Indoor Skiing

The kids just had a week off of school for the ski break. Yes they get a whole week off to go skiing. This is our 3rd year at the school and we hadn’t managed to go skiing on the actual ski break, until now. Well, sort of….

IMG_8734

Instead of making a big trip to one of the famous ski resorts in Europe, we thought we would start the kids off easy at an indoor ski hall not too far from our home. Alpenpark in Neuss (also known as Jever Ski Halle) is about 2 hours from our house and had everything we needed for the kiddos first proper lesson.

You are able to rent all of your gear right there and pick-up (and return!) is in the locker room. So there is no lugging around of equipment. This was a welcome relief for this mom, who is the carrier of all things. You pick up your gear, get it on, walk through the turn-style and you are ready to go.

IMG_8736

There is one large run and then a smaller kids/teaching area. We spent our time in the latter.

IMG_8733

Gavin was tasked with the duty of instructor so we had a tag team approach. He would go in with one kiddo at a time and I would sit in the cafe with the other one until it was their turn to switch.

IMG_8746

I did have to wrestle both children into their winter gear and boots but I think Gavin may have had the tougher of the two jobs. Ha!

Once the kiddos had enough of skiing for the day, we were able to use the sled hill that is also located inside.

The Park provides the sleds for free (no outside sleds allowed) and this area is included with your general admission.

IMG_2405

We ended up staying at the park for the weekend. There is a regular hotel and there are “treehouse” family chalets. Unfortunately, this is the only picture I got of our treehouse.

IMG_8753

Also attached to the Alpenpark is a playground, mini golf, Kletterpark (climbing park) and something called Funfussball. Funfussball appears to be like mini golf but played with a soccer ball. All of these things (minus the playground) were closed during our visit but would have been a welcome addition to our weekend.

IMG_8721

We had a great weekend and the hotel was excellent. However, I think next time we will make this a one day trip. At 2 hours each way, it is a long day in the car but reasonable. This is an excellent location for beginner skiers and will most likely be our go-to option until the kids are ready for real mountain fun.

IMG_8751

Das Praehistorium

What’s the best remedy for a cold Saturday in Germany? Why a gigantic indoor dinosaur museum of course! Gondwana- Das Praehistorium in Schiffweiler was where we spent our day.

IMG_8675

Das Praehistorium calls itself an immersive museum and that has to be the best way to describe it. It has typical museum things such as real dinosaur bones and informative displays.

IMG_8676

IMG_8678

However, it also has these rooms that have been recreated to simulate the ancient world with great attention to detail. In these little “worlds”, the dinosaurs of that era are on display as full sized animated animals.

IMG_8683

The museum warns you about these animations ahead of time as they are rather loud and in most scenes they are eating something (so a bit bloody). The museum actually recommends that children should be 6 and older as they do not offer a refund if children become scared and do not want to continue through the museum. However, O loved it.

IMG_2389

There are also multiple little shows and movies that play throughout the museum. Hand held sets for English are provided free of charge at the entrance for the adults. We skipped most of the movies as the staff warned us they can be scary but we did watch the “World’s biggest dinosaur show” at the end. There were large animatronic dinosaurs kind of fighting to protect their young. It was really impressive. Though E started chanting “Eat those eggs” at the Aucasaurus, so that got a little weird.

Once we completed the dinosaur section, there was also an entire wing dedicated to the evolution of man, which was also fascinating to walk through.

IMG_8686

Once we made it through the museum without a single tear shed, we celebrated by enjoying the indoor playground that is part of the museum.

IMG_8690

Pros: Unique museum experience, lots of hands on activities, designed well with good mixture of regular museum, movies and themed rooms, and an indoor playground! Cons: Some of the dinosaur scenes were graphic and loud (the museum repeatedly warns you about this so you know going in and they are happy to direct you around things they think might scare the children), distance from us ( 1 hr 45 min) and the price. It was 58 EUR for a family card ( 2 adults and 2 kids). However, to be fair, you can spend an entire day in there with all of the shows and the indoor playground.

North Pole

Have you ever wanted to travel back in time, perhaps to the 1950s? Well you have the chance when you head up to the North Pole in Cascade, Colorado.

fullsizeoutput_5763

The North Pole is a family-friendly amusement park located at the entrance to the Pikes Peak Highway. It opened in the 1950s and it has been frozen in time ever since (in the best way possible). It was a must visit item on our list when we were home in Colorado for the summer.

IMG_6539

The park is sparkling clean and it has all the fun old school rides of yesteryear.

fullsizeoutput_578e

Most of the rides were for younger kids, which was perfect for us. There are some rides that are a bit more daring so the park is probably best suited for kids 2-12. No Six Flags style roller coasters here.

fullsizeoutput_5739

Besides the rides, you also have the opportunity to visit Santa and Mrs. Claus or you can touch the North Pole (yes that’s ice in the middle of summer).

IMG_6541

They also have little shows throughout the day. We were able to catch the magic show and the kids were amazed (despite what E’s face looks like. Ha!)

IMG_6557

We love the North Pole. It is a great place to visit and a great place to take the grandparents as there is a nostalgic factor in there as well.

fullsizeoutput_576f

Here is my favorite picture from the day. Don’t worry this was their favorite ride and they rode it multiple times, which makes this picture even funnier to me.

fullsizeoutput_573d

Mathematikum

The winters in Germany are long. The three weeks of school Christmas break are even longer. After our millionth trip to an indoor playground, we needed to mix it up a bit, which brought us to Mathematikum in Giessen.

IMG_8324

This little museum is about an hour from our house and features super fun, hands-on activities to help kiddos learn about math and physics.

fullsizeoutput_60fd

This table is actually spinning.

IMG_2157

Giant bubbles are always a hit.

IMG_8329

IMG_8332

Puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles.

fullsizeoutput_6104

This is a code breaking game. I kept changing it to English and E kept turning it back to German. Either way we never broke the code. Ha!

We took a break halfway through and had a snack in their café. It was a really small café but had nice choices and the cappuccino was a pi-ece of art. Oh that was bad. Ha!

IMG_8334

We finished our day with a few more puzzles.

IMG_2160

fullsizeoutput_60f8

The top floor of the museum has a section for the littlest Einstein’s (under 3).

Overall, it was a nice quick day trip and something fun to do indoors during the break.

Olden & Stavanger

Just as I did with Geiranger, I made sure to set the alarm, got up early, and headed to the top deck to watch the ship cruise through the fjord and into Olden. Unlike Geiranger, I was greeted with an almost completely empty deck. It had rained early that morning and I think everyone voted to stay in bed after having an early morning the day before. They had no idea what they were missing.

IMG_7178

 

IMG_7183

IMG_7185

fullsizeoutput_5c66

Olden is what I imagined Norway to be like. Mountains, mist, green grass, red barns and of course waterfalls.

IMG_7194

IMG_7179

The final view at port.

IMG_7193

Unfortunately, the rain from early that morning was just a prelude for the day to come. It rained most of the morning and even teased us all with a little bit of snow. There was one break in the weather and we headed off the boat to see Olden. We did the tourist train. The kids fell asleep immediately and slept for the entire trip. We were afraid to move in case we waked them, so we have zero pictures of our little jaunt around. I promise it was beautiful. We headed back to the boat to warm up and got back just in time to join Spider Man’s Web Warriors.

IMG_7334

An ice cream run and we called it a day.

IMG_7337

The next day was our final stop of Stavanger.

Stavanger is an adorable town. You dock right in the middle of town and everything is walk-able. We headed over to the Norsk Oljmuseum (Norway Oil Museum). Now you might think an oil museum doesn’t sound very kid friendly but this museum was very hands on and even had a play area.

IMG_7348

IMG_7349

IMG_7352

You could climb up into that helicopter and make the blades spin. There was also an escape shoot you could try out to see what it is like to get out of an oil platform quick. A small, but super fun, museum.

IMG_7347

Just outside the museum is the Geopark. It is a park made out entirely of recycled materials used in the oil industry. I have mixed feelings about this park but the kids seemed to love it.

IMG_7357

IMG_7355

E jumped on that trampoline for like 20 minutes and O loved bouncing on the buoy balls and balancing on different objects. But yeah….glad I brought hand sanitizer.

Stavanger also was home to lots of great quirky shops and cafes. Overall I would love to come back to Stavanger on its own and do a more thorough exploration of the area.

