17 May 2015

Emmental Show Dairy and Cheese-making

The Emmental Schaukaserei, aka Show Dairy, is a living museum showcasing cheese production throughout history. You can see various artifacts associated with historical cheese making, view modern cheese making live, and taste a few cheeses from the region. The site is free to visit and there is plenty to see without paying extra. Informational brochures, audio guides, guided tours and cheese making workshops are available for a fee. Kids will be pleased with the big playground, the puzzles and games on signboards around the property, and a scavenger hunt with a detective kit. It's touristy, but well-done and a fun place to take visitors.

15 May 2015

Kambly Cookie Experience

Kambly is a Swiss cookie company that has a visitor center in the Emmental region of Switzerland, where you can taste a wide variety of cookies and snacks that Kambly offers and learn about the origins of the Kambly company. They offer cookie-making workshops for children on Wednesdays and Saturdays, advance reservations required. They even have a special Kambly Train that will take you from Luzern or Bern to their visitor center in Trubschachen. The visitor center is small but fun and the cookies are delicious. Unless you're doing the cookie workshop, it's only worth a short visit, so you may want to combine this a visit to the nearby Emmental Show Dairy.

10 May 2015

Zentrum Paul Klee Bern and Children's Art Classes

Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to the art of Paul Klee, a Swiss-German painter influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Besides being an interesting cultural experience, the museum offers a variety of activities for children, which I describe below. My kids particularly enjoyed Open Studio, a one hour art class where they learned to imitate the line art of Paul Klee. I appreciate the extra effort they make to interest children in art and make them comfortable at the museum. It's a good option for a rainy day or any other time you need a bit of culture.

08 May 2015

Wirzweli Witch Trail

The Wirzweli Hexenweg, aka "Witch Trail," is a theme trail for children in the foothills between Luzern and Engelberg. Lizi, the "herb witch," tells the story of her forest through a series of interactive and informative stations, including a flying broom zip line, pine cone toss, guessing herbs by smell, a witch's house, etc. Kids have fun spying various witch artifacts hidden it the trees, like brooms, spiders, bats, owls and other animal statues. The trail is not suitable for strollers, but is mostly downhill and not difficult, recommended for children aged 4 and older. There are many nice picnic spots with grill pits and wood. Back at the gondola, there's an enormous playground, a rodelbahn, and ponys to pet. It's a fun day out for the whole family. Another bonus: since Wirzweli is at a relatively low elevation, it opens in late April, earlier in the season than other mountain hikes.

17 April 2015

Sattel-Hochstückli Panorama Trail

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.