Family Holidays To Lake Garda With Teenagers
Are you planning a family holiday to Lake Garda with kids this summer? Then rest assured you’ve chosen a great place for everyone to enjoy, no matter their age or Instagram status!
We’ve just got back from a trip to Lake Garda with teenagers (ages 13 & 16) and to say it went well is a massive understatement.
We’ve done Italy with teenagers before (Lake Maggiore in April 2018) and had a blast, but Lake Garda has taken the trophy with regards to stuff to do with older kids.
Theme parks, watersports, family-friendly resorts, and plenty of tourist attractions might have been the initial reason you chose Lake Garda for your teenagers. However, we think we might have a few extra Lake Garda activities for hard-to-please teens that you might not have stumbled across yet.
In this post, we will list all of the best things to do in Lake Garda with teenagers but keep an eye out for some of the lesser-known recommendations too. There are so many places to see and things to do on Lake Garda, you never know – you might be booking next year’s family holiday there too!
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN LAKE GARDA WITH TEENAGERS
1. GARDA LAND
Italy’s largest theme park, Garda Land, has to be one of the most fun things to do on Lake Garda for families! I’d go so far as to say that after Disney Land, Garda Land has been our best theme park experience yet! Granted we were there out of peak season but lack of queueing aside, we loved everything about Garda Land.
What age is Garda Land suitable for?
We were in Garda with teens and they absolutely loved the choice of high adrenaline rides – we counted 8 roller coasters plus a whole host of other rides thrilling enough for older kids. We were told that the original designer, Livio Furini, took his inspiration from Disney Land and it shows. There are themed areas across the whole park, like the Wild West and a Medieval section, which bring a fun experience even between rides making this the perfect park for any age, including grown-ups!
It was so clean, very well organised, there were loads of food options for lunchtime and fairly compact. We did cover 5 miles that day but the whole park is probably half the size of Alton Towers so you weren’t as exhausted by the end of it!
- Garda Land is part of the Merlin Group so if you are UK Merlin cardholders you can get 50% off ticket prices. Alternatively, look out for places dotted around Lake Garda (mini-supermarkets, Garda Tourist Information offices, etc.) where you can shave a few euros off the entrance fee.
- Get there as early as you can to avoid queuing so much.
- Some days are quieter than others, weekends are particularly busy.
- Take in your own water bottles and refill them at their free water stations.
2. VISIT SIRMIONE
This might seem like an odd suggestion to put at position 2 of our Garda bucket list for kids but I asked our 2 what they enjoyed most about their trip to Lake Garda and our day in Sirmione came in 2nd after Garda Land!
There are two main tourist attractions in Sirmione, namely the castle and the Roman ruins, but these aren’t necessarily what swung it for our teens! I’d say it had more to do with the fact that EVERY gelateria you pass is dishing out free tasters to passers-by! At last count, TripAdvisor has listed 37 different gelato establishments and I reckon the kids came close to trying plastic spoon samples of gelato from most of them.
What is Sirmione known for?
Apart from the gelato? Sirmione is a little hot spot for German and Italian lovebirds, a popular destination for honeymooners that seems to have evaded the Brits and Americans somewhat. It’s extremely romantic with its car-free cobbled streets, hanging bougainvillea, and a couple of little beaches. The Sirmione thermal baths also attract a certain crowd, most are attached to luxury hotels after all. This is a groomed patch of Garda attracting some very wealthy visitors – something our two teens were also fascinated by, generating a lot of people-watching opportunities whilst they sipped their Crodino’s (the non-alcoholic version of the Aperol Spritz they felt very grown-up sipping!
The collection of designer clothes stores meant a nice little bit of window-shopping was thrown in. Note the ‘window’ bit, even Britney never pulled off the school uniform and Rolex combo!
3. GO WALKING IN THE MONTE BALDO MOUNTAINS
Another great thing to do on Lake Garda with kids is to ride the Malcesine cable car up to Monte Baldo and take your pick of all levels of hiking. There are plenty of easy walks on Monte Baldo for kids and you will be able to see the routes once you get to the top.
We chose the easiest one with panoramic views of Lake Garda on a well-trodden path and spotted hand-gliders and plenty of cows. The cable car takes away the hard part of actually getting up there and our route was relatively flat and enjoyable. Surrounded by grassy slopes and wild meadow flowers you can be forgiven for doing a Julie Andrews twirl across the fields, a la Sound of Music.
Honestly though, you don’t even have to do any hiking – just riding the cable car and seeing the best views of Lake Garda from the top is a really cool thing to do!
- It’s a couple of degrees cooler up there – don’t forget to layer up.
- The cable car is open every day and from 9am – 18.45 the cars leave every 30 minutes.
