The Vacation Station: Families more than welcome
Ferienbahnhof means Vacation Railroad Station, but you won’t hear “All aboard!!” at this rural retreat near Lake Constance. Set in meadows are a dozen rail cars from the 1920s, all converted into vacation accommodation. Each comes complete with a bath or shower and a kitchenette with a dining area for up to four people. The waiting room of the former railroad station has been converted into a meeting room/common room for guests. You can even have a go at operating the crossing gate. Perfect for those, who wanted to be (or still want to be) an engine driver! Frickingen is 2 hours south of Stuttgart.
Tuns of fun: Sleep in a wine barrel
Like wine? You’ll love sleeping in a real barrel – in the middle of vineyards! Deep in the Black Forest, the Wild family has created a vacation destination in a glorious hillside setting. The giant wine barrels are hidden among the vines and can only be reached on foot, so it’s all very private. Each “bedroom barrel” sleeps two and has heating; a separate barrel next door has the bathroom, with a toilet. Through glass doors, you look out over the Rhine valley, westwards as far as the Vosges Mountains. And the best way to enjoy the spectacular sunsets is with a glass of Baden wine from the surrounding vines, of course! 2 hours south of Stuttgart.
Tower over all: Rooms with a view
One of SouthWest Germany’s most beautiful destinations is the medieval city of Konstanz, on Lake Constance. And the best views of the historic city and the lake are from the Konstanz Youth Hostel! In the northern suburb of Allmannsdorf, the Otto Moericke Tower, a former water tower, has been converted to provide accommodation. As the hostel is on a hill, the views are magnificent – and they are even better from the observation deck at the top, 130ft/40m up. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped Alps! For as little as 20 Euro a night, this is perfect for hikers, cyclists and anyone wanting value for money. 2 hours south of Stuttgart.
Around the world in one vacation
Kids love adventure and that’s just what is on offer at the Hofgut Hopfenburg, where the choice of accommodation covers the world. Families can sleep in a North American-style teepee or a yurt from Kyrgyzstan; they can stay in a lovingly-restored circus wagon from France or a Tuareg tent from North Africa. Deep in the unspoiled Swabian Alb Hills, there is room for children to run and play. Instead of a petting zoo, the owners breed animals that are threatened with extinction. Instead of going to a children's disco, youngsters are taught skills, such as weaving and felting. Of course, like any campsite, guests can sleep in their own tent or RV/camper. In Münsingen, 1 hour southeast of Stuttgart. www.hofgut-hopfenburg.de
Branching out: Sleeping in a treehouse
Children love the idea of sleeping in a tree house – and so, too, do grown-ups! And they can, at the Tripsdrill theme park in Cleebronn. These tree houses are in the Natur-Resort, and they are far more than just a platform in the branches. All have the modern conveniences, from wooden furniture and a proper bathroom with a toilet, to a large deck outside. Adding to the “away from it all” feel is the howling of wolves in the nearby Wildlife Park. (Other destinations offering tree houses include the Wipfelglück Baumhaushotels in Rosenberg, near Ellwangen, on the Santiago de Compostella Trail, and the Schönbuch Nature Park, near Tübingen.
www.tripsdrill.de: 45 minutes north of Stuttgart
www.wipfelglueck.de: 90 minutes east of Stuttgart
www.naturpark-schoenbuch.de: 45 minutes south of Stuttgart
A Teddy Bears’ Picnic: Sleeping with bears
There are teddy bears wherever you look – bears in the bedrooms and in the restaurant, teddy bear ornaments and pictures of teddy bears. The Teddybärenhotel in Kressbronn on Lake Constance is Germany’s only Teddy Bear Hotel and it reflects the passion of its owner, Claudia Marschall. Her collection of more than 1,300 bears includes specially-made, one-of-a-kind bears as well as examples from well-known toy makers. Learn how to make your own bear, or, if you fall in love with one of the hotel’s bears, you can buy it and take it home!
2 hours 15 min south of Stuttgart.