Norway is such a beautiful country with so much to see and do. Already thinking about another trip!

Geiranger, Norway

Geirangerfjord is something out of a dream. It is steep cliffs and mountains that dive straight down to the water. There are waterfalls everywhere you turn and there is this amazing stillness that is only disturbed by the water falling off the cliffs and into the fjord. Just look at it.

IMG_7073

IMG_7080

IMG_7088

The most interesting thing about the slow cruise through the fjord was just how quiet it really was. The boat was moving very slowly, almost coasting, barely making a ripple in the water. There was over a hundred people on the top deck taking in the views but everyone was silent. The view had taken their breath away. You could only hear the rush of the waterfalls and an occasional “Wow”.

IMG_7097

IMG_7103

IMG_7105

To imagine how close we are to the side of the fjord, here is a picture of the boat with the cliffs in the back.

IMG_1585

Geiranger itself is a very small town at the end of the fjord. We decided to head up to the Norwegian Fjord Center to spend our day. The walk up to the Fjord center is a very unique experience. It is 327 steps up the side of a hill with a raging waterfall roaring next to the stairs.

IMG_7175

IMG_7170

IMG_7134

IMG_7120

IMG_7140

IMG_7136

The Center at the top is a nice little stop. It walks you through the history of the fjords and the people who lived here. There is a lovely children’s area and of course they serve waffles!

IMG_7145

It also has some great views.

IMG_7154

We were so lucky to have such a beautiful sunny day. The cruise out of Geiranger that evening was just as beautiful.

IMG_7298

IMG_7314

IMG_7312

IMG_7313

After walking all 327 steps (both up and down) we ended up having a tired and cranky Viking by the end of the day. Ha!

fullsizeoutput_59db

Oh the joys of traveling with littles!

IMG_7281

Alesund, Norway

Sailing up to the Norwegian coast is a sight to be seen. There are beautiful islands popping up out of the water and the mountains meet the ocean right at the coast. Everything is green with a bit of a mist surrounding it all. It is stunning and other-worldly. Then out of nowhere you find a city with bright colored houses set up across several islands to greet you.

IMG_7342

Alesund is a beautiful art nouveau city situated at the opening of Geirangerfjord and it also happened to be the first stop on our fjord cruise.

IMG_7221

IMG_7263

fullsizeoutput_5a42

We decided to spend our day walking out to the aquarium. We will talk more about that walk in a minute. The aquarium sits on the outskirts of town right on the water and it is in a stunning location.

IMG_7251

IMG_7246

The aquarium is rather small but had fish and animals that are only natural to the area so that was a unique twist. We were able to see most of the inside of the aquarium in under an hour.

IMG_7226

IMG_7229

IMG_7230

They also had frequent “shows” during our time there. We watched the diver feeding the fish. There is a diver in this picture somewhere.

IMG_7235

The real star of the museum, particularly on the insanely beautiful day we had, was the outdoor area with the children’s play area. I mean look at this.

IMG_7236

The children loved playing around in the sunshine and we enjoyed taking in the amazing views.

IMG_7242

IMG_7244

fullsizeoutput_5a20

We had lunch and started the walk back to the ship. Just outside the aquarium across from the parking lot, there is a little trail that leads you down to a seaside park, a great place for a picnic.

IMG_7250

Overall, I think the Atlantic Sea Park is worth a visit, particularly if you have kids. The aquarium only takes a few hours to fully enjoy. So I would suggest taking the bus out to the aquarium to save some time. That way you can schedule an additional activity for the day.

We were able to enjoy our day in Alesund and enjoy the views from the ship. Norway is stunning.

IMG_7267

IMG_7259

That night we would be off to Geiranger to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Character Breakfast on the Disney Magic

We just finished up our second fantastic cruise with Disney Cruise Line. We were on the Disney Magic again (as it is the only ship that comes to Europe) but we still managed to find new things to do, new sights to see, and even more fun to be had. One of the new activities we did this round was the VIP Character Breakfast.

We scheduled our Character Breakfast for our second day on the ship (first full day on board). This was a day at sea for us and I thought getting the kids to meet the Characters early in the cruise might help them warm up to the Characters for future photos. Neither of the kids really understood what was in store and here are the pictures to prove it. Ha!