- Children under 1.2 metres ride for free.
- The town of Malcesine is worth a visit too so you might want to factor that into your trip.
4. WATER SPORTS ON LAKE GARDA FOR KIDS
Kids and water, eh. Well, Lake Garda has no shortage of options for water sports for kids. There is definitely the option for more extreme watersports if you already have experience in activities like white water rafting and kite surfing, but the lake is also perfect for beginners too.
In the summer months the winds on the lake drop which allows the more inexperienced holiday-makers to take advantage of a couple of fun activities. Kayaking and paddleboarding (SUP) are two of the more popular choices and equipment can be hired from several lake-side towns. Malcesine, Riva del Garda, and Torbole are definitely more geared up for rentals though.
- Whilst the northern end of Lake Garda can see more temperamental weather rolling down off the mountains, in summer the cooler temperatures could be a welcome advantage. Towns such as Riva and Torbole would be a good choice if your kids were definitely wanting to take part in lots of water sports.
- We had breakfast at Hotel Lido Blu in Torbole one morning and we can recommend this hotel as a great location (the views from this part of Lake Garda are breathtaking!). Booking.com gives it great reviews, its perfect for families and it has water sport rental facilities. For the best deals click here.
Breakfast at Hotel Lido Blu
5. CHECK OUT LAKE GARDA’S MARKETS
I don’t know about your kids but ours love a bit of market tat! Somewhere to spend their holiday euros before they burn a hole in their pockets. No family holiday is complete without a market trip!
Lake Garda markets are on in almost every town, there’s a great list on this website. And we can vouch for the ones in the towns of Bardolino and Lazise, which are towns you might want to put on your bucket list anyway. Bardolino is the local wine-producing region for Garda so maybe you can let the teens go off on their own for a while and you could sneak off to sample a few glasses on a pretty terrace!
There’s a lovely night market too on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer in Toscolano Maderno.
6. DO THE JAMES BOND DRIVE
A few weeks before we went to Lake Garda with the kids we watched James Bond – Quantum of Solace, and low and behold there was our future holiday destination! As Bond navigates the hairpin bends in his Aston Martin DBS, chased by two Alfa Romeo’s, the camera pans out to some spectacular views of Garda. A bit of googling gave us the exact location of the car chase and also informed us that one of the cars that crashed off the side of the road can still be seen if you know where to look.
This is the kind of thing our kids love and even just the drive on the bottom road through the arched section cut out from the rock was cool enough for them! But be warned, this drive is not for the faint-hearted – even James managed to wrack up a few injuries. But if you’re up for trying, your reward will be in the views from the top and even a nerve-calming Spritzer from the panoramic cafe.
TIP: The turn-off for the hairpin road is the intersection between SS45bis and Via Benaco near Tremosine. For some more interesting facts about the filming of this particular snippet of Quantum of Solace, including some stunt mishaps that’ll entertain the kids, check out this article.
7. TAKE AN EVENING STROLL IN BARDOLINO, LAZISE, AND GARDA TOWN
If you’re wondering what to do in Lake Garda with teenagers in the evening, consider visiting the towns of Bardolino, Lazise, or Garda on the eastern shores. They’re all very different in personality but equally share the same relaxed vibe perfect for family holidays.
All of them are car-free zones which is probably the biggest contributing factor to their laid-back atmospheres. And, facing west, there are plenty of restaurant terraces perfect for watching the sunset over the lake.
Bardolino has the most floral waterfront promenade with plenty of places to stop and sit – perfect for an evening stroll.
Garda’s narrow cobbled streets are laden with boutiques and artisan food shops, open till 7pm. And, with more space for seating, is probably the best choice for evening drinks. We loved the bar La Motta on Passeggiata Rivalunga for the best views of Garda lit up after dark.
Lazise is a medieval port with many old features including the Scaliger castle walls and the chessboard floor of the old town square – it’s a photographer’s dream.
8. TAKE YOUR PICK OF ADVENTURE PARKS AND WATER PARKS
There are tons of Lake Garda activities for teenagers, and even bigger kids, that you can book for family days out. Water parks, adventure parks, and theme parks – sooo many options for Lake Garda family holidays. We can’t claim to be experts as we only visited Garda Land, but we have several friends with holiday homes on Garda and they have recommended a few to us…
Rossi over at Rossiwrites.com lists her top choices (19 in all) and we have also had a few highly recommended to us…
- Caneva Aquapark, similar scale to Wet n Wild Florida
- Parco Termale Villa dei Cedri is a spa attached to a hotel
- Parco Avventura Busatte for hours of climbing and zipping from trees, like Go-Ape
9. VISIT VENICE FOR THE DAY
Is it possible to do Venice in a day? Absolutely!
