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November 8, 2013

Add Educational Value to an International Vacation!

Filed under: Daily News,Educational Adventures,Travel — Tags: , , , — Lesli Peterson @ 4:00 am

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4 Ways to Add Educational Value to an International Vacation

(and how we did it in Cancun, Mexico)

 

If I say Cancun, you say…what? Beaches. Sun. Lounging poolside.

We recently took the family to Mexico. We played for hours in the pool, and followed that with time on the beach.  We rode the waves, built huge sandcastles, and watched gorgeous yellow fish swim by our toes in the shallow water.  Our vacation bulged with plenty of fun, frolic, and relaxation.

cancun beach

Would you like to know what else we did? We learned new things! We learned about crocodiles and tamales. We studied archeology, linguistics, and more. Having been home from this vacation for some time now, I am convinced that this real-world immersion in another culture will remain with my young boys for the rest of their lives.

Family vacations do not have to be 100% leisure or 100% educational – they can be 100% both.  The privilege of being a homeschool family means that learning happens every day, in small moments, with life-changing consequence.

Here are four ways that our family maximized a recent vacation to Mexico by extending the educational value of this international trip.  My young boys would claim there was no “teaching” involved; it was pure fun! That is just what this mom loves to hear.

1.    Foreign Language

We explored the Spanish language.  This was an adventure for both of us, as I studied Japanese in school – whew! Since my son is only five years old, without previous exposure to other languages, I did not introduce topics like masculine and feminine voice, or verb conjugation! We simply brainstormed a few phrases we use regularly, and then learned how to say them in Spanish.

We found success with such phrases as “Hello” and “Goodbye,” or “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome.”  Older children might also consider “How much is this?”, “Do you speak English?”, “How do you say…?” or “How are you?”

Practice the phrases around the house for a while, and then consider using them in public. Say, at the grocery store or the library. The more comfortable your child feels with the phrase, the more likely he is to use it in the country you are visiting.

2.    History and Culture

If you are not familiar with a country, this might take a little preparatory research on your part.  Discover a famous or interesting historical event that occurred in the city you are visiting. Perhaps a famous explorer once visited there, or the people once practiced an interesting religion.  Introduce this tidbit to your children before you go.  You might consider using other tools to get them excited, such as documentaries on Netflix or videos on YouTube.

Again, we chose to work on a basic level with our young boys.  Cancun is rich with Mayan ruins. I could have introduced many aspects of the Mayan culture to them such as the calendar, the art, the religion, etc.  Our vacation fell close to Columbus Day, so we chose to focus on the civilization being one of the original cultures of the New World.  We also discussed the architecture and compared it to 21st century American architecture. We watched several movies and read a few books before leaving to help introduce the concept.

maya museum

In Cancun, we spent one morning at the Maya Museum.  It was right on the main hotel road and easily accessible by bus, and the entry fee was extremely affordable.  We saw remains of the ancient Mayans and many artifacts that they used in everyday life.  Also at the museum is San Miguelito, an archeological site recently opened with five buildings available to view, including The Great Pyramid, which is 26 feet tall! The boys enjoyed walking this area and thinking about what it much have been like to live there over 800 years ago. This experience reinforced the ideas we learned at home, making it one they will remember for a lifetime.

maya museum 1

3.    Gastronomy

Each culture has a culinary distinction. Mexican food, Chinese food, Thai Food, German food (ooo…I’m getting hungry.)  Before you head out, talk about the “typical” food for the region you are visiting.  What do your kids envision as the traditional meals served by families in that culture? Older kids might even enjoy learning about regional differences in a country. For example, many children associate Italy with pizza and pasta, but the coast of Italy is rich with seafood dishes.

Once you have hypothesized about the traditional dishes served, make time to cook a few at home. Take the kids grocery shopping in a cultural market in your area, or talk about ingredients that might not be available at your super market.  Take note of your favorite dishes and what you liked best about them.

Once on vacation, be sure to sample the same dish you made at home. Was it as readily available as predicted? How similar in flavor was your home meal compared to this one? Did you like it as much? Was there a special twist on the recipe, or was it what you expected?

