Sledding in Switzerland

Blue skies, snow-capped mountains, and the sound of your oldest screaming “Faster Mommy!” as we go hurdling down a mountain on a wooden sled, what better way to spend the last day of the year! Grindelwald, Switzerland provided the backdrop for our epic sledding excursion.

IMG_5098

(Don’t worry the clouds cleared out quickly)

We started our journey in downtown Grindelwald, where you pay to board a bus to take you to the top of the mountain. They leave about every hour.

IMG_5095

(Playground by the bus stop. Not bad of a backdrop)

The bus is a large tourist bus and it takes you up a very steep, one lane road that is full of switchback turns to the top of a mountain. I could not believe the tight turns that this bus was able to maneuver around. Mind you, all of this is done on a completely snow covered road. It was a bit nerve racking (though O fell asleep on the way up) but the views were absolutely stunning.

IMG_5118

At the top, everyone piles off the bus and you can rent your sled at the top from a little hut. This is a cash only operation so make sure you bring some Swiss francs with you. Also, this is the German speaking area of Switzerland so brush up on how to order some sleds (Ha!). After a little confusion, we all had sleds including one with a toddler seat attachment, and we were off.

IMG_5096

We decided to take the easiest, family friendly course. This option allowed for some fast downhill sections and also some flat walking parts with excellent stops for pictures.

IMG_0819

IMG_5106

IMG_5100

It took a little practice to get used to steering the sled but we managed.

IMG_0820

O loved it. E was not a fan for the majority of the trip but then started to like it toward the end.

fullsizeoutput_4dfc

We made our way down our course after a few hours (with some snack breaks in there of course). There is a bus stop right at the end of the track where you throw your sled on the bus’ back racks and hop on for the return trip to town. I thought this was going to be just a morning trip but it took the majority of the day.

It was a great adventure and a great way to finish up our year.

IMG_5102

Santa Park, Finland

Just down the road from Santa Claus Village is Santa Park.

IMG_4605

Santa Park is kind of like a Christmas amusement park that is tucked into an underground cave. Not even kidding.

Santa Park is only 1.25 miles (2 km) down the road from Santa Claus Village but it is the bus stop right before Santa Claus Village. So if you take the bus from Santa Claus Village to Santa Park you have to ride all around town before getting back there. The reason I tell you this is to explain why we decided to walk, 1.25 miles (2 km), with 2 young children……in the arctic cold.

fullsizeoutput_4ab8

Now 1.25 miles is not bad, except it was absolutely freezing. This is what it looks like after you arrive to Santa Park from this walk in nature.

fullsizeoutput_4a5d

(Suggestion: Take a taxi)

However, it was worth the effort. This place was lovely. It was also nice that everything was indoors and we could check our jackets at the door.

As you enter the cave, you walk down a long tunnel and there is the noise of elves working with their tools preparing everything for Christmas. I got so excited just walking through the entrance!

Some things to see inside the Park:

Ice Bar

fullsizeoutput_4a8e

It was absolutely freezing in here. We had a quick drink and got out of there. Then as we were walking out we realized they have free coats for you to borrow. They are just located across from the entrance to the bar and are easy to miss. We felt so silly. Ha!

Sleigh ride

There is a cute little sleigh ride that takes you around the elves workshop and a winter wonderland. It had a very “It’s a Small World” ride feel.

IMG_4569

Crafts

There were several craft areas around the park. In one location you could make your own Santa/Elf out of wood, felt and cotton. Next to this area was a play dough design area. There was also cookie decorating available.

Elf School

This was the absolute highlight for O. It was a super adorable program that ran for about 20-30 minutes preparing children to become elves. It was done by 2 elves with one speaking English and one speaking Finnish throughout.

IMG_4574

It was highly entertaining and in the end each kiddo got an elf hat and a certificate. The certificate is in Finnish, which makes it a great little souvenir. The hat also says “Santa believes in me”. I mean, come on. You can’t get any sweeter than that.

IMG_4994

Entertainment

We happened to swing by the main stage just in time to catch a performance. We had no idea the theme and just happened to snag a seat as it was starting. Then this amazing acrobat/gymnastic performance began. The actors were elves making a present for Santa but they performed amazing flips and jumps all over the stage. It was completely unexpected. After the “story” was over, one of the performers did a handstand on 2 poles. Then she took a bow and arrow with HER FEET and shot down a balloon on a target on the other side of the stage. I wish I had a picture of our faces. We sat there just completely stunned. The kids were also enthralled by the performance and didn’t move an inch when watching it. It was incredible!

The admission fee for Santa Park includes 2 days at the park. So we made sure to swing by the next day as well to catch all the fun. Side Note: The tacky Christmas sweater game is strong here. Bring your best!

 

Santa Claus Village and Santa Park took up the majority of our trip to Finland. We did visit the Arktikum museum, which has some kid friendly exhibits and a northern lights simulation.

IMG_0655

After all our fun around the Arctic Circle, we hopped back on the train (read about that adventure here:   Overnight Train to the Arctic) and headed back to Helsinki to catch our flight home.

Helsinki Harbor greeted us with this view on our last day in Finland.

IMG_4669

Finland is a beautiful place. Go visit them!