Traveling to Chengdu with Children: More than Giant Pandas!!!

If you are traveling to Chengdu with children, a stop at one of the Giant Panda Reserves which this area is well-known for will be a must.

But that's not all there is to see. Chengdu itself is a nice, lively city, very compact (for Chinese standards), with bustling street life which kids always find amusing, like this live frogs for sale at the farmer's market:

Chengdu with children - frogs at farmers market

Kids will also enjoy taking a walk around ancient Jin Li Street, with its colorful market atmosphere, temples, the river and bridges. Stop at the teahouses, enjoy the peddler markets, try some tasty Sichuan dishes...

Just around the corner you will find all sorts of Tibetan clothes and cultural artifacts, different from the usual souvenir knick knacks found throughout China.

In addition, Chengdu can be used as a base for many one-day excursions in Sichuan Province. Besides the Giant Pandas, there will be plenty to keep the kids busy in this area. It is certainly worth a few days stay if you have the time.

Check out our Map of Chengdu and Vicinity here for locations of some of the more popular attractions.

Chengdu is also considered the gateway for travel into Tibet. Sichuan Province itself has a large Tibetan population and offers plenty of opportunities for interacting with minority cultures. Children can enjoy and learn from these encounters.

Here we offer some tips and places for interacting with minority cultures in China.

If you will be venturing to Tibet, or are thinking about heading out there with the kids, here are some tips and things to consider for traveling to Tibet with children as well as alternative child-friendly areas (lower altitudes) that can be visited from Chengdu where Tibetan culture can be experienced.

Where Can We See Giant Pandas?

Chengdu - Panda with baby

Giant Pandas which are unique to China are an endangered species. Once they were found all across Southern China, but recently the rapid over-population and high urbanization rate, have intruded into their natural habitats. There are few bamboo forests left for them to live.

Total panda world population is not well documented but it is estimated at approximately 1,200 panda bears, about 80% are concentrated in Sichuan province with the rest scattered in Gansu and Shanxi provinces.

There is another 120 panda bears in Zoos throughout the world. Check them out here at the Beijing Zoo and at Hong Kong's Ocean Park. You can see how special these creatures are, and why they are considered a national treasure in China.

Bamboo

Bamboo is critical for their subsistence as this is part of their main diet. They eat between 35 to 65 pounds of bamboo a day!!!

Bamboo has sort of a peculiar characteristic in that when it blooms it dies. Fortunately, the interval between blooming periods can be quite long, sometimes as long as 100 years.

In the 1980's, a large amount of fountain bamboo (the pandas' favorite) flowered at the same time, resulting in a shortage of the pandas' food supply as all these bamboo forests died, causing a large amount of pandas to starve.

Giant Panda Reserves near Chengdu

There are about 12 reserves in China dedicated to the conservation of the Giant Panda. There are several Panda Breeding Centers in Sichuan Province. Unfortunately, some of them were damaged by the Wenchuan Earthquake in May 2008 and remain closed for restoration.

Check out our Map of Chengdu and Vicinity for locations of some of these facilities.

The following centers are currently open and can be reached easily from Chengdu:

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center

Located only 6 miles from town. This is one of the best places in China to see the Giant Pandas.

Chengdu Panda Breeding Center - Baby Panda Bears playing

If you are visiting in the summer, go early in the morning, as most of the pandas will be more active then and you have a better chance of seeing them playing and feeding outside.

In the afternoon, it gets too hot and the pandas are moved to the inside air-conditioned enclosures where they are resting or sleeping.

At the Research Base you can see the newborn pandas in the incubators. Baby panda bears are continuously being bred and raised with the main purpose of releasing them eventually into the wild.

This is also a good place to see the endangered Red Panda.

Entrance to the Chengdu Breeding Center is Rmb 30. There is a tram that takes you to the enclosures for Rmb 10.

