December is a magical time of year in Germany, when almost every city and town has at least one square filled with a Christmas market. Aglow with sparkling lights, each of these markets creates its own holiday wonderland certain to delight kids. Some have entire sections devoted to children’s rides and activities. While you can find these all over Germany, some of the best are in the southwest corner, in the fairytale villages of the Black Forest. These are our kids’ favorites.
The biggest market (one of the biggest in all Germany, in fact) is in the modern city of Stuttgart, where several hundred wooden cabins decked in fragrant greens line its streets and squares. On the rooftop of each is a holiday scene — elves making toys, woodland animals, Santa in his sleigh, giant wooden toys, even a traditional Christmas pyramid of brightly painted moving figures. One entire square is devoted to children, where a Christmas tree towers over a Ferris wheel whose cars are giant Christmas tree balls. Younger tots can ride on a miniature train through an entire village of pint-sized houses. There are workshops where kids can make their own candles or bake cookies, and in the center is a skating rink where beginning skaters can balance on chubby penguins or cartoon figures.
Even without its Christmas finery, Esslingen seems like stepping into a fairytale village, with its Medieval center of tall half-timbered houses. In December it becomes two villages, one filled with a modern Christmas market, the other transformed into its Medieval counterpart, the Mittelaltermarkt. Lit by torches and lanterns and serving foods cooked over wood fires, an entire section of town steps back seven centuries. Costumes, crafts, entertainment, even the foods are authentic to the Middle Ages, and your kids can watch jugglers and flame-walkers, listen to minstrels and watch a blacksmith forge hooks and tools from glowing iron. Basket makers, wood carvers, coopers, silversmiths, herbalists, leather workers and spinners are all at work and kids can ride an original hand-operated Ferris wheel that’s centuries old, eat bread made on a stick and learn to play medieval games.
From a fairytale village to a fairytale castle, the Black Forest has them all. At the top of a steep crag, one of Europe’s best-preserved castles towers above the countryside, the ancestral home of the Prussian Royal family. They open Burg Hohenzollern in December for the Royal Christmas Market, where juried craftspeople show high-quality local crafts and art. Booths begin outdoors in the forecourt, where you can warm your hands around steaming mugs of gluhwein (hot mulled wine) or hot chocolate and eat cinnamon waffles before entering the Great Hall to see original designs and one-of-a-kind works in wool, leather, glass, silk and wood. Kids will want to see more of the castle, especially the treasury.
Although some other towns turn the town hall into a giant Advent calendar, nobody does it better than the well-preserved Black Forest town of Gengenbach, where it’s the backdrop for the Christmas Market. Each December evening at 6 p.m. locals come to watch another window open on the town hall’s 200-year-old façade, revealing a scene or artwork. Each year these follow a theme, which might be based on the works of a great artist or scenes from children’s stories.
During December the streets of the old center are hung with curtains of tiny twinkling lights for the Freiburg Christmas Market. Along with the rows of cabins filled with spicy gingerbread, crunchy nut cookies, loaves of fruit-filled stollen, candied fruits and jelly-filled doughnuts, there are some designed just for kids. In the Christmas bakery they can bake their own cookies, and they can create candles in a candle workshop. They will be fascinated, too, watching the glassblower turn blobs of glowing glass into beautiful goblets and vases.
This October, take the whole family to London and take time to not only enjoy the classic sites but also these scary fun Halloween events and experiences. Whether it’s a spooky-filled trip to the London Zoo or a step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, here are the three can’t-miss experiences:
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next family trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Medellín, Colombia, with us.
Make your family trip to Orlando so much more than just visiting the theme parks. Thanks to new vacation bundles from luxury hotels in Orlando, available as of Sept. 1, you can enjoy exclusive boating experiences during your trip.
United Airlines is in the midst of a major initiative to modernize its fleet over the next several years. After first announcing the plan in 2021, planes fitted with United’s signature interior are finally beginning to appear across the airline’s narrowbody fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. United flyers are sure to notice these enhancements from the moment they step on board: Each new or updated plane sports remodeled seats, seatback entertainment screens for everyone, Bluetooth connectivity and more, all adding up to a better experience on every journey.
Where can family travelers experience a truly unique (and possibly unusual) Halloween tradition? Look no further than Morro Bay, California, a city hosting the annual Witches Paddle. Just as it sounds, the Witches Paddle sees hundreds of people don witches’ costumes in honor of Halloween before taking to the water on stand-up paddleboards.