day trips

Tropical Islands Water Park near Berlin

So this isn’t a particularly long post, but I’d be amiss if I forgot to tell you guys about a super-cool place our Unit Ministry Team took our Single Soldiers on a day trip last year. If you’re already headed toward Berlin and looking for a unique place to stay there is a gigantic former blimp hanger that has been converted to a water park/hotel.  If you are adventurous and don’t want to stay in a traditional hotel room, they also have little tents inside the hangar you can stay in!

If you aren’t staying overnight, Tropical Islands still serves as an awesome water park to go to for the day. They have a wave pool, indoor rain forest nature walk, water slides, a hot air balloon, huge playground area, hot tubs, kiddie pool, man-made sandy beaches, sauna and spa, shopping, food and, of course, alcohol in abundance. There are activities that go on throughout the day like dance classes and skits. They have showers and lockers there as well, so if you aren’t staying overnight you do not need to worry about where to put your stuff. My son, who was five at the time, loved it.

If you check out their website you can see the schedule for upcoming special events such as holiday parties and indoor beach soccer championships.

The only downsides were that it is not particularly cheap at €42, but kids up to age 5 are free. So, is it worth it? If you are already headed to/near Berlin I say yes. We had to drive a total of 10 hours in one day (5 there and 5 back) and that was a little much, especially since there are water parks – albeit not as big or in a blimp hangar – a lot closer to where I live. If you’re looking for a place similar but closer to the Graffenwoehr/Vilsek/Hohenfels area, I suggest the waterpark in Nuremberg (like I mention in this post) which has many of the same things, just smaller.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below! Have fun!There is a gigantic former blimp hanger outside of Berlin that they have converted to a water park/hotel. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay near Berlin, this may be the place for you. If you are adventurous and don’t want to stay in a traditional hotel room, they also have little tents inside the hangar you can stay in!

 



10 family activities for under €10 near Hohenfels

Exploring Europe is awesome, but often times it can be time consuming and expensive to plan and take exotic trips with your family. Sometimes all you have is an afternoon to kill and a few bucks in your pocket. From numerous Google searches I know that it can be hard to find something to do nearby when you don’t even know the language or what to look for online. I’ve done the “work” for you and checked out all kinds of cool places with my family just so I can share them with you (I know, it’s a hard job but someone’s gotta do it)! Here’s a list of fun stuff for you and your kids to check out near Hohenfels all for under €10 per person!

P.S. If you’re looking for more fun things to do without going too far check out my post on Boring Sundays in Bavaria10 Family Friendly Things to do near Hohenfels

  1. Explore a cave in Velburg

The entrance to this cave is located in the Erlebinswelt Velburg complex which has a high Caveropes course, ATV tours of the forest, a biergarten and hiking trails. All of these things look pretty awesome and if you have older kids, be sure to check them out, but with little ones and a small budget you’re probably better off sticking with the cave. You have to buy tickets at the booth for a guided tour as you are not allowed in on your own but it’s only €4 for adults and €2,50 for kids ages 3-15. We ended up going on a tour with a group from a nursing home which actually was nice because they all seemed to find our children endearing rather than annoying. The cave is nice and cool so this is a good activity for those hot summer days!

  1. Check out a monument to victory over Napoleon and a medieval castle near Regensburg

Befreiungshalle Kelheim (Kelheim Hall of Liberation) was built by King Ludwig I to commemorate both the victorious battles against Napoleon and the unification of all the German races. Check out the giant limestone and marble statues and enjoy the view of Bavaria. Nearby is Burg Prunn which is a medieval castle which dates back to the year 1037! The castle has interactive exhibits so you can truly get an idea of what it was like to live in the middle ages. Buy a combination ticket and see both in one afternoon for €7,50 (or use your Bavarian Castle Pass and get in free like I talk about in this post).

  1. Go to a Chocolate factory

Chocolate? Check. Coffee? Check. Gummy bear cave? Check. Animatronic elephants? Check. I love it when a place is less than 20 minutes from my home and easy to find – like, you literally can see it from the highway easy to find. This little chocolate factory is fun for younger children and the only cost you’ll incur is that of the delicious chocolate you will WildLifeParkinevitably buy.

  1. Play at the Free Wildlife Park

This place is only 30 minutes from Hohenfels, is open all the time and is free! They have deer, pigs, donkeys, sheep, a lake with waterfowl of all kinds, nature trails and an awesome playground. Plus, they have an automatic animal food pellet dispenser so you can feed the animals for 50 cents. Read more about it in this post by MilliGFunk!

  1. Step back in time with the Open Air Museum

This is an outdoor museum set up like an old-timey farming village where you can experience what it was like to be a farmer, beekeeper, black smith and many other things. Sundays you can buy bread that’s baked in their antique oven, they hold special historical and cultural events throughout the year and of course they’ve got a playground too. Only €12 for a family day pass.

