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72 Hours in Dalian

China has been rolling out a new 72-hour transit visa expemption policy in major cities throughout the country, making visiting China even easier. Now travelers from the U.S., Canada, and 49 other countries can include China as an additional destination on an existing trip without needing to get a visa. Under the policy, visitors are able to enter select Chinese cities for up to 72 hours without a visa, as long as they have a booked plane ticket to a third country or region within the 72-hour time period. This applies to the cities of Beijing, ShanghaiGuangzhou, Chengdu, ChongqingShenyang, Dalian, Xi’an, GuilinKunming, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Xiamen, Harbin and Tianjin. China continues to expand this policy to additional locations throughout the destination. In the meantime, these cities are the ideal stopovers or add-on destinations for travelers already in Asia.

Dalian is a seaside city located on the Liaodong Peninsula in Northeast China, and borders the Yellow Sea on the east and the Bohai Sea on the west. Known for its beaches, leisure areas, stunning natural scenery, Dalian has more than 30 architectural squares. Zhongshan Square, built by Russians in the early 1900s, features 10 roads, each with a variety of architectural styles from the fin-de-siècle. The musical fountain at Renmin Square, also known as People’s Square, delights children and adults alike. Add in cultural and historic sights, such as the 600-year old Shengshui Temple and the various festivals that take place in Dalian throughout the year, and you have a city prime for visitation year-round. Now that you can visit Dalian for up to 72 hours without getting a visa, the only question is what you want to do while there. The good news is that Dalian is very doable within three days. Here are some of the top things to do in Dalian to make the most of your 72-hour trip:

Xinghai Park

This waterfront park sits at the southwestern side of Dalian city and overlooks Xinghai Bay on one side (including the impressive Xinghai Bay Cross-Sea Bridge) and Dalian’s skyline on the other. The horseshoe-shaped beach is a good spot for relaxed dips as the water there is not very deep and relatively calm with only small to moderate waves. Several pavilions dot the park, connected by cobblestone paths, as well as trees, flowers and sculptures throughout the grounds. Tanhai Cave can be seen at the eastern end of the park. Its name means “exploring the sea,” which visitors can do as they clamber down the steps and right up to the edge of the water. There is also an aquarium within the park, Sun Asia Ocean World, with an underground tunnel for viewing the marine life, as well as “the world’s first underwater pyramid, city and flying saucer.” For those looking for some exhilaration, Xinghai Park also has amusement park style rides, from go-karts to water slides, boat rides to a ferris wheel, and even large inflatable balls that visitors can get inside and “walk” across water.

Xinghai Square

Adjacent to the park is Xinghai Square, the largest city square in the world at 1.1 million square meters (272 acres) in total area. The square was constructed for Dalian’s city centennial in 1998. Many art pieces and markers throughout the square were designed and installed to commemorate the centennial, such as a 66-foot high “Huabiao” (or Chinese ceremonial column) made of white marble with nine dragons on it that sits in the center of the square, plus sculptures of 1,000 footprints, and a huge open book that faces the sea, which is meant to symbolize Dalian starting a new page in history after hundreds of years. High-end apartments, shops, restaurants and more dot the square, as well as hotels, museums and amusements. The Xinghai Central Business District sits on the opposite side of the sculpture complex, with the Xinghai Convention & Exhibition Center and Dalian World Expo Center. Many festivals and activities take place in the Square each year, including the International Beer Festival and the Dalian Fireworks and Firecrackers Festival.

Tiger Beach Ocean Park

Laohutan Ocean Park – or Tiger Beach – is massive beach area (more than 290 acres) on the southern shore of Dalian. Tiger Beach Ocean Park offers both lovely natural scenery as well as attractions such as the Tigers Sculpture Square and Polar Region Marine Animals World. The Tigers Sculpture is a huge art piece designed by the famous Chinese sculptor Mr. Han Meilin. It took him almost three years to complete the massive sculpture of six tigers. The Polar Region Marine Animals World is one of the largest maritime amusement parks, and home to polar bears, dolphins, whales, sea otters, penguins and more. There is also a coral hall, water-skiing show and bird-singing woods with 150+ types of birds. The park also has the Ma Siji Wood Carving Gallery, bungee jumping and other exhilarating activities for visitors to experience.

Binhai Road

Once an army road used for military purposes in the 1970s, the location and beauty of Binhai Road necessitated it instead be opened to the public in the 1980s for tourism and enjoyment. Today, it is almost 20 miles a winding road along Xinghai’s coastline and a perfect place to walk, ride bicycles or drive through Dalian’s lovely scenery. Visitors will be transported from the modern-day city atmosphere of Dalian as they soak in the road’s winding turns, rolling hills, trees, flowers, and gorgeous water views. Because Binhai Road is so long and has so much to do and see, it is divided into four sections. The southern section of Binhai Road starts from Tiger Beach Ocean Park, and spans six scenic miles including Bird’s Nest Ridge, Beida Bridge – a suspended bridge also known as “lover’s bridge” – and ending at Xinghai Square and Xinghai Park.

Golden Pebble Beach National Resort

The Golden Pebble Beach National Resort is also known as Jinshitan Scenic Area, an appropriate name given the gorgeous scenery at every turn in this area just north of Dalian city. Two peninsulas encircle a large beach, all of which looks out onto stunning coastline reminiscent of Northern California. Fresh air blows in off the water and sea breezes keep the area balmy. Craggy rocks, cliffs and cypresses set the scene for recreation, such as at the Golden Pebble Golf Club, one of the top gold courses in the world, with its distinctive charm, windy conditions, and 36 challenging holes. The Jinshi Waxworks Museum, China Martial Arts Museum, International Hunting Club, and flower exhibition hall can be found throughout the Golden Pebble Beach area.

Dalian Restaurants

After all the sight-seeing and adventure, visitors in Dalian will likely be famished. Surrounded by the sea (both the Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea), Dalian’s vast coastline provides ample fresh seafood. The succulent local seafood – from scallops to sea urchins and fish to prawns – can be found throughout Dalian. Wanbao Seafood Restaurant in particular is well known for its extravagant décor, good service and wide variety of seafood offerings. Shuangshengyuan started centuries ago as a small food stall selling traditional Dalian snacks. Over time, it has grown to be a well-known authentic restaurant with several locations throughout the city. Stir-fried prawns, salted fish and corn pancake, steamed sea breams, scallops, and shelled abalones are all must-try dishes here. For travelers seeking the iconic dishes of Dalian, popular snacks include Men Zi – a traditional snack of pachyrhizus (a vegetable similar to potato) cut into pieces and friend on a pan with garlic, sesame, and sauce – as well as salted fish and corn pancake, dumplings, fresh fruit, and even grilled kebabs.