Yes, I am aware the calendar says it is autumn. But I am not ready to concede that summer is over. If you feel the same, and want to make the most of the balmy days left to us this year, then this article is for you. Let’s have a look at fun activities in Shenyang that let you explore the city by *gasp* leaving your own four walls and taking to the great outdoors.
The Hun River
The first recommendation when you want a fun outdoor activity in Shenyang is to turn to the Hun River. There, you find cycling and running paths, children’s playgrounds, old people playgrounds (those exercise parks, you know which ones I mean!) and other free sports spaces such as soccer fields, basketball courts, ping pong tables, etc.
Running and Cycling
The best running and cycling track is probably on the northern riverbank, both east and west of the Diamond. It is always part of the Shenyang Marathon track. The marathon is another fun outdoor activity, by the way. This year’s edition (on September 9th) is unfortunately already sold out, but standing by the track and watching other people run is still an outdoor activity…right? If that is not sporty enough for you, you can always jump up and down and wave your arms like a lunatic for good measure. That ought to burn some calories.
If you want to access the running track, coming by metro is recommended, as parking near the river is not always plentiful and often taken. From Wulihe metro station, it is a short 5-minute walk to the river and its wooden boardwalk, to its tartan track, and to the blacktop cycling path that is so smooth it also lends itself to skating and rollerblading.
When cycling, I would recommend you ride east, as the track west ends rather abruptly when you get to a big dusty road with even dustier dirt paths to the other side of it at less than 20km (when counting from the Diamond). But when you go east, you have a beautiful road ahead of you that can lead you pretty much all the way to Fushun if you so desire. But if your goals are less lofty, cycling to Bird Island is a nice distance that is easily managed. Maybe as a family activity? As of my last visit, Bird Island itself was still closed for renovation, but there are children’s play parks, food stalls, games and rides around there that can serve as a substitute for the time being.
For other sports, try the sports park on the southern riverbank instead. Here, you find several dozen soccer fields, basketball courts galore, legions of ping pong tables, as well as other sports equipment. As a foreigner, when exercising there – in addition to catching some fresh air and golden rays – you are sure to make some new friends. The courts are generally quite busy, but the local amateur players are always enthusiastic about new team members and will be excited to let you play with them.
If water sports are more to your liking, try the battalion of trend sports at the dock near Olympic Stadium. Activities on offer there include Kayaking, Water Ski and Wakeboarding (they have a track there, so that you are not dependent on boats to tow you), Jet Ski and…Flyboarding. This last one you might not be familiar with. It is a board on which you get to fly over the water like one of Marvel’s super heroes. That one is still on my bucket list – if anyone tries it, I’d be happy about a detailed review!
On the north side, there is also a dock for water sports (though without the jetpack-like flyboards), near the Diamond and accessible via Wulihe metro station.
And if all you want to do is go kayaking, I can recommend a club that operates from the dock next to Changqing Bridge. They offer sessions whenever you want (with pre-booking 24 hours ahead). One session (of unlimited duration) costs 150 RMB per person, or 120 RMB if you are going with a club member. Membership is 2400 RMB for one year, so if you are a regular kayaker, that could be a valid option. They only speak Chinese, but do pretty well with WeChat translate for communicating with foreigners who want to use their services. Let me know through the account if you are interested, and I will hook you up.
Boats along the Hun River
If all of this sounds like too much effort, maybe taking one of Shenyang’s tourist boats is more your speed. Shenyang currently has four of those boat lines in operation. Line number 1 leaves from Wulihe dock, near the Diamond, and goes to Changqing Bridge (10km total). Line number 2 leaves from the dock by the Olympic Stadium, goes to Changqing Bridge, then Hunhe Bridge, then back (10km total). Line number 3 leaves from Fumin Bridge and goes to Hunhe Bridge, then Changqing Bridge, then back (10km total). Line number 4 leaves from Longwang Temple dock (8km total). The boats run every day from 9am to 4pm, tickets are 30 RMB per person. When you can ensure them enough custom, you may reserve an entire boat for you and your party, as well. Pretty cool venue for birthday parties and the like!
Enjoying the Parks
These are just the activities I can recommend on or around the Hun River. Another option is of course to take to the parks. For an overview of my favorite parks in the city, check out part I and part II with my Top Ten of Shenyang Parks.
Fun on the Squares
And the squares. I forgot to mention the squares! All of Shenyang’s sizeable squares (and sometimes also the pavement in front of malls or under bridges) turn into dance floors during summer evenings. From hip-hop style video clip dancing, to tango, or Chinese folk dancing; the options are near endless. Anyone is welcome, the dancers are extremely pleased when people are interested in learning and will be happy to show you the basic steps.
Some squares, most parks and again the riverside are also the stomping grounds (literally!) of walking groups. I am sure you have seen them: “uniform” of brightly colored group t-shirt or polo shirt, often all wearing the same caps, one with a ginormous flag and another with a speaker and megaphone, all designed to keep the herd together and everyone in step. As with all the other outdoor activities, participation is more than welcome. Just join in the back and do what the others are doing – it’s good exercise, and it is free!
Or maybe you are a golfer? Shenyang boasts several golf courses, of which Century Golf Course in Tiexi (沈阳世纪, Shěnyáng Shìjì in pinyin), and Shengjing Golf Club (盛京高尔夫俱乐部, Shèngjīng Gāoěrfū Jùlèbù in pinyin) have both been recommended to me personally. There is even one suited to children playing, with only 6 instead of 18 holes. It is situated at Qipanshan and called 棋盘山紫悦高尔夫俱乐部 (Qípánshān Zǐyuè Gāoěrfū Jùlèbù in pinyin).
If even golf is too much exercise for you, maybe you should turn to flower observation as a pastime. Though it is already a bit late for admiring lotus flowers in bloom, you might still want to check out this Landing East article and possibly bookmark it for next year. It has a round-up of beautiful lotus ponds in and around Shenyang.
That is it for today – some ideas for fun summer activities in Shenyang’s great outdoors. As always, please let me know in the comments if I have missed any fun activities and also give me ideas of what you would like to read about next on Journeys & Jaunts.