Just an hour’s train ride out of Basel, Lucerne (Luzern) and the towns dotting its massive lake are tops for weekend (or day) trips. With our constant quest to find pools, beaches and kid-friendly activities during the summer heat in Switzerland, we quickly put Lake Lucerne on our to-do list.
We arrived mid-morning into the train station, which is conveniently situated near the boat docks and within easy walking distance of the Altstadt. Unimpressed with the 700 year-old covered bridge and Lucerne’s magnificent Altstadt skyline, the girls instead focused on the swans and ducks swimming near the shore.
Lucerne has a lot of places to see and it could probably take up a whole weekend alone if you were traveling with people who enjoy museums, architecture and history. We had a four and six year-old with us, who were anxious to find a playground, beach, pool, or just a couple iPads.
We found a cool cuckoo clock shop in the Altstadt that the kids enjoyed for a few minutes before we had to catch a ferry out onto the beautiful lake. Next stop, Weggis (pronounced “Vegas”, but lucky for our blog followers, without the restriction that what happens there has to stay there), which is a small beach community about a 40-minute ferry boat ride away. Weggis lore mentioned tales of a public beach club / play area called “Lido” where all of Jana’s beachy dreams would come true.
We went to check in at our hotel near the ferry dock and discovered that the rooms were not quite ready. No worries–we could kill time playing at the Lido for the remainder of the afternoon. Jana asked the hotel clerk if she knew about the Lido. She did, and mentioned it was about a 20-minute walk away. Jana asked if she knew of any public transportation that we could use to get there, but she could not think of any so we proceeded to march the girls for a good mile or so along the shore. We saw beautiful mountains, a refreshing lake, five to six signs indicating there was a ‘Lido bus’ that came by every hour, a ‘Lido bus’ going in the opposite direction, two children whining loudly about how much their legs hurt, how far away it was, what was a ‘lido’ anyway, and a mother letting them know it was just a bit further and that she was going to have a chat with a certain hotel clerk just as soon as they made it back.
The Lido was actually quite a bit farther, but was also quite glorious. Barry watched our stuff so he didn’t have to take off his socks, and Jana jumped in the lake with the girls. There was a playground, swimming platforms with trampolines and high dives, and an indoor pool heated to almost hot-tub level temps with a shallow end and pool toys. We managed to catch the Lido bus back to the hotel in time to grab a wonderful lake-side dinner and swim in the indoor hotel pool before bed. Jana thought it might be our best day yet.
Jana did ask the hotel clerk if she’d ever seen the Lido bus with the bright blue, open air cars carrying tourists down to the Lido from the stop directly in front of the hotel, and she said, “uh, no.” Jana suggested she might keep it in mind for her to recommend to future guests, especially those with small kids. She said, “uh, I guess I could,” and then handed us the keys to the wrong room, twice.
Once we got to the right room, it was pretty great. Large enough for the entire family (rare in Europe) and even though it was tucked away on the side of the hotel there was a large balcony where, if you arranged the chairs just so, you could see the lake and the mountains.
The next day we took the ferry back to Lucerne and transferred to a train out to Hergiswil on the other side of the lake where a working glass factory and museum are located.
The tour is similar to the chocolate factory one with lots of animatronic effects that take you through the 100-year history of the factory. It kept the girls interested almost the whole time and then it lets you out on a viewing platform in the hot glass factory where you can watch people blowing glass and even take a shot at making your own glass bowl (for 20 CHF).
We had noted before going to the factory that they had a playground. I have to hand it to the Swiss–they are very kid friendly and love their parks and playgrounds. This one had a huge dragon, a 7-meter high marble run, a slide and a sandbox.
Another Weggis adventure heads up the mountain. We didn’t catch it on this weekend, but did make it during a day trip a few weeks before. When we landed in town, we could spot a gondola going up the side of the mountain behind Weggis. The Swiss love their gondolas, and so do kids. This particular gondola goes up to Rigi Kaltbad and if you hold a SwissPass or GA card, it is free. So, we made the kids do some more marching, this time uphill, to the station and piled in. As far as gondola views go, this one is hard to beat as it rises up over Lake Lucerne and into a mountain setting.
There is a little village that sits on a mountain terrace overlooking the lake at the top of the gondola. Mineral baths and spa resorts are among the few hotels at the top, and we found a really cool playground to let the kids run around in.
I would love to come back and stay here sometime for a night or two. You would be hard-pressed to find a playground with a better view, anywhere.
Lake Lucerne has so much to discover, we will be back many more times. The kids love the boats and beaches and there are excursions you can take to Mt. Pilatus, the transportation museum, and others. Come visit!
Editor’s note: This was a joint-effort entry by Jana and Barry.