I'm a teacher and experienced (but non-paid!) Europe travel organizer/director/guide (the only thing I don't do is drive and cook in Europe) with no experience in Vienna. Will be there for one full day with my grade 9 students in March 2010. What to do , what to avoid - suggestions? I've already read Rick's books of course. Just want some other perspectives.
I think I would take them to the Treasury. There are some amazing things there with some quirky things as well. You do have to be willing to breeze past some things or you get quite overwhelmed. There is a very interesting music museum It's called the Vienna House of Music. It's very interactive and you can conduct an orchestra. http://europeforvisitors.com/switzaustria/articles/house_of_music_vienna.htm
When I first visited Vienna as a teenager I got to see a rehearsal of the Lipizzaner horses at the Spanish Riding School and it was one of the highlights of my trip. http://www.visitingvienna.com/sights/spanishridingschool/
I'm a history teacher - the trips I run are historical/cultural - the students have an interest in history and culture.
We'll be there on a Saturday.
Hi, Craig. What type of group is it? History, language, religious, music, etc? Also, what day of the week will you be there?
I'd suggest taking them to either of the two palaces. You can book full outs with guides pretty easily online. The main palace has many things you can do, including the treasury.
Schonbrunn can give a nice long tour of the grounds (outside - a place for the kids to burn off some energy), and inside. There's also an easy underground connection from there to the Ring. (Opera House, Cathedral, etc, etc).
Give us a little more idea what you're looking for, and I'm sure we can help! :)
All over Chris' suggestion for Schonbrunn. You will be very happy with this choice. Tons of history, all laid out for you on plexiglas. History and European heritage/entitlement are there. The Lipizon stallions are right there, too. The kids will love that, even if you don't go see the show. They're easily viewable being walked and in their stalls. If you want to exercise the kids, suggest you walk them up to the tower above the palace where they do the concerts. Take the winding road. Let the kids take the high road. You MAY get there before them.
Morning: walk around the Old Town, go up to St. Stephansdom and climb the roof as that will thrill the kids and the view is fantastic. Then go over to Hofsburg Palace which is right there and spend 1-2 hours in there (in my opinion you CAN get enough of all that glitz and this way you aren't out in the middle of nowhere which is the case with Schonnbrunn).
Lunch: walk over to the Newmarkt which is a huge open air but still covered in many places public market with at least 100+ food vendors (every kind of food imagineable, I had both Indian and Middle Eastern food there and the produce is unreal). There are areas that are covered so you can eat there or walk over to the university that is about 5 blocks from there and eat in their commons.
Afternoon/Evening: If your budget allows, I'd recommend going to the Mozart Haus and a concert. This is Vienna after all and classical music is what its famous for. Alternatively if the weather is decent and since you have freshmen and they are still kids, go to the Prater which is an amusement park and will cost a lot less than a concert. If both of those options are too expensive, you could take a metro ride and walk through the neighborhood where the Hunderwasser Haus is. You can't go in, but you get to ride the metro and see a real neighborhood, and that will eat up a few hours before taking them back to the hotel.
Ditch the kids and head for the wine gardens! Hee, Hee.