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Want to hang out? Enjoy nature? Go boating on a lake, grab a BBQ or enjoy a day strolling a lakeside? Changsha has an impressive range of large-scale parks and they're all, pretty much, easily accessible due to the city's compact size. Here we list our top five on the best parks and stuff you can do in each of them... but if you have a better idea, drop us an email and we'll check it out! [email protected]


Lieshi Park

Lieshi Park, or 'Martyrs Park', is an easy first choice for anyone wanting to visit a large-scale park that has a bit of everything. It is close to the city centre and main train station, it features two large lakes (one for boating), a fairground, a barbeque zone, ethnic village area and plenty of delightful evening walk routes.

Lieshi Park is a major focal point for both historic reasons (it has a large monument to the fallen) and entertainment reasons (evening dancing, Spring Festival lakeside displays and so forth). It is also free, even on special days, making this the clear outdoor park area. There are also hidden gems within the park. You can buy/rent hammocks and doze off near to the park's West Gate entrance, or catch a future life partner at the dating-marketplace where frustrated relatives display signs promoting their highly eligible and sadly single young, join a morning TaiChi group or just hold a friend's BBQ bash in the wooded area in the heart of the park. It's also a great place for families with it's fairground section (nearest South Gate). Hunan Musuem also adjoins the park (West Gate).

TIP: Hire a traditional wooden boat, complete with 'driver', and sample the local tea on sale while onboard. This is a fantastic way to chill out and visit some of the islets as you set the route. Prices start around 100yuan per hour which is easily split among friends.


Yuelu Mt

Yuelu Mountain overlooks the city and is a favourite walking and exercise place for the locals. Changsharen sometimes walk to the top (allow for at least 30-60 minutes) where they can take photos of the city below and explore some of the paths and lakes that litter the mountain side. Entrance is free, always, and there are some amusements at the top including a temple and cable car facility. This is a great way to cool down in those humid summer months, explore some very off-the-beaten track paths, check out the temples and famous 'Yuelu Academy' at the foot of the Mt (for a fee) or just getting lost for a few hours. Good footware is needed and some water on hot days. In the winter, this is the best (and most convenient) place to see picturesque snowfall views.

TIP: Organise a summer evening picnic around the lake or at the top with friends, or find the hidden well for fresh drinking water at the far side of the mountain.


Orange Island

Orange Island, so called because Changsha produces a plentiful supply of oranges (some green, not so orange), sits as a perfectly long strip of land in the XiangJiang river. The XiangJiang is said to be protected by two Goddesses who committed suicide in the river following the death of their mystical husband/ruler (Shun). Orange Island is now a regular fixture for foreigners and Chinese alike and the island's management team is pushing to stage more high level activities throughout the year. These events aside, the Island is now connected with a subway station of the same name (JuZiZhou) and has temple complex at the closer northern end and a huge Chairman Mao statue/bust at the far (very far) southern end. The island is mainly used as a place to stroll, take photos along the southern section, which has an array of pagodas and garden zones and enjoy some cultural and music festivals in the northern end. You may need to take some water if you plan to visit the bust in summer as shops are scarce. There is an electric car service. The Orange Island Spa Resort (northern end) is a popular place to relax, with outdoor hot-pools, an outdoor swimming pool (summer only) and a gym/massage service. There is also a beachside BBQ area.

TIP: The easiest way onto the island is by subway (L2, Juzizhou) but be warned, during fireworks nights (usually Saturdays, May-Oct) it closes at 6pm, but it's still just a short walk over the bridge. Why not catch the fireworks from one of the beautiful bars or restaurants on the isle?


Botanical Park

For us, this park comes in the top 5 because, simply put, it's really a park of amusements and noise, it's a park with some seriously rare and impressive fauna which are all protected, much of them signed with latin titles. The park's heavily forested area is also dotted with quaint, mini pagodas, ponds and other photogenic structures. In spring time, it becomes the city's must-visit park due to it's impressive cherry blossom bloom, which litter the roads and paths that snake around the park and around it's lake. The park, which is not free, has an electric car service and a recently completed barbecue/fairground zone at the far end. There is also a hotel/restaurant overlooking the boating lake. This is a calm, tranquil park (which even features a golf range) and is quite relaxing. To get to the park, get off any bus one stop before reaching South Bus Station (from the city centre) along Shaoshan South Road. There are many buses that serve this important avenue. Then, walk through the 'Hong Xing' warehouse area to the nearby park entrance. The park is not visible from the main road, but with just a 2 minute walk you'll hit the entrance.

TIP: At the top of the park, set within it's forested peak, you can find a fun zip-wire ride that'll take you across the valley in seconds!


Meixi Lake

Meixi Lake has, in recent years, become a major family park with wide sweeping views and well landscaped greens. It is set around a huge lake and hosts water shows on most summer nights. The park is also constructing new features, in particular the Zaha Hadid designed International Culture & Arts Centre, a stunning new exhibition hall and theatre. The park is also well served by Line 2 (East Meixi Lake to West Meixi Lake). The lake would require a few hours of walking and enjoying the scenery and a new pedestrian bridge, a curvy iron bridge with amazing artistic flare, is also in the area. The perfect family park.

TIP: Alight at Meixi West and walk your way back to Meixi East station while enjoying a picnic and, in summer, enjoy the night water display - a great way to cool off!



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