Older kids might enjoy taking the gastronomy challenge a step further by searching for local spices as souvenirs, or discovering a regional cookbook for creating new dishes at home.  Some countries readily offer cooking classes to tourists – a fun and enriching family experience.

4.    Zoology

The animal lovers in your family might be more interested in habitats that habaneros.  My big guy loves to learn which animals are native to a particular region and what their home environment looks like.  Talk with your children about the landscape of the region you are visiting.  Is it dessert or forest, or maybe both? What types of animals usually live there? What do they eat; where do they sleep?

My son has an infatuation with Diego, so we used this as a springboard for our study on Mexico.  We discussed how the habitat of Mexico changes as you drive from Cancun to the more inland cities within Mexico, as well as the changes from north to south.

As we studied the changes that tourists and Mother Nature have caused in Cancun, we came across the Croco Cun Zoo.  This is a conservationist zoo in Cancun.  It started as a crocodile farm, but was almost destroyed by a hurricane in the 1980s.  That devastation led to the metamorphosis of the zoo, which commits to conserving several local species.

In addition to seeing crocodiles, visitors can learn about monkeys, parrots, deer, turtles and much more. Spend about an hour and a half with a knowledgeable guide on this interactive tour.  You can hold a crocodile, parrot, or snake, and your guide will give you ample time for photos. It was the perfect way to learn about the local animals and environments.

Has your family made a vacation into a 100% leisure and 100% educational experience? How did you do it? We’d love to hear!

August 18, 2013

Asheville, NC With Kids

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:05 am

Asheville with kids biltmore

Conde Nast readers recently named Asheville, NC the no. 4 friendliest city in the US.  While my family of six visited last week, we felt that southern hospitality! We also fell in love with the farm-to-table dining experiences, the eclectic mix of business and arts, and the breathtaking hikes and waterfalls.  Here is your guide to family fun in one of the “Most Beautiful Places in America.”

Play Here

Asheville TreeTops Adventure Park

Swing through the trees at this ropes course and zip lining adventure Mecca.  There are options for kids 7 years and up.  Plan to spend about 2 hours doing the ropes course. [Read more here…]

DuPont State Forest/ Pisgah National Forest

A short drive south of Asheville brings you two Forests of fun.  DuPont offers multiple waterfalls, including woodlands featured in the movie Hunger Games.  About 20 minutes on the other side of Brevard is Pisgah National Forest. You could fill a week with hiking and sightseeing, but if you only have short time then don’t miss Sliding Rock. [Read more here…]

Biltmore

Take a “hands on” tour of George Vanderbilt’s home and gardens. This American mansion is fun for families, and especially friendly to homeschool families.  Tour the home and gardens, take an outdoor adventure on the property, enjoy the animals at the farm, and so much more. Stay tuned for more about their new Homeschool Workbook, as well. [Read more here…]

Chimney Rock State Park

Enjoy a climb 500 stairs to the top of this iconic North Carolina attraction, and take in a gorgeous 75-mile panoramic view.  See the falls made famous in Last of the Mohicans. Walk the miles of trails, and behold the work of Mother Nature at the North Carolina State Park. [Read more here…]

 

Eat Here

Tupelo Honey Café

Tupelo Honey Café has won several accolades, including “Best of Asheville” from Southern Living Magazine (2011.) Our family gave it two thumbs up for three reasons: Delicious locally grown food, a family-friendly ambiance, and an owner with a heart for his community. [Read more here…]

Also worth a visit:

City Bakery Café – Awesome cappuccinos, and the stuffed French toast will fill you up for a day of exploring.

Mayfel’s – Get a table outside in the back courtyard – it’s fun and makes your meal family-friendly. Don’t leave without buying a jar of Mayfel’s sweet and spicy pickles, and I recommend the fried oyster salad with remoulade dressing.

 

Sleep Here

DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton

This Hilton hotel is perfect for families. There is a fridge in the suite, an indoor pool for year-round play, and a breakfast and snack bar ensure you get out the door on time each morning. It is only minutes from Biltmore and Downtown Asheville, and provides easy access to the interstate for day trips to the surrounding area waterfalls. [Read more here…]

Another consideration:

Brookstone Lodge - Another family-friendly location, and we love that it is locally owned and operated.

 

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and DoubleTree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+

 

DuPont State Forest/ Pisgah National Forest

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:05 am

asheville with kids waterfall

 

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

DuPont State Forest/ Pisgah National Forest

An easy 45-minute drive south of Asheville into the Brevard, NC area will reward you with breathtaking waterfalls and surreal scenic drives.  First, head to DuPont State Forest to see Hooker Falls and Triple Falls.  Both are short hikes from the same parking lot and feature the forest made famous by the movie Hunger Games.

A walk back up the hill and a short hike up an adjoining path provides a spectacular view of Triple Falls.  There is not a way (that we found) to get down into Triple Falls, but the view is worth the hike.  If you have smaller kiddos (or you are exhausted from your Hooker Falls adventure), then take the hike up only about half way.  There is a clearing in the trees, complete with a bench for resting, that makes great photos with your crew.

Drive less than 30 minutes to Pisgah National Forest for more water fun.  You will pass through Brevard on your way; this is the ideal place to grab a bite to eat.  Pisgah is huge – 500,000 acres! There is plenty to do including biking, scenic driving, camping and horseback riding, fishing and more.  But most visitors, and a fair share of locals, find themselves at Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock.

Coming from Brevard, Looking Glass Falls is a must-stop on your way to Sliding Rock.  It is a gorgeous waterfall visible from the highway, making it one of the most photographed waterfalls in the east.  There is ample parking to jump out and take a picture; the adventurous will brave the stairs to the bottom and take a swim in the freezing waters.  The water temperature in this area, in summer, hovers in the 50s, which doesn’t seem to detract the frolickers.  Back in the car, head a few miles up the road to Sliding Rock.  There is a small admission fee (cash please), which presumably covers the cost for the seasonal lifeguards on duty in this recreation area.  Take a plunge down the 50-foot natural water slide into an eight-foot pool of icy water.  There is usually a crowd, but the line moves fast and the wait is short.

DuPont Parks

 

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

Asheville TreeTops Adventure Park

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:05 am

 

asheville with kids trees

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

Asheville TreeTops Adventure Park

Tie into a harness, and swing from the trees as you encounter obstacles such as dangling hula hoops, airborne kayaks, and tightrope wires – all from 12 to 45 feet in the air.  There are over 50 challenges, spread over three levels of trails.  Green Trails are ideal for kids as young as 7 years old, or they make a great warm up for older kids, and mom and dad.  Yellow Trails increase the challenge, and Red Trails are not for the faint of heart.  My teens took on all three levels, which took about three hours.

Observers can huddle under a large portion of the obstacle park, gasping as the adventurers above move from stage to stage. It’s a great place to take pictures. Bobby, our ropes course expert and guide, was hands-off and allowed the kids to experience the challenges themselves, but was only a yelp away when they needed assistance or advice on overcoming an obstacle. The kids were able to experience the ropes independently because of new belay technology; a device affectionately called a “Tweezle” ensured that they were always latched in safely as they maneuvered the course. As mom, this state-of-the-art contraption gave me rest, knowing that my aerial acrobats were attached at all times.

In addition to the ropes course, explorers can take the Zipline Tour (save on a combo ticket) or bike the trails around the property.  Don’t forget to wear closed-toe shoes, and bring a cooler for cold drinks or snacks during and after your high-flying expedition.

Asheville Treetop 1

 

Asheville Treetops 2

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

 

Chimney Rock State Park

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:04 am

Chimney Rock Kids

 

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

Chimney Rock State Park

Travel about 30 minutes east of Asheville to Chimney Rock State Park.  Your reward: 75-mile panoramic views from atop this 535-million year old icon of North Carolina! The drive up the mountain takes about 10 minutes, and the stunning tree- and rock- lined road doesn’t begin to prepare you for the scene at the top.  The view from the parking lot is magnificent, and it is worth the trip even if you are not prepared to climb the 500 stairs to the actual Rock.

But, climb we did.  The stairs have plenty of resting platforms, and they were secure on the sides, as well.  I made my 5-year old hold the railing and we put the baby in a sling; it took about 15 minutes to ascend.  We were in awe with each step from the breathtaking views of Lake Lure (featured in Dirty Dancing) to the gorgeous mountain vistas.