  1. Go to a fest

If you want to experience Bavaria in all its glory (think beer and lederhosen) then you need to check out some fests. Everybody knows about Oktoberfest in Munich, but throughout the summer and early fall almost every town in Bavaria has some type of Volksfest. Click on the “Go to a fest” link above which has all the major fests in Bavaria listed alphabetically by town.

  1. Fossil hunting and museum

I don’t know about you, but my boys absolutely love dinosaurs. Bring out your inner paleontologist by checking out this fossil museum. Buy the combo ticket and rent some chisels and shovels (combo ticket and tool rental comes out to less than €5/person!) and start excavating the nearby dig site. You can take the fossils you find home with you too. Super cool!

  1. Take a guided city tour Amberg or Regensburg

Take a tour of a city you think you’re familiar with and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn! Walking tours are a great way to get some exercise and discover hidden secrets nearby. Amberg and Regensburg tourist information offices both offer guided tours in English. Amberg’s is only €9 for a whole family! Regensburg is not as cheap at €16 for the family ticket but they also offer special kids tours in English if you have a group of kids (perhaps a scout troop or playgroup) that look pretty cool.

  1. See Walhalla & take a trip to Ikea

Perched on a hill overlooking the Danube is a giant memorial modelled after the Parthenon IkeaIceCreamand named after the home of Viking gods. Inside it is filled with busts of famous Germans. It only costs €4 for adults to go in and look around. Staying outside and taking in the spectacular views is free. Walhalla is basically just one big room so it probably won’t take you more than 30 minutes to see the whole thing. Why not go ahead and take the 12 minute drive to Ikea afterward to grab yourselves some 50 cent ice cream cones? Is this just an excuse to go to Ikea? Maybe. “Honey what did you and the kids do today?” “We went and saw an architectural masterpiece/treasure-trove of German culture and history and went to Ikea”

  1. Give glass blowing a try

I haven’t been to the Joska glass center yet but really want to check it out! Apparently Bavaria is famous for glass making. There are driving tours of eastern Bavaria that take you through numerous towns renowned for their glass making abilities. This place is one of the stops on the glass route that looked the most interactive and kid-friendly. It has a huge kid’s play area, restaurants, shops and – wait for it – you can blow your own works of glass to take home with you!

Phew! That list should keep you occupied for a while! Let me know if you’ve tried glass blowing and how it is or if you have any other things you would add to the list in the comments below! Don’t forget to share this with your friends on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!



5 People, 1 Day, Under $100 Trip to Prague

I seriously considered naming this blog post “The Stokes’ and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Trip to Prague” but then decided that it was neither entirely accurate or at all a positive way to get people to read it. So instead, let’s go with “5 People, 1 Day, Under $100 Trip to Prague”. Here we go!

PRAGUE

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It was that time again. Entire WEEKS had passed since we’d left Germany to explore another country and I started to get the itch to go see some other corner of the world. As we were still paying off our credit card bill from our trip to Greece and didn’t have the money from my husband’s GI bill that we normally get each month since he had to take a month off of classes, we decided to just take a day trip to the nearby Czech Republic and its famous city of Prague.

Prague has an interesting history and unique culture. I looked around to see what activities others recommended that were cheap and fun for a day in Prague and this post from Just a Pack was the best post I found. However, in the end I decided that since time was short, a walking tour outlining the highlights of the city would probably give us the most bang for our buck. We booked our free tour with Sandeman’s since we had enjoyed their tour so much on our trip to Amsterdam.

View of Prague from CastleSo, we looked up the exchange rate, packed up our favorite double stroller and the baby wrap just in case, threw some diapers and bottles in a backpack, grabbed our passports and left our house around 8AM on a Saturday.

The drive started out okay. The weather was good, hardly any traffic, and we kept the kids entertained with some audio books (Who Was Abraham Lincoln? & Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, Book 1). The trouble started at the Czech border. We stopped at the border to try to get some Czech Koruna from an ATM since they don’t use Euro. Alas, there was no ATM. What they did have was about 5 booths selling vignettes for your car.

“Uh, hey, Josh, do we need a vignette?”

“No, why would we need that?”

“I don’t know, I thought I heard somebody say once that you need one.”

“We should be fine.”

“What if we’re not?”

Long story short, we got a vignette. For €16. We didn’t need it (you only need one if you are driving on certain types of toll roads. Here’s more info). This bothered me because 1. I wasted money, 2. I wasted money due to my own ignorance and lack of research and 3. My husband was right, dangit!

Since there was no ATM at the border crossing, we searched in our GPS for an ATM and found one that was about 10km from our location. However, it was not 10km down the highway, it was 10km off the highway in some little rinky-dink, run-down town. And it did not have an English option. So I took a wild guess, mashed some buttons and miraculously ended up with the Czech Koruna I was looking for. Just so you know, there are plenty of ATMs in Prague, you really don’t need to worry about pulling out money right at the border. You’re welcome.

