Lake Maggiore holidays offer offer a true all year round option for families. Whether your children are 3 months, 3 years or 13 years old, there is plenty to entertain them, whatever their age.
In the summer, most children are happy their Lake Maggiore holidays on the beaches by the lake or in one of the lidos. And in bad weather, if they still want to go swimming the lido at Locarno has indoor pools. Plus there are indoor pools in Luino, or at Chiasso where there are also water slides, separate children’s pool and jacuzzi. (www.california-acquapark.ch)
Another option if they like the water but fancy a change from the lake, is to head to a waterpark. There are two to choose from. One is on the outskirts of Milan at 61 Via Gaetano Airaghi, 20153 Milan. (www.gardalandwaterpark.it) It’s open every day from 10 until 7 between 1st between 30th May and 30th August. The park is extremely popular in peak times – August is the month that Italians are on holiday so expect long queues then. Definitely try and be organised and take a picnic with you to avoid queuing for an hour to buy lunch. Another tip is to hire a rubber tyre as soon as you arrive as it means you can avoid the long queues waiting at each ride. You’ll need to show photo ID to hire one. The other waterpark is in Vicolungo – www.ondaland.it. There are some pretty scary rides here so it’s popular with older kids and even young adults. But there are still plenty of family rides and areas for small children.
A smaller waterpark but closer to the lake is www.wavesesto.it, another waterpark with a handful of waterslides, 3 of which have height minimum height restrictions. The park opens between June and September each year.
Newly opened in Summer 2013, Splash and Spa Tamaro is also worth visiting. Again, it’s a great family waterpark with indoor and outdoor pools, wave pool and interactive water games for little ones. There are also a number of waterslides. Many have a minimum age of 8 so those with children under this age may not feel that they are getting as good value for money as those with older children.
For children that love the water, Valle Verzasca is also worth a visit during your Lake Maggiore holidays, particularly on a hot sunny day. The river here is fantastic to swim in and the setting is absolutely idyllic but please do be extremely careful. The currents are extremely strong and the water can be icily cold at certain times of year. You certainly need to be on your guard all the time, especially with young children.
For those with young children, Valle Maggia is probably a better and safer option. Only 10 or 15 minutes away from Valle Verzasca, it also offers you a chance to swim in the river. One of the big plus points of Vallemaggia versus Valle Verzasca is the parking – it’s much easier to find a parking place in peak season with parking meters along the side of the road. If you do have young children it’s definitely worth stopping near to the bottom of the river as there are some great sandy beaches and shallow waters perfect for paddling. The sandy beach here is probably the best option for building sandcastles too so don’t forget your bucket and spade!
Some other places worth a visit with children include Swissminiatur where you will find more than 120 models representing the houses, castles, cathedrals and other buildings of Switzerland. In addtion, it has more than 3500 metres of railway with no less than 18 trains, funiculars, rack-railways, cable-cars and boats in motion. It’s open between March and November between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. (www.swissminiatur.ch).
If your little ones would prefer to see Italy in miniature, then it’s worth visiting Minitalia in Bergamo. www.minitalia.com. This is an amusement park perfect for families with younger children. There are plenty of rides to enjoy as well as a miniature 3D map of Italy you can wander through. Those looking for something educational for their children might also enjoy the multimedia museum within the grounds, dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. There is also an aquarium to visit as well as a reptile house full of lizards, spiders and poisonous snakes. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes at the park catering to all tastes and it’s set up for those with babies, with highchairs, bottle warmers and baby foods all available.
Other interactive museums and exhibitions include the Alprose Swiss chocolate factory. (www.alprose.ch) The museum here presents the world of chocolate from its origins to this day. Following a catwalk, visitors are introduced to the various steps of chocolate making and at the end of the tour a visit to the shop will give you the chance to try some of the Alprose products. The factory is usually open for production on weekdays so it’s best to visit then. The museum is open from 9.00 – 17.30 on weekdays and from 9.00 – 16.30 on weekends.
Children also enjoy the European Museum of Transport in Ranco (closed Mondays). This museum guides you through the history of transport from the beginning of the XIX century to today in an open air park. Admission is free.
