Family Vacations to Vienna, Austria
|Vienna features a mix of family fun and cultural sights (Digital Stock)|
- Let imaginations run wild at the kid-focused Zoom Kindermuseum.
- Watch majestic Lipizzaner stallions train at the world-famous Spanish Riding School.
- Visit opulent Schloss Schönbrunn for a glimpse of the Hapsburg good life.
- Take in the view from the 827-foot Donauturm, and come back down attached to a bungee cord!
- Experience the fun and amusement arcades of the Prater.
- Escape the city for a day's biking alongside the Danube River.
A city that lays claim to timeless works by great composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and Schubert, not to mention the opulent legacy of the great Hapsburg Dynasty, Austria's capital Vienna probably isn't the first pushpin you'll find on most kids' must-see world map. Rather a pity, because beneath Vienna's refined and classical sheen lies a city bursting with energy and creative activities. Indeed, the city's once frosty attitude toward kids is also a thing of the past, with innumerable family-friendly cafés and restaurants, excellent public transportation, and a year-round menu of festivals and events tailored to the younger set.
Although Vienna has a sprawling metropolitan enclave, tourists mainly flock to the relatively compact Innere Stadt for access to the full array of historic monuments, churches, museums, hotels, and restaurants. But before you saturate those inquisitive minds with all that imperious European history, schedule a visit to the Zoom Kindermuseum, where young imaginations go wild through a series of interactive zones that include multimedia exhibits, science experiments, a craft section, and even undersea exploration. In the same vein, the Technisches Museum Wien features a fascinating blend of old gadgets, retro robots, and new-media inventions. Although the museum is entirely in German, English-speaking kids will very quickly get into the spirit of innovation. Both museums are located near many other museums and galleries in the central Museums-quartier.
One quintessential Viennese sight that kids are sure to appreciate are the strutting white Lipizzaner stallions of the famous Spanish Riding School, adjacent to the Hofburg Palace (the Hapsburgs' impressive city pad). Be warned, however, that tickets to the actual performances are sold out well ahead of time. The horses also take a summer vacation to the cooler countryside and aren't on display in July or August. If you can't get into one of the performances or don't want to fork out that kind of cash, you can score tickets for daily training sessions that will give you a glimpse of the horses' legendary poise and athleticism.
If you can squeeze one more cultural field trip out of your kids, make it a visit to the Schloss Schönbrunn on the outskirts of the city. This was the opulent summer palace of the Hapsburg rulers and runs a close second to Versailles in terms of sheer scale and magnificence. Forty rooms open to public viewing provide a small glimpse into the Baroque palace's staggering 1,401 other rooms. Outside, beautifully manicured gardens include a maze and small zoo (the world's oldest).
For a place saturated with so much culture, Vienna also offers plenty of parks and outdoor spaces where you can relax with a picnic, ride bikes, pedal paddleboats or even bungee off one of the city's highest points. The Donaupark, created for the 1964 Vienna International Garden Show on an island in the Danube, is a popular place to stroll, bike, inline skate, or just hang out. The 827-foot Donauturm tower features spectacular 360-degree views of the city, plus the world's highest city-based bungee jump for the fearless. For something less hair-raising but equally aspirational in this area, try Minopolis, a "city for children" where youngsters ages four to 12 can play at 25 dream jobs like doctor, journalist, or firefighter.
Vienna's other great outdoor locale is the Prater, home to the city's iconic giant Ferris wheel and fairground. The park includes over 250 attractions and rides, among them merry-go-rounds, ghost trains, go-cart rinks, old-school fairground arcades, and more modern thrill rides like roller coasters and bungee drops. Whether or not theme parks are your thing, this is a fun place in which to spend a half- or full-day drinking in the Viennese scene.
Of course, living like a real Viennese family actually means getting out of the city limits, too. Nearby forests and foothills provide ample opportunities for bracing hikes (plus vineyards and village taverns for a parental tipple), while a bike trail rolls alongside the Danube for 180 miles all the way to Austria's western border. Bike-rental shops in the city center, including Pedal Power Vienna, will get you at least some of that way. There are also a number of small ski resorts in the surrounding hills, good for a day trip to whet your appetite for the big guns in Austria's southwestern Alps.
Tip: Visit the WienXtra Kinderinfo information center when you arrive to get the full scoop on kid-friendly attractions and amenities around the city. This great service was established to bring Vienna's many children's activities to the foreand is a goldmine for seeking out family fun. www.wienxtra.at/kinderinfo/default.asp
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication