Most travelers come to Xi'an because it is the rare Chinese city that hasn't broken it's history into museum-ready displays and succumbed to the rush to build an ultra-futuristic steel skyline. It's cultural artifacts alone make Xi'an a city worth exploring, but your greatest experiences will come by biking the renowned city walls or exploring the worn footpaths of the surprising number of nearby mountains.
Within the city limits, the most fun you'll have is strolling or biking the fully intact city wall, the largest on Earth. Don't stop there, though. There are plenty of green spaces, although some, like the park around the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, fill that space with gawking tourists. Still, the fountain show at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is worth climbing on someone's shoulders for a good view, although we suggest you at least introduce yourself first.
The DaMing Palace and Park (just north of the train station) is approximate for those who need to get away from the often suffocating city streets. Also, if you plan on seeing the Terracotta Warriors (why the heck else are you in Xi'an?), take some time to hike around Mount Li (just west in Lintong) and bask in its hot springs.
For the true adventurer, escaping the city entirely, at least for a day, is the only option. Thankfully, Xi'an is near enough to low-impact adventures like nature walks in the Xiangyu Forest Park or entering the Golden Monkey Nature Preserve to interact with the... uh... you know, there's a primate here definitely worth seeing and its name just doesn't seem to be coming to mind. Hmmmm. Anyway, the mountain treks are another big draw near Xi'an. Taibai Mountain in the Qinling range is the tallest in Shaanxi and is an intriguing mix of rocky escarpments, temples, and mountain lakes. Another ascent in the region is Cui Hua Shan, which is attractive for its mist-laden ridges, skiing, and caving. Then again, if you're one for the “most dangerous mountain” around, then the perilous Mount Hua is a no-brainer. In response to the tourist deaths, the mountain has been made much safer, but the wooden planks bolted to cliff faces can still make the faint-of-heart a little jittery.
Lastly, for unadulterated forces of nature, there is the Hukou Waterfall near Yan'an City, which is a churning, frothing monster of a fall. For those looking to dodge civilization entirely (and who won't mind a full day getting there), there is no better destination than Jiuzhaigou. It is where you'll find the gentler forces of nature at work in sweeping valleys and panoramas that are sadly lacking in today's over-populated living space. Do yourself the favor of checking some of these places out in our activity listings or have a conversation about them with our community. It might just be that inspiration you need to have the adventure of a lifetime.