Let’s face it – when it comes to the idea of a holiday, most teenagers would be happy to stay in bed all week with extra fast wifi and