth!
  2. History Hide-and-Seek: The Wall was built by ancient Chinese emperors to keep out not-so-friendly neighbors. It’s like a giant, real-life game of hide-and-seek.
  3. Walking on a Dragon’s Back: It’s as if you’re walking on a dragon’s back when you walk through the Wall. It goes up and down mountains, and you feel like a superhero on a dragon adventure.
  4. Wildlife Friends: Sometimes, cute animals like foxes and rabbits live around the Wall.
  5. Great Wall Sliding Fun: Some parts of the Wall have slides! You can slide down like you’re escaping from ancient invaders. How cool is that!?
  6. Message in a Wall Bottle: People write messages on the Wall with their names and dates. It’s like the Wall has its own giant autograph book.
  7. Chinese Dragon Secrets: The Wall is like a guardian dragon, hiding secrets about Chinese culture, history, and the super-smart people who built it.
Brought our staff to the Great Wall with their families. The fun and thrill are for all ages.

The Structure of the Great Wall of China

On a more macabre note, we learned from our guide that many of the workers on the wall died in its construction and were simply included in the wall itself.  The wall is full of the bones of those who helped to construct it.  Only when you see the ridge upon which the wall sits and the steep slopes the workers had to climb with the massive blocks of stone do you understand the magnitude of this undertaking.  

  • Length and Extent – The Great Wall of China is incredibly long, stretching over 13,000 miles (21,000 kilometers). It’s like a colossal snake winding through mountains, deserts, and plains.
  • Construction Materials – The Wall is primarily made of bricks, tamped earth, wood, and other local materials. Workers used a mix of sticky rice flour and slaked lime as a binding agent in the mortar.
  • Watchtowers – Numerous watchtowers dot the Wall, offering strategic vantage points for defense and communication. These are so fun to visit and imagine the lives that have passed within these walls, watching for enemies and living out their lives.  Some towers served as signal stations, where beacon fires could transmit messages across vast distances.
  • Height and Width – The Wall varies in height, with an average of about 25 feet (7.5 meters), and its width ranges from 15 to 30 feet (4.5 to 9 meters). This width allows troops to comfortably march along it.  Really, you could drive a car on it if it weren’t for the steps!  It’s quite wide, which can help with the crowds.
  • Defensive Features – The Wall was designed with defensive features, including crenellations for archers to shoot through, parapets for protection, and strategic placement of watchtowers for surveillance.
  • Strategic Passes and Gates – Passes and gates along the Wall served as key entry and exit points. These were often heavily fortified to control movement and protect against invasions.
  • Ming Dynasty Fortifications – The most well-known sections of the Wall were built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). During this time, the Great Wall of China underwent extensive renovations and enhancements.
Mutianyu Great Wall, China | Source: Unsplash

Exploring the Great Wall of China With Kids: Best Sections To Visit

While the Great Wall of China stretches across thousands of kilometers, not all sections are equally suitable for families with young ones. Many sections are not accessible at all.  Some sections can be hiked for hours, days, or weeks.  Yes, you can even camp on the Great Wall of China!

Some sections of the Great Wall of China are coined “wild wall” because they are deteriorating, and nature is trying to reclaim them.  Use caution with very small kids, but they are still family friendly. 

Here are some of the best sections of the Great Wall to explore with kids, offering a perfect balance of accessibility, safety, and fascinating sights:

1. Mutianyu

Mutianyu is often touted as one of the most family-friendly sections of the Great Wall. This was the section we visited on the recommendation of our tour company. Located about 70 kilometers northeast of Beijing, Mutianyu offers a well-preserved segment of the Wall with relatively fewer crowds compared to other popular sections like Badaling. The wall is equipped with a cable car and a chairlift, making it accessible for kids and providing an exciting ride with breathtaking views. Families can also opt for a thrilling toboggan ride back down, adding an element of fun to the adventure.

If you visit other sections of the Great Wall of China, you may need to hike up the steep inclines.  Our children were too young to tackle this, and we had other co-workers in tow, including a pregnant woman!  This section was definitely the best for our group.  

This section includes the most conveniences as well, including toilets, snack shops, and even cafes.  When the kids got bored with looking around and us taking a zillion photos, we still had the toboggan ride back down (which, of course, they loved the most!).

Our little guy, Harrison, was quite sick the day we visited the Great Wall (later that night, he ended up in the hospital in Beijing) and needed a bathroom often.  We were eternally grateful that we had gone to a more developed section of the Great Wall of China.

Jinshanling | Source: Unsplash

2. Jinshanling

For families seeking a more adventurous experience, Jinshanling offers a picturesque section of the Great Wall with stunning panoramic views. I would love to take this section on, as I am visiting again with our now older kids.  Located about 125 kilometers northeast of Beijing, Jinshanling is known for its diverse terrain, watchtowers, and scenic vistas

While some parts of the wall may be steep and require a bit of hiking, the scenery and relatively fewer crowds make it a rewarding experience for families with older children who are up for the challenge. Here’s a guided tour for small groups you could try. 

3. Huanghuacheng

Huanghuacheng, also known as the “Lakeside Great Wall,” offers a unique and serene experience for families. Located about 60 kilometers north of Beijing, this section of the Wall features a picturesque reservoir nestled against the backdrop of the mountains. Families can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the wall, taking in the tranquil scenery and admiring the reflections on the water. The relatively quiet atmosphere and opportunities for picnicking make Huanghuacheng an ideal spot for a relaxing day out with kids.

