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Exploring Xi'an: A Comprehensive Family-Friendly Itinerary

After visiting the bustling metropolises of Shanghai and Beijing, my family and I were eager to explore a different facet of China—a city steeped in history and culture. Xi'an, the ancient capital, beckoned us with promises of grand palaces, awe-inspiring armies, and a unique blend of traditions. This comprehensive itinerary is a result of our unforgettable week in Xi'an, where we discovered its rich historical tapestry, indulged in delicious cuisine, and marveled at its hidden gems. Join us on this extraordinary journey back in time as we guide you through the wonders of Xi'an.

Day 1: Arrival in Xi'an

Bell tower, Xian city
The Bell Tower in Xi'an, with its strategic location at the heart of the Silk Road, not only served as a vital timekeeping and communication hub but also played a pivotal role in facilitating trade and cultural exchange along this ancient network of routes.

Xi'an, formerly known as Chang'an, served as the ancient capital of China for over a thousand years. Its historical significance is evident in every corner, with remnants of the past preserved through ancient architecture, temples, and imperial palaces. The city's imperial legacy shines through the grandeur of the Ming Dynasty city wall, a towering testament to its ancient defensive prowess.

Accommodation: Wyndham Grand Xian South

Upon arrival in Xi'an, we checked into the Wyndham Grand Xian South . Its spacious rooms and family-friendly amenities, including a pool and on-site restaurants, ensured a comfortable stay throughout our adventure.

Day 2: Unveiling the Terracotta Army

Morning: The Terracotta Army

A visit to Xi'an is incomplete without witnessing the breathtaking Terracotta Army at the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The Terracotta Army is Xi'an's crowning jewel, and we couldn't wait to explore it. We opted for an early start to beat the crowds. Pit 1, housing thousands of terracotta warriors, archers, and chariots, was a mesmerizing sight. Our guided tour provided insights into their creation and significance. We were struck by the meticulous craftsmanship that went into each warrior's creation, from their unique facial expressions to their intricate armor.

As a family, we admired this army's historical importance, commissioned by China's first Emperor to protect him in the afterlife. Our kids' eyes lit up with excitement and curiosity, absorbing tales of ancient battles and emperors. The Terracotta Army Museum's exhibits and ongoing excavations added intrigue to this iconic place.

To reach the Terracotta Warriors from Xian:

  1. Take public bus line 5 (306) or bus line 914 from Xi'an Railway Station for an hour, costing 8-10 RMB.

  2. Opt for a tourist bus for a hassle-free trip, including a guide, priced around 20-30 RMB per person for a round-trip.

  3. Hire a taxi or use ride-sharing services like DiDi for flexibility and comfort, taking 40-60 minutes and costing around 100-150 RMB one way.

Entrance fees to the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor:

  • High Season (March 1 to November 30): 150 RMB per person

  • Low Season (December 1 to February 28/29): 120 RMB per person (Note: Verify updated fees and regulations before visiting.)

The Terracotta Warriors are open from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM during high season and from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM during low season. Arriving early is advisable to avoid crowds and fully enjoy your visit.

Lunch: Local Flavors

We savored Yangrou Paomo, a traditional Xi'an dish where diners break up wheat bread into small pieces and add flavorful mutton broth, creating a savory and filling soup. The interactive process of preparing the dish made it a memorable culinary adventure for our little one.

Terracota warriors

Afternoon: Pit 2 and Pit 3

Pit 2 offered a glimpse into the cavalry and infantry units, while Pit 3 showcased high-ranking officers. It was incredible to see the hierarchy and organization within the army. Our kids were particularly fascinated by the horses and chariots.

Evening: Musical Fountain Show

We concluded our day with the mesmerizing musical fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda's North Square. It was a dazzling display of water, lights, and music, providing a perfect end to our first day in Xi'an.

Day 3: Xian's Ancient City Wall

City wall,Xi'an

The Xi'an City Wall is a true marvel, built over 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. It's famous for being one of the most well-preserved city walls in all of China, and its sheer scale will leave your little explorers wide-eyed. Today, this ancient wall isn't just for show; it's a hub of family fun! You can rent bicycles and pedal along the top, enjoying breathtaking views of the city. Your kids will feel like time-travelers as they imagine protecting the city from invaders.

Cost: The entrance fee to the Ancient City Wall is around 54 RMB per person for adults and 27 RMB per person for children between 1.2 to 1.4 meters tall. Children under 1.2 meters tall can enter for free. Getting There: The Ancient City Wall is located in the city center of Xian, making it easily accessible by various means of transportation. Families can take a taxi, ride-sharing service, or public bus to reach the South Gate (Yongning Gate) or the East Gate (Changle Gate) of the wall. Alternatively, rent a bicycle or take a leisurely walk along the wall to enjoy the stunning views of the city.

