We all have missed traveling, and this year it seems everyone is back on board to start traveling—or even perhaps, planning that long-awaited European vacation! 

This summer, I decided to bite the bullet and took the much anticipated trip with my family to Europe to show my teens Germany, which my husband and I visited years ago, and Austria, where I went to school for a year, was engaged, and got married. As Munich and Austria hold a special place in my heart, I wanted (after being cooped up for two years like everyone else) to FINALLY make it happen.  

After making the decision to do it, however, the big question loomed in my head: What is there to do in these two countries for teens?!  

Well, after much research, I came up with a plan, with help from some friends in the industry, to hopefully get them learning a little bit about history and culture and maybe get them off their phones (at least for a little bit). Here is what we did as a family on our three day adventure on our first stop in Europe…Munich!

Activities in Munich

On our first day, due to jet lag, we took it easy and explored the main town square called the Marienplatz. An easy walk from our centrally located hotel, this is the heart of Munich, where the famous clock, called the Glockenspiel, rises high over the bustling Marienplatz. The clock chimes every day at 11 a.m and 12 p.m. and additionally from March to October at 5 p.m. It looks like a giant cuckoo clock with life-size figurines that showcase such scenes as a wedding, a jousting fight (in which the Bavarian wins, of course, against the French opponent), and a traditional dance. At the end of the 43-bell chime and 15-minute performance, a gold cuckoo bird chimes from the top of the clock. It is truly Bavarian and magical!

In addition to that fine Bavarian performance, we explored the vibrant square filled with outdoor cafes spilling over with gorgeous flowers in boxes on beautiful baroque buildings, and, ultimately, people watched in an interesting, history-filled country.  

We ducked into a few shops, as well. Some were filled with the typical souvenirs, but a favorite of mine and my girls were the traditional shops filled with beautiful and unique handmade crafts, scarfs, hats, ornaments, and more, made exclusively by the locals.

We also explored the unbelievably jaw-dropping beautiful churches and took in a few museums where we broadened our minds and added a little education to the trip (we moms like to do that).

We ended the day at an outdoor traditional Bavarian restaurant, also known locally as a gastronome. We were determined to eat a proper German meal of wiener schnitzel and sausages (clearly we are not vegetarians) washed down with a large pint of Bavarian beer in the beer capital of the world! Of course, the girls had root BEER, but that counted. 

After a relaxing first day, the next day, our teens were ready to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and so we booked a few action-packed adventures!

Rickshaw Tour

Booking a rickshaw is a fun way to really explore the city and its surroundings. Plus, you get to meet a local who will give you the inside scoop on Munich and its numerous attractions, parks, and activities. We had two rickshaws for an hour. Each rickshaw held two people, so my husband went with our older daughter while I went with our youngest (good bonding, as we had our teens trapped with their parents for an hour).  

The trained guides took us through Old Town and to the famous Englischer Garten, a gorgeous city park in the middle of Munich. The best part though was we had a private tour with guides who were so knowledgeable and fun too! They took us to historical locations and told us stories of kings, dukes, queens, and all the royalty, plus they answered whatever questions we had about Munich (and teens seem to have interesting but random questions). We even came upon a surprise as we drove in our rickshaw along the Eisbach River—we came upon surfers actually surfing on a river and with some pretty good size waves too (for a river). That was a cool surprise, and, though we didn’t have our bathing suits on hand, the girls vowed to one day return to surf in Munich.

Rickshaw Tip: If you travel with friends, there’s also a beer and pretzel pedicab/rickshaw tour, where you are served a Bavarian beer and pretzel while exploring the city (you’re not driving so all good there). How fun is that with some friends?

TimeRide Virtual Reality – History Experience

After the rickshaw tour and much time outdoors, we decided to check out a really cool virtual reality experience that we heard about and thought would be a fun family activity. I was skeptical if this would be something that they would really be interested in, but we took a chance and headed right off the main square to the TimeRide VR history experience.  

The VR experience was so much fun that after our experience, we raved about it to an American family that we met during our lunch at a local cafe. They subsequently left immediately after lunch to experience it with the kids and grandparents in tow. (They emailed us later to tell us what an amazing experience it was for a multi-gen trip!)

What we loved about this VR tour is that you get a little historical tour, and then, they seat you in these red velvet thrones. They strap a pair of goggles onto your head, and suddenly, you are flying in a “peacock carriage flying machine” over the countryside, exploring Bavaria thousands of years ago. You really felt like you were flying (no, seriously)!

