Have read many resources on Munich. Family of 4 with kids 11 & 16. any suggestions on sightseeing priorities? Also arriving from states at 6 am. Best activities for staying awake and alert all day this first, jet-lagged day?
There is the obligatory clock watching in front of the New Town Hall in the city center, then climb the tower at the Marien Kirche (Mary's church). It's a good way to get the blood flowing in your legs after your flight.
With good weather definitely visit the English Gardens and eat/drink at the beer garden.
I love the Alte Pinokotek (old art gallery) it has an impressive collection of masters. The Neue Pinokotek (new art gallery) is also really good, it has more great art through the impressionist period.
The third gallery is the Moderne, I don't really get it. If you like modern art, you may like it more than the other two.
My seven year old daughter soaked in every painting in the Alte, reading every description and finding details I would have missed. My boys, 12 and 16, didn't complain but only wanted to wander through and look at a painting here and there. They were most interested in the original paintings that they had seen copied everywhere (such as the Birth of Venus).
The nearby residenz (palace) also has a lot to see. I think the whole family would enjoy it.
If you do any walking, look for plaques built into the walls along the street (as I recall they were about five or six feet off the ground). They show former homes of famous people. Some are people who risked their lives to protect Jews from the Nazis, probably never heard of by Americans. Many are famous composers or scientists who lived in Munich over the last few hundred years and are well known around the world. I saw a lot in the blocks around the Pinokotek.
Beware of Englische Garten - naked sunbathers. Might not be appropriate for children.
Best place to be at 11 AM - Marienplatz to watch the "performance of the Glockenspiel at the Rathaus. Afterwards, have lunch in the Ratskeller, the restaurant in the basement of the Rathaus. When you are standing in Marienplatz, looking at the Rathaus, behind you, over your right shoulder is the steeple of St. Peters church. For a few Euro, you can climb to the top for a great view down into Marienplatz, Munich, and, on a clear day, all the way to the Alps. Behind the Rathaus a few blocks you can tour the Residenz, the in-town palace of the Wittelsbacher family. Also tour the nearby Frauenkirche. On another day, take the streetcar (Nr 17) from the Hauptbahnhof out to Nymphenburg, the summer palace for the Wittelsbachers.
We will be arriving in Munich this Thursday on that 6am flight. We plan to take it easy the first day considering the jet lag. Staying in the daylight and walking about(English Garden) is probably the best. We also plan to visit the Viktualien Market since it is outside, open in the early morning and located right next to Marienplatz. Do a search on Jet lag here on the RS site for general pointers. Good luck.
Our kids are older. We visited Munich this summer. One thing that we all enjoyed was comparing the interiors of churches. It was cool against a heat wave and there was a place to sit in the pews. Asam Kirche (Church) was a small but awesome display of Rococo decoration, dark with almost excesses of ornamentation. It makes a interesting contrast to the nearby, open and light Frauen Kirche.
We all liked the Schatzkammer (Treasury Museum) at the Residenz. The Residenz itself has some high points but the tour goes on for a long time. Some folks love it. I did not.
We also arrived early in the morning. The bright sun burnt us out and we went down for a short nap after lunch.
Best place to just hang out and relax is the English Garden -- Munich's municipal park-- which has been a public park since the 1770s.
If your kids enjoy science/technology the Deutches Museum would be a good idea.
The quaint and picturesque Bavarian small-town of Erding is just by the airport and there is Europe's longest water slide at the Galaxy water theme park just outside of Erding. The slide is 1400m - so almost one mile long! For pictures check with this website and also search youtube for "Galaxy Wasserrutsche" or google it. http://www.parkscout.de/artikel/galaxy-erding/erlebnisbaeder-bayern