CONTRIBUTED BY LUCY B.
We have family that live near the Bodensee (Lake of Constance), so Bregenz, Austria is the ideal day trip in the summer. If you have little ones that like transportation, you can get to Bregenz by boat across the Lake of Constance or by train. If you’re staying anywhere in the region, this is the most convenient and adventurous way to travel. Depending on where you’re starting, you might want to take the boat for part of the trip and the train or a car for the rest. The boat stops at several towns along the way, which is fun and exciting for little ones, but the full trip from Bregenz to Friedrichshafen, for example, can take about two hours, and the excitement could devolve into crankiness. If you love boat rides, but want to keep it short, try leaving for Bregenz from Lindau (a gorgeous little island and a great destination in its own right). We combined train and boat for a good balance of fun and travel.Of course, you can also go the whole way by car, or spend the night in Bregenz. Keep in mind that if you enter Austria by car, you may need to pay a one-time highway fee (sometimes called a vignette.)
Bregenz is home to a world-famous opera house, even featured in the James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. The audience sits on land, but the stage is built over the water. If you’ve got the money and the babysitter, there are cruises available, including dinner, drinks and a night at the opera. For the cheaper version, you can visit the opera house during the day and walk around (depending on the season, as sometimes it’s closed for rehearsals). As with any town on the Bodensee, there are opportunities for swimming and playing near the water, as well as playgrounds, open green areas, and beautiful views. The real destination for us, though, is the Pfänder.
The Pfänder is a mountain that can be reached by car (boring!) or by Seilbahn. The Pfänderbahn is a hanging gondola-style cable car that lifts you up above the trees and carries you to the top of the mountain. I’m not much for heights, so I look up, not down! On a clear day, the views are spectacular. I t looks just like The Sound of Music. At the top of the mountain, I even skipped around a little singing, “The hills are alive!” (I couldn’t resist.)
In addition to looking like the set of a Julie Andrews film, the Pfänder is great for kids. There is a small playground, a restaurant, public bathrooms (an important amenity for any trip), hiking trails, mountain biking paths, and a great animal park. The park features animals native to this region of the Alps, like deer, birds, mountain goats and rabbits. It’s stroller-accessible, but the path can be rather steep, so be ready to work your thighs (and earn your Apfelstrudel!) For an extra fee, there is a show featuring huge birds of prey (eagles and falcons and the like) twice a day from May to October. My husband considers this a must-see, and remembers it vividly from his childhood.
There are plenty of picnic spots and benches to sit on and enjoy a sandwich while the kids run around. The restaurant is cafeteria-style, and offers the usual warm food, snacks and drinks. If you’re on a budget, just get a coffee so you’ll have access to their terrace seating area. The views are breathtaking. Keep in mind that it can be significantly cooler up on the mountain than it is in the city of Bregenz, and it can also be a little misty and windy, so it’s a good idea to bring a light jacket, even if it’s bathing suit weather down below.
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