It was unbelievable, and historical, but also entertaining. Yes, we were inside, and yes, it was like a Disney-esqe VR ride, but after the girls explored castles and museums and spent the day outdoors, this was a great adventure. We TRULY loved it. Also, it is a great idea if it rains, which it sometimes does on vacation. Anyway, skeptical me was no longer a skeptic, and I truly loved this little side jaunt to experience VR as a family. (And they learned Bavarian history in a fun, relatable way!)

As a side note, this would be great for grandparents too, as it is easily accessible and takes them flying while just sitting in a seat, so it’s safe and fun for all and a fantastic multi-gen activity.

Where to Stay in Munich – Le Méridien Munich

Whenever I travel to a big city, I always book a room near the city center, and Munich is no exception. You may pay a little bit more, but you actually save money and time, precious time. Plus, you can easily walk or take public transportation to most everything in the city.  

In addition, for families, this is super helpful to be close to the action city center. For example, if you have small children and one needs to go down for a nap in the afternoon, you can easily get back to your hotel room. Then, while perhaps one parent stays with the child, the other parent takes the older kids out to explore the town (or to the pool, which with young kids, is usually and almost always the case).  

The hotel must be close to the city so that is why for Munich, I picked the Le Méridien. The Le Méridian is a Marriott brand, which I tend to prefer as a loyal member of their Marriott Bonvoy Club. But, besides that, it was centrally located, a few blocks from the main square of Munich, so we could waltz right out the front door and be in the old city and Marienplatz, the central hub. So, in about a 10-minute walk, we could stand in front of the famous Glockenspiel. It is also conveniently located across the street from the Hauptbahnhof, or main train station, and as we were taking a Eurail all around Europe, we easily walked there with our luggage in tow to set off to our next adventure.

Le Mérdian’s rooms, again, being a Marriott brand, were also quite spacious, which is a plus considering a lot of European hotels have tiny rooms that look bigger on the website than when you get there in person.   

In addition, breakfast was included in our room rate, and the breakfast was all-out amazing, which Europeans hotels do very well. Every morning, we came down to breakfast to see this glorious spread of German cheese and meat boards, freshly baked croissants and baked goods, made-to-order custom omelets, and even honey from beeswax. You could also order off the menu, but the spread was so beautiful that we saw no need. In the summer, they have a cute inner courtyard, too, where you can eat outside.

In addition, Le Méridian has a nice local bar where you can unwind after the hustle and bustle of a day in the city, which we enjoyed. Though I didn’t get a chance to partake in their spa, they have a nice spa, fitness area, and an indoor pool.

However, my favorite part was the staff! Our four bags of luggage (we were gone for two weeks and had one bag each) was lost for two days! However, the staff at the hotel went above and beyond to track it and get it back to us before we headed off to our next destination. The staff went over and above our expectations and were so friendly, helpful, and outgoing. After three days and getting to know them quite well with all our luggage issues, we felt when we left, we were leaving old friends!

All in all, our three-day trip to Munich was an amazing success, where we were educated about this historic Bavarian city, but also had a lot of adventure and fun, too! I would highly recommend this gorgeous European city for your next trip to Europe. It is easy to get to from most major cities in the US and Canada and a great gateway if you plan on exploring more countries on your next European adventure.

Money Saving Travel Tip!

Purchase the Munich Card or Munich City Pass

If you are looking to save some Bavarian “dough,” so to speak, be sure to purchase the Munich Card or Munich City Pass. The Munich Card offers discounts on entrance fees to museums, sights, and attractions and also provides you with free public transportation.  

They both are great; however, we chose the Munich City Pass, and it saved us a ton of money! It is valid for a specific time frame and got us entrance to many museums and attractions for free; free access to buses, trams, suburban trains, and subway rides; and discounts at many restaurants and stores. In fact, at a few attractions, it even gave us priority admission—thus, no waiting! And, it even gets you free admission to Sea Life Munich, a fantastic aquarium, fun for all ages. 

And, with little kids or teens—or adults, for that matter—the Munich CityPass is great because if someone in the family wants to leave a museum after 15 minutes, and move on to the next one, they easily can! No guilt!

By: Colleen Kelly

A WLS-AM 890 Chicago radio podcast about Munich will soon be featured on https://www.wlsam.com/round-trip-with-colleen-kelly/.

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