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Austria and Prague with kids

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Hi,
We are planning to travel thru Prague and Austria in the first two weeks of August with our kids, who are 10 and 8 years old. Welcome any ideas you may have on how to plan our time and things to do. We will certainly want to see some museums and castles but looking to mix things up for kids to do some activities--biking, hiking, parks, etc. Thanks.

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    check out the Prater in Vienna and ride the ancient Big Wheel - a Ferris Wheel there since the late 1800s and once once of the largest in the world - goes at a slow comfy pace.

    And check out a day trip to the Wachau Valley - take a suburban train to Melk - not far - check out the famous Melk Abbey then head down to the Danube and board the sightseeing boats that ply the finest section of the Wachau Valley - strewn with high vineyard-carpeted hills and sweet wine towns - get off at Durnstein - see the ruined old castle - have lunch - stroll around and then take the bus to nearby Krems and train back to Vienna.

    If you have a car drive to Melk and take the boat round-trip from there.

    Sounds like a lot but it's all very easy and kids should love the boat ride.

    Salzburg also has salt mine tours where I think you slide down a chute - anyway another nice kids thing.

    With two weeks you have lots of time to hit Salzburg too - a wonderful old Baroque city - and the Austrian Lake District just to its east - the proverbial Sound of Music Country where much of the film was shot (as well as at Heilbrunn Palace greg talks about and in the city. Maybe watch the movie before leaving.

    The Lake District is just a short drive towards Vienna from Salzburg or you can take postal buses there in about an hour or so and again take a boat on Lake Wolfgang and perhaps take the steam train up the mountain behind St Wolfgang.

    Hallstatt is a charmer for all ages and easy to get to by train or driving - right up in the high snow-capped Alps and again a nice lake to boat on and Salt Mine Tours as well and gondolas - everything an Alpine resort may have. Everyone loves Hallstatt.

    Assume you are driving but trains are great everywhere - if doing that check these informative sites for lots of info: www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.seat61.com. In Austria buy ticket really early and get a sweet discount.

    Are you taking the train or driving? If train I'd add more - but with a family car may be best, especially for rural areas - beware of steep drop-off fees for renting in one country and returning in another. Maybe just drive in Austria where there are many more things to see and do IME.

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    We took our children (then 7 and 12) to Bavaria and Salzburg for a holiday, and among their favorite activities were the summer toboggan runs, the salt mines tour in Berchtesgaden; Schloss Hellbrünn in Salzburg (as mentioned above); and taking the funicular to Hohensalzburg. Our children have also toured the Wurfen Ice Caves on class retreats, the experience being given a thumbs up.

    We now have the privilege of living in Vienna, and though the children are older (10 and 15 when we arrived), they still appreciate balancing “fun” with “culture.” Here the Prater can be fun (costs for the rides can add up quickly!); there are marionette performances at Schloss Schönbrun if that is of interest; and the aquarium is housed in a former Flak Tower (views from the top level of the city are pleasant). For the next few weeks the Lippizaner foals from Piber frolic in the Burgarten for all to enjoy on pleasant afternoons. Parks in Vienna are numerous, though ordinary in their offerings.

    If your family is really ambitious, it is possible to ride bicycles from Vienna to Bratislava, then catch a return ferry. The route is about 75km, though.

    Living near the vineyards makes for easy outdoor fun. Taking the bus to Kahlenberg and walking down through the vineyards affords spectacular views of the city, a novel hiking path, and the reward of a heuriger (wine tavern) stop at the end (also offering light fare for all ages). The walk is easy enough for young children to do.

    If Melk is on your list, the most active way to enjoy the abbey and the Wachau Valley would be to rent bikes and train to Melk. Enjoy the abbey, then bike the 25km (mostly flat) through the valley to Krems, where you can catch return trains to Vienna. Along the way are many sights of interest, restaurants, huts for snacks, and practical facilities, too. An entire day should be set aside for this activity.

    Our children, now teenagers, still much prefer Burgruine Aggstein to Durnstein for romping and climbing; the trek to Durnstein in the summer can be hot, sticky, and bug-gy, whereas one can drive up to Aggstein and walk and climb the ruins. Bring a picnic lunch or eat at the restaurant on the grounds.

    I can’t speak much to specific children’s activities in Prague. I took our daughter and a friend to the AquaPalace in Prague for a weekend last summer; they loved the various pools while I did some nearby sightseeing at Vsyehrad that had been on my list.

    Along the drive from Prague south to Vienna there are numerous castles and palaces that aren’t so “usual.” Schloss Mikulov is pretty, and there is the possibility of hiking up “Holy Hill” for great views. The Lednice-Valtice palaces are near to one another, and if you transit into Austria from Valtice you’ll pass an old, leftover bunker. All of these cities have a Stare Mesto (old city) where you can enjoy Czech cuisine. On the Austrian side, at Renaissanceschloss Rosenburg there are weekend falconry performances that we found to be as impressive as the castle grounds themselves.

    If your route will be Prague to Salzburg, a stop in Cesky Krumlov to rent a canoe or kayak to tour the Vlatava is great fun on a summer afternoon, according to our son.

    Personally, with children I would rent a car for this holiday. Along your route you'll likely find summer toboggan runs, interesting animal farms (we came upon an ostrich farm just this spring!), small water parks, and even cows standing roadside with their cowbells gently swaying, waiting for you to take their photos. :)

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    thanks for your responses. Very helpful.

    We have decided to do a circle tour--Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Prague and Vienna.
    Any ideas if its better to do this clockwise or anti clockwise (Vienna, Prague......etc.).
    We want to do a boat cruise between Vienna and Linz. Would be better to do a round trip or one way?
    Based on the feedback on the message board, we do not plan to rent a car. What would be the preferred mode of transportation between the destinations listed above (train, bus, etc.). Thank you!

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    We have decided to do a circle tour--Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Prague and Vienna.>

    If taking trains to all those check out the European East Railpass valid in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland - Munich to Salzburg not covered but you can do that for about 30 euros total for all on the Bavarian Pass - valid on regional trains for a whole day - takes a bit longer than faster trains but muchmuch cheaper. Then in Austria and on use the European East Pass that lets you hop any train just about anytime - and if going first class the pass is an absolute bargain for fully flexible travel.

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