If you’re travelling from Lake Garda to Venice by train or by car you need to factor in approximately 1.5 hours travelling time from the south and east shores of Garda. (3 hours round trip)
(This highly anticipated day trip was one of the reasons we chose the town of Garda as our base for our holiday to Lake Garda with the kids. The bottom right section (South-east) has much better road and rail networks to cities like Venice and Verona. For our hotel recommendation see the end of the article)
Venice is so insta-famous that most teenagers have some idea of what to expect but there’s nothing more priceless than seeing their faces when they actually clap eyes on it!
A day in Venice is long enough to see the main sights like the Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square, and the Bridge of sighs but we have a few more cool suggestions…
- Take them to a little book shop called ‘Libreria Acqua Alta’ for a unique perspective (and also a free seat in a gondola!).
- Make sure you book a time slot for the T Fondaco Rooftop Terrace at the top of a department store for the most amazing views over the Grand Canal. It’s free but you have to book.
- Go in search of Venice’s Banksy artwork, The Migrant Child. (seen from the bridge over Campo San Pantalon)
- Soak up the sounds and smells at the crazy Mercato di Rialto.
- Collect some Venice souvenirs along the promenade of Riva Degli Schiavoni.
TIP: If you’re travelling to Venice via car, the closest car park to the canals of Venice is called Parcheggio Comunale Venezia. You can book online ahead of time, the rates are very reasonable and it’s very straightforward to get to. From this car park you are close enough to walk to the centre of Venice and almost immediately you are struck by wonderful sights. If you’ve chosen any of the other car parks further away, yes the cost is slightly cheaper per hour/day but you will be adding 2 miles onto your daily step-count and end up paying to get the Vaporetto (water bus) at €7 each.
READ MORE: One Day In Venice – For Kids
10. VISIT VERONA FOR THE DAY
Verona was our last day of the holiday and I really felt like a trip to Verona was just about killing time before we headed for our flights. How wrong I was! I would happily book a return trip in the future, maybe for just us adults but that’s not to say that it wasn’t a hit with the kids too.
Verona has been Roman, Venetian, and even Austrian and the cultural connections show. It’s a beautifully fascinating city to wander and whilst many visit just to see Juliet’s balcony, you’re missing a trick if that’s all you came for!
That said, perhaps Shakespeare raised Verona’s balcony-game when he propelled the town into veranda fame, because I’ve never seen such an aesthetic array of window extensions in my life. I had to have a balcony-cull from my camera roll at the end of the day!
Don’t worry – I’ll spare you from my balcony shots!
Here are some of the highlights for the kids…
- The HUGE fruit cups from the market in Piazza Delle Erbe.
- Proper Italian hot chocolate from the gorgeous little deli Caffe Borsari.
- Shopping on Via Giuseppe Mazzini.
- People watching at Giardini Vittorio Emanuele II.
- Fresh pasta from La Bottega della Gina XXL.
- The excavated Roman ruins at Porta Leoni, followed by the best pizza at Bar Zanatta.
- It’s approximately 45 minutes from Verona to Lake Garda
- If you’re travelling by car from Lake Garda to Verona you can park at Parcheggio Saba Arsenale north of the river Adige and approach the city with some impressive views from the Ponte di Castelvecchio.
As you can see, there are so many things to do in Lake Garda and several local day trips worth making too. We loved Lake garda with teenagers and highly recommend it as a family holiday destination.
And as promised, here’s our hotel recommendation (we’d book again in a heartbeat!)…
We stayed for a week at the stylish apart-hotel Residenza Olivo on the outskirts of Garda. It has all the facilities you would need for a family holiday…
- Two bedrooms and a sofa bed in the lounge (could sleep up to 6)
- A fully stocked kitchen and access to a rooftop BBQ area too
- Views across town to the lake, perfect for sunset on your balcony
- A gym, laundry room, car parking, and bike hire
- The pool area is beautifully landscaped and there are hot tub areas too
- Perfect location in terms of easy access to the lake and day trips elsewhere
- Garda town is a lovely spot with many restaurants, lakeside bars, and gelaterias
For the best deals with Booking.com click here.
Booking.com have some of the best options of accommodation for Lake Garda holidays for families and as usual, we would like to say a BIG thank you for booking through the links on our site. This is at no extra cost to you but we get a small commission and it all helps towards the upkeep of the blog!
Have you considered booking a holiday at Lake Garda with children? If you’re in the planning stages and need any advice we will endeavor to help, just get in touch!
If you haven’t quite decided on which area of Lake Garda to stay yet, you might find our other post useful ‘Wondering Where To Stay In Lake Garda‘