September 27, 2013
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
Summary: swimming with kids in a beautiful river
|Car:||~2:30 from ZH||Trail:||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.
We also did a very nice hike from Sonogno (higher up the river) ending at the swimming spot in Lavertezzo. I'll post about that separately.
View Larger Map
Details. Using the above map, drive to Lavertezzo, which is a tiny "town" in the Valle Verzasca, a bit northwest of Locarno. From Zurich, it took us about 2:30hr, doable as a day trip but more enjoyable if you are staying in the area. We had camped in nearby Tenero, drove up early to Valle Verzasca, then drove home to Zurich after a long day on the river. If going by public transport, you can take a train to Tenero, then a postbus to Lavertezzo. If you're coming from Zurich, the whole trip will take almost 4hrs. So it's probably better as an outing while staying in the Locarno area than a day trip.
On your way up the valley, you pass an enormous dam which was the location of James Bond's bungee jump in the film Goldeneye. You can do it too or just walk across the dam like we did.
You'll know you've arrived when you see this bridge. In Lavertezzo, just south of this bridge, there is a small parking lot with a four hour limit. There is more parking with longer hours a few hundred meters farther up the road. Bring change for the meter. It's a short walk to the bridge shown above. You'll walk across that bridge, then down to the rocks next to the river. The bridge has very low railings, which makes me nervous. Some people jump off this bridge into the river. Not recommended.
Just walk along the rocks until you find a good spot. Even on a crowded summer day, there's plenty of room to spread out. Strangely, most people stay close to the bridge, so just keep walking down the river until it thins out.
It's best to wear river shoes as you may need to dip in and out of little pools as you wander.
This was our home base and picnic spot, next to the rapids. There is almost no shade in this area unless you climb off the rocks into the forest. So we were happy to get this little tree. It's rocky, not sandy, so it's best to bring a comfy picnic blanket.
Before I continue, a short warning. You must respect the water. There are signs all over this area reminding people to be very careful in and around the river. Our first time, I was really nervous about bringing my little kids. But once I was there, it was really obvious where it was safe to swim with little kids (lower right) and where not to go (upper right). Stay away from the big rapids and don't let your kids wander on their own. Also, the water level changes, so when you go, conditions may be very different from what is shown in my photos. Please use common sense and good judgment.
So now to the fun part. There are a lot of little shallow pools where little kids can safely splash. It's cold but on a hot day, it doesn't bother you too much. Some pools are deceptively deep and slippery, so test them before sending in non-swimmers and remember to bring floaties. Some pools, like the one on the lower right, are ankle deep and a bit sandy, perfect for toddlers.
Some pools are deep enough to swim in, like the one above.
Some rocks form natural water slides, which provided endless fun for my boys.
If you want a little more excitement, there is short section of the river where you can jump in and float down the river for a short distance and exit the river well before the rapids start. The exit point shown above is pretty much enclosed, so you can swim around in this part without being sucked into the main river. But be warned that the river is much colder than the shallow pools in the rocks. Much colder!!! So before jumping in, test out the water. My husband and older son practically flew out of the icy water after jumping in and were a bit in shock.
If nothing else, this area is simply beautiful. The water is crystal clear and the rock formations so interesting.
On the road side of the river, you can walk south (opposite direction of the bridge) to a little park with picnic tables, grill pit, fountain and small playground (the grassy spot at the end of the walkway on the left of this photo). It has a beautiful view of the river and rapids and could be a good alternative if you want to enjoy the view but don't want to swim.
July 28, 2013
Summary: walk through narrow river gorge and treasure hunt for kids
|Car:||~1:30 from ZH||Trail:||short with stairs||Restaurant:||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).
Summary: walk on elevated walkway through narrow glacier ravine
|Car:||~2hr from ZH||Trail:||~1km one way||Restaurant:||yes|
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
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
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.
Labels: free and cheap
July 7, 2013
when rabbits attack!
Summary: theme trail with wooden animal sculptures, big playground with fire pits
|Car:||~45 min from ZH||Trail:||~4 km loop (~1.5 hr)||Restaurant:||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
Summary: bike ride around small lake, with fire pit and swimming areas
|Car:||~40mins from ZH||Trail:||~14km loop||Restaurant:||yes|
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.
July 4, 2013
Summary: mountain top trail with panoramic views
|Car:||~50mins from ZH||Trail:||1.5km loop & a 4km one way||Restaurant:||yes|
Instead of taking visitors to Pilatus or Rigi, consider Stoos in the Swiss Knife Valley, which offers amazing views, slightly more affordable, with less crowds. You can reach Stoos, a car-free alpine village, either by a cable car from Morschach or a funicular southwest of Schwyz. Then a 10 minute walk across town to the chair lift to the top, Fronalpstock. The lookout spot is just steps from the chair lift, where you'll see Luzern, Rigi, Pilatus, and the surrounding lakes.
We first visited way back when my first son was 3 and I was very pregnant with my second son. We just admired the view and had a nice lunch, but didn't hike. I've always wanted to go back and hike and this year we finally did.
There's a short panoramaweg at the top, through the wildflowers, accessible for strollers, as well as several other more challenging hiking options. In June, we hiked the first half of the Panoramaweg along the ridge that overlooks the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Luzern) and then continued down the mountain all the way back to Stoos, which took us about 2 hours actual walking time, more with breaks. It was a relatively easy trail, all downhill and beautiful the whole way. I think small children that are used to hiking will easily manage this trail.
Please note that it requires a chair-lift, but it does have a windguard that makes me feel a bit safer with small kids. There is a restaurant and picnic area + playground at the top, all with fantastic views. At the end of the trail on the outskirts of Stoos, there's another a picnic area with fire pits. I loved this outing and I'd highly recommend it.
June 14, 2013
It can be frustrating to figure out which trails are open when and the best time to visit certain areas. I don't have all the answers, but here's a little calendar of our hikes to give you an idea of which trails we've done at certain times of the year and what they look like at that time. I put the trails in the month that we actually did the hike, although any hike that was done in spring or fall, would also be great in July or August. Enjoy!