Once at the top, visitors can pose on the rocks for photos, or sit peacefully to take in the slight breeze that accompanies the view.  If you are weary from the walk, as we were, take your rest with a cup of ice cream; there is a gift and snack shop.  My young son was thrilled with his lapel pin purchase, eager to show off his accomplishment. While we savored the flavors, Dad and the older kids continued to the Skyline Trail, the highest peak in the park with an elevation of 2,480 ft, overlooking Chimney Rock.

If you are looking to explore Chimney Rock further, there are multiple trails for hiking, including kid-friendly trails near the entrance.  There is also a trail to the mountain’s waterfall, but it is closed due to a mudslide brought on by the unusually wet summer this year. Great Woodland Adventure Trail features discovery stations for kids, each showcasing a locally-made sculpture.  The trailhead is just beside the Animal Discovery Den, which houses several live animals for kids to enjoy.

Chimney Rock State Park Kids

 

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

Biltmore

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:04 am

Asheville Biltmore Kids

 

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

Biltmore

Tour the 250-room home of George Vanderbilt, American’s transportation tycoon.  This behemoth is the largest home in America and often-dubbed “America’s Downton Abbey.”  Want to go but feeling hesitant about bringing the kids? Not to worry! Biltmore caters to kiddos; they will have a blast. Homeschool Day is a very popular experience with homeschool families around the south.  Biltmore is also working on a new Homeschool Workbook, which will be available shortly.  (When it is, we will let you know via Facebook, and add a link here!)

We toured the home at our own pace, which took a few hours.  My teenagers loved the audio tour, as expected, but I was unsure my energetic kindergartener would hold up. Boy was I surprised! He adored the scavenger hunt that Biltmore made available for younger ones, but only part way through he had commandeered by audio tour and was engrossed in the rich history of each room.

After an inside tour, don’t miss a walk around the grounds of the mansion.  There are over 22-miles of trails.  Younger kids will enjoy the three ponds of the Italian Garden; the lily pads and Kio will mesmerize them.  Keep walking through the Walled Garden and down to the Conservatory; they can get the wiggles out and you can admire the gorgeous backdrop.  If you have older kids then consider extending your walk into the Azalea Garden, or out into the woodland trails.

Stable Café, beside the main house and garden, is the perfect lunch spot for a family.  My son indulged afterwards at the ice cream shop before our group piled back in the car and headed a few miles (still on the 8,000-acre property) to Antler Hill Village and Winery.  We felt very comfortable bringing the kids on the 30-minute wine tour; they enjoyed seeing the old clock which is still hand-wound today, and Lady Vanderbilt’s 1913 “C-Six” touring car. At the end the kids even had some sparkling grape juice while we indulged a bit at the complimentary tasting at the tour’s end.

After the tasting, we walked to the Village. This is a gathering space with gardens, restaurants, a new playground, a farm and petting zoo, and a plethora of outdoor adventure options.

Treasure Hunt Biltmore Kids

Biltmore Gardens Kids

 

 

 

Antler Hill Village Kids Biltmore

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

Tupelo Honey Cafe

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:03 am

tuphoney

 

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

Tupelo Honey Café

We had the pleasure of partaking in a breakfast smorgasbord while visiting Tupelo Honey Cafe.  Biscuits and honey came to the table with our coffee; they rose high and melted in our mouth.  We tried everything from the sweet potato pancakes to the eggs and bacon. It was a proverbial “Sunday morning” at our large family table, filled with generous helpings and friendly banter.  Tupelo Honey works hard to source their ingredients from local farmers, and the freshness resonates in each morsel. Even the baby was enjoying the fare, nibbling away at Daddy’s asparagus while we talked.

Tupelo Honey works for the singleton eating at the bar, or a large family of 6, like ours.  You know you’re at a kid-friendly joint when there are ten selections on the child’s menu, and it (like the main menu) offers gluten-free and vegan options.  The wait staff was awesome; even with a huge morning crowd, our server never missed a step.

