FAMILY FRIENDLY EUROPE: Summertime, and the Planning is Easy
A family trip to Europe, a multi-generation group, or sending the kids off with an indulgent aunt or uncle is something many families are considering this summer. Children have spent far too much time on screens these past two years – travel may be one of the best ways to break screen habits. Or at least, bring the kids some much-needed real-world fun. I’ve compiled some family-friendly ideas in destinations the grownups already know and love.
Fairytale Castles, Ireland
Would your prince or princess love to sleepover in a real castle? One that’s stood for centuries, witnessed major historic events, and now welcomes visitors to experience the grandeur of aristocratic living? Many family-owned properties in Ireland and Scotland make room for guests, and these castle hotels are always set on the most carefully cultivated acreages.
In France, why not wander through some of the 300 chateaux of the Loire Valley, just a two-hour drive from Paris. Many are open to the public and several operate as boutique hotels along the valley’s 175 mile stretch. Need to burn off some excess energy? Rent bikes to go castle hopping – it’s one of the most popular ways to enjoy the area and the roads are flat and accommodating to cyclists.
Hiking up high is a way of life in Europe’s mountainous regions – introduce your brood to the beauty of the alpine and glacial lakes above the clouds. Gondola rides make it easier to reach trails that can meander through meadows or scramble up peaks and can be as long or as short as you like. Wherever you go, you’ll find gobsmacking views.
In Switzerland, head to the Italian-speaking Ticino region near Lugano. This far south, hikes in have an alpine-Mediterranean feel and there’s a Llama farm in the mountains where kids ride and hike with the animals. A little further north, catch the gondola in the town of Kandersteg to reach Oeschinensee, a glacial lake considered the country’s most beautiful. Many hikes of all ability levels are found here around the alpine lake. But going back down may be the best part: the mountain coaster (Rodelbahn Oeschinensee) is 2,500 feet of pure fun.
Life’s Better at the Beach
Europe’s largest sand dune is only an hour’s drive from Bordeaux, France. Dune du Pilat is a pile of fun — a jaw-dropping, three-mile-long expanse that rises over 300 feet from the Atlantic. Scramble up the hill or take the stairs and walk along the sandy ridge with grand views of the ocean and neighboring forest. Roll or run down the hill to the shore and look up – there may be paragliders launching off the dune onto the ocean breezes. The nearby seaside resort town of Arcachon is a perfect place for lunch – Arcachon Bay, which the town overlooks, is famous for its oysters and architecture.
Bordering the Adriatic Sea, Croatia is well-known for its beaches. With kids, you need sand, water and some shade – in Medulin, younger kids can play along the long Bijeca beach and frolic in its shallow waters. The warm sea and shallow waters found along the coastline of Nin are another great area for families and those not keen on pounding tides. If you’ve got older children who might want to go windsurfing, sailing, SUP or diving – rentals and lessons can be easily booked in Cikat Cove, on the island of Lošinj.