Once we decided to start traveling, we had to decide on our destinations, which is a bit difficult when anything is possible! I was really excited about spending an extended period in German speaking countries, since German is one of our home languages. I wanted my kids to see the language in action - and there wasn’t much German to be heard in California!
We spent the first two months in Munich and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. For our third month we decided to head further south, to Innsbruck, Austria.
Innsbruck is a breathtaking town, lying in a valley between the Karwendel Alps and the Patscherkofel. As you can imagine, there are a ton of outdoor activities available to you here, including skiing, hiking and visiting the Alpine Zoo, which is devoted to animals from this region.
I spent some time looking for housing in the area, and we decided on a vacation rental in Axams, a small village outside of Innsbruck. We bought a monthly bus pass with which we could travel into Innsbruck as often as we wanted, while also planning to explore the surrounding villages and mountains.
As I mentioned before, the landscape in this area is truly stunning. I loved being able to walk out of our building and directly onto a hiking path on a ridge above the valley. There was also a bus that ran straight up the mountain behind us, to the Axamer Lizum. This area is famous for winter sports and hiking. On the way up (or down) there was a lovely restaurant with a biergarten and children’s play area. So restful!
Given that we have young children, we spend a lot of our time moving slowly and scoping out playgrounds. Axams and neighboring villages has some excellent playgrounds (including half a dozen apple trees, which were in season). The center of the village has a small grocery store and a machine that dispenses organic milk from local cows - you really can’t ask for more!
In terms of entertainment, the Innsbruck card is definitely a best buy. We purchased the 72 hour Innsbruck card (59 Euro/adult, 29.50 Euro/child), which granted us entry to so many sights and activities, including the Alpine Zoo, multiple cable cars and lifts (Nordkettenbahn, Patscherkofelbahn, Muttereralm Lift, among others), and museums such as the Swarovski Crystal World (world’s best indoor playground!). There are so many activities to choose from!
Now that my older son is a big kid(!), I could convince him to join me for tours of attractions like the Imperial Palace. Granted, he knew there was ice cream planned at the end, but he was also amazed to see how royalty used to live...and how they did their hair. The Ambras Castle is filled with examples of knight’s armor and their weapons. The kids were fascinated, and Jakob enjoyed a special children’s tour of the museum. They have tours and workshops for kids every Saturday afternoon, and a large park that surrounds the castle. Perfect to run around a bit and also feed the ducks.
With kids and in the summertime, I really recommend the cable car rides up to Patscherkofel, Muttereralm and the Nordkette. The first two have playgrounds, restaurants with amazing views and easy trails for young families to meander. The Nordkettenbahn is simply breathtaking, although you will want to hold those little hands tight! We visited the Alpine Zoo on our way back down the Nordkettenbahn. Its well maintained and a great opportunity to learn more about the animals that live in the Alps. If you’re thinking about spending some time in this part of Austria, do it! No regrets here.