The rest of the drive was not bad and we were able to pretty easily find parking once we got to Prague’s city center by searching for a garage in our GPS. By this time it was about 11:30am so we started to walk around the city to lookPrague Pretzels for lunch. Our tour was not scheduled until 2:00pm, so we figured we had plenty of time.

We walked across a bridge toward the Prague Castle and found a little place to eat
lunch. One nice thing about Prague is that there were restaurants on almost every street and they all seemed pretty affordable. We picked a place that was advertising traditional Czech cuisine.

Oh, lunch. Have you ever eaten out with 3 kids under 7? Hang on, let me be a little more specific. Have you ever eaten out with a 6-year-old boy whom you are pretty sure has ADHD but refuse to get it checked out because you’re not really sure you believe in ADHD and even if ADHD is a real thing what if he doesn’t actually have it and you’re just a sucky parent and don’t want to face that fact? Furthermore, have you ever eaten out with a soon-to-be 3-year-old boy who needs a nap and whose favorite new thing is screaming at the top of his lungs at random intervals not because he’s in pain or somebody is kidnapping him or something serious but just for the pure joy of hearing his own squeaky little voice? Furthermore, have you ever eaten out with a 5-month-old little girl who is not happy unless you are holding her oh and not just holding her nicely in your lap while you comfortably sit down noooo you must be holding her while you stand up because for some ungodly reason she can tell the difference in altitude or something and it’s a freaking tragedy if you hold her in the exact same position you were when you were standing up but decide to sit down? Well, I have. All at the same time.

So, yeah, the food was great. We spent the equivalent of about $50 for our family, which isn’t bad considering the amount of beer my husband had to drink to maintain his sanity.

baby flashing gang signs
Aww! Look at these cute little tourists!

The tour was supposed to start in front of the tourist information center. We followed signs, located the tourist information center by about 1pm, and then decided to just walk around a little and grab our souvenirs before the tour started.

We found a little souvenir shop and I took my 6-year-old in with me to find a collector’s spoon for me and a little pin for the collection he has started. Josh and the stroller-bound children stayed outside since the stroller was too big to fit in the shop. Spoons were near the outside door to the shop and then we had to go further in to pay and find a little pin. The further in the store we went the more penis merchandise there was. Like seriously. Penis mugs, penis key-chains, penis magnets, penis straws, ball caps that said “I love Prague” with a picture of a penis on it. One penis, two penis, red penis blue penis. This one has a little star. Say, what a lot of penises there are! I paid for our non-penis merchandise and then tried to get out without my son touching anything. Traveler’s tip – leave your kids outside when you go in a souvenir shop in Prague.

It was almost 2pm, so back we went to the tourist information center to meet our tour group. Except nobody was there. We walked around the block and couldn’t find anybody. I went inside the information center but there was a huge line and I knew I wouldn’t get to the front of the line until after 2pm. I frantically looked up and down the street but finally had to face the fact that this must not have been the right link up location and I should have (once again) done better research before going on this trip.

I pretty much had a melt down because now I would have no clue what I was looking at and I can’t read Czech and there are no signs in English, but my husband kept his cool and pointed out that we could still walk around and see the sights without a tour guide. So that’s what we did. We walked up to the castle where we saw some awesome Prague old town squarepanoramic views of the city of Prague and got some gelato for the kids, we walked around a few cathedrals, and then we decided to cross the famous Charles Bridge.

The bridge is awesome. Lined with historic statues, street performers, artists and merchants it gives you a taste of culture all in one convenient and scenic location. Once we made it across the bridge I saw signs for the tourist information center again. Huh, that’s weird. And then I realized that there are two tourist information centers. We had been on the wrong side of the river the whole time! Ugh! It was pretty obvious that we had been on the wrong side because this side was packed wall-to-wall with tourists whereas the other side had plenty of space for us to move around the streets.

I figured the crowds of tourists probably were heading to the famous sights so we literally just followed the largest groups of people which landed us right in the old town square where we were able to see the astronomical clock and the Church of our Lady Before Týn.

Prague Astronomical ClockAt this point it was about 4pm and the kids (and parents) were hot and tired and ready to go. We found our way back to the parking garage, paid for the parking, and made our way home. We stopped for dinner on the road to use up the rest of our Czech Koruna and continued on what was actually a relatively stress-free, low-traffic drive home.

Yep. So between the lunch, dinner and ice cream, souvenirs and parking we spent less than $100. Even the tour (had we actually found it in time) would have been free besides a tip for the guide. Next time I’ll make sure to get a travel guide from the library so I know what I’m looking at when we sightsee and have a map of the city so I can tell where my tour starts. I guess it wasn’t really that terrible and horrible, just a little unorganized. If you learn from my mistakes, I think you can have a really great time in this beautiful city for not a lot of money.

What are your travel tips for a day in Prague? Let me know in the comments below!