The newish Shanghai Natural History Museum (opened in 2015) asks all the big questions like, “Why is there life on this planet?” You can either ponder them or check out the big dinosaurs, ‘Walk in Africa’ among (mostly) well-kept taxidermy, and check out some skeletons. Learnin’-good-fun in the AC. Give yourself time, there’s a lot to sort through here. Also, it gets really crowded on the weekend during the summer season, if you can get there on a weekday. The museum’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am to 5.15pm. Admission are 30rmb for adults, 12rmb with a student ID, and is free for kids (under 1.3m). This one's good for all ages, but best for 6 and up.
Fun fact, the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is the only place in the world with a section dedicated to endangered Chinese marine life. It's also got a cool underwater tunnel and over 10,000 sea creatures from jellyfish to sharks to the ‘shaggy frogfish’. The Aquarium opens at 9am and will stay open late (till 9pm) through the month of August; then it’ll be back to normal closing time at 6pm. Also gets crowded on the weekend during the summer. Full day admission costs 160rmb for adults, 110rmb for children (1-1.4m), and 90rmb for senior citizens (over 60 years old). Good for all ages.
Rides, live-shows, fireworks—this is the happiest place on earth, people, and anyone who tells you otherwise is dead in their soul! Shanghai Disney Resort consists of seven themed areas: Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Fantasyland, Treasure Cove, Adventure Isle, Tomorrowland, and Toy Story Land. The park's open daily from 8am to 10pm, the downside is tickets are more expensive over the summer holiday (about 100rmb more than they'll be in September). It’s 499rmb for adults, 375rmb for kids and seniors (65+). If you book for two days, you save about 100rmb on tickets. Disney will always be crowded, but will be extra crowded on the weekend. Good for all ages.
Here’s a theme park that’s not Disney and doesn’t have those Disney prices. Happy Valley is a chain themepark an hour out of downtown Shanghai (about a 20 minute walk from Sheshan off Line 9), but it’s a big place with lots to see and do. It’s got seven main areas; Happy Times (rollercoasters), Sunshine Harbor, Typhoon Bay, Happy Ocean (water rides), Gold Mine Town (has got a theater), Shangri-la Woods, and Shanghai Bund (more rollercoasters). Open daily from 9am to 9.30pm. Admission costs 230rmb for adults and 120rmb for children between 1.2-1.5 meters, kids smaller than that get in for free. You can get night tickets for 100rmb for adults and children after 4pm. They've got smaller rides too for the real young ones, so good for all ages.
You can learn about some other theme parks in the area right here.
You don’t need a golden ticket to see the ins and outs of Zotter Chocolate Theater. A tour here lasts a little under 2 hours, starts with a short film, then it's off to a world of cocoa beans and over 200 flavors of chocolate to sample. You also get a chance to make your own chocolate bar. Open Tuesday through Friday from 11am to 4pm, and on the weekends from 10am to 5pm (closed Mondays). Tours run every hour, and cost 180rmb for adults, 150rmb for kids and teens—but admissions free for kids younger than 7. They’ve got a family deal which covers 2 adults and 2 children for 500rmb. Though they won't all get in for free kids 6 and up will enjoy this one. All ages welcome.
This one’s a nod to all those basketball fans out there. NBA Playzone's got a jungle gym, a small indoor basketball court, a few arcade games, and a decent snack bar. Seems like a safe place for the kids to go wild, while the parents sit down, relax, and pray for school to start again. This one’s open for kids aged 3-12—but it’s probably best for the younger ones (maybe 3-8), with an additional play area for toddlers. Open daily from 10am to 8pm. Admission costs 239rmb all week during summer holidays (through August). Ticket price covers one adult and one child, every additional person is an extra 50rmb. After the summer holidays, it costs 188rmb during the week, 239rmb on weekends.
This one's good for some quirky/terrifying fun: Madam Tussauds Wax Museum—on the 10th floor of the New World Building. Spend the afternoon with Obama, Lady Gaga, Yao Ming, MJ, and about 75 other celebrities. Just don’t bring an open flame. Also keep the little ones away from the ‘Scream Hall’. You've been warned. Doors open from 10am to 9.30pm everyday. Entry’s 170rmb for adults, 130rmb for students, and 110rmb for children (.8 and 1.3m) and seniors. Best for older kids (about 8 and up).
A little over a year old,Legoland Discovery Center is part playground, part store, part kid’s dream. The play areas are designed for younger kids (ages 3-10) and there are 10 themed zones inside which include interactive rides, a 4D cinema, and a gift shop where you can buy legos in bulk. Open from 10am to 8pm daily; You can buy tickets in advance here. Costs 299rmb for one adult one child, 399rmb for two adults one child. Adults can't get in without a kid to chaperone them, which is a shame, because it looks amazing.
Who doesn’t love a trampoline? Jump 360's got lots of em. Better for older kids (10 and up), though they do have a small kid's section. Lots of foam pits, trampolines, and even some basketball hoops. They’ve got 2 locations on in Minghang and one in Baoshan. Entry is by the hour, costs 98rmb a person for one hour and 196rmb a person for two hours.
Fitfam hosts this event every Sunday at Cages for the active kid and parent. Run by volunteer moms and dads, the first part is a workout for parents, with kids used as body weights or engaged in the activity (about an hour). Afterwards there are games centered on the kids (recommended for ages 1-5). Work out starts at 10am, but Fitfam has access to the field from 9am-12pm, so kids are encouraged to come play before the workout. Free!
These here didn't quite make the list but might be worth a try. There's indoor park/arcade Sega Joypolis, that's got virtual rides, driving simulators, and 3D interactive games. You can read our review of Joypolis right here. Another indoor park, Dream Park might be worth checking out for its rock climbing but not much else, you can read more about that here.
There's also Tom’s World a mall-arcade that's kinda like a casino for kids. They'll like it, just make sure you bring some precautionary Advil for yourself. It's real loud. There are several locations, if you're near a mall, chances are you're near a Tom's World.
Also, if you want something that's a little more outdoorsy for the summer, Discovery Adventures Moganshan Park seems neat. We haven't been able to check it out yet, but they offer a package for families that costs 680rmb and will take you through 3 activities of your choosing. Hiking, zip lining, obstacle courses, etc. Suitable for kids over 5. Sounds good for a day trip, but you can also stay over. Learn more here.
Photos: aquarium photo by Joshua Tintner and 'Papas and Pipsqueaks' photo provided by Fitfam