I am most excited to share with you about the community work Tupelo Honey is doing for Asheville, and each of the cities where a Tupelo Honey Café resides.  For example, in Sullivan (near Greenville, SC), they partner with Mill Village Farms.  Mill Village Farms is a community farm like no other.  This non-profit employs the neighborhood kids of this underprivileged area of town, and teaches them job skills, organic agriculture, and entrepreneurship.  While they do this, they grow fresh produce for families in the neighborhood who are in need. If you are interested in learning more about Tupelo Honey and Mill Village, here is a great video.

Tupelo Honey Asheville

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville – Biltmore

Filed under: Travel — Lesli Peterson @ 8:03 am

asheville biltmore DoubleTree

 

{{This article is part of our Asheville With Kids series.}}

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Asheville – Biltmore

Location, location, location. DoubleTree by Hilton was an excellent choice for our family.  It was only a short drive into downtown for our visits to Tupelo Honey and Mayfels, we were literally minutes from Biltmore, and we easily jumped on the Interstate for our mountain adventures.

We opted for basic two rooms to better accommodate our family of six, but a smaller family will appreciate a suite with a fridge.  The convenient Market Place in the lobby made it easy to grab a coffee (love the Kuerig coffee maker!), snack, or on-the-go breakfast sack.  In the evenings we spent much of our time at the indoor pool, complete with hot tub and gym.  The free wi-fi made it easy to post some vacation photos to Facebook for our friends back home.

While we did not use it, room service is available.  The hotel is also connected to a TGI Fridays. Even in this farm-to-table restaurant wonderland, we opted for a night at Fridays. After a day of sightseeing with the kids, do not overlook the convenience of an in-hotel restaurant! There is a large, formal breakfast buffet available in the mornings, as well.

The staff were exceptionally helpful and polite.  They always greeted us with a warm smile, and offered to help with any of our planning.  They were even kind enough to deliver a pack-n-play to the room at the last minute.

As the nostalgic one in the family, one of my favorite things about this hotel is that the land it sits on was formerly part of the Biltmore Dairy.  You can even find life-size Jersey cow and milk wagon art in the lobby! The current owner is a member of the Vanderbilt family, and ensures the hotel contributes to the rich history of the Asheville area.

We would definitely stay here again.

 

Biltmore DoubleTree Asheville

 

Disclosure: Thank you to the city of Asheville for assisting us on our family adventure. Thank you, also, to Asheville Treetops Park, Biltmore, Tupelo Honey Café and Doubletree Hotel for their complementary contributions to our Asheville adventure.   While we appreciate their kindness, it never deters us from reporting our honest opinion. Find Lesli on Google+.

July 18, 2013

Family-Friendly Cote d’Or Burgundy France

Filed under: Travel — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 6:45 am

Burgundy with kids

Burgundy, or Bourgogne as the French say, is a region that calls to wine enthusiasts and medieval historians.  The vineyards and caves that dot the countryside are attractive and inviting; the historical villages and ancient monuments are a reminder of the wanton past in this land. Burgundy was its own independent state until 1477, and the most wealthy region of France then and now.

Within Burgundy there are four areas, each with their own contribution to the region.  Cote d’Or is the most popular for oenophiles, but it is also a region that kids and their families can appreciate.  So go. Enjoy the country; enjoy the wine. Rest easy knowing the kids will have a blast as well! Here are three towns with kid-friendly fun to get you started.

 

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain

Flavigny is a walled medieval city of only about 300 residents.  No cars are allowed within the walls, so the city has retained its old-time charm.  As you walk the city you will notice several maps in strategic locations to help identify important houses and features.   Adults will not want to miss the Abbey, founded in 717, which is free to tour. Wait! Can you smell that scent? It’s aniseed. The kids will love a tour of the aniseed candy factory, next to the Abby. One final note: the movie ‘Chocolat’ filmed primarily in this ancient fortress.

 

Beaune

The prime attraction in this Burgundy town is Hotel-Dieu, a 15th century hospice, which has been lovingly preserved and renovated.   Your kid’s imaginations will soar as they see the medieval medical tools on display.  The wards, kitchen and pharmacy are also on exhibit.  Once convinced of the marvels of modern medicine, head to a wine tasting in one of the large dark caves in this area.  Children are welcome on tasting tours, and they will feel like Indiana Jones navigating the wine tunnels. Mom and Dad may also enjoy a stop at the Museum of Wine whose 15th century building was once a meeting place for the dukes of the Region.

