Insider’s Guide: Top family summer holiday destinations
Schools out, its summer time!
Plenty of families across the UK use the school summer holidays to pack their bags and take their children off on fun, educational and relaxing holidays. Whilst the Alps are best known for being a world-famous skiing destination, during the summer there are plenty more activities to be enjoyed in these wild and rugged hills that range from something for the adventurous daredevils, through to flower arranging workshops and getting close and personal with mountain goats!
Children come in all shapes and forms and there is never a ‘one size fits all’ summer holiday to keep the whole gang satisfied... but since Inghams have such a huge selection of destinations that come with an array of exciting and engaging activities in resort, we’re confident we’ll be able to rustle up the perfect family holiday for you!
From white water rafting, through to exploring mysterious cliff top castles, there is no end to the fun to be had on your summer holiday to the lakes and mountains regions. We’ve pulled together 11 of our favourite destinations and some of our favourite things to do with the kids in tow, taking into consideration ages, interests and those vastly varying energy levels.
History and Education
1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Berchtesgaden, Germany
Come and see the castle that inspired Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty! Children absolutely love the Neuschwanstein Castle, which is located in Berchtesgaden in Southern Germany, nestled up against the base of the Bavarian Alps. The castle itself is instantly recognisable and is a gothic baroque playground, with hundreds of grand sprawling rooms, full to the brim with history of Kings, Queens, Princesses and Princes.
You would be forgiven in thinking that Neuschwanstein Castle has stood on its rocky outcrop for thousands of years, but actually it was a glimmer in the romantic eye of King Ludwig II of Germany, who made his dream become a reality. Ludwig II was a romantic fantasist who was bewitched with the idea of creating himself a castle, and home, filled with ideas of chivalry and knights and maidens.
There is also an active children’s programme at the castle to keep the little ones engaged, with Leo the Lion acting as the guide. Children can learn about aristocracy, tackle puzzles in classic works of art, learn to identify different symbols in coats of arms and more.
While the castle itself is obviously the main attraction, the climb up the hill is very rewarding for children as well, with opportunities to stop for a snack and a bite to eat.
With splendid panoramic views, the Alpenhotel Kronprinz in Berchtesgaden looks out over the iconic Watzmann Mountain, and is only a 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of town. A comfortable and homely Alpine-style hotel with a delicious restaurant, there is also a leisure area with a sauna, steam room and a infrared cabin. Children will also love the weekly barbeque the hotel hosts (weather permitting!).
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2. Aurach Wildlife Park, Kitzbühel, Austrian Tyrol
If your children are less into learning about knights and tales of chivalry from Germany, then perhaps they would enjoy getting close and personal with the local wildlife in the Aurach Wildlife Park in Kitzbühel, Austria. Approximately 200 animals live here in Tyrol’s largest outdoor enclosure on 40 hectares and you can enjoy a fantastic day time tour of the four-footed friends!
A real educational trip, children can learn all about deer, lynx, wild boar, yak, zebu, marmots, wild ducks, pheasants, peacocks, ibex amongst other Alpine and mountain animals. The whole wildlife park is an educational adventure for children, who can join the mascot Willy the Wild Boar, who will get you to copy the playful characteristics of animal behaviours, learn interesting facts about surviving in the harsh climate, learn how a mountain goat keeps his balance... and more!
Best part, there is also a little petting zoo! Donkeys, rabbits, goats, llamas, sheep and many more animals love getting a pat on the head (and maybe a tasty carrot too!), and are more than happy to strike a pose for your family holiday photos. All the animals in the petting zoo are docile and tame, and have met hundreds of children in their lifetimes.
The Aurach Wildlife Park is situated a short distance from the beautiful summer resort of Kitzbühel, where there are plenty of activities to keep the whole family occupied all year around.
Hotel Kaiserhof in Kitzbühel is filled with Austrian charm and tradition, and celebrates a prime central location directly opposite the Hahnenkamm gondola for easy access for walks that families will enjoy, as well as a 5 minutes’ stroll from the Old Town. There is a swimming pool with panoramic views, a terrace and free E-Bike hire for the hotel guests (subject to availability).
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3. The Green Ring Walk, Lech, Austria
Getting out and about is a great way to bring the family together through shared experiences. The mysterious and fabled Green Ring Walk in Lech is a great outdoors family activity, but perhaps one that is best reserved for the kids who are full of beans and used to getting out in the outdoors. The walk can be broken down into 3 stages, 1 stage per day.
The walk takes you over hills and mountains, past great lakes and bubbling springs of water. Rocks as large as houses, and staggering cliffs above. Being so isolated in the wilderness, the Green Ring Walk really gets you back to the roots of nature and you’ll see plenty of Alpine wildlife and flora along the way.
The walk is also riddled with tales and folklore. Learn about the mysterious hidden treasure of Lake Zürs, and see the famous ‘Lech Wall’- a 50m long structure made up of stones that hold the names of all the inhabitants of Lech and Zürs (a sentimental ‘archive’ designed to survive the digital age).