4. Simatai

Located about 120 kilometers northeast of Beijing, Simatai offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience suitable for older children and teenagers. Highlights include the breathtaking night views of the illuminated Wall and the iconic suspension bridge spanning the Gubeikou River. Families can embark on a guided hike or opt for a thrilling night tour for an unforgettable experience under the stars.

5. Jiankou

Jiankou is a wild and rugged section of the Great Wall that appeals to adventurous families seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience. Located about 70 kilometers north of Beijing, Jiankou is known for its steep cliffs, crumbling watchtowers, and stunning natural scenery. 

How To Visit the Great Wall of China

Logistics, logistics!  While we are seasoned travelers, in some countries we don’t want to worry about navigating an unfamiliar place alone.  These countries include the likes of Morocco, Egypt, and China!  With a country as vast and diverse as China, we found comfort in taking the advice of a local, even if it meant a higher price.  We don’t at all regret using a tour guide.

However, many adventurers want to find their way on their own!  We get it. 

Most travelers are going to base their trip to the Great Wall of China from Beijing.  The wall spans so much of the country, so you can access it at different points..  However, most travelers want to see Beijing as well.  There are five sections that can be a day trip from Beijing: Badaling, Mutianyu, Jinshanling, Simatai, and Jiankou.

Accessing the Great Wall of China is easiest by car, taking about 1.5 hours from Beijing.  You can even hire a taxi or Uber (plan on around $80-100 each way).

There is also public transportation to some sections of the wall.  If you want to head to a section via public transport, then the Badaling restored section of the Great Wall is the best section served by public transport.  It may also be the busiest section, so keep that in mind if you don’t like crowds.

You can get there via high-speed rail from Beijing North Railway Station, which goes straight to the entrance in about twenty minutes.

The Mutianyu section also has a subway station near its base.  However, signage can be difficult to understand.

Getting to the Wall With Kids

There are many routes and ways to reach the Great Wall Of China with kids. But here are some tour options tailored for families you can try:

  1. Experience the best of Beijing with a private tour of the Mutianyu Great Wall and the Summer Palace. Ride the cable car or ski lift to the Wall for stunning views, then explore the serene Summer Palace and its classical gardens. Enjoy a delicious lunch, which is included in your tour.
  2. Join a guided group hike along the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall and experience the rugged beauty of Simatai West, as well as the restored sections of the Great Wall at Jinshanling. The tour includes entrance fees to both sections, unlimited bottled water and snacks, lunch at a local farmer’s restaurant, and a certificate of completion for hiking the Great Wall of China.
  3. Looking for a private tour with added flexibility (a mom’s dream!)? Enjoy the stunning Jinshanling Great Wall, famous for its scenic hikes and photo opportunities, while learning about its rich history from your expert guide. Savor lunch at a local restaurant, and customize the afternoon portion of your tour to fit your preferences.

Other Fun Activities for Families When Visiting the Great Wall of China

In addition to exploring the magnificent Great Wall itself, families can also do other exciting activities. From cultural experiences to thrilling adventures, there’s something for every member of the family to enjoy:

  1. Camp out and gaze at the stars while feeling the magic of the ancient wall. Sleep in tents beside the wild Great Wall for a thrilling family adventure.
  2. Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch with a view of the ancient stones of the Great Wall.
  3. Slide down the Great Wall on a Toboggan Ride
  4. Embark on a remarkable helicopter adventure. Capture an unforgettable bird’s eye view of the Great Wall with kids. 
  5. Run in the Huangyaguan Great Wall Marathon, one of the world’s most challenging marathons. 

Traveling with kids always presents new levels of planning and complexity, and we always say it’s worth it.  Whether they remember it or not, memories together are the treasure of a life well lived.  Take the kids and enjoy!

Every brick of the Great Wall tells a story

Fun Tips When Visiting the Great Wall of China With Kids

Each travel destination and attraction follows a guideline when it comes to visiting, especially with kids. Here are the things you should know when visiting The Great Wall Of China with kids:

  • Choose the Right Section. Pick a kid-friendly section like Mutianyu or Badaling, known for its well-preserved walls and family-friendly amenities.
  • Check the weather forecast and dress kids in layers. Bring sunscreen, hats, and comfy shoes for exploring.
  • Kids get hungry and thirsty, so pack a good travel backpack for snacks and water bottles. Also, bring cash to buy snacks and drinks because, inevitably, the kids will still need these despite your planning!
  • Educate in Advance. Share some cool facts about the Great Wall before arriving to spark your kids’ interest and make the experience more exciting.
  • Plan for rest breaks. The Wall involves a lot of walking and climbing, so ensure the kids have time to rest and recharge.
  • I would NOT recommend a stroller, but I do recommend baby carriers instead.  I used one for Grace during our visit, and it was ideal.
  • Timing. Try to visit during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and ensure a more relaxed family experience.  If you are going for the more popular areas, this may be impossible, so prepare for crowds.
  • Restrooms are not available on the Great Wall, but facilities can be found at the entrances of Simatai West and Jinshanling. Plan ahead and bring toilet paper for your hike.

Planning for your next trip to China? Catch great fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a nice hotel near the Great Wall Of China from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of China while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while traveling? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best hiking memories in Great Wall Of China as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

How to Avoid Scams Traveling in Asia

Family Travel: Asia versus Europe: the Major Differences?

See Pandas in Real Life in China as a Family

One Comment

  1. Your blog posts always leave me feeling motivated and uplifted.

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