January 2, 2014

Winter Walks with Kids

Before my kids could ski, we often went to the mountains just to play in the snow and do a little sledding. Then we found out that many resorts groom trails so you can do a leisurely winter walk without snowshoes. This a great winter alternative to skiing for families with very little kids. You could take an all-terrain stroller. But it's more fun to take a big wooden sled, equipped with a chair and insulated stroller bag to keep your little one all snug and warm.

Below are a few winter trails I can recommend, including Buchenegg-Felsenegg, Titlis-Trübsee, Sattel-Hochstückli and Zugerberg. These are all loop trails that are not difficult, manageable with kids in a sled or stroller, restaurants along the trail, and very nice views. I'm always looking for more, so please leave comment if you know of a good one. I'll add more as I try them out.

Sledding near Zurich

sledding with a view of the Einsiedeln Kloster

No snow in Zurich? Don't worry. There are plenty of nearby sledding spots at a higher elevation. Below are a few I can recommend, including Einsiedeln, Uetliberg (Felsenegg & Albispass), and Amden-Arvenbüel.

Do you have any local sledding spots you'd like to share?

September 27, 2013

Jucker Farm - Pumpkins, Fruit Picking, etc. (CH-ZH)

Summary: tourist farm with yummy food, amusements for the kids, and pumpkins in the fall

Jucker Farm has changed so much over the years that it deserves an updated post. Jucker Farmart is a farm designed for tourists, less of an authentic "farm" experience and more of a lovely day in the country with yummy farm-fresh food. Jucker Farm is nice to visit all year round, but especially nice in summer and during pumpkin season. The various amusements for the kids change from year to year. As of 2013, there is the big haystack, hammocks, petting the goats, apple maze and seasonal fruit picking. It's a lovely day out for the whole family.

September 1, 2013

Valle Verzasca (CH-TI) - swimming with kids in a beautiful river

Summary: swimming with kids in a beautiful river

Car: ~2:30 from ZHTrail: nearby Restaurant: nearby cafes
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: no Picnic/Grill pit: no grill pits
Cost: fee for parking Theme: swim! Playground: small

Valle Verzasca is a special place and hard to describe properly. It's a beautiful river in Ticino, near Locarno. You can splash and swim in lots of places along the river, but the most popular place is at Lavertezzo. You can park there and walk across the Devil's Bridge to the rocks shown above scattered with sunbathers. It can be a dangerous place as there are some big rapids and swift currents. But there are many small natural pools secluded within the rocks, which are safe for small children. You can easily spend several lazy hours, soaking in the sun, splashing in the icy pools, wandering around the rocks, and watching crazy show-offs doing flips off the bridge. We love this place and hope you do too.

July 28, 2013

Viamala Schlucht (CH-GR) - Walk through river gorge

Summary: walk through narrow river gorge and treasure hunt for kids

Car: ~1:30 from ZHTrail: short with stairs Restaurant: no
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: no Picnic/Grill pit: no
Cost: low Theme: no Playground: no

The Viamala Schlucht is a narrow river gorge near Chur. In this middle of this long river, there's a narrow section with interesting formations and a visitor center with a fenced walkway built into the cliffs so you can get a closer look. We went in April 2010 and as you can see, it was still icy cold and covered with snow. But it was still fun and very beautiful. They offer a treasure hunt activity for kids, where the kids use binoculars to look for hidden letters, then unscramble to solve a puzzle. It's a relatively short activity; you might spend an hour here. So it's probably better combined with something else in the area (see the Viamala region website for ideas).

Grindelwald Gletscherschlucht (CH-BE) - Walk through glacier ravine

Summary: walk on elevated walkway through narrow glacier ravine

Car: ~2hr from ZHTrail: ~1km one way Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: no Picnic/Grill pit: no
Cost: low Theme: no Playground: no

The Gletscherschlucht near Grindelwald is a narrow glacier ravine with a small river running through it. For a small fee, you can walk through the ravine on an elevated walkway. It's very beautiful and a nice break from the heat and sun if you need it. This is a relatively short activity, so we combined it with a hike in Grindelwald, which I'll post about separately. If you're already in the area, the Gletscherschlucht is a nice addition to your itinerary.

July 23, 2013

Take me out to the ball game (CH-ZH)

Hopp Schweiz!

Here's a quick tip...

Switzerland is hosting a European baseball tournament this year and the games are this week in Zurich. Every morning this week (July 22-26), they offer a baseball camp/workshop (aka "Schnupptertag") for kids sponsored by Pro Juventute. My kids went on Monday and had a great time. Players from the Swiss baseball team work with the kids, showing them how to throw, catch and hit. Kids don't need any prior experience to participate. After the camp, the kids can stay to watch a game and the accompanying adult can also watch for free. The kids got a t-shirt and official baseball. It's available for kids aged 6-16 and it costs only 5sfr. You can sign up here.

July 15, 2013

Zurich Ferienplausch - Free Sport Camp

Summary: free summer sport camp run by Zurich city

If you're one of the few families still in Zurich (like us) now that the summer holiday has started, don't despair! There's plenty to do right in your home town. First, you should get the ZVV Ferienpass for your kids. It costs 24sfr and gives the kids free entrance to the zoo, 100 pools, and 45 museums as well as discounts to many other attractions as well as free public transport all over Switzerland. Get details here.

If you need a quick fix, I can also recommend the Zurich Ferienplausch. I didn't know what to expect and I was a little worried that it would be too small time and sad. I took my 9 and 5 year old boys there and invited a friend with a 10yr old boy and 13yr old girl. I'm happy to report that all were perfectly entertained for the full three hours and asked to go again.

July 7, 2013

Zugerberg Sculpture Trail (CH-ZG)

when rabbits attack!

Summary: theme trail with wooden animal sculptures, big playground with fire pits

Car: ~45 min from ZHTrail: ~4 km loop (~1.5 hr) Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: yes Stroller: mostly Picnic/Grill pit: yes
Cost: free Theme: sculptures along trail Playground: yes

Here's another close and easy walk: the Sculpture Trail on Zugerberg, just south of Zug, about a 40min drive from Zurich. The trail is lined with animal sculptures carved out of wood, which really helped motivate our 4yr old. We've been in February, which was a bit snowy and brown, but still lovely. We've also been in April, which was much nicer with lush green meadows and wildflowers. There is a big playground with fire pits near the start of the trail. There are also a few restaurants in the area. It's a nice day out anytime, but a particularly good option during the shoulder seasons when mountain transport is closed.

July 5, 2013

Biking around Ägerisee (CH-ZG)

Summary: bike ride around small lake, with fire pit and swimming areas

Car: ~40mins from ZH Trail: ~14km loop Restaurant: yes
Train/Bus: easy Stroller: yes Fire pit: yes
Cost: free Theme: no Playground: no

Last summer we did a lot of bike riding and found some great paths: Pfäffikersee, Bodensee, Sihl river. I've been looking for more kid-friendly bike rides and it's hard! Most are too long, too difficult, too much on narrow busy roads. Perhaps the message is that my family needs to improve its bike riding ability so we can expand our options. But finally, we did find one more kid-friendly trail that's worth sharing with y'all. It's not perfect, but it has charm.

In the middle of June, we biked around Lake Ägeri, aka Ägerisee, which is a bit southwest of Zug before you reach Sattel. One side of the lake has a quiet hiking/biking path next to the lake, with a nice picnic and swimming area. The other side requires you to ride on the main road, which is not so nice. So it's 50/50, but I liked the quiet side so much that I can recommend it.



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