I'm the marketing director here at Untours. I was just in the Heartland this past September and saw a couple of things I think might fun (we have no affiliation with any of these suggestions, and don't make any money from you going. These are purely my suggestions).
I would definitely recommend is the Pilatus train (ttp://www.pilatus.ch/default-n7-sE.html). It's the world's steepest cogwheel train and has some great views on the way up. That should be fun for kids in itself. The summit has a couple of walking trails and caves to explore. The caves tell the story of the Pilatus (dragon) legend. Then, take the Gondola down towards Lucerne. There are a couple of stops on the way down where you can hop on and off that offer great activities for kids. More hiking trails, and adventure playground, a suspension rope park, and as summer toboggan run. I think it would be great for kids that age (hey, I wanted to stop and play all day).
I'm sure others will chime in with more ideas. But this is a start.
Thank you so much for your tips; you are very kind and helpful. We have reservations in Lungern, the kids a very, very excited and so are we. I have started a travel books where I collect ideas, points of interest, etc. even before the trip.
We have maps, have watched several DVD's (from the library) and learning German....easy for me, since I was a German teacher. Thank you, thank you. yours, Renate the grandmother, Oma.
My wife and I and our two children, who were 9 and 11 at the time of our trip, traveled to the Swiss Heartland three years ago. We stayed in Reuti which is just up the hill from Meirengen. We all had a wonderful time. I would recommend having the kids take a swim (cold) in Lake Brienz. There is a pay beach, which is very nice, a short walk from the train stop. My kids loved this! Also we hiked every day up in the Alps. The trails are well marked and part of the adventure were the train rides up to the trail heads. I would recommend hikes around Murren and also the Grandmothers walk. In Lucern, my kids loved the house of mirrors which is directly next to the lion monument (free with Swiss rail pass). In Lucern we always ate at the Manora restaurant which is on top of the department store. Cafeteria style with great views and overall a bargain. We would hop on a train each day for an adventure. We walked around Bern....to the Bear Pits and had lunch up the hill in the rose garden cafe. We toured the castle in Thun and spent part of a day walking the historic streets. The Swiss heartland is also a great educational opportunity. Plenty of museums and historic churches to tour. Most of these are free with the rail pass so we didn't mind only staying for an hour or so at each place. Having said all of this, probably what my kids enjoyed the most was just hanging out....going to the bakery or market....having ice cream in the park.....going to the Untours sponsored cheese making outing. It was all great fun....Switzerland, in my opinion, is one huge playground. Hope this helps.....Tom
I second Tom's recommendations. I would also add the albert einstein museum in Bern. It took a bus ride from the main street to get there, but my son and his friend loved it - a LOT!!!! They were 11 at the time. We have taken our son to CH 5 times and also taken a friend or similar aged relative. Switzerland is very child oriented. I agree w/ swimming at the lake. Very fun on a hot day. My family has always enjoyed the Planplatten hike (just up the mountain from you). We do it every time we go to Switzerland. My son started hiking it at 5. It is long, but dramatic w/ great chair lift rides ($$) and worth every penny.
My kids did take the Pilatus train ride. If you are a train buff, don't miss it. But my kids thought it was boring. Looks like you will be there for first of august festivities. Don't miss them and plan to stay up late. If you are staying in Meiringen, they have an amazing celebration. It culminated in a gigantic bonfire w/ kids throwing firecrackers everywhere. A firetruck nearby! When you look up from the valley floor, you can see bonfires up in the mountain villages all around you. Amazing. My 11 year old met a same aged child from Sweden and marched in the children's parade with him. I can't remember what the children carried in the parade. I am telling you the children went wild with all the bonfire and fireworks. Lots of good food too. What fun. btw - your grandchildren will be able to purchase fireworks w/o you - so beware! lol
It is safe to let the kids go about in the village alone. We taught my son basics in German so he could go to bakery and get pastries in the morning. This was very good for him and he delighted in the ability to do this by himself in a foreign country! Where you are staying, even very young children ride the bus alone to school. Not sure where you are staying, but these villages are all safe for the kids. Traffic in Meiringen is the biggest problem.