At this Center, you can have your picture taken with a Giant Panda or a Red Panda. Prices vary and change every now and then, use this only as a guideline: for a "donation" of Rmb 400, you can stand next to an adult Giant Panda and have your picture taken. It gets pricier the younger the panda is. For example, if you want to hold a panda cub, about 1 year old, it is Rmb 1,000 Yuan. For a Red Panda is considerably less, about Rmb 50.

Ya'An Conservation Center at the Bi Feng Xia Reserve

Bi Feng Gorge is located just short of two hour's drive from Chengdu via the Ya'An freeway. The May 2008 Earthquake that affected Sichuan Province, caused a lot of damage to the Wolong Panda Breeding Center, the world's largest at the time. Wolong was home to over 100 pandas, they had to be moved to different reserves and zoos nationwide, but the great majority stayed in the area, in the Bifengxia Reserve to be precise.

Roughly a year after the Earthquake, construction began in Bifengxia for new facilities, joint projects by the Hong Kong and Chinese Governments. The Bifengxia reserve is now one of the largest Panda Reserve and Research Centers in the world.

Bi Feng Xia Gorge - Panda Center

You find the Bi Feng Xia Reserve facilities in a beautiful and scenic location. The complex is quite spread out and include a Safari-style Zoo as well for an additional entrance fee. It costs Rmb 80 for the Pandas and Rmb 100 for the Zoo.

The Panda Conservation Center is about 3 km from the main entrance of the Reserve. Here, your options are a beautiful trek on gorgeous scenery dotted with waterfalls and streams.

The walk is not too hard (unless it's raining or wet) or a shuttle that will bring you for an extra Rmb 10. You can choose to walk on the way over and the shuttle on the way back or vice-versa. The walk at a leisurely pace, allowing for photographs, etc. will take about 2-3 hours.

There are over 20 Panda enclosures which are a bit spread out. They include a Panda Kindergarten, a Panda House and Breeding and Research Stations.

The Wolong Nature Preserve

The Wolong Center used to be one of the more popular places to see Pandas. It is located 90 miles northwest of Chengdu but was severely affected by the May 2008 Earthquake and is currently closed for restoration. Most of the Giant Pandas were relocated to Bi Feng Xia and some to the Chengdu Breeding Center.

Adorable Pandas in Action! Live Cams and Movies

If you won't be getting there any time soon, here's your chance to watch them at their cutest:

Here is a link for the live cam of Five Giant Panda Cubs by Explore.org set up at Ya'An at the Bifengxia Reserve.

And the web cam at the Chengdu Research Center is here at iPanda.com where you can observe adults as well as cubs.

You can watch these adorable creatures in action as they go along their daily routines. Best times to watch to see them in action (awake feeding and playing) is in the mornings and early afternoons China Time:

  • 9:30am - 11:30am and 2:30pm - 4:30pm China Time
  • 9:30pm - 11:30pm and 2:30 am - 4:30 am Eastern Time in the U.S.
  • 2:30am - 4:30am and 7:30 am - 9:30 am London Time
  • 11:30am - 1:30pm and 4:30pm - 6:30pm Sydney Time

Also, you can check out these short panda movies contributed by recent visitors, including the Panda Kindergarten and the Research and Breeding Centers, watch these adorable creatures playing, sliding down the slides and at feeding time!

More Chengdu Tours here.


One-Day and Overnight excursions from Chengdu

There are also a number of sights which can be visited from Chengdu for a day trip or an overnight stay:

  • The Leshan Buddha: kids will enjoy climbing down to Dafo's feet and check out the gigantic toe nails!

  • Mount Emei: can be visited as a day-trip or if you want to hike up the whole mountain it's a 3-day trek! If you are staying over, this can be combined with the Leshan Buddha above.

  • Mt. QingCheng: This is a holy Daoist Mountain. There are places to stay inside the mountain which can be a very adventurous experience for the children. This mountain is not difficult to climb up.

  • Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve: for great hiking and stunning natural beauty.

  • Danba: is a great place to experience Tibetan Culture, at the lower altitudes, an attractive option for families with children and grandparents.

Check out our Map of Chengdu and Vicinity here for locations of these attractions.


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