Suggested day trips we have used ourselves
Section under construction. New trips added regularly. Check back for updated links to blogs with pictures for each item listed below. Europe 2019 will be added real-time.
Austria, Day 1: Lake Mondsee
Take A1 to Lake Mondsee and prepare to spend the day (or night) if you can. Unlike Area 47 which is all about high-thrills and requires kids to be 12 and over, the waterpark, slides and high platforms are fun yet easy going. It’s also 30 min outside Salzburg and primarily known and used only to locals. Wonderful waterside dining, free parking…perfect for a relaxing day. Read about our experience and plan your day trip.
Austria, Day 2: Salzburg
Start with the residence and birthplace of Mozart (2 hrs), Fortress Hozensalzburg (2-3 w/lunch) St. Peter’s Abbey (1), Salzburg Cathedral (1) Old City Hall area- (1+) = full day. Tip: Mozart areas less busy in the morning. The Fortress is on a hill. You can climb the 1,000+ stairs or take the tram for exercise (if my 9 yr old daughter can do it, so can you). Food options are plenty at the Fortress.
**between Salzburg & Vienna, get lost in Gloggnitz and the surrounding streams, but beware, you may need to close your eyes (if you’re an American), hence, the blog on this particular drive.
Austria, Day 3: Vienna
Start with downtown (2 hrs), Vienna amusement park (2-3 hrs), Imperial Palace (2) = 6 hrs. Tip: the amusement park is dead during the day (due to heat). It’s very crowded sunset and beyond. Best time for the family or lots of rides: late afternoon or on cloudy days.
Belgium, Day 1: Brussels
Begin with the Royal Palace (1.5 hrs), just make sure you go after July
21 through September when it’s open. The Museum of Chocolate is a must, short
and quick, along with the Cinquantenaire Park which is majestic. Spend the
afternoon at the Atomium ( 2 hrs) and Mini Europe Museum Park (2 hrs). This is
a quick, one day itinerary, but we spent an entire afternoon at the Antomium
& Mini-Europe (see day 4).
Evening: Le Bourse de Bruxelle (18+) for trendy clubs and restaurants
Belgium, Day 2: Tervuren, the hidden gem
Park de Trevuren (1+), Autoworld (1.5 hrs) picture in front of Parc du Cinquantenaire (30 min), Train World (1.5 hrs) and Great Market Square. Tip: the Park is massive. The paved trails can be busy with training road bikers but the dirt/gravel paths are almost deserted. Bring money so you can stop by town and get a snack. (We walkes the paths every day for 10 straight. It was divine but I got lost–bad cell phone and no GPS).
Belgium, Day 3: Waterloo, it’s not just a song
This is a must do. Very fast from Brussels and worth it. Site of the Waterloo Battle, an erected mountain, display areas and café. (1.5 hrs).
As I write in my blog, we thought both these destinations were fabricated tourist traps until we showed up, gulped down our egos and love every moment. Plan 3 hrs at the Antomium if you go when recommended, and another 2 at the Mini-Europe Theme Park. More if you stop and eat (the food is better at the theme park.
Belgium, Day 5: Bruges
All the while we were planning our Belgium stay, Mom kept saying: “Bruges. When are you going to Bruges?” Plan on spending a day, because we only planned 4. The Cathedral, waterways, a boat tour, sitting at a café (or three) watching the people saunter by, and shopping. It’s all magnificent.
Czech Republic, Day 1: Prague
Not everyone can take more than a day in this lovely town, which is a shame, but you can hit the most famous. This one-day itinerary can all be done in a single day of walking. You’ll be tired but your selfies will thank you. It includes St. Charles Bridge (30 min), a paddle boat ride on the Vltava River (1 hr), going up to, and visiting the Prague Castle (2 hrs) and of course the gerbil balls (30 min), a must do.
Czech Republic, Day 2: More Prague
Prague just can’t be done in a day, at least not in our opinion. If you’ve done the above, there is no way you can get to the Karlstejn Castle, which is only about thirty minutes outside town. Be sure to take the tour and admire the size of the beds and doorways (people were short back then, even the rulers!). It’s good size, but small compared to the Prague Castle, is tiny. Have lunch on one of the decks overlooking the beautiful valley.
Czech Republic, Day 3: Prague Zoo
This is going to take you a solid day for the entire thing, but if you have only four hours, you can get in half of it. With over 400,000 animals from 650 species, its the largest zoo in Europe and worth every moment.Prague Zoo in the morning (6 hours if you want to do the entire thing.
Czech Republic, Day 3: Cesky Krumlov
About 4-5 hours drive from Prague is the town of Cesky Krumlov and the associated town. Wander among the 300 buildings, enjoy the Vltava River by boat or kayak then walk to the castle. Allow 2-3 hours for the tour and the 40 buildings, then have lunch in town. Tip: bring your windbreaker/hoodie or umbrella. Two of the three times we have visited, the day started beautiful, clouds rolled in and it poured.
Germany, Day 1: Stuttgart
Porsche Museum (2.4 hrs), Mercedes Museum (2 hrs), Canstatter Folkfest (an evening), Stuttgart Christmas Market (all morning/day). Tip: Youth under 16 are NOT allowed at the Porsche Museum. It never occurred to us to check on this prior, and we had to take turns going.
Germany, Day 2: Lichtenstein Castle
Day trip from Zurich. Located in the Swabian Jura area of Germany, Lichtenstein Castle and tour (2 hr) walking the small town and having a superbly authentic lunch (1 hr). Tip: go early (before 2 p.m.) the ancestral family owners still live on premises and you may be able to meet them as we did (very cool!). Also, no cameras or cell phones allowed inside the small castle, but outside pics are OK.
Italy, Day 1: Lake Cuomo– Bellagio
Drive or take the ferry (20 min). Wander the streets, have lunch & shop! (2-4 hrs). Bellagio Gardens on the waterfront- Giardini di Villa Melzi (2 hrs). Tip. Parking for the ferries can be tough during mid-July through August. Take a cab or leave early if you are walking, otherwise you can take your car on the ferry.
Italy, Day 2: Menaggio, Lugano
Walk the waterfront of Menaggio, shops & food (2 hrs) drive to Lugano, visiting the waterfront mansions and leather stores, having dinner (2-4 hrs). Tip: be sure to check your location: depending on where you are staying, the ferry ride to Bellagio is only 20 minutes but to drive from either Menaggio or Lugano to Bellagio can be up to 4 hours.
Italy, Day 3: Milano (Milan)
The Duomo Cathedral is a must (2 hrs). Local shops and lunch in the square (2 hrs). Tip: the Duomo charges extra for your own camera, but it’s worth the $5.00! Parking has always been easy- two streets away if before noon.
Finding a place…your home base
Italy: Day 4 Verona
Piazza Brà, the Square of the Arena (2 hrs) afternoon touring the streets and waterfront.
Italy: Day 5 Venice
St. Mark’s Basilica & Doge’s Palace in the a.m. (both @1.5-2 hrs), waterways by boat or gondola to first island, Murano to see glass blowing.
Italy: Day 6 Venice
Burano Island (2 hrs), quaint Torcello island (2 hrs) exploring streets.
Italy-Day 7: Pisa & Bologna
Arrive early at Pisa (1 hr) have an early lunch then drive to Bologna; less crowded, amazing food and architecture. Via dell Independenza is the main shopping street (2 hrs). Basilica di San Petronio (1.5 hrs) gorgeous inside & out. Tip: you can take car to the Basilica, but the 3.5 km walk is worth it for the pictures alone (but my kids much preferred Pisa and downtown.
This was short trip from Zurich, and the main town is Vaduz. It’s the 4th smallest country in Europe, boasting a single McDonalds. Walk the town (30 min) but drive the close hillsides, but don’t leave down without seeing Gutenburg Castle which is open to the public (2 hrs). When walking the town, you can take pictures in front of Vaduz Castle, but it’s not open tot he public, as it’s still home to the residing Prince.
City center (2 hrs), Van Gogh Museum (2 hrs), waterways by walking or cruise (2). Roaming the countryside (2+)*
Devin Castle. Pre-dating Christ by @700 years, this castle (ruins mostly) is considered holy, as it is believed Christ ministered here, one of his only (if only) site in Europe. (2 hrs). Tip: bring water, as it’s a paved road up but can be very hot. Demonstrations (in costume) & feeding sheep culminate in incredible views of the Danube. An amazing café is located at the base just off the property.
Ritzy shopping made famous in Robert Ludlum’s first Bourne novel, the Bahnhoffstrasse (2+) lakeside waterpark, famous Chinese food & boat tour (4 hrs). Zurich Zoo (2 hrs)- it’s small.
Switzerland: St. Moritz
Day trip in to the Alps. Spend the day eating chocolate, drooling over the shops and taking the tram up the mountain (2 hrs).
Day trip. Bordering next to Italy, this warm town is more Italian than Swiss, and is so worth it. Tip: stop on the Alpine road and touch the softest, tamest cows ever. So soft they made it into my Danielle Grant series as Danielle drives through the Alps.
Switzerland: Verzasca Dam and the Locarno Dam
This is an arch dam on the Verzasca River in the Val Verzasca of Ticino, Switzerland. It’s on the way to Italy so you can slow down and take pictures. Tip: the smaller the car the zippier the switchback roads, and watch for motorcyclists. This is an incredibly popular route.
