Xi'anyang, just north of the present day Xi'an, was the capital of the Qin empire, home of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, and site of the fabled terra cotta warriors. Chang'an (another name for Xi'an) was the home base for the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), starting point for caravans heading west on the Silk Road, and a center of Chinese art and culture during the Tang dynasty. Visiting Xi'an with kids, plan on spending more than one day to explore this ancient capital of China.
Bell Tower and Old City Wall - During the Ming dynasty, Xi'an was defended by a substantial city wall and watchtowers. You can walk on top of ancient city wall, it's quite flat and wide, and beautifully restored. The grassy area just outside the wall would have been a moat. In the center of the old city wall is the Bell Tower - the bell was rung to mark times of the day. Climb up the Bell Tower, a wonderful three story wooden tower with glazed tile roof, there's an observation deck on second level.
Shaanxi History Museum - The Shaanxi History Museum is a beautiful modern museum, with tons of exquisite Chinese treasures, including paintings from Tang dynasty tombs in the area. The collection is fabulous - golden bowls and dragons, jade weapons, seals and bracelets, ceramic figures (the camels are fantastic), and don't miss the exhibit of Tang costumes and personal ornaments.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda - In the 7th century, the Tang dynasty monk Xuan Zang took off for India, collected Buddhist texts, and returned to China, bringing the Buddhist religion with him. The Big Goose Pagoda was built to store the Buddhist scriptures, and although the Pagoda has been rebuilt over the centuries, it hasn't significantly changed in appearance. Climb up the pagoda, winding stairs up seven levels 331 ft. high, with windows to look out at each level.
Tang Paradise (Tang Dynasty Lotus Park) - Tang Paradise is a newly opened cultural theme park that re-creates life in the Tang dynasty (618 - 907 AD). Explore Tang style buildings, listen to Tang music, watch colorful dance shows, acrobatics, and martial arts demonstrations. There are water play areas for kids, get your picture taken on the back of a two humped camel, and in the evening, watch a spectacular water show, a movie projected on water fountains in the lake.
Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses - Kids will be impressed by the boggling terra cotta army, thousands of ceramic warriors and horses guarding the nearby tomb of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (Qin Shi Huangdi). A truly amazing archaeological discovery, the terra cotta warriors stand in rows in earthen tunnels, prepared for battle (pit 1 is bigger than two football fields). The expressions on the faces of the figures are so real, it's like staring into the face of ancient China over 2000 years ago.
Spend time checking out the details of these life-size warriors, plated armor, footgear and headgear, and Mongolian horses. Pick up the audio tour for on-the-spot information. And don't miss the smaller museum with a shiny bronze sword and two large reconstructed bronze horse chariots.
It's fun to visit a terra cotta warriors factory to watch artisans making replicas (large and small). Also, check out the silk embroidery factories - ask at your hotel.