Here is E sitting nicely at the table with her croissant. Not a care in the world.

IMG_6926

Then Minnie Mouse walks in and E is completely shocked!

IMG_6928

Then comes the look of “Oh my. Are you seeing this? This is Minnie Mouse right here!”

IMG_6930

All smiles.

fullsizeoutput_5a46

Don’t worry O got to see his favorite as well.

IMG_6938

Same level of excitement!

fullsizeoutput_5a4c

fullsizeoutput_5a51

You typically get to see 3 characters at the breakfast, so the one and only Mickey Mouse finished up our round of breakfast guests.

IMG_6945

IMG_1572

The VIP Character Breakfast was free. We just had to book a reservation ahead of time during our cruise check in. We just happened to be seated at the first table that the characters came to visit. They would walk out from behind the wall and surprise E every time. I think it made it even more exciting for the kids because you didn’t know who was coming until they popped up at our table. Of course, breakfast was also included with Mickey waffles for everyone. Smiles all around! Great way to start a Disney vacation!

IMG_6943

Playmobil Funpark

Nuremberg is one of the most famous cities in Germany. It is known for the unique city center, sausages, lebkuchen, and the Christmas Market.

fullsizeoutput_4d1c

We visited the Christmas Market last December and you can find that post here: Christmas Markets and Prague

fullsizeoutput_4d0d

All of these things are great but for those families with children there is also another hidden gem in Nuremberg. It is Playmobil Funpark!

IMG_5876

This amusement park is focused on active and imaginative play. There are no rides. Instead it is play areas and playgrounds that are set up around different Playmobil themes. For example:

Castle:

IMG_1094

fullsizeoutput_5321

Farm:

fullsizeoutput_54fc

IMG_5908

IMG_1095

Noah’s Ark:

This area had an “under 3” water table and a 3+ water table which were different heights. Our kids would have stayed here the entire time if possible.

Fairies:

IMG_1100

And those are just the areas we were able to get to before the kids were worn out. We missed an entire water and mud playground, a pirate ship and the dinosaur area. I absolutely love this place. It is an ideal park for young kids and such a fun and unique set up.

fullsizeoutput_530b

We were able to have lunch in their indoor facility. It has large play areas filled with Playmobil toys. There is also an indoor playground.

IMG_5932

IMG_5928

They have these little cubbies tucked in with the eating tables. The wall was just high enough to keep her in. Perfect!

IMG_5873

I found out that in the winter they close down most of the park but you can get into this indoor play area for only EUR 1.50. That is a steal of a deal. So if you are driving past the park in the winter stop by and let the kids run wild while you enjoy a coffee.

The park is also not too far from Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which is another famous spot. We had the Littleboy family with us so we made sure to make a trip over there as well.

We have been to Rothenburg several times before and it never disappoints. You can read more about the town here: Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Overall we had a great little weekend trip. I highly recommend Playmobil Funpark. So get out there and have some fun!

IMG_5875

Murano and Burano

During our quick trip to Venice, Sara and I got the chance to hop out to the outer islands of Venice. The islands of Murano and Burano were well worth the trip.

On the way to the water taxi, we stumbled upon the Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto. Venice has so many hidden gems.

IMG_5516

Murano is a small island known for glass blowing. Working with glass requires very high temperatures, which posed a major threat to the island of Venice. Therefore they decide to move all the glass-makers to one island to mitigate that risk. There are glass shops lining every street, canal and walkway in this town.

IMG_5520

After a quick lunch, we hopped on the next water taxi over to Burano. The island of Burano is known for the lace that is made there. However, it is becoming a more popular tourist attraction due to the Instagram-worthy colorful houses.

IMG_5524

IMG_4891

I mean come on! This place is just beautiful and so much fun

IMG_5534

Random side note: We also found Coca-cola with coffee here. It was actually delicious.

IMG_5531

If you have time during your trip to Venice, the islands are worth a visit. They give a different feeling than the main island (though the overflowing tourists are still there). The water-taxis to the islands are included with the Venezia Card, making it worth the purchase.

In 48 hours, Sara and I were able to hit all the main attractions in Venice and both islands. It was a perfect, quick, girls trip and we checked a bucket list item off the list. Thanks for the memories Sara!!

IMG_4906