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Updated by Colleen Lanin on Dec 03, 2016
Headline for Munich with Kids: More than Beer and Pretzels
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Munich with Kids: More than Beer and Pretzels

Ninety minutes after our flight touched down in Munich from LAX, my husband was downing a liter of beer at a picturesque beer garden as my children stuffed hunks of giant pretzel in their mouths and I gazed at swans floating in a nearby lake. This scene sums up our glorious week in Munich: green, easy, relaxed. This mellow urban gem in Germany is full of world-class museums, sprawling parks and kid-friendly beer gardens. The German love of orderliness made it an easy place for us to get around with our three


Munich’s “Central Park”

For anyone visiting the city with kids, your first order of business should be finding a hotel within walking distance of the Englischer Garten, an enormous park larger than both Hyde Park in London and Central Park in New York City. It is full of pathways to stroll, babbling brooks, giant open fields and no less than three beer gardens. Our favorite was the Seehaus Beer Garden, which has cafeteria-style service, a playground, and nearby paddle boat and bike rentals.My three kids enjoying their favorite Munich pastime: exploring new play structuresThe Seehaus is in the center of the Englischer Garten, which is a lovely place for a picnic, a breezy bike ride, or a makeshift soccer game. Small playgrounds dot the park and at the southern tip there is even a popular surf break created by an artificial wave in the Eisbach River. Surfers in full wetsuits line the banks of the river waiting for their chance to slip and slide this perfect wave. Even my California kids were mesmerized for a good 45 minutes watching these daring Deutschers surfing the wave with their short boards.

There are a multitude of amazing museums in Munich, but there is one families absolutely can’t miss: the Deutsches Museum. From dugout canoes and WWI U-boats to experimental airplanes, this gigantic assemblage of man’s technological advances is full of cool techie information and, more importantly, a warehouse full of interactive displays to keep kids captivated for hours. The entire basement floor has been turned over to kids ages 3 to 8. Called the Children’s Kingdom or Kinderreich, there’s no chance for boredom in this adventure zone of water play, pulley swings, and a giant fire truck made out of LEGO bricks.

Exploring Munich by Foot

Find the center of Munich and you’ll discover a charming old town straight out of a storybook. The central plaza in this pedestrian zone is called the Marienplatz, and happens to be the best spot to view the Glockenspiel, a mechanized puppet show at the top of the New City Hall, the Neues Rathaus, in which tiny knights joust and miniature jesters twirl in a carillon performance that rings at 11 a.m., noon and 5 p.m.A view of the Glockenspiel at the Marienplatz with the Frauenkirche in the backgroundFrom here, pick a direction and follow the cobblestone streets to some of the city’s best shopping, sidewalk cafes and historical sites including The Frauenkirche—a church with double onion domes that is the emblem of the city; the Hofbrauhaus, the gigantic if touristy beer hall; an eccentric toy museum called the Spielzeugmuseum, full of vintage teddy bears and goofy amusements stuffed into a handful of rooms in the Old City Hall; and The Viktualenmarkt, an open air farmer’s market with plenty of stalls to sample everything from unusual cuts of meat to local cheeses.

Another kid-friendly must see while in Munich is the Olympiapark, built for the 1972 Summer Games and now an activity complex complete with water sports, a zip line, and the groovy Olympic Schwimhalle where Mark Spitz won his medals and that is still open to the public for swimming. A giant tower called the Olympiaturm rises 290 meters over the park and is worth a visit to see a stunning panoramic view of lower Bavaria all the way to the Alps, with landmarks labeled in white by the efficient tourist office.

BMW Welt for Car Lovers

For those with car obsessed kids, a short five-minute walk from the tower brings you to the dark glass and steel behemoth of BMW Welt, a combination museum-mega dealership-corporate headquarters dedicated to all things BMW.My daughter and son posing in front of the fantastical Neuschwanstein Castle

Just outside the center of the city, and easy to get to via subway or streetcar (the S-Bahn) are a few sights worth mentioning:* Schloss Nymphenberg is a baroque but serene castle backed by an expansive garden lined with pathways leading to surprisingly ornate outbuildings and a superb kid-friendly natural history museum.* Dachau, a 20-minute streetcar ride outside of the city center, is the former Concentration Camp that now houses a thorough museum that covers not just the horrors of daily life at the camp, but also the political situation that gave rise to Hitler’s Nazi party.* Schloss Neuschwanstein is the quintessential fairy tale castle. Built by Mad King Ludwig II and borrowed by Walt Disney as the inspiration for his Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, it’s an architectural wonder full of one of a kind Wagnerian flourishes. It’s an hour and a half outside of Munich. Tickets can be a problem during high tourist seasons if you don’t book ahead. Many tour companies offer it as a one-day excursion from central Munich.What would your kids love most about Munich? Let us know in the comments!Halle Shilling was a journalist for several newspapers in the Midwest before moving to the Golden State to teach writing and drive her three children to soccer practice. She and her family live in Solana Beach, California.All photos by Halle Shilling.