April 25, 2013
Summary: public tennis courts without membership fee
Many tennis clubs in Switzerland are private, meaning you have to pay a yearly club fee to use their facilities. This is annoying when your kids take tennis lessons because, in addition to the lesson fee, you have to pay a membership fee of 150+CHF for your child. And if you want to play tennis with your child, you'd have to pay another membership fee for yourself. It might be worth it if your kids are older and you play every week. But for hitting the ball around with a 5 year old a couple times a summer? No thanks.
Happily, there are public tennis clubs (aka "öffentlichen Tennishallenplätzen") that do not require a membership fee, several right in Zurich city (their website). And there is a new new online tennis court reservation system, MyTins, that shows where these public tennis clubs are and makes it super easy to reserve a court. I went for the first time today and we had so much fun that I'm kicking myself that I didn't figure this out earlier.
A few tips...
I'm not an expert on MyTins but I'll tell you what I know. After you register, you can add clubs to your profile so you can easily see their schedule. When selecting clubs, you will see public and private clubs, but will only be able to reserve public ones (or private ones of which you are a member). When you look at a club's schedule, you can mouse over open time slots and it will show you how much it costs to reserve the court for an hour. The prices range from 10-30CHF depending on the club and time of day. You can reserve up to two weeks in advance as well as the current day. To reserve, you simply click on the time slot you want. It seemed too easy so I was a little worried when I showed up at the club. But I simply gave my name and payed my 10CHF in cash and I was on the court a minute later.
We went to TA Mythenquai in Zurich near the lake. It's right next door to a private club where my son had previously taken lessons. There is seemingly no difference between the private and public courts so I'm really wondering what I paid that 150CHF membership fee for. I have a few friends that have arranged private tennis classes at the public courts, which was much more affordable without the membership fee.
I don't know how other clubs are, but at TA Mythenquai, they have rackets to rent (adult and child-sized) for 5CHF. This is great if you just want to try it out before committing to a pricey racket or if you want to bring a few friends along that don't have rackets. We bought our rackets at Karstadt Sport in Konstanz (Lago Center) and it was much more affordable than anything we saw in Switzerland.
Most outdoor courts I've seen in Switzerland are clay, with which I was previously unfamiliar before moving here. If you play on a clay court, you are expected to groom the court after you are finished. My court had the above sign indicating how they wanted me to groom the court. It's not hard, but make sure you have enough time to finish before the next players show up. If you have a 5 year old helping you, it may take much longer than you think.
April 9, 2013
Summary: toy library in a town near you
A Ludothek is a toy library, where you can borrow games, toys, bikes, etc for a small fee. A few friends of mine have recommended going, but it took me over seven years and a very long cold winter to finally get me there. My main motivation was to get some new board games since we had played ours too many times during the cold rainy days. The selection wasn't amazing, but there were lots of things that my boys wanted to take home. It's a good rainy day option, both as an excursion and to add more fun at home.
Labels: Rainy Day
Summary: BMX bike course in the forest
|Car:||in ZH, near zoo||Trail:||~10 min ride to course||Restaurant:||no|
|Train/Bus:||easy (Tram 6)||Stroller:||N/A||Picnic/Grill Pit:||yes|
Pumptracks are BMX bike courses with lots of bumps and jumps. Zurich has a small, fun one in the Zuriberg forest, near the zoo. (They are also building a big Pumptrack near Sihlcity and the big skate park, but they don't say when that will be completed.) Although Pumptracks are designed for serious riders, there are bumps small enough for any kid that can ride a bike without training wheels. My 8 year old son really enjoyed it and we'll definitely go back when the weather warms up a bit.
April 6, 2013
Summary: easy bike path around Pfäffikon lake, with picnic spots, playground, swimming, and Jucker Farm along the way
|Car:||30min from ZH||Trail:||8.7 km loop||Restaurant:||yes|
Last summer, we went camping at the Pfäffikersee and rode our bikes a bit on the path along the lake. In the fall, we went back three times to ride all the way around the lake and I can't wait to go back again. It's a great path for walking or biking, with lots of fun distractions for the kids, including Jucker Farm, swimming in the lake, and a lakeside playground in Pfäffikon. So let's get to it...
April 5, 2013
Summary: easy bike path along Sihl river, with picnic spots and grill pits along the way
|Car:||in ZH||Trail:||1 to 12 km one way||Restaurant:||some cafes|
If you live in Zurich, the Sihl river is a good choice for family biking. It's mostly on smooth dirt paths away from traffic, along open fields, through the forest, and along the river. It's also mostly flat, making it easier for smaller kids to keep up. It goes parallel to the train tracks (though usually not right next to the train), so if your kids get tired and can't ride back, you can always take the train back instead. There are lots of green places on the river to stop for a picnic and even make a campfire. We live near the Sihl, so we're out there a lot and love it. I hope you love it too.
March 30, 2013
on the MiniCLiiMBER at Flumserberg Prodalp
Summary: ropes course in the mountains
|Car:||~1hr from ZH||Trail:||nearby||Restaurant:||yes|
Flumserberg recently opened the Kletterturm CLiiMBER ropes course and we tried it out last October. Unlike other ropes courses that are in the trees, this is a free-standing contraption out in the open. It had the best little kids ropes course I've seen, with a wide variety of obstacles. We also like the flexibility of the regular courses, which allowed you to pick and choose your obstacles instead of completing a full pre-determined course. It's pricey since you also have to pay for your ride up the mountain. Also, it feels a little industrial because you're not swinging through the trees. But you have an amazing view of the surrounding mountains, fields, and valleys to compensate. Overall, we really liked the course and would certainly recommend it.
March 28, 2013
Summary: zoo in Basel with extensive aquarium
|Car:||~1hr from ZH||Trail:||n/a||Restaurant:||yes|
One rainy day, we hopped on a train to Basel to visit the zoo there. We have a very nice zoo in Zurich, but sometimes it's nice to see something different and have a little adventure. The Basel zoo would have been much nicer in better weather, but we still had good time. The aquarium is particularly good, much larger than at the Zurich zoo, with many more types of sea creatures. I would go again just to visit the aquarium. The rest of the zoo was pretty standard and zoo-like. They have a family entrance fee for 40CHF for 2 parents and all children under 20. I think that's a pretty fair price. Overall, it's not amazing, but a pretty good zoo with an above average aquarium.
Labels: Animal Parks
March 8, 2013
It's a beautiful day today, but don't worry: we've got lots of rainy days ahead of us. So I wanted to add one more item to your list of indoor entertainment options: bowling! OK, I know it doesn't sound that exciting. But I think once or twice a year, bowling can be just the right diversion for both you and the kids. Plus the photo opps are great, with all those retro colors and funky bowling shoes.
Labels: Rainy Day
February 12, 2013
everything is more fun with friends
Here are some tips for skiing with kids, particularly in Switzerland. It's Sportferien for Zurich kids, so perhaps you are already on the ski slopes this week. But it's on my mind, so I thought I'd get it on the blog for anyone doing some last minute planning.
January 24, 2013
watching a professional performance can inspire your kids in their own theatrical endeavors
After the holidays, I like to have some exciting activities lined up to counter the after-Christmas blues. Last year I started the tradition of taking the kids to the theater a few days after Christmas. My mother took me to the Nutcracker every year. But they don't always do the Nutcracker in Zurich and I have boys who are not so interested in tutus. So I had to make some adjustments and I think it's a good compromise. Here is a summary of a few of my experiences.