My husband and I are flying to the Kaiserslautern area (Ramstein Air Base) for the week of 4/7 - 4/13. We've never been to this area of Germany. What are some interesting things to do in the area? (We don't mind traveling a reasonable distance from Kaiserslautern if it can be done by train.) Thanks! -Amy
The resort town of Bad Kreuznach is a short (1 hr) train ride from Kaiserslautern, €25 for both of you with a Rheinland-Pfalz ticket. There is a train connection from Kaiserlautern to Bingen where you can change for a train to the Mittelrhein area (Bacharach or St. Goar). The total trip to St Goar takes about 2 hours and you can do it with a Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket. A Rheinland-Pfalz ticket would also take you to Mannheim (1h5min), from which it is a short trip to Heidelberg. There is actually an S-Bahn that goes all of the way to Heidelberg from Kaiserslauter (1h25min), but the Rheinland-Pfalz ticket is not valid for Mannheim to Heidelberg, so you have to have an get the Mannheim-Heidelberg ticket in the station a Kaiserlautern before leaving or make a stop in Mannheim to get it. You could also use the Rheinland-Pfalz ticket to Karlsruhe Hbf (~1½ hr) from which you could go by streetcar (another 45 min) to Bad Herrenalb in the Black Forest. Of course, Jo will come on and tell you to visit Frankfurt. You can use a Rheinland-Pfalz ticket to Mainz and a local train or S-Bahn ticket (€7,30pP each way) from there to Frankfurt. You can also buy a Gruppentageskarte for €25,70 in Mainz, which will cover the RT from Mainz to Frankfurt for both of you.
Consider Trier on the Mosel. It is <2 hours by train using the Rheinland-Pfalz ticket that Lee already mentioned. Trier is in the running for the oldest town in Germany. It has significant Roman ruins and one of the oldest cathedrals in Germany. Wikipedia does a decent job of describing the town and its sights. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trier It is also the birthplace of Karl Marx. I did not think too much of the museum devoted to him.
It might be a bit early in the season, but we have taken guests on the Rhine river boat cruises a number of times and they have always loved it. You can take train to St. Goar or Bingen and then take a boat cruise to the other town, depending upon which town you choose as your boarding town. Rick Steves has good information on this trip. Rudesheim is also worth a stop, and it's right across the river from Bingen.
I forgot to mention the weekend market in the center of town. Very much fun and there are a number of nice restaurants near the old church.
My brother was stationed in the Kaiserslautern area 4 times over his career (so far) and we visited him twice. As you may have picked up the immediate area (Kaisersluatern metro area) is not known for much in the way of tourist Germany. The country is nice, very pretty area, but for sights, most people in the area (US Service) head to the Mosel River Valley. A bit hard to reach by train in that there is no direct train line, but you could take the train to Trier, wander around, get back on, heading down the Mosel toward Koblenz, stopping at one or more towns along the way. From Koblenz, you could do the same up the Rhine, catching a train back to Kaisersluatern, making a big circle. You may not have enough days, but I do like to mention to people that Paris is a 3 hour fast train ride away from Kaiserslautern, not bad prices if purchased ahead.
I've traversed the Rhein by train between Bingen and St Goar on six occasions and by boat from St. Goar to Bacharach once. In my opinion, the most interesting stretch is between St. Goar and Bacharach because you get to see the Lorelei from mid river and the Pfalzgrafenstein from up close. Except for the Mausturm, I don't think there is much more between Bacharach and Bingen to justify the longer trip. The difference in fare is only €6,20, but the time is twice as much, 1h25min if you go down the river from Bingen to St. Goar vs 40 min from Bacharach to St Goar. In the opposite direction it take 1½ hr longer. Also note that the train coming from Kaiserlautern to Bingen, changes at the Bingen Hbf, while the K-D boat leaves from the Bingen Stadtbhnhof, so you will have to take a train, bus, or walk between the two stations. You can find the schedule for the K-D boats on their website at http://www.k-d.com/english/home.
Contact the Ramstein USO. They have great tours and can offer great suggestions of places to go and things to see and do. http://affiliates.uso.org/kaiserslautern/default.cfm?contentid=104
As Paul noted, the area around Ramstein and Kaiserslautern is in the middle of the Pfälzerwald, which is a rather sparsely populated region of low forested mountains. You can find a lot of hiking, and this area has probably the highest concentration of castles in all of Germany (although almost all are ruins). If wine is an interest, the heart of German wine country is just down the road to the east, including the scenic towns of the German Wine Road (Deutsche Weinstraße).
Heidelberg is not far away, could be a day trip or an overnight.
If you decide to do day trips, ask for a VRN - Verbundnetz ticket 24 Plus- this is a regional ticket which covers trains, city buses, & trams (unlike a DB Lander ticket which does not). Last year, it was 20 EU/5 persons for the day or 20EU for the weekend (Sat till 3 AM Mon) covering Landstuhl to Heidelberg. With a VRN tkt, you do not need another ticket from Mannheim to Heidelberg portion as Lee mentioned in an earlier post. I got our tkts at the travel agency at Ramstein but was told that you can also purchase them at the ticket machines, I think under the "regional specials" tab. I 'm not sure exactly what areas are covered in a "region" but was told to type in where I wanted to go & the machine would give the cost (ie. Landstuhl to Kaiserslautern was 8 EU/day) - if your destination didn't show up, it wasn't included in the "region". In Heidelberg, there is a tourist bureau as you exit the bahnhof with excellent city/tram maps. The bus & tram stops are right across the street. With our VRN tkt, we took the train to Heidelberg, city bus to the castle, strolled through town & along the Neckar River until we got tired, then hopped a bus back to the bahnhof, & rode a tram to a lovely little town about 30 minutes away (sorry I can't recall the name). After a nice meal there, we took the tram back, then the train back to Landstuhl.
As this was a Saturday, we then used the same ticket to visit Neustadt & Speyer on Sun. To visit Trier, St Goar, Bacharach, Worms, from Kaiserslautern, you will need the Rheinland Pfalz ticket. We did a LONG day to Trier-Cochem-St Goar - Bacharach & back to Kaiserslautern but it was really rushed. If you have the time, do 2-3 day trips to enjoy it all
Luxembourg City is not too far away and is a very underrated tourist destination, I've always thought. Strasbourg, France and Colmar are also good options. If you've never seen Heidelberg, I would definitely do that before you leave.