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Spring forward with these fun days out
By Li Anlan

AS spring is finally here, it's time to put on your sneakers and go for an outing.

This is a wonderful time to go outdoors, as it's neither too cold nor too hot. And there are plenty of springtime options - from diving into a sea of flowers to a trip satisfying your cravings for both scenery and tasty food.

Botanic gardens

When flowers are about to blossom and buds appear on the trees, there's no excuse for staying indoors. Among the most popular is cherry blossom. The typical light, white flowers with a hint of pale pink adored by so many people can be found in many places in Shanghai.

Shanghai Botanical Garden at 1111 Longwu Road in Xuhui District (徐汇区龙吴路1111号) has one of the most concentrated shows of cherry blossoms in Shanghai, offering more than 20 species in different colors.

Visitors can find more than cherry trees too, as the garden is home to thousands kinds of plants, including some near extinction.

From March to April, shrubs such as camellias and magnolia are in bloom, so it's a good time to bring your cameras.

Admission is 40 yuan (US$6.4) per adult for access of all gardens. The ticket office opens 7am to 5pm.

Many buses stop at the botanic garden, including the 56, 714, 720, 770, 820, 824.

Gucun Park at 4788 Hutai Road in Bao District's Gucun Town (宝山区顾村镇沪太路4788号) hosts a cherry blossom festival annually, this year it begins at the end of the month.

The 180-hectare park is the largest forest park in Shanghai, its mazes, pathways and lakes creating a one-stop destination for spring outings. The 500 acres of cherry trees in blossom is a big attraction at this time of year.

Another highlight of Gucun Park is its waterside barbecue spots, with 48 standard BBQs and 12 VIP ones, visitors can grill barbecue goodies while sitting back to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.

Admission is 20 yuan per adult. To reserve a BBQ spot, charges vary depending on the size of the stand and number of guests.

Opening hours are 6am to 6pm daily.

To get there, take Metro Line 7 to Gucun Park Station.

Other destinations for enjoying cherry blossom include Tongji University's "cherry blossom avenue" at 1239 Siping Road (四平路1239号); Zhongshan Park, which has been planting cherry trees for a century and opens in after winter in late March at 780 Changning Road (长宁路780号); Luxun Park 2288 Sichuan Road N. (四川北路2288号); and Century Park 1001 Jinxiu Road (浦东锦绣路1001号).

Rape flower is also blooming now, and Fengxian District is one of the best places to see the bright yellow flowers.

Fengxian hosts a rapeseed flower festival every year at the end of March. Zhuanghang Town is a popular location to see the flowers.

Dongping Forest Park on Chongming Island also offers a BBQ area for visitors and can accommodate up to 200 people. Grills can be rented at the park, and ingredients may be purchased in the park or bring your own - though there's an additional 8 yuan charge per person this way.

The lush park is an ideal getaway destination, not only for gardens, but also activities like grass skiing to get your blood pumping.

Other attractions

Qingpu District is becoming increasingly popular as it offers spring cheer in the shape of fresh strawberries. Zhaotun Town has been cultivating strawberries for more than a decade, and tourists can pick their own, adding extra fun in enjoying the juicy fruit.

If you want more cultural and historic spring outings, some famous and ancient towns in suburbs of Shanghai are ideal choices.

These include: Zhujiajiao water town in Qingpu District for its creek, architecture and tea houses; Qibao Ancient Town in Minhang District for snacks and local delicacies; and Jinze Ancient Town in Qingpu District for exploring interesting bridges.

For children, spring outings to zoos and aquariums are fun. Options are Shanghai Wild Animal Park at 178 Nanliu Highway. (浦东南六公路178号); Changfeng Ocean World in Changfeng Park at 510 Zaoyang Road (枣阳路510号); Shanghai Zoo at 2381 Hongqiao Road (虹桥路2381号); and Shanghai Ocean Aquarium at 1388 Lujiazui Ring Road (浦东陆家嘴环路1388号).

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