Although Beijing has long been a cultural asset to China, it's place as an adventure setting has conversely been long under-valued. No longer! With plenty of parks within the city limits, as well as majestic stretches of the Great Wall and innumerable nature areas within a day's time, you'll be within earshot of a gurgling waterfall or within eyesight of winding ramparts of stone and brick faster than you can say Mao Zedong.
In Beijing, you'll invariably find yourself drawn to four parks, all of which are home to temples, pavilions, and other artifacts of historic China. Shichahai and Beihai Park are next to each other in the Xicheng district, while Zhongshan is the most central, and the Summer Palace, a gorgeous grounds and palace complex, is located further to Beijing's northwest. These are all worth a half day's time, while there are also many smaller parks across this vast city for anyone who needs a taste of nature in the midst of the tourist-driven madness.
Head out of the city for a chance to see a world not catered toward tourism, although even when the natural world is your destination, it seems that in China everything costs something. For nominal fees, there are low-lying mountains, beckoning waterfalls, and much more within a few hours drive. To the north, you'll find the Changping Duijiuyu Scenic Area, the Mangshan Forest Park, and the Huyu Natural Scenic Area, while to the west are peaks a few thousand feet high in both Baihuashan and Xiangshan Park. It may be in your best interest to join one of the rare local hiking groups (like Beijing Hikes, included in our activity listings) that visit the less accessible stretches of this part of the world, including treks to and along the Great Wall. Believe it or not, there is an epic difference between the “Great Wall of Tourists” found at Badaling and Juyongguan and the sections of the wall near Jinshanling and Simatai; the vendors, the crowds, the noise, etc. That's why we urge you not to be a tourist: embark!For further information on what is available in an adventure setting during your Beijing stay, consult our related activity pages.