Adventures in Switzerland
As we start to defrost from the dark, cold abyss known as European Winter, the travel bug inside you emerges. While Switzerland is known for its winter sports like skiing the Swiss are so much more than playing in the snow. From exploding snowmen to family-friendly hikes, here’s why Switzerland is the place to be when spring has finally sprung.
An Exploding Snowman
If you want to ring in spring with a very loud bang, head to Zurich’s Sechseläuten Spring Festival in April. This party dates back to the 16th century and is similar to Nevada’s Burning Man Festival but with a snowman, whose head explodes. You read that right. An 11-foot “Böögg,” Snowman, is placed on a 32-foot high pyre. The effigy is set ablaze and the snowman’s head, filled with fireworks, explodes. Similar to the American Groundhog Day, the faster the fire reaches the snowman’s head, the better summer will be. I’ll take an exploding snowman head over a rodent’s shadow any day.
Family-Friendly Spring Break
Switzerland is filled with sensory trails. These are kid-friendly hiking trails with interactive stations that play on the senses. Kids can run through mazes, walk a barefoot path, balance like a bug on a leaf and swing from a zipline. Many of the trails are stroller-friendly and low-elevation. The top ones to check out are Frick Sensory Trail, Seebach Sensory Trail, Zugerland Sensory Trail, Zugerberg, Sihlwald Nature Trail.
In Baar, families can explore the 3,000-year-old Höllgrotten Caves filled with colorful stalactites and stalagmites. For indoor fun, hit up the Aathal Dinosaur Museum, just 20 minutes southeast of Zurich. Fossilized skeletons and life-size models teach families all about paleontology. At Baden’s Swiss Children’s Museum, kids can experience how children their age lived up to 300 years ago. This is a great interactive museum that will keep children occupied on a rainy day.
Many trails in Switzerland won’t open until June but there are a few gems open for spring hiking. The trail that leads to Aare Gorge, one of Switzerland’s most photographed sites, opens in mid-April. Hiking through a gorgeous alpine river gorge with stunning rock formations and light blue water piercing through it will help you forget about the dark days of winter.
Another great trail to hit in the spring is Trümmelbach-Waterfalls, which opens at the start of April. The UNESCO natural heritage site has ten glacial waterfalls inside a mountain. This is a photographer’s dream, catching these fast-moving waterfalls while hiking through incredible caves.
One can’t-miss trail is Grindelwald-First. This is no ordinary trail. It is filled with not only stunning sites but attractions that give you a literal bird’s eye view. If you’re not scared of heights, take the First Cliff Walk by Tissot. This is a sky bridge hugging a cliff that gives wide views of valley and pastures so green, they almost don’t look real. Don’t worry, if you’re not a fan of heights the bridge only takes about 10-15 minutes to cross if you’re not stopping for pictures.
If you love heights, this area also offers the First Glider ride. You’ll feel like an eagle as you and three others glide over the mountains going as fast as 50 miles-per-hour! It’s definitely a rush any daredevil is looking for.
Advanced hikers can hit the trail that leads from Grindelwald-First to Schynige Platte. This trail takes a good 6-8 hours but is absolutely worth it. Along the way, the path offers six astonishing viewpoints of mountains, valleys and sparkling lakes. This is one for the hiking bucket list.
In need of some serious R&R? Switzerland has thermal baths and spas that can warm you up after a long winter and melt away stress. Walliser Alpentherne and Spa in Leukerbad is the largest spa complex in the country. You can gaze upon the still snow-capped Swiss Alps while floating in a very big bath of very warm water.
Alpenbad Spa in Hinwil is one of Switzerland’s top-rated spas. You can relax in your personal “alpenbad,” a heated wooden tub filled with spring water. Feast on fancy fondue while admiring the mountains sitting alone in your steamy tub.
While it’s hard to beat an exploding snowman, Zurich has other fantastic events in the spring. The city throws a fabulous “Fasnacht” or Carnival. It’s similar to the parades in Germany, but with Caribbean, Latin American and New Orleans jazz weaved through the celebrations. There are colorful parades and parties for all age groups.
Hit the water to see the gorgeous skyline with several companies offering guided sailboat tours and cruises around Lake Zurich. If rain clouds move in, Zurich has more than 150 museums and art galleries.
For a taste of France, head to Geneva where modern meet Medieval in the “Capital of Peace.” Cafes line narrow streets in the city’s historic area that give you that quintessential European experience. The old town’s centerpiece is St. Pierre Cathedral, a 4th century Roman Catholic cathedral turned Protestant during The Reformation.
Science-lovers can head to CERN, an impressive gold globe that houses the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The ground floor is the “Universe of Particles” exhibit that takes you all the way back to the Big Bang.
If you and your traveling partners can’t decide whether to go to Switzerland or Italy, you’re in luck. You can do both. The Swiss region Ticino is an Italian-speaking state along the Swiss-Italian border. Swiss collided with Mediterranean culture in the 15th century when this Italian area was annexed to the Swiss Confederacy. Lugano is on the northern shore of a lake where palm trees dot the shores with mountains in the background. You can spot the Swiss-Mediterranean fusion in the city’s food an architecture. Experience a very different hike by hitting the Olive Tree Trail and learn about the area’s centuries-old groves.
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