For those looking for something more active, Monte Tamaro is also a great place for all the family to enjoy. Open daily between March and November, there is loads to fill the day – an exciting 880 metre downhill ride on the alpine bob sleigh at Alpe Foppa, a 440 metre flight on the longest flying fox in Switzerland as well as a fantastic adventure park which is divided into 5 parts with various levels of difficulty (chidren’s course as well as green, blue, red, black and extreme black course!) (www.montetamaro.ch). There is also another fun park at Mottarone (www.mottaroneski.it) You reach the Mottarone by cable car from Piazzale Lido in the hamlet of Carciano di Stresa. Each cable car cage holds 40 people and it takes 20 minutes to reach the summit. For the more adventurous among you, there are loads of activities to enjoy from the Mottarone – winter sports, trekking, hang-gliding or mountain biking (bikes are available to rent on the spot).
There is another adventure park in Gordola which is open from April until October each year. (www.parcoavventura.ch) Entry costs from 8 to 17 euros for children and adults respectively. This park is best described as a high wire forest adventure or an obstacle course in the trees. The park has 700m of ropes course hung amongst their trees and 53 different games with 6 different difficulty levels, from children’s to ‘demanding’ routes for those over 150cm tall. The admission price includes the individual protection equipment (harness, pulley, helmet, gloves etc), the briefing and the assistance from the Park’s instructors. The briefing and running the course lasts about 2 ½ hours on average.
You’re certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing an adventure park to visit in this area. The adventure park in Baveno also offers a host of activities from a climbing wall to beach soccer, from bungee trampoling to high ropes and from cyclocross to beach volley. Linked with the Aqualake park in Baveno you can combine your day with some physical activities in the water too.
Or, you could try your hand at falconry in Locarno (www.falconeria.ch). Open daily from Tuesday to Sunday, you will get to see birds of prey in flight as well as Spanish horseback riding.
You can also go karting near Locarno. (www.karts.ch.) 8-13 year olds can kart on Wednesdays and Sundays between 2 and 3 p.m. (CHF15 per 10 minutes). Anyone aged 14 or over has the chance to go karting every day between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (CHF 22 per 10 minutes or a special rate of CHF 50 for 3×10 minutes).
For those parents who have boys or girls with a love of cars, there is also a huge indoor karting track – Dromokart – not far from Milan. The track is great fun with plenty of twists and turns to test their driving skills. It’s suitable for children aged 8 upwards. Whilst it does open 7 days a week, opening times vary and they have different time slots for different ages, so it’s worth checking the website for details or giving them a call before you go. www.dromokart.com
There are a couple of things worth visiting for children in Stresa. The Parco della Villa Pallavicino is a park built around a large old house, with a botanic garden and various birds and animals such as deer, zebra and wallabies wondering around. There is also a small children’s play area in the middle.
The top of Monte Generoso can be reached via a little cogwheel railway which children might enjoy. Just make sure you go on a clear day and take some warmer clothes with you. If you get there and it’s cloudy, it can be pretty cold!
There is a safari park (www.safaripark.it) in Pombia open all year round. The animal park is viewable on closed vehicles (car, bus or train) and there is also an entertainment park with rides and shows. Prices are 17 euros for adults and 12 euros for 5-13 year olds. Children under 5 are free.
If this option doesn’t satisfy your children’s love of animals, then a second option is the Cornelle Zoo in Valbrembo (Bergamo). With over 100 species of birds, mammals and reptiles to see, there is also a tourist train taking you around the park and plenty of picnic areas. It is open all year round but park opening times are reduced in winter months.
Another place to see animals is the zoo at Magliaso, which houses more than 100 animals from all over the world: lions, leopards, panthers, servals, racoons, nasua, gibbons, rhesus and other monkeys, parrots such as the ara, the cacatua and other exotic species and many others too. Barbecues and picnics are also possible. The zoo is especially suited for children since the animals can be petted and fed. (www.zooalmaglio.ch)
Close to this zoo is the 18 hold mini golf course at Caslano. (www.minigoldcaslano.ch) You’ll also find trampolines and ride on cars for the kids to enjoy here. (Please note that this is closed from 1st November until 1st April.) Caslano itself is a pretty little village right on theshore ofLake Lugano – it’s worth a short stop and there are some nice restaurants on the lakeside if you fancy a spot of lunch.
If you are looking to visit the towns around this area, one option to keep the children happy whilst you also get to enjoy a spot of sightseeing is to hop on one of the ‘tourist trains’. There are trains in Cannobio, Stresa, Lugano and Locarno which will allow you to see the main sights without having to drag the children around on foot!
With so much to cram in to your Lake Maggiore holidays, you’ll need to come back again and again to make sure you see and do everything on offer!