Families will encounter along the way the ‘Mystery Green Ring’, a stretch of the walk dedicated to interactive obstacles and outdoor toys for children to enjoy. Children will be given a task book at the beginning of the walk, which holds all the objects that they need to solve the puzzles, unlock the doors, and crack the riddles to become the Riddle Master! Fun with water, physics and air, this section of the walk has been designed to engage children who might be tired of walking up and down hills all day.
Inghams are famous for their hospitality, so why not sample it for yourself and bring your family to stay with us at the wonderful Chalet Hotel Elisabeth in Lech? Sitting on the riverside and close to the heart of town, the chalet hotel has a fantastic menu for even the fussiest of eaters, complimentary afternoon tea and cake, pre-dinner complimentary wines, as well as some wonderful on-site leisure facilities.
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4. Heller Botanical Gardens, Lake Garda, Italy
The Heller Botanical Gardens in Lake Garda is a fantastic opportunity to submerge yourself in nature with this artistic, interactive and playful outdoor art gallery disguised as a garden. Children will love running about the wild flowers, through the trees and past the mysterious sculptures crafted by the artist Andre Heller amongst other famous contributors.
The garden is not only as playful as it is educational. Plant species from across the world thrive in this micro-climate on the shores of Lake Garda, and the garden has been hailed an ‘Eden’. Guests can travel through a world that unites nature and art, and see the plant arrangements that mimic the Alpine setting.
The gardens are also the home to plenty of wildlife too. Ponds are brimming with Koi fish, dragonflies, and butterflies flitter here and there. Children are encouraged to be respectful to their surroundings but also interact with them: smell the flowers, identify different bird calls, play the interactive musical instruments, and walk through tunnels and archways!
Lake Garda is just brimming with some fantastic resorts for you to enjoy your stay in! From Bardolino to Torri del Benaco, we’ve thought long and hard about which resort would be best for family fun, and decided that with its variety of self-catered apartments and hotels (as well as big swimming pools!) you can’t go wrong with Peschiera. The Eden Apartments in Peschiera allow families to have a little independence away from hotels, and offer spacious quality self-catered accommodation (or bed and breakfast/ half board options) and set next to an enormous family friendly swimming pool and sunbathing terrace.
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5. Enjoy a scoop of gelato, Montecatini Terme, Italy
In the rolling hills of Tuscany in Italy, sits the town of Montecatini and it is perhaps one of the best locations in our Inghams Lakes and Mountains programme to grab a scoop of authentic Italian gelato whilst wandering around the old town.
Gelato is thought to originate from the island of Sicily, but it didn’t burst into the scene until the 16th century in the nearby city of Florence, where a Florentine native named Bernardo Buontalenti delighted the aristocratic court of Caterina dei Medici with this wonderful frozen concoction!
Everyone loves an ice cream and nothing will delight the children more than visiting an authentic Italian gelateria where multiple different ice cream flavours are on offer under the glass made in the traditional Italian style of cream, milk and sugar. Flavours range from the traditional vanilla, chocolate and pistachio, through to the more bizarre and exotic like bubblegum and tropical!
The town of Montecatini itself is the perfect hub for a holiday in Tuscany, Italy. With the sea side resort of Viareggio within an easy distance, and the ancient and fascinating city of Florence just over the hills, your trip to Tuscany will be filled with excitement, adventure and long afternoons spent basking by the swimming pool (and that extra serving of gelato, of course!).
Then the Grand Hotel Plaza in Montecatini is the ideal home base for you! This pleasant hotel offers a warm welcome and hospitality, in a prime location in the centre of Montecatini it also has an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a bar and terrace. The hotel also offers a free packed lunch for guests who are staying 7 nights or more.
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6. Grab a ski lesson, Neustift, Austria
But... skiing is a winter sport!
Think again! No time like the present to get your little ones on the snow, and with Inghams travelling to 4 glaciers skiing resorts across the mountains, a skiing holiday in May or June is possible! Whilst the skiing is obviously a little more restricted, you can still arrange lessons for your children on the Stubai Glacier that sits above the beautiful Austrian town of Neustift.
Off the piste, there are plenty of activities to enjoy in Neustift so you could go skiing in the morning, and take to the rambling trails in the afternoon to do some wildlife spotting.
Children respond well to short bursts of activity, and an action-packed activity like skiing and rambling will see the whole family occupied through to the evening. Also in Neustift there is a mountain biking, hiking, rambling and other snow activities, and the best part yet is that the city of Innsbruck is only 30 minutes away, opening up another huge variety of activities to keep you occupied for days on end.
The Activehotel Bergkönig in Neustift sits in a quiet and tranquil location outside the centre of the village, but still within good walking distance. This hotel makes the perfect base for your action-packed summer holiday with plenty of space to unwind in after a hard day high up in the mountains. An indoor swimming pool, saunas, steam room as well as a south-facing sun terrace are all awaiting you.
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7. Mountain biking, zip wire, and more, Morzine, France
This would make an ideal trip for families with slightly older, more adventurous children, tweens and teenagers.