Morning: Biking the City Wall

We embarked on a memorable adventure atop Xi'an's Ancient City Wall. Renting bicycles, we circled the massive wall, enjoying panoramic views of the city. It was a great way to introduce my kid to the city's history while having fun. We stopped at the South Gate for a family photo with the impressive cityscape as the backdrop.

Lunch: Dumpling Feast

We couldn't leave Xi'an without indulging in its famous dumplings. At a local restaurant, we relished a variety of jiaozi, each with its unique filling. My daughter enjoyed trying her hand at shaping dumplings during a mini cooking class.

Afternoon: Xi'an City Wall Park

Adjacent to the city wall is the Xi'an City Wall Park. It's a wonderful place for families. We joined the locals for traditional games, picnicked in the open spaces, and let my kid explore the playgrounds. The relaxed atmosphere allowed us to mingle with Xi'an's friendly residents.

City wall,Xi'an

Day 4: The Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The Big Wild goose Pagoda

In the heart of Xi'an, you'll discover the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a towering treasure with a fascinating history. Built over 1,300 years ago during the Tang Dynasty, this pagoda is not only famous for its ancient origins but also for its significance in spreading Buddhism throughout China.

Today, it's like stepping into a storybook for your little ones. Climb the pagoda's steps and admire the cityscape views, sparking their imaginations about ancient monks and their quest for wisdom. The surrounding gardens are a peaceful oasis for picnics, perfect for a family break. This iconic pagoda isn't just a relic of the past; it's a magical place where history and adventure meet.

Cost: The entrance fee to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda varies depending on the area you wish to explore. Expect to pay around 50-60 RMB per person for the Pagoda, 30 RMB per person for the North Square, and an additional fee for the musical fountain show in the evening.

Getting There: The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is situated to the south of the Xi'an city center. Families can take a taxi, ride-sharing service, or public bus to reach the pagoda complex. Buses 5, 19, 21, 24, 27, 30, 34, 41, 44, 224, 242, 400, 401, 521, and 526 all stop at or near the pagoda.

Morning: Exploring the Pagoda

Our day began with a visit to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a towering treasure with a fascinating history. Climbing its steps, we admired the cityscape views and imagined ancient monks seeking wisdom. The surrounding gardens were a peaceful oasis for picnics, perfect for a family break.

Lunch: Local Eats

We sampled Roujiamo, a street food favorite often referred to as the "Chinese hamburger." It featured tender, spiced meat served in a soft, fluffy bun—a handheld delight perfect for family explorations.

Afternoon: Cultural Insights

In the afternoon, we visited the nearby Shaanxi History Museum (admission is free for visitors). While relatively modern compared to the ancient wonders of Xi'an, it boasts a stunning collection of ancient relics. My kid was captivated by the hands-on exhibits and stories of emperors and warriors, making history come alive.

Big wild goose Pagoda at dusk.

Day 5: Huaqing Hot Springs

Outside view of the Huaqing Hot Spring

These thermal springs have been soothing travelers for over 3,000 years, dating back to the Qin Dynasty. But what makes them truly famous is the romantic tale of Emperor Xuanzong and his beloved concubine, Yang Guifei, who frequented these springs.

Today, your family can relive this historical romance while enjoying the rejuvenating hot waters. The pools are like a warm hug for your tired feet after exploring Xi'an's wonders. Don't forget to share the legend of the love story with your kids—it's a tale of love, power, and intrigue.

Huaqing Hot Springs offer a chance to unwind and soak up the history, making it a perfect family retreat after a day of adventure in Xi'an.

Cost: The entrance fee to Huaqing Hot Springs varies based on the time of the year and the areas you wish to visit. During high season, the fee is around 120 RMB per person, while during low season, it is around 100 RMB per person.

Getting There: Huaqing Hot Springs is located approximately 30 kilometers east of Xian, and families can reach it by taking a taxi, ride-sharing service, or public bus. Buses 306 and 307 depart from the Xi'an Railway Station and stop near Huaqing Hot Springs.

Morning: Stepping Back in Time

Our day began with a trip to the Huaqing Hot Springs, which have been soothing travelers for over 3,000 years, dating back to the Qin Dynasty. We shared the romantic tale of Emperor Xuanzong and his beloved Yang Guifei, who frequented these springs.

Lunch: Traditional Fare

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a nearby restaurant, sampling local dishes like Biangbiang noodles, known for their wide and hearty texture. My kiddo loved the savory sauces and toppings.

Afternoon: Soaking and Strolling

At the hot springs, we indulged in the rejuvenating waters while marveling at the historic surroundings. The pools were a warm hug for our tired feet after exploring Xi'an's wonders. The kiddo couldn't get enough of the warm water and the charming scenery.