Don't miss a trip to Ochienensee (sp?) This trip requires a little walking, but not bad. Take train to Kandersteg, then walk to tram. Take tram up to bob bahn and buy your grandkids a packet of tickets. It is a bobsled up in the mountains and a ton of fun for kids in the age range you have. Again - very safe. Amazing views. Hike another mile and you will see the lake which is stupendous. There is a horse drawn wagon ($$) to get back to tram if you don't want to walk - i used this once because of a sore knee. Just the train ride to Kanderstag is marvelous.
A trip to Thun (by boat or train from Meiringen) is also great w/ the castle, shops, etc. Not safe to let the kids go anywhere alone here tho!!!
My kids liked going to the movies. The theaters are different and they loved Star Wars in german! My children loved to ride the trains. Took my older teens with us one time and they were addicted to riding the trains. They also liked the mountain bus rides. We let them make some trips w/o us and they loved the independence.
Anyway, if you have any specific questions - write back! Otherwise - have fun. Kids LOVE Switzerland.
We took our kids and their families (four boys aged 7, 10,11, and 16 at the time) to the Heartland in 2008. Some of the things the boys enjoyed:
1. Transportation. They have always lived in small Midwestern towns where they go by car, on bikes, or on foot. They loved the trains, were amazed at the boats being used as ordinary transportation as well as recreation, and the gondolas were something else!
2. Hiking. Somebody else mentioned the Grandmother's Walk; this was ideal.
3. Trotti bikes above Reuti at Magisalp.
4. The Aareschlucht and Rosenlaui gorges. They got to touch a real glacier!
5. Glassblowing at Hergeswil.
6. Visit to a WWII Army outpost inside the mountain facing Lake Lucerne.
7. Castles. The favorite was Chillon, near Montreux on Lake Geneva. This is a full day-trip, but is the oldest of the castles and probably the most like what they picture when they read about castles. They especially liked the dungeons.
8. The intrepid 11-year-old did a tandem hang-gliding (or is it parasailing? I don't know the difference) experience in Interlaken. Expensive, but the highlight of the trip for him.
9. We were so busy we didn't get to the "sommerrodelbahn" (sp?)--wheeled luge ride-- just above Kandersteg. Grandpa and I did this on another trip and had a wonderful time.
10. Picnics lakeside or mountaintop or near a pasture filled with curious cows, especially when they'd helped make the lunch.
11. Our son enjoys geocaching, and the three younger boys got a kick out of finding some of the caches with him (there were four just in Meiringen!).
Other questions: Clothes--whatever they would wear here is fine. Shorts, jeans, t-shirts or polo shirts. Maybe one slightly dressier outfit (chinos or something) "just in case". Layers will be necessary as the temperatures can vary widely from day to day and at different elevations. I suggest each person carry a small daypack with a sweater/sweatshirt, windbreaker, water bottle, sandwich, snacks, etc. (restaurants are very expensive).
Let the kids help plan daily activities to acquire some "ownership" for the vacation. They can help plan train routes and changes, research the places they think they'd like to see, etc.
I made a grocery list and planned meals prior to departure from US. I learned to do that after 3 trips! Made spaghetti, ready to eat deli chicken w/ salad, brats w/ cole slaw, etc. Super easy. Kids make great dishwashers! You might want to take some baggies w/ you as I don't remember being able to buy them easily there.
The kids can refill their water bottles in all the village fountains. We took some fruit and tea flavored drink powder packets to give some variety from the water. Easy to pack. Hot chocolate with nice swiss whipped cream made a satisfying night time snack.
I am sure you have seen that the train station and grocery store cafes are often a great deal. If you eat out, try lunch. It is less expensive. Also, they tend to eat dinner late, so with kids we just preferred getting them to bed early so we could get up and hike the next day. Pizza is excellent in CH. Meiringen has several excellent places for pizza.
They will like the TV. My kids loved Sponge Bob Square Pants in German! Even when they were teens!