 

Dijon

Should you be staying in the region overnight, Dijon is a choice location for your hotel.  It was one of the great European cities of the 14th century, and is still lively and bustling today.  Owl’s Trail is a wonderful way to learn about the city while keeping the kiddos interested and entertained. In this self-guided tour, children can hunt for owls (carvings, plaques and such on buildings in the area) as you wander the streets discovering interesting facts of the town (like the house with no roof!) Don’t forget a stop at Amora Mustard Museum. You can also visit a cheese factory, a truffle farm, and more.  Most museums are free, as well.

 

There are many more family-friendly excursions in Burgundy, but if time only allows for a short visit, Cote d’Or is the region to explore.  Have you been to this medieval land? Tell us about it!

 

July 16, 2013

5 Free Family Adventures in Switzerland

Filed under: Travel — Rebecca Kochenderfer @ 6:38 am

free family adventure switzerland

 

Switzerland is expensive.  There is no way to sugar-coat this truth. However, don’t let this stop you from visiting this land adorned with gorgeous mountain peaks and looking-glass lakes. Here are five free things to do for families visiting Switzerland.

Tour Swiss Parliament (Bern)

If you are bringing your children in the summer, then good luck getting them into the building; you might have to admire it from the outside.  In front of this majestic domed government house are a series of dancing fountains that entertain the children – locals and tourists – during the warm months.  Should you make it inside, free tours are offered most days of the year. During Session you can also hear debates and meet a Swiss official or two.  No photos are allowed inside. Bring your passport ID, and some change for a locker if you are carrying a large bag.

 

Explore the outdoors (Various)

Hiking trails of various length and difficulty abound in this country.  Families might enjoy such hikes as the Heidi Trail in Maienfeld, exploring the mountains and fields that inspired the famous story.  There is a Witches Trail in Schwarzsee where you can read about the seven legends and fairy tales of this land. Hike the Historic Railway Trail in Bergun-Bravuogn for striking views of the Rhaetian Railway line, or the Geology/Botany Trail in Lucerne, which starts at the Stancerhorn. Whatever your taste, download the free Swiss Hike iPhone app in order to download 32 hiking maps offline.

 

Visit a cathedral (Various)

Often, with the Alps and Matterhorn, as well as over 600 castles, cathedrals in Switzerland often go unnoticed.  These architectural masterpieces are gorgeous to behold, and they offer insight into the religious traditions of Switzerland and the Swiss canton in which they are located. Arguably, Lausanne Cathedral is the most impressive, with its decorative doorway, Montfalcon Portal.  St. Peter’s in Geneva is interesting in that it displays multiple architectural styles within a single building. The pillars, towers, and spires are breathtaking.  Cathedrals are a free marvel to behold all around Switzerland.

 

Ride around the city (Geneva)

In the summer months, rent a bicycle in one of six locations around Geneva for free.  From May through October you can cycle the city for up to four hours for free, and then return your bike to any of the rental locations.  If you want to tour the city in winter (or in a more climate-controlled manner) then hop on a tram, bus or train with your Geneva Transport Card, which is free to anyone staying in a hotel, hostel or campground in Geneva. You can even cross the lake for free in a yellow-taxi boat. Coming into Geneva via the airport? Don’t forget to pick up a ticket in baggage claim for free transport to your hotel.

 

Peek into the wonders of Emmental cheese (Affoltern)

Emmental is an iconic Swiss cheese, tracing back to the 13th century.  Its name comes from the river Emme, near Bern, which is where the cheese is thought to have originated.  Visit the dairy to watch the cheese being made; free tours are available several times a day. Call ahead to reserve your space, as tours fills quickly. The restaurant offers a variety of cheeses to taste. There are also walking excursions in the area of this picturesque valley, including the Emmental Cheese Route, which touts this delicious cheese, as well as other aspects of the local agriculture and other interests of the area. A free map and phone app of the route is available, including a fun scavenger hunt-type side story for the kiddos.

 

Have you been to Switzerland? Share your experiences with us!

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