Welcome to China—ancient, intriguing, beautiful, and mind-boggling in its cultural and natural diversity. Get ready for a kaleidoscopic array of experiences: venture into Beijing's Forbidden City and the watchtowers of the Great Wall; learn about an ancient emperor’s tomb with archaeologists in Xi’an; and zoom to the top of Shanghai's most iconic skyscraper. Meet a traditional kite-maker and a martial arts master, and learn how to make shadow puppets on a family adventure that will fascinate every generation.
Visit the Terracotta Warriors Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and create your own Terracotta Warrior under the guidance of a local expert.
Take a bicycle ride along Xi’an’s old city walls.
Climb watchtowers on a less-visited part of the Great Wall and have lunch on the observation deck of Shanghai’s iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
Join local masters to learn Chinese cooking or tai chi, kung fu, or traditional kite-making.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Shanghai, China
Depart the U.S. and cross the international date line, arriving in Shanghai on Day 2. Regal International East Asia (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Shanghai
Delve into Shanghai’s old town. Explore the zigzagging paths of Yu Yuan Garden and the bustling market. After a dim sum lunch, learn the secrets of Chinese cuisine with a local chef or join a tai chi master for a lesson. Gather for a fun welcome dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Shanghai/Xi’an
Today, explore the Shanghai Museum, a cultural treasure chest. Enjoy an illuminating private tour, accompanied by a museum specialist/curator who introduces you and your family to this exquisite collection of bronzes, jade, ceramics, calligraphy, sculpture, painting, furniture, imperial seals and ancient coins, many of them priceless. The specially designed museum building itself (opened in 1996) echoes the shape of an ancient cooking vessel, called a ding. Continue to one of the most iconic and easily recognized landmarks in the Shanghai skyline—the 1,541-foot-high Oriental Pearl, the fifth tallest TV tower in the world. Put your camera setting on “panoramic” for the stunning views of this future-forward city and enjoy a buffet lunch on the Third Observation deck. Return to the Shanghai Pudong Airport this afternoon for your flight to Xi’an in the Shaanxi Province. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy dinner before you check in this evening. Westin Xi'an (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Xi'an
Today’s adventures begin at the astounding Terracotta Warriors Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Under the guidance of a Local Expert, a museum clay master, create your very own Terracotta Warrior from the actual clay from the local pits—a unique and memorable souvenir. Continue to Xi’an’s ancient and vibrant Muslim neighborhood, a warren of winding lanes lined with fragrant and overflowing markets. In a local studio, meet master shadow puppeteers who introduce your family to this unique storytelling art form. Choose a shadow puppet and work with a puppet artist to “tell” your own story, carrying on a beautiful and time-honored tradition. Then enjoy dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Xi'an
This morning, visit Xi’an’s old city walls whose earliest foundation dates back to the 7th century. Enjoy a leisurely bicycle ride along the walls, exploring some of the superb watchtowers. Continue to the exquisite Small Wild Goose Pagoda. Explore the beautiful architecture with its graceful curves, arched doorways and delicate paintings. Visit a village in Huxian and meet farmer artists who introduce you to their traditional lifestyle and their artwork. Enjoy a demonstration of their special techniques, and pick up a brush yourself to create your own original folk art painting. Then join chefs in the kitchen of the De Fa Cheng Dumpling Restaurant and learn to create this special dish. Sit down to lunch together and sample a delicious and traditional dumpling banquet. After lunch drive to Xi’an’s southern suburb to the fascinating Shaanxi History Museum, housed in a Tang Dynasty style pavilion. This evening, enjoy a performance showcasing the music and dance of China’s golden age, the Tang Dynasty. Before the show enjoy a delicious dumpling feast featuring nearly one hundred different varieties. (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Xi'an/Beijing
Visit the remarkable Han Yang Ling tomb museum this morning, the mausoleum of Liu Qi, a Han Dynasty emperor, and a secret Xi’an gem. More than 60,000, two-foot-high terracotta warriors and horses offer a glimpse into another world. Meet local expert archaeologists from the Hanyangling site for a fun and informative training class. Learn how to find and identify the distinct layers of culture from within the soil and how to use the tools of the trade to sift and extract any artifacts from the clay. After lunch, transfer to the airport for your afternoon flight to Beijing and transfer to your hotel for check-in and dinner. Renaissance Capital Hotel Beijing (B,L,D)
Days 8 & 9 — Beijing
Encounter the legendary Great Wall, exploring the watchtowers and undulating walkways of the less-crowded Mutianyu section, and swoop back to ground level in a cable car. Then take a lesson in the martial art of Changquan or learn to make a traditional Chinese kite. Visit Tiananmen Square, said to be so vast it can hold a million people, and step back into an era of emperors at the walled Forbidden City, whose many palaces hold nearly 9,000 rooms. Wander the narrow hutongs, or lanes, of Beijing’s traditional neighborhoods, where we'll meet up with our pen pals and their families in a beautiful courtyard. Celebrate our adventures together at a farewell dinner. Depart Beijing the next day for your overnight flight home. (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Beijing/U.S.
Transfer to the Beijing Capital International Airport for your morning flight home. Cross the international date line and arrive home the same day.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
About this Expedition
We tap into National Geographic’s vast network to design unique travel experiences for the whole family, filled with hands-on activities and memorable moments. A special aspect of this expedition is the Kid-to-Kid Connection, which links every young traveler with a pen pal of similar age in China. In the courtyard of a family home in Beijing's historic hutongs, enjoy an afternoon with your pen pals. Teach each other how to write your names in English and Chinese, share a typical American game with your new friends, and learn a few phrases in Chinese.
Our dynamic Expedition Leaders enrich each experience with their insights, knowledge, and energy, and a Young Explorer Leader joins every group to facilitate fun activities that help kids get the most out of the places we go. As we travel, we’ll also meet up with fascinating people doing meaningful work in the field.