My kids also loved going for an evening BBQ. That was one of their favorite activities. There are places near you (trails,including Muggestutz http://http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/home/autumn/autumnal-walks/m... where you can take some sausages, etc for a picnic. There are firepits and bundles of wood along the trail You just need matches and some kindling. The Muggestutz is a "must" for children of all ages (me too) even if you don't BBQ. Even my teens loved it! Anyway, there are many trails all over CH where you can do a meal this way.
Just give in to the candy. Take the kids to grocery where there is at least a full isle of chocolate and swiss candy. We bought it there and let kids pick out 1-2 to take with them each day. Sad to say we had to make more than one trip for this.
You have received more suggestions for things to do than you will have time for. You can actually plan your entire trip based on the guide you get from Untours. It is great.
You asked about packing. Our grands each take one carry on bag and a small day backpack. We were in Europe for the entire month of May in 2010 with an 8 and 11 year old. No problem. They did hand laundry when necessary. We splurged for a laundromat for the heavy things (jeans, socks etc.) Managed to get by with laundromat help only a few times. If the weather is cool (or down right cold as it was for us), clothes don't get that dirty. If you are traveling with boys, they don't care anyway.
Of course you want to take layers. And rain gear. When you go to the Jungfraujoch, you will need sun glasses and sunscreen and gloves. You will also need lots of clothes. Likely everything in your suitcase. It can be quite cold at 11,333'. But, if you luck out and have a clear, sunny day, it can be beautifully warm.
We enjoy using the fly/rail option offered in Switzerland. For a small fee (something like $15 for each suitcase) you can check your bag at the departure airport and not see it again until you get to your destination village. No luggage handling from Zurich to your village is a dream.
Switzerland is THE BEST place for children. They are entranced by all the transportation options. You will have a rich experience and build memories for a lifetime.
Have a great trip!
First of all, thanks for making this inquiry. Now I have more places to take my granddaughter next time we go.
But I did take her twice at the age of 10 and 11. I would definitely recommend Pilatus, taking the cogwheel train up and the gondola down, stopping at the playground. Also the toboggan run is fun. All of the things that were suggested to do up there, I would recommend also. I have been to the Schilthorn and the Jungfrau. Definitely prefer the Schilthorn and Muerren. My granddaughter loved it as well. It was a beautiful day and we ate at the revolving restaurant on top the Schilthorn, then walked on the areas outside. She thought it was terrific. We hiked around Muerren, took the funicular to Allmendhubel and hiked down. We also drove over to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. Check ahead, because it can be completely enshrouded in clouds and you won't even see the outline of it. We didn't see it and had a good chuckle over that. We will have to go back to see it.
She also loved the train rides. It made her feel like a real traveler. Children love the adventure of it and are proud that they know how to read the timetables and all that goes along with travelling by train.
What a wonderful gift you are giving them. Switzerland is the best.
Hi, Renate -
It'll be a marvelous trip; your grandkids are lucky!
My husband and myself were in Switzerland 3 weeks in August, with responsibility for 'entertaining' our 6 year old grandaughter, as her Daddy, our son, trekked across Switzerland on the Alpine Pass Route (thus this was not an Untours trip, but a different locale nightly as we moved from Lichtenstein to Montreux). Our grandaughter loves to swim and we found, in many towns, beautiful sports/swim facilities - indoor and outdoor; the cost for her was roughly $4 for entry. In many cases, we could sit just outside a large glass wall overlooking the pool and enjoy a beer - what a deal! We did several of the hikes mentioned in other notes; would recommend all of them. Our tack with her was 'no rushing' and we had no agenda to cover lots of sites - just hike, swim, ride a lift or train ... that was enough for a great relaxed trip.
Thank you Jean for your comments re: kids and Switzerland. Our grandchildren, Lars (10) and Lili (12) are so excited and can hardly wait....and so are we. We have read and planned many things; that is one wonderful aspect of traveling, don't you think?
I understand that August One is a national holiday in Switzerland, I wonder what we might find?
Our stay is from July 27 to August 10; we hope for ggod weather: EVERY DAY; swimming and hiking are enjoyed by us all...in moderation for these oldies.
Thanks again for sending me your suggestions, yours Renate Olsen.