If your children like cars, there's nothing like Stuttgart ( www.stuttgart-tourist.de ) where the automobile was invented. There's the excellent Mercedes Benz and Porsche Museums. If it's late April, the world's largest Spring beer festival will be on in Stuttgart, Fruehlingsfest ( www.stuttgarter-fruehlingsfest.de ) which will have loads of rides and activities for children besides the large beer tents with entertainment. Wilhelma ( www.wilhelma.de ) is Europe's largest combination zoo-botanical garden set amidst the nice Moorish architecture of this former palace.
15 minutes away by public transportation is Esslingen ( www.esslingen.de ) which has a large well-preserved medieval center.
15 minutes away in another direction is Ludwigsburg ( www.ludwigsburg.de ) which has Germany's largest perfectly preserved palace (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ), called the "Swabian Versailles" with several days' worth of interesting things to see and do including the longest and best palace tour that I've been on in Europe. The extensive gardens also have a nice fairytale one that the whole family should enjoy. There is also a program for children to dress up in costumes typical of the palace.
Nearby Tripsdrill ( www.tripsdrill.de ) is Germany's first amusement park and also has a wildlife area in the forested hills.
Tuebingen ( www.tuebingen.de ) is our favorite town in Germany, just quintessential Germany, with its hilly cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, castle, interesting nontourist shops, one of Europe's oldest universities where you can take rides in poled boats on the Neckar River, and the nextdoor delightful well-preserved medieval Bebenhausen Monastery (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ).
Two nearby fairytale-like castles are Burg Hohenzollern ( www.burg-hohenzollern.com ) and Schloss Lichtenstein ( www.schloss-lichtenstein.de ) of our favorite area in Germany, the Swabian Alb ( www.schwaebischealb.de ) with its many caves, castles and excellent cliffside scenery. If any of your children are girls (or not) you can also visit Germany's oldest state stables ( www.gestuet-marbach.de ) for seeing the magnificent stallions close-up in their stalls, and the mares and foals should be out in the field.
Just a few ideas that might appeal to the children and the whole family.
Thanks so much for your post, you have given me loads of great ideas that I think the kids will love!
I would love to ask some questions too! We are visiting Germany next year and are planning on driving from Koblenz to Tubingen and then on to ??? We have a 12 year old and arrive EARLY at Dusseldorf - we are planning on spending our first night in Boppard (or a nearby town) and then day 2 pick up a car in Koblenz and drive to Tubingen. On the way I was thinking of stopping in Worms (what do you think - wanted to see Jewish cemetery maybe??) where else is on our way? After Tubingen - we are thinking of driving to Bavaria - we need some suggestions ... basically we have 7 days (31 March to 7 April) and we depart out of Munich. I like university towns, historic places, towns with a nice old town - restaurants / bars ... IO'd LOVE some suggestions from a local! We are seasoned travelers, never been to Germany, looking to travel on train and have a car for a few days. We don't like to stay in the same place too long.
From Worms to Tuebingen I would drive along the Neckar River with its castles, terraced vineyards and pleasant small towns.
A few of the best places along the way:
Neckarsteinach ( www.neckarsteinach.de ) with its four castles
Lauffen ( www.lauffen.de only in German), another pleasant small wine town that has a small completely walled oldtown
Besigheim ( www.besigheim.de only in German), another excellent small wine town that was honored to be voted the most picturesque wine town in Germany, not bad for a place many locals don't even know about
Hessigheim ( www.hessigheim.de ) has the Rock Gardens, and probably is where the terraced vineyards are most spectacular
Stuttgart ( www.stuttgart-tourist.de ) mentioned above
Tuebingen ( www.tuebingen.de ) our favorite town in Germany
Just south of Tuebingen, fairytale-like Hohenzollern Castle ( www.burg-hohenzollern.com )
Just some of the places along this route to select from.
FROM TUEBINGEN- my favorite drive in Germany
If you want to visit a nice Jewish cemetary, than the one on the hillside above Buttenhausen is excellent. There used to be a large Jewish community there, and there is information about this and a few sights to see. This area is in my favorite part of Germany, the Swabian Alb ( www.schwaebischealb.de ), and Buttenhausen is along the idyllic valleys of the Grosse Lauter River ( www.grosses-lautertal-alb.de only in German but has information on Buttenhausen among other things) which has one of Germany's highest concentrations of castle ruins, most of which are visitable.
An excellent drive is heading east from Tuebingen ( www.tuebingen.de ) to Reutlingen and then taking Hwy 312 to Memmingen in Bavaria. After Reutlingen, you will see fairytale-like Lichtenstein Castle ( www.schloss-lichtenstein.de ) perched atop the cliffs. After ascending the face of the Swabian Alb ( www.schwaebischealb.de ), turn right at the traffic circle to get there. A little further along this road is a place where you can do climbing and things above the ground with a safety rope on. The Fog Cave (Nebelhoehle) is also there.
Returning to the traffic circle take the road on the opposite side that goes towards Münsingen. At Offenhausen at the former monastery is the headwaters of the Grosse Lauter River in a pool in the monastery garden, a horse museum, and also a good inn to eat at. At Gomadingen turn right and follow the river to Germany's oldest state stables at Marbach ( www.gestuet-marbach.de ) where you can visit the magnificent stallions in their stalls and the mares and foals will be out in the fields.
Continuing on, for some dark history, turn left and go a kilometer or two to the palace at Grafeneck. This was where the use of gas to "euthanize" mentally handicapped people began the Nazi death camps, and over 10,000 people died there. There is a small memorial. Then return back to the other road and turn left and continue on.
Buttenhausen ( http://www.buttenhausen.de/em_info.htm ) will be one of the first towns you come to for the Jewish cemetery. Almost all the castle ruins along the river are visitable, and you can also take a canoe trip down this placid and idyllic small river ( www.kanutouren.com only in German) although probably to early for it. Although there are at least another 5 castle ruins further downstream, I would leave the river at Indelhausen and take the road to Hayingen and continue on to Zwiefalten. Along the way at the same place will be a mill and a cave only enterable by boat, Wimsenerhoehle also called Friedrichshoehle ( agermanyattraction.com/germany-attractions-u… ).
At Zwiefalten visit the excellent former abbey church ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwiefalten_Abbey ), and the brewery restaurant is another good place to eat. Continue on to the nice town of Riedlingen ( www.riedlingen.de ) which lies on the Danube. At the stop light after you cross the Danube on Hwy 312 is a cheese factory if that interests you.
Proceeding east, the Bussen ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussen ), Upper Swabia's ( www.oberschwaben.de only in German) holy mountain is on your left. There is the ruins of a castle and a not too nice pilgrimage church atop it. Biberach an der Riss ( www.biberach-riss.de ) is a pleasant town from where my wife is from. The church is my favorite in Germany, perhaps because I was married in it, a pleasant blend of ornateness and simplicity. It is Germany's oldest existing dual-congregation church where Protestants and Catholics have shared it for over 400 years. Cafe Kolesch on Gymnasiumstrasse is one of Germany's best Conditorei's, and the Wielandstorte is superb. The house behind it is a legitimate contender for Germany's oldest house, as records were poor in those days so another was mwentioned slightly earlier.
You could make a small detour for the "world's most beautiful village church", Steinhausen ( www.kg-steinhausen.de/seiten/english.htm ), which is nearby. (Note that Upper Swabia is home to Germany's most beautiful Baroque churches and monasteries, and also the Baroque Route- www.barockstrasse.org only in German.)
Continuing east you'll soon pass by Ummendorf, my wife's village. The restaurant at the brewery ( www.braeuhaus.de ) there has what we consider to be Germany's best Maultaschen, and their beer is very good too, particularly their premium Placidus Cobaldus dark beer. The church across from the brewery is nothing special by the excellent Upper Swabian standards, but it's still nice and one of the wood carvings is much better than similar ones in top name museums.
Further along, Ochsenhausen ( www.ochsenhausen.de ) has a magnificent former monastery (in www.schloesser-magazin.de/en ) which I think best typifies the past glory and influence of the Catholic church in this area.
Continue on from Memmingen and visit the abbey church in Ottobeuren ( www.ottobeuren.de ) which has what I consider to be the best church interior in Germany.
That's a lot of excellent possible things to see and do, you'll have to be selective or you'll never arrive at your destinations further on.
(Note that although excellent, the places on both routes that I suggested will have few visitors and almost no foreign ones making for a "real" German experience, unlike some other places you are headed toward where you will hear more English, Chinese and Japanese spoken than German.)
From there, you can continue on to Munich, or perhaps go to Fuessen for Neuschwanstein Palace.
> On the way I was thinking of stopping in Worms (what do you think - wanted to see Jewish cemetery maybe??)
An option. But Speyer has more on offer and a similar Jewish heritage.
> I like university towns
Remark: April is not ideal of the higher areas of the Black Forest. Too less snow for skiing and too much snow for hiking. Applies also to large parts of the Alps.
You could stay e.g. in a castle hostel
Not far is also Sigmaringen Castle which is from the interior one of the most interesting, esp for the kids.
E.g. near Füssen the famous Neuschwanstein Castle
There is a Summer luge at the nearby Tegelberg which operates also in April if the weather is nice.
You have in this thread plenty of places worth a visit and many of them are overlooked by international tourists. I would however not go so far to interpret this as there "is no reason to go to Heidelberg" or one of the other touristic hotspots.
Thanks! As I wrote in another thread - we arrive early on Saturday March 31 and I am considering we may be better off after a wander around Cologne jumping on a train to Heidelberg. I had been thinking of staying somewhere on Rhine (Boppard / Bacharach) BUT if the weather is crappy that will be no fun. The train is 2 - 3 hours (depending on route) from Cologne to Heidelberg. Then from Heidelberg we can rent a car and head to Tubingen and on (eventually) to Salzberg and back up to Munich.
I am trying to find an itinerary where we are knocking off some longer legs of the trip using the train and have a car for 2 or 3 days to explore.