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Last minute trip to Cologne, Germany with three kids. Need ideas

Hi, My husband and I decided to take a last minute trip to Germany to stay with friends in Cologne. The trip is less than two weeks away and I am looking for ideas and have rail questions. First, we are planning to stay at their home so all of our sightseeing will be from there and back each day. I would love ideas of things to do in and around Cologne with kids German things that will stick in the kids minds. Will I find that in Cologne. i.e. beer, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, food, castles. I realize this is very simple but they are little! Second and most importantly, I am having a hard time deciding on rail pass versus rental car. We will fly into Ramstein and have to travel down to Cologne. From there we will mostly stay local but would like to fit in a one or two day trip to Paris. Should be get a Eurail pass? I read somewhere that kids travel free in Germany. Is this true and does this apply to Eurail passes? Thank you so much for your help. I have very little time to plan. You help is much appreciated.
Amber

Posted by
12040 posts

"I would love ideas of things to do in and around Cologne with kids German things that will stick in the kids minds. Will I find that in Cologne. i.e. beer, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, food, castles." You're vaguely describing things that are typically Bavarian (or in case of cuckoo clocks, Badische). You're going to be in a very different region of Germany, Nordrhein-Westfalen, which has it's own traditions that are less well known in the US. Of course, starting a little further south of Bonn (not far from Cologne), there's plenty of castles on the Rhine, even more so south of Koblenz. And you can always find a trinket shop that sells cuckoo clocks and beer steins, even though they may not be native to the region. If you want to take the kids to a pretty good amusement park, Phanstasialand isn't too far away from Cologne.

Posted by
16964 posts

OK, what ages are the kids? 17 year olds don't travel free (but there may be some deals). For local travel on trains, you can use a laender ticket (up to 5 travel on one ticket at 26 euro plus 4 Euro for each addtional person) after 9 am. You can use the Thalys train and be in Paris in 3 hr 15 min. Advance purchase tickets will keep the prices down. Cologne isn't lederhosen territory, it has its own distinct culture, beer (Koelsch), local folk characters (Tuenis & Schael). You can see their animatronic doubles at Papa Joe's Biersalon in the Altstadt. They play accordian & tuba, a wide ion of tunes, both German traditional and contemporary for a mere 1 Euro a song.
Best castle, Burg Eltz, about 2 hour drive away. It would actually be on the way between Ramstein and Cologne. Having a car at least part of the time can come in handy for excusions like that.

Posted by
2081 posts

hi, isnt there a Chocolate factory/tour there? it may not be fun, but it could be yummy! happy trails.

Posted by
12040 posts

"isnt there a Chocolate factory/tour there?" That would be the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum. They make a token amount of chocolate there, but it's more of a museum than factory.

Posted by
5692 posts

"Will I find that in Cologne. i.e. beer, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, food, castles." Beer and food are everywhere. It's unhealthy to seek out Lederhosen. Castles lie south of Koblenz (south of Cologne) in the Middle Rhine Valley. Cuckoo clocks - stop in St. Goar (also the home of Rheinfels Castle, the best one for kids probably.) RHEINFELS Train tickets: trip is 3-4 hours from Ramstein to Cologne. Kids under 6 travel free w/ parents. Check schedules and prices HERE: Regular walk-up fare is 104€ for 2 adults for the most direct route. I see that on 4/28 (sample date) a family of 2 adults and 2 kids under 6 can make the trip for 49€ for certain departure times - if they purchase in advance. But because the tickets are train-specific, a flight delay might mean forfeiture. If you travel on Sat or Sun, you can also use the happy weekend ticket, a daypass that costs 42€ for 5 people. It's good on the local and regional trains only, so when you search for a schedule, click on "only local transport" under "means of transport" to find eligible trains. Travel times will be longer with the HW ticket. HERE'S the HW ticket information link.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you All for the quick responses. I have taken each of your suggestions and looked at them on the map and am laying out a plan. We only have 5 or 6 days in country so I am thinking about cutting out the Paris trip and just focusing on a different place in Germany each day. All of your suggestions are great. So, now that I am staying in Germany I think we could venture out a little further each day with an early train ride. Please tell me what we must NOT miss while there. FUN FUN FUN is what we need. We will see castles and architecture, of course, (Rheinfels looks great btw). Can anyone suggest a party-like atmosphere, with beer and dancing where families are welcome. I want my kids to dance and play while we enjoy a great German beer. GEtting so excited. Also, your thoughts on: Alpine Coaster Water Parks Ropes courses
Spas Is this too much? If so, slow me down! Good Day!