Morzine, for those who are unfamiliar, is the unofficial summer capital of adventure in the French Alps. During the winter it sits at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, but as the snow retreats and the flowers bloom the whole area is transformed into a hiking, cycling, trekking, mountain biking, parapenting, zip-wiring heaven for the adventurous spirits.
Famous for being the host of the downhill mountain biking world championships in times gone by, there are plenty of trails and bike rentals to keep your day filled up with adrenaline and if/when you feel brave enough, head up the mountain towards Chatel for the ‘Fantasticable’- a 1,200m long and 250m high zip wire that’ll put you right on the egde of your seat! Access from the Pré-la-Joux chair lift, there is a price per person for the use of the zip wire but this comes with concessions.
Not to be missed is also the tree-top adventure park where you can enjoy platforms, suspension bridges, ladders, zip lines and Tarzan swings for all ages! There is even something special for the ‘P’tit’ children, 2yrs old and up.
An especially great hotel if you have older children in your gang, the Hotel Les Champs Fleuris is family run, set in a peaceful location just a minutes’ walk from the centre of Morzine and has a wonderful outdoor swimming pool, and the hotel spa is open to anyone over the age of 16. You can expect some delicious food here, excellent service and modern tasteful decoration. The hotel will also accommodate rooms for up to 4 people.
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8. White water rafting, Chamonix, France
Another hustling and bustling activity location for the families with the slightly older children, young and older teenagers: white water rafting is an exhilarating activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family and will have you all rolling with laughter afterwards!
The Arve river that runs through Chamonix is fuelled by melting glacier water, and therefore very fast, and very cold! Wet suits are provided, along with helmets and basic instructions on how to control the raft. Trips can either be a short 2-hour run, or a full day descent down the river with a picnic on a sandbank. You can either opt to grab a raft together as a family team, or go for small 2-person crafts, but be aware that these are more vulnerable and not great for amateur white water rafters.
Chamonix is full to the brim with other summer activities that stretch beyond just rambling and cycling, with parks and zoos, and the Cham’Aventure outdoor park is an adventurous ‘high-ropes’ park that is suitable for all ages.
The Chalet Hotel Sapinère in Chamonix is a thriving and popular destination for Inghams guests throughout the winter, and its popularity doesn’t stop in the summer months either! Set in a quiet location with views of Mont Blanc, this chalet hotel makes a great ‘action base’ for your family, and the centre of Chamonix is only a five minute walk away.
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Festivals - fun and free!
9. Bohinj Wild Flower Festival, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
The Bohinj Wild Flower Festival in Bohinj, Slovenia is the ultimate children’s festival. Taking place from 25 May-10 June 2018. A great community spirit descends on the small, but stunning town of Bohinj in Slovenia for this annual festival that celebrates the wild mountain flowers and flora that decorate the town.
The Bohinj Wild Flower Festival has an action packed programme for the week-long festival that children will absolutely adore. Including folk dancing put on by the local children’s school, guided botanical excursions through the mountains for children, craft markets, storytelling, workshops on flower arranging and arts and crafts, as well as plenty of local food and music.
As a pinnacle event in the social calendar of Bohinj, and with such a beautiful tranquil town set against the backdrop of the Julian Alps, it’s a fantastic opportunity to take the kids and get back to nature.
You can’t beat the prime location of Hotel Jezero in Bohinj. Sitting next to the famous stone bridge in town, this hotel has a wonderful lake-facing bar and terrace, as well as an indoor swimming pool. Nearby there is a play ground for children, and the hotel sits right on the start of the walks in town, as well as a stone’s throw from the bus stop.
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10. Il Palio delle Barche, Lake Trasimeno, Italy
If you’re looking for a festival that’s a bit louder and livelier, then look no further than the exciting and fast paced il Palio delle Barche, that takes place in Passignano sul Trasimeno, on the shores of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. Set during the first week of the UK school summer holidays, this is not the one to miss!
Typically translating into ‘The Festival/Competition of Boats’, il Palio delle Barche is a boat race and historical enactment of the power struggle between two important Perugian families, the Baglioni and the Oddi. 4 competing teams from the town, each with their own colours, spend several weeks warming up to the race. And finally on the evening itself the air is electrified with excitement and adrenaline as the teams race to complete the obstacle course (through the town, on the lake) to get their team flag to the finishing point first.
What could be better than to get the children cheering along for their favourite colour?! If your little ones love playing football and watching races then they will love this. Make sure you head there early to grab a good lakeside viewpoint because the festival is immensely popular in the area and can attract quiet a crowd.
The Club Hotel Villa Paradiso sits in Passignano del Trasimenom, Lake Trasimeno and has some great facilities for families looking for a getaway break to the rolling hills of Umbria. A large outdoor swimming pool with sun terraces makes the ideal relax spot, and the hotel even has a free supervised mini-club for 4-12yrs old, and junior club 12-17yrs old. Hotel even has entertainment evenings as well as a delicious buffet-style breakfasts and dinners.
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