Hangzhou is now a technology hub, so concentrate your escape on the more traditional West Lake area, with willow-lined banks, pagodas from 970 A.D., and mist-shrouded hills that look like a classic Chinese watercolor painting.
Catch the Impression West Lake Show and see performers dance on water in a production from Zhang Yimou, the creator of the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony for $42. Then stop by the nearby Longjing Tea Plantation to sample some of the world’s finest brews of floral green tea, grown exclusively on the property. To get there, take a 45-minute bullet train direct from Shanghai for about $12.
To stay here, try the traditional Shangri-La Hotel Hangzhou, with 40 acres of lush grounds—it’s steps away from West Lake. Borrow a bike from the concierge and ride along the water to the high-style Jin Sha Restaurant in the nearby Four Seasons Hangzhou at West Lake. Recommendation: Order the abalone—a large, sweet snail.