Huaqing Hot Springs

Day 6: The Great Mosque of Xi'an

Phoenix Pavilion in the Great Mosque of Xi'an, Shaanxi, China

The Great Mosque of Xi'an, a hidden gem blending culture and serenity! Built during the Tang Dynasty, more than a thousand years ago, this mosque is a unique architectural wonder. It's not just famous for its age; it's also one of the oldest and largest mosques in China.

Getting There: The Great Mosque is conveniently located in the heart of Xi'an, making it easily accessible for families exploring the city. You can take a short taxi ride from most areas of Xi'an or use public transportation to reach this historical marvel.

Morning: A Cultural Gem

Our morning was dedicated to exploring the Great Mosque of Xi'an. This hidden gem seamlessly blends culture and serenity. As we wandered through its beautiful courtyards and admired the intricate Arabic calligraphy, we felt transported to a different world. It was a peaceful escape from the city's hustle and bustle.

Lunch: Local Delicacies

For lunch, we dined at a local eatery, savoring Liangpi, a refreshing dish of cold wheat noodles seasoned with sesame sauce, chili oil, and various toppings. The delightful contrast of textures made it a hit with my kid.

Afternoon: Exploring the Muslim Quarter

Adjacent to the mosque is the bustling Muslim Quarter. We strolled through its vibrant streets, where the aroma of street food filled the air. My kid sampled delicious snacks like Jianbing, a savory Chinese crepe filled with various ingredients.

Great Mosque of China, Xi'an

Day 7: Departure from Xi'an

Morning: Last-minute Souvenirs

Before leaving Xi'an, we visited the Ancient Cultural Street, a perfect spot to pick up souvenirs and mementos. From traditional crafts to local snacks, there was something for everyone.

Lunch: Farewell Feast

Our farewell meal consisted of Biang Biang noodles, a local specialty that we couldn't get enough of. It was a fitting end to our culinary journey through Xi'an.

Departure: Fond Farewells

As we bid farewell to Xi'an, we carried with us a sense of appreciation for its cultural heritage and the warmth of its people. Xi'an truly captures the essence of China's past and present, offering families an adventure that blends history, fun, and discovery in the most delightful way.

10 Tips for Exploring Xi'an

  1. Visit the Terracotta Warriors Early: To avoid crowds and get the best lighting for photos, arrive at the Terracotta Warriors site as early as possible.

  2. Guided Tours: Consider hiring a local guide for in-depth insights into Xi'an's history and attractions. It enhances the experience, especially at historical sites like the Terracotta Army.

  3. Comfortable Footwear: Xi'an's attractions often involve walking, so wear comfortable shoes suitable for exploring.

  4. Weather Preparedness: Check the weather forecast before your trip and pack accordingly. Xi'an can experience extreme temperatures, so dress in layers.

  5. Language Assistance: English is not widely spoken in Xi'an, so carrying a translation app or a pocket dictionary can be very helpful.

  6. Local Cuisine: Don't miss the opportunity to savor Xi'an's local dishes, such as Biang Biang noodles and Roujiamo (Chinese hamburger).

  7. Safety Awareness: Xi'an is generally safe, but always keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas.

  8. Transportation Cards: Consider purchasing a transportation card for buses and the subway for convenient and cost-effective travel within the city.

  9. Respect Local Customs: Embrace local traditions, like removing your shoes when entering temples, and show respect at religious sites.

  10. Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies and unexpected incidents.


Best Time to Travel to Xian

The best time to visit Xi'an is during the spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) seasons. During these periods, the weather is mild and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor exploration. Spring brings blooming cherry blossoms, while autumn offers crisp, clear days.

Summer (June to August) can be hot and humid, so if you choose to travel during this season, be prepared for higher temperatures and occasional rainfall.

Winter (December to February) in Xi'an can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing. While you'll encounter fewer tourists, some attractions may have shorter opening hours.

Plan your trip to Xi'an according to your weather preferences and the activities you want to experience. Each season offers a unique charm, so whether you prefer blooming flowers or a snowy landscape, Xi'an has something to offer year-round.

Bell Tower, Xian

Our week in Xi'an was an enchanting voyage through time, immersing our family in the grandeur of ancient China and its timeless wonders. From the captivating history of the Terracotta Warriors to the vibrant cultural experiences and family-friendly attractions, Xi'an left us with cherished memories that will last a lifetime. As you plan your own family adventure in Xi'an, may this comprehensive itinerary serve as your guide to a remarkable journey that bridges the gap between ancient wonders and modern marvels. Xi'an awaits, ready to captivate you and your family in ways you'll treasure forever.

With a rich history, cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, Xi'an promises an unforgettable family adventure. From the grandeur of the Terracotta Warriors to the serenity of the Great Mosque, this ancient city has something for everyone. Prepare to be captivated by the wonders of Xi'an as you embark on your own family adventure.

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