Alaska: Ketchikan, surrounding islands
3 or 4 day fishing trip. Fly into Ketchikan, take a float plane (at the airport), 45 min flight to Sportsman’s Cove, and fish for everything the ocean has to offer. Return, spend an extra day in Ketchikan to walk the town. Tip: take the tram to and from the town up the hill for lunch at Cape Fox Lodge.
Alaska: Anchorage, Prince William Sound, State Fair, Denali
Book a 4-day, 3-night for the weekend of the State Fair in Alaska. Day 1, drive to Prince William Sound via the longest tunnel in North America (Whittier to Portage). Day 2 will be at the Fair, eating authentic Alaskan meats and trying on hand-made clothing. Day 3, Denali Park (133 miles).
Spend 3-4 days visting Ouray/ Telluride. Walk up one side main street and down the other of “America’s Little Switzerland” (1 hr), visit the hot springs (2 hrs+) that offer discounts to locals and seniors. 4th of July is a huge affair with a parade, fireman shootout (with water cannons) fireworks and bands (all free). Ice climbing (in town) in the winter months is a huge draw. Ouray also boasts the most aggressive four-wheeling terrain in North America. Tip: have been visiting annually for 20 yrs. and rooms are gone by January. Book early.
Over the hill from Ouray, drive right by Ralph Lauren’s ranch to head in to town. Walk up and down mainstreet for ice cream and all things leather and cowboy (2 hrs).
Colorado: Anastazi Ruins
Day trip. The Mesa Verde National Park is a bit remote, hot and worth it. Multiple routes and tours exist to see the cliffside dwellings from different angles. Tip: If you want the good photos, don’t bother with the tours! You must stay on the path and the angles are awful. Incredible pics are to be had edge side, thereby saving the $ unless you want to get up close and person.
Idaho: (northern/panhandle) Sandpoint, Lake Pend’orielle (pronounced Pond-er-ray), Coeur d’Alene, Kellogg, Deary, Hell’s Canyon (Riggins)
Idaho: Coeur d’Alene
Golfers must hit the famous “floating course” on the CDA Resort Golf as well as the Circling Raven Golf Club (in the top 20 public courses in America. Walk downtown on Sherman (2 hrs), dine one night at The Wolf Lodge (2 hrs) take a winter Eagle’s Cruise on Lake Coeur d’Alene to photograph dozens of eagles (3 hrs). Winter holiday festivals for lighting of the trees. On Halloween, mainstreet is closed for trick-or-treating; shop owners close, dress up and give away candy.
Inland Northwest tour: Idaho, up to Glacier National Park (Canada), cross to Montana through Kalispell, through the badlands of North Dakota, South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse), through Wyoming return to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Northwest city tour: I-5 inland highway from Seattle, Mt. St. Helen’s, Portland, Salem, Medford, Klamath Falls, Tule Lake (end with California)
Northwest coastal tour: Portland to the coastal town of Astoria, Depot Bay, Newport Bay, Cape Kiwanis, Coos Bay
Day 1: Start with the Rose Garden (90 min), when the Rose Festival is on, visit the waterfront (2 hrs). Pearl District for shopping and Papa Haydn
Day 2: OMSI and the Portland Zoo. Tip: These destinations are on opposite sides of Portland, OMSI on the waterfront and the Zoo on the westide (through the mountain tunnel). Allow 45 min travel time.
Downtown, the Riverfront with its car shows, the floating casino/floating paddle boat (3 hours). Take a half-day to drive to the Santiam River, to swim in the river and see the old covered bridges. South of Salem is the Enchanted Forest, a must do for families. If you have another half-day, visit the Fordyce Farm to pick strawberries.
Morning: Fish Market (1 hr), more if you go Saturday am for the flower market), Space Needle (2), the Ballard Locks (2) = @5 hours
Afternoon: The Sound waterfront- Aquarium on the bay (1.5 hrs), IMAX, (60 min), Ivars,= @ 3.5 hrs
45 min outside Seattle, this quaint town has two sides: the developed and original town. On the south side of I-90, walk the short mainstreet (30 min), attend Salmon Days in September to watch the fish run at the hatchery off main street (it overlooks the creek/river). Tip: forget the diet. You must go to an authentic, 50’s style diner, Triple XXX burgers (they make their own rootbeer) and walk around the corner to Boehm’s Chocolates (tour/food) founded by Swiss mountaineer Julius Boehm (my fav!).
10-15 minutes east on I-90 is Snoqualmie Falls. Self-guided path/walking to the largest falls west of the Mississippi (2 hrs) and stay at the Salish Lodge if you can. If not, spend the money for a massage because the portions of the Japanese-inspired spa hangs over the falls. Tip: the hotel has special anniversary packages that include the treatments. Continue 10 minutes east and stop at the Outlet stores, including Nike and Coach.
Awards and notations