* Vienna, Austria

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Austrian National Library

We have taken our little family on a lot of European Adventures. Every place we’ve visited has only been enhanced because we had our children along for the ride. That was until we got to Vienna. Don’t get me wrong, Vienna is a beautiful city and certainly worth visiting. To be fair, I think  that our rocky experience may have been because of lack of planning but Vienna was by far the least family friendly place we have been to in Europe. Thanks to some great friends, we had a good list of things to see in the city. We just forgot ask all the “kid questions”. If we had to do it again, there are so many things I wish I would have known about bringing children to this amazing city. In short, go to Vienna! Take your kids! But do your research before you get there.

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Vienna Town Square

Vienna is a performance city. From the Opera and the Symphony to the violinists on the street corners, people want to entertain you. It’s one of the reasons that you go. January and February are considered “ball season” and you can attend dance lessons and dinner events in grande 15th Century style ball rooms. Obviously, children are not allowed at these parties and performances. So, this city would be a good place to bring along friends, family, or a nanny to watch the kids.

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Crown Jewels of Austria

Not only are the events closed to children but even the tour of the buildings themselves can have limited age access. The Opera House, for example, does not allow children under the age of 6 on the tour. You will want to check the age limits for all the places you plan to visit. Vienna isn’t afraid to turn you away if you have little children. We were denied admittance to churches and other places because our kids were too young. The Spanish Ridding School for example, has an age limit of 4 and up. We had told our 2-year-old all day that we were going to see the horses dance. There was some heart-break when we found out that she couldn’t go inside.

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Schönbrunn Palace

There are some family events in Vienna but you have to look  a little harder for them. We would highly recommend a visit to the Schönbrunn Palace as it has a lot of activities specifically for kids. There is a Children’s Museum as well as the Imperial Zoo (this is the most amazing Zoo I’ve ever been to… as well as the oldest in all of Europe). Kids are also allowed on the tour of the palace (about 45 min.). And it was quite nice just to let them run around and explore the extensive gardens after the tour.

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Imperial Zoo

Also, on the grounds is a puppet show theater but don’t assume that just because it sounds like it’s something for kids that you can take them. We made that mistake. Our last night in Vienna, we planned to see a performance at this quaint little theater but when we got there they turned us away because we had kids. My apologies, I didn’t realize that a puppet show was “no place for children”. Here’s the good news: they do special matinée performance for the wee ones. So, just get tickets in advance and make sure it’s a kid friendly performance.

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Stephen’s Dom

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the very center of the city is quite beautiful and free to enter. For a fee you can see the bell towers as well as the crypt. We wondered if the crypt would be too scary for our young kids but decided to risk it… and I’m glad we did. It’s not as spooky as it sounds and it was pretty awesome. The Royal Hapsburg Family’s bones are buried here and their innards are displayed in opaque jars where they have been preserved with alcohol. Creepy! Your 9-year-old boys will love it. If you have a chance, we recommend getting high enough to see the roof of the Cathedral. It’s really impressive.

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Grave site of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Make sure to find yourselves some Schnitzel and Apple Strudel. The Austrians also know how to rock a bowl of ice cream. So, you won’t want to go home without tasting some gelato. When it come to food, just be aware that Viennese will nickel and dime you so be careful how you order. Some other family friendly activities might include: The Royal Treasury, The Naschmarkt, The Hoffburg Palace, and the Zentralfriefhof Cemetery (where Beethoven and Mozart are both buried).  All in all, Vienna was an awesome city: one I think we’ll try again in 20 years.

* There’s no place like home: Exploring your own city

It’s amazing how much time we can spend planning a trip to The Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls and yet salemwe’ve forgotten about one of the best travel destinations in the world… our own backyard. imagesIt’s true that the grass is always greener on the other side of the state line but you don’t necessarily need to go far to explore the world. Just get out and see your own home town. There’s a lot to love about it. After all, you did choose to live here once.

Practicing your exploring skills in your hometown is a great way to help your kids get used to being on the go. If they get tired you can just take them back to the house for lunch and naps. Treat your neighborhood like a training ground for traveling with your kids.hbf-brochure-1 See how they do when the stakes are low. You can help them become good travelers from the second they leave the doorstep.

Take a walk or a drive and see what you can find.  Be observant and spontaneous. When you see a new park or bike trail, write it down on a list of things “to see” in your city. 
Stop on a whim and read the historic landmark signs on the side of the road. You can use apps like google field trip to help you on your quest to find the fun and exiting things around you.

mNVMWYnqby4pqNz5qKjGiOQPretend like you are on vacation at home. What would you go see? Look up your city’s website and check out what is in your community. I’ll bet there are 10 museums within half an hour of your house that you’ve never set foot in. Even Challis, ID (population 909) and Bridger, MT (population 708) have websites with “events” and “recreation” activities. So spend some time planning a trip to “visit” the place where you live.WalkingTourBrochure_ad

You can even take a tour of the city. This might sound strange, especially if you’ve lived in the same place your whole life but a tour is a great way to learn about your stomping grounds. We often know less about the place we live than the places we’ve traveled to. So why not let someone tell you about it? You can go on a guided tour of your city. Lots of places even have self-guided walking tours. Swing by city hall, they usually have pamphlets and maps available with great information. Try to view things with a fresh pair of eyes. Buy a guidebook, take a camera, and make an adventure out of it.