Family travel in Berlin isn’t as obvious a vacation choice as, say, a vacation with the kids in theme park heavy Orlando. But a kid-friendly vacation doesn’t mean that the entire trip is child-centric. Rather, introducing children to different countries, cultures and value systems expands their world views and enriches their life experiences. That’s why, to the parent struck with even a modicum of wanderlust, taking the kids along isn’t a question. But those children shouldn’t be an afterthought, either. Berlin, Germany is a fantastic place for a family vacation; it has several fun activities for kids. It is absolutely cosmopolitan, with the vibrancy and hum of a constantly changing city that embraces its historic and cultural life, while relishing change and what’s new as well. Here are some child-friendly activities and attractions for a family vacation in Berlin, that combines historically interesting sites with those purely for our kiddies’ pleasure.
Berlin Bike Tour – Berlin on Bikes provided my family with a terrific, unforgettable tour of the Berlin Wall. The small company has several tour options in East and West Berlin, with each emphasis adjustable to a tour group’s needs and wishes. There is also a Fat Tire Bike Tours outlet in Berlin, and Insider Tours’ bike tours are kept to small groups. Both are larger companies than Berlin on Bikes, and both have erred their good reputations. Most kids generally enjoy riding bicycles, and the frequent stops ensure that chidden won’t get too worn out. Observant bike tour guides also know to keep an eye out for signs that kids are getting tired or bored, and can adjust points of interest accordingly. The City Segway Tour in Berlin is probably a bit more slow-going, and may take some getting used to. Segways, however, are pretty fun to ride.
Berlin Zoological Garden – There are some great zoos in North America, like the Bronx Zoo. There are some outstanding aquariums, like Monterey Bay’s. And there are some lovely botanical gardens, such as Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. But the Berlin Zoological Garden is all three — and with around 17,500 animals spread out over 84 acres, it’s the largest in Europe. Family travel in Berlin should definitely include some time at the Berlin Zoo. It’s so fun to watch children thrill at the sight of animal feeding time — and famous residents like polar bears and primates are big crowd pleasers. Besides the usual suspects (polar bear feeding time is 10:30AM, don’t miss that), the panda bear house, monkey house with gorillas, and elephant house are kiddie favorites. Check out Crocodile Hall, too. Berlin Zoological Garden being the most popular zoo in Europe means that kids from many different countries often run around, laughing and interacting despite language barriers. That, in itself, is a joy.
Museums – Wait, let me finish! I know that oftentimes, children don’t have the patience for long visits to museums. Remember, though, that a family vacation in Berlin has the potential to enrich their lives and broaden their understanding of the human experience in ways that visits to Disneyland and Universal Studios just cannot. Time spent on Museum Island — with its five world-class museums — is time well-spent. The breadth of human history may be impossible for young kids to grasp, but strolling through exhibits of mummies and other ancient artifacts certainly sets a foundation. A museum not on Museum Island (but still near Spree River) is the Natural History Museum. The dinosaur exhibit is the main attraction here, and kids with a fascination for dinosaurs will be happy to know that the largest dinosaur fossil in the world is here. It’s a brachiosaurus, one of the long necked, long tailed giant reptiles, and it’s just one of many large dinos in the collection. Keep in mind that the explanatory tests are in German; an audio guide is recommended.
LEGOLAND – There are different LEGOLAND theme parks scattered worldwide, of course, but younger children seem to find inexhaustible amounts of energy at any LEGOLAND (as compared to the comatose state they fall into within an hour’s time at an art museum). Berlin’s is the first indoor LEGOLAND, making it an ideal place to visit with kids during inclement weather. Older children may not catch LEGO fever though; mine tired of the LEGOLAND in Carlsbad by the time they were around 7 or 8 years old. LEGOLAND Berlin is one of the LEGOLAND Discovery Centers; smaller and more contained than the theme parks. It’s in the Sony Center on Potsdamerplatz, which can best be described as an entertainment center akin to L.A. Live on steroids. This LEGOLAND Discovery Center, being indoors, is smaller than the more sprawling LEGOLAND theme parks. However, it has lots of scaled-down attractions, like a model builder’s workshop, Duplo Village, and LEGO Studios 4-D Cinema.
Picnics – There are a few places where children can run around (to a certain degree, of course, we must be respectful) and happily express themselves in urban Berlin. The Berlin Zoological Garden is terrific for getting kids’ energy out. Two other places for expending youthful energy are the Tiergarten park near Brandenberg Gate, and Unter den Linden, the Linden tree-lined boulevard lined with historic buildings and Humboldt University. Both are great for take-out and picnic lunches, though Unter den Linden in the summer is busy and touristy. The Tiergarten is Berlin’s largest green open space, so obviously a picnic is easier here than Unter den Linden. Unter den Linden, though, is really interesting, and it connects Museum Island to Brandenberg Gate — the midpoint big statue of Frederick the Great on his horse is eye-catching, and the fellows dressed up as soldiers through the ages will entice your kids to pose for a photo…and a small fee. You can negotiate the fee, if you feel comfortable with this souvenir.
Family travel in Berlin can also include day trip to Potsdam, or the bucolic countryside. Needless to say, families staying within the city limits still have plenty of kid-friendly attractions and activity options. Interspersing these with stops at cultural and historic sites in Berlin will make the travel experience all-rounded, and interesting to everyone.
Visit Berlin provided my family with passes to all the attractions and museums in Berlin.