Posted by
2297 posts

Rope courses are VERY popular in Germany and called "Klettergarten" or "Kletterwald" or "Hochseilgarten" or "Kletterpark". Your host family might know which ones are the easiest to reach from their location. I just googled (I do speak German) and found these: http://www.blackfoot-hochseilgarten.de/index.html this might be the closest for you http://www.hochseilgarten-verzeichnis.de/hochseilgarten-nrw.php
this is a list of the rope courses in the region How old are your kids?

Posted by
12040 posts

"Also, your thoughts on: Alpine Coaster Water Parks Ropes courses
Spas" Alpine coaster- do you mean a Somerrodelbahn? I'm not positive, but there may be one east of Cologne in the Sauerland region. There's one near where I live, but that's a little too far from where you're staying. The Alps, of course, are also too far. Can't help you with a water park, but they're not open yet anyway. Rope courses- the only one I know of is in the Taunus mountains around Frankfurt, but check in the Sauerland. Spas- Some nearby spa towns include Aachen, Bad Honnef, and Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler. The last had a recent write-up in "German Life" magazine. "Can anyone suggest a party-like atmosphere, with beer and dancing where families are welcome. I want my kids to dance and play while we enjoy a great German beer. GEtting so excited." You're basically describing the Hofbräuhaus, the original of which is in Munich, and there's also one in Hamburg. Both too far away for your trip. You could try one of the restaurants in Rüdesheim (on the Rhine). Several of them often have live music, but it's more of the Schlager variety (ie, German in its own way, but probably not what you have in mind).

Posted by
7 posts

Our kids are: 4, 8, 11. Beatrix- Thanks for all of the ropes course info. Perfect! Tom- My son, 11, watches youtube videos of these alpine coaster all the time. It is an little individual coaster on a track that winds down a mountain and you control the speed. I would love to get him on one. Yes, I just looked up the sommerrodelbarhn and that is what I am referring to. As far as the atmosphere not being what I have in mind, well, I will just have to learn the Schlager variety! I love learning new cultures and ideas so can't wait. Thanks for the help.

Posted by
7 posts

Still needing a bit of logistical help. So if I decide to buy the rail pass for Germany, will it take me to all of these little towns? Not sure logistically, how to do this. Like for a spa or ropes course, would we ride a local train to a nearby town and then take a taxi to the destination or are there so many stops that most things are usually in walking distance? Never been without a car before so trying to fathom how this is done! (I know I sound so American! LOL) I see that my 4 year old travels free in Germany. Does that go for the Eurail pass as well. I can't find this info on their site.

Posted by
2297 posts

Your 4 year old is always free. In addition, children under 15 accompanied by at least one parent or grandparent travel for free in most cases. That does apply for the "SchönerTagTicket NRW" (Koeln and region) and the "Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket" (if you go looking at castles on the Rhine).

Posted by
12040 posts

Here's the websites of two Sommerrodelbahns I found online (only in German). They would probably be difficult to reach without a car. One is near the spa/wine town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler that I mentioned previously. Sommerrodelbahn Altenahr Hotel Eifeltor

Posted by
501 posts

Amber, are your friends German? If so, they consider themselves very organized and will probably MAKE plans FOR you. You might want to touch bases with them. There is a number of things to do in Koln and nearby Dusseldorf . A day trip to Neuss and SkiiHall, indoor ski resort, only three in the world.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks y'all! No my friends are Americans who just moved over there in the fall. They do not have all of the answers yet! I love all of your ideas. Thank you thank you thank you!

Posted by
28800 posts

Amber, It is still Spring. Some attractions may be have dew in the morning or there may be fog or rain. Just to say to be careful about setting out to Sommerrodelbahnen, as many will not operate in moisture or rain.

Posted by
28800 posts

With regards to your logistics question, trains pretty much go most places. Integrated buses go to most of the rest. It is rare not to be able to get to most attractions by train or train and bus. Most attractions have websites, and most of those will have directions. If the German only websites get to you there is the miracle of Google Chrome Translate.

Posted by
190 posts

Hi Amber, Have a look at this link. http://www.germantravel-info.com/index.htm#table This was written by a fellow poster here on these boards. I found his information on train travel invaluable. You shouldn't need a rail pass, I would use the local/regional group tickets. Ticket machines are located on the train platforms, you can english. Make sure you make note that the machine will tell you what euro denomonation it will accept. So I would make sure you have smaller bills and coins with you. If you purchase a group ticket is comes time stamped already and make sure you sign the back of the ticket. Have you looked on Youtube at all on train travel? That was really helpful. Have you looked at the DB Bahn web site? Great for planning your day trips. http://www.bahn.com/i/view/USA/en/index.shtml Good luck and have fun! Wendy

Posted by
25 posts

Hi Amber, If you're flying into Ramstein, I'm guessing that you are military so can use the facilities at the base. If you're coming in Space A it may be difficult to know you're exact time/date of arrival. We're not experts but have done this trip several times & have had great experiences using RTT Travel right there in the KMC complex across from the terminal: www.rtttravel.com. They're open M-Sat 1000-1800 & can help with the least expensive way to get to Cologne including purchase of regional tickets that cover trains/buses/trams & that I couldn't find on the DB website or at the local kiosk. Travelling by train/bus in Germany is not nearly as confusing or difficult as it may seem from the US & I don't think that you'd have any problem. We have not rented a car from Ramstein but have heard that the folks at Europacar are VERY helpful with arrangements if you decide to go that route. There is also a good tourist info kiosk in the KMC Mall (2nd floor between RTT Travel & cafe) with info/brochures on regional attractions but it seems like they had odd hours.
If you're coming in with the Jackson ANG folks, you'll probably arrive in the morning German time giving you plenty of daylight time to get organized & get to Cologne. You'll have a blast & I bet you'll be planning your next trip before you even get home!

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Wendy, Thank you very much for the info and that post. I will study it. I have been to the bahn website. I just want to make sure I make the correct decisions and try not to choose poorly and waste money. I will be so happy if I don't have to pay for a rail pass for everyone. Thanks again,
Amber

Posted by
7 posts

Hey Kim, You are right! We are military and trying to squeeze in a Space A trip before my husband retires this summer. Thought we would do it during school so that we would have a better shot at getting five of us on the planes. We did the trip out of Jackson, MS two summers ago and had the time of our lives. Took all three kids to Switzerland. I long to go back there but decided we need to explore other places. Last time we went we rented a car for the whole trip. This time we want to use trains the whole time but it is a little daunting from here for the first time. Thank you so much for the info on the RTT travel and their website. So glad to know their hours. If you have any other tidbits I would love to hear them. BTW, are you y'all active duty or retired? Wondering how space A is for retired folks. Wonder if they ever get on the planes? Hope to still be able to do this after he retires!

Posted by
25 posts

Hi Amber,
I sent you a PM with some more info on the regional tickets available. Train travel from Ramstein is very easy. I forgot to say that apparently there is now a ticket counter/agent at Landstuhl, the nearest station. When we were last there, they just had a kiosk.