17 April 2015

Sattel-Hochstückli Panorama Trail

Summary: a suspension bridge, bouncy castles, and panorama trail in the local mountains.

Sattel-Hochstückli is a mountain resort with lots of attractions for kids, including a huge bouncy castle complex, toboggan run, and a long suspension bridge. Among several hiking options, the panorama trail is particularly nice, with stunning views and a series of interactive educational stations for the kids. Since it's at a lower elevation than most resorts, it's summer season starts very early, in late April and runs through early November. Since it's so close to Zurich, you could even go for a Wednesday afternoon after school. It's a nice resort in winter too, with a long sled run into the valley. See my Sattel in Winter post for details.

16 April 2015

Thalwil Adventure Playground

The Thalwil Adventure Playground is not a traditional playground, but rather a collection of odd play structures partially built by kids along with the adults who run the park. At first glance, it looks more like a ramshackle shanty town, but that's part of the magic. It takes some imagination to enjoy the place.

This is the kind of place where expat moms hover over their kids with worried looks, wondering how kids survive this kind of chaos, making friends with the opening line: "This would never fly in America. Someone would sue!" But somehow the kids emerge with only a few scrapes and bruises and gleeful faces, reveling in their wild independent adventures.

I wasn't sure about recommending the place, but all the kids and moms I talked to said they would come back. My 7 year really liked it. My 11 year old had fun but sometimes felt bored and wished he had brought a friend. The fun isn't always obvious here and kids have to make their own fun.

14 April 2015

Swiss White Water Trail: Sonogno to Lavertezzo

Summary: river walk in mountainous valley ending at swimming area in Verzasca river.

This hike along the Verzasca river is one of the "Top 12 Hikes" (now expanded to Top-32) designated by the Swiss Tourism Board as one of the most beautiful hikes in Switzerland and well deserved in my opinion. The path follows the river the entire way, dipping in and out of the forest, crossing through fields and tiny villages of rustic farm houses. There are a few wooden sculptures on the trail to entertain the kids. Small weary hikers can can always take a break to throw rocks in the river or dip your toes in the icy water. If your kids get too tired, you can easily cut your hike short, since the bus runs parallel to the trail. The hike ends in Lavertezzo and the popular "Valle Verzasca" swimming area, a nice reward for your hard work. We really enjoyed this one and hope to go back soon.

13 April 2015

Bike Path - Mainau to Dingelsdorf

Summary: easy bike path along lake.

This easy, well-marked bike path is a good option for families with small children and a fun add-on to a Mainau Island visit. You can't ride your bikes inside Mainau Island, but you certainly can on the path just outside the park, which is a small part of the very long Bodenseeradweg, which circles the whole Lake Konstanz, aka Bodensee. This section is 6.5 km (one way) from Mainau Island to Dingelsdorf, sometimes on dirt paths through fields and other times on road through quiet neighborhoods. The round trip was just the right length for our seven year old, who is just starting to ride with confidence. The trail is mostly flat, with some small hills that did require changing gears. The path passes a few lake swimming areas and picnic areas, ending at Strandbad Klausenhorn, that has a very large grassy area on the lake, a large playground, and cafe. So there are lots of distractions and opportunities to play along the way. We also ridden other sections of the Bodenseeradweg, including Kreuzlingen to Romanshorn to Rohrschach, which I write about in this post.

09 April 2015

Allmendhubel "Flower Park" Playground

Summary: huge playground with mountain view.

Allmendhubel "Flower Park" is a new playground (opened in 2014) in the alps near Mürren, with views of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch peaks across the valley. The playground itself is great and you could spend a lot of time there relaxing while the kids play. If you want a bigger experience, there are lots of add-ons including a few trails that start here (like the Children's Adventure Trail), as well as traveling up to the Schilthorn or visiting the Trümmelbach falls on your way home. This area is typically open from July through October. The pictures here were taken in late July.

08 April 2015

Mürren Children's Adventure Trail

Summary: alpine trail with play structures and views of the Eiger and Jungfrau.

Mürren, an alpine car-free village, was one of our first experiences in the alps back in 2006 and it's still a favorite. The Allmendhubel funicular in the center of town takes you up to a huge "Flower Park" playground and restaurant and the trailhead for a few trails, including the Children's Adventure Trail. We hiked this trail way back in 2006, but I'd bet not much has changed. So I've included some pictures and information from our visit many years ago. The trail is a little over 2km and should take about an hour. It's not stroller-friendly, as the trail is mostly a narrow, lumpy, dirt or grass path. It's mostly downhill, so it won't be difficult for children that are confident hikers. It's a good choice for families that want to hike while admiring the big famous peaks of the Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch.

31 March 2015

Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Netherlands

Summary: enormous tulip gardens near Amsterdam

The famous Keukenhof gardens boast over 7 million bulbs in bloom with over 800 varieties of tulips. It's amazing and well worth the long drive, about 10 hours from Zurich. The park is great with kids, with plenty of room to run around, a large playground, a petting farm, a hedge maze and yummy treats like waffels and poffertjes eat. They also have a scavenger hunt, which we did in 2014, where the kids answer questions using various landmarks in the park and then unscramble a word to win a prize. Just outside the park, you can rent bikes and ride around the numerous nearby tulip farms, which is always our favorite part of the visit. Keukenhof is a must-do at least once during your time in Europe.

Tip: If you don't want to drive so far, you can see lots of tulips at Mainau Island, near Konstanz, Germany, only an hour from Zurich. Check out my post for details.

Car: ~10hr from ZH Trail: various around gardens Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: yes Picnic: yes, no fire
Cost: medium Theme: flowers Playground: yes, lots

26 March 2015

Engelberg-Brunni Globi Treasure Hunt Trail

Summary: treasure hunt trail leading to barefoot path around pond with picnic area

Globi's Treasure Hunt (aka "Globi Schatzsuche") is a theme trail in the Engelberg mountains, with 11 treasure chests hidden along the path. Children use the contents of the chests to solve a puzzle and win a prize. The trail starts at a big playground and water play area, with a trampoline and alpine slide. The trail ends at the Brunni Tickle Trail, an old favorite of ours, which is a barefoot path around a small pond with a large picnic area and a restaurant. With the fantastic scenery and so many attractions for children, it's a easy choice for families that like the outdoors.

25 March 2015

Lai da Palpuogna

Summary: short walk around small but beautiful lake with lots of picnic spots

This quiet little lake was voted in 2007 on a SF1 TV program as the most beautiful place in Switzerland. So our family had to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. It is very lovely, although it certainly has a lot of competition for beauty in this country. The walk around the lake only takes 20-30 minutes, so plan more for a leisurely picnic than a demanding hike. There are several grill pits around the lake, some with firewood, some with benches and tables. The path is not difficult, but is not suitable for strollers. If you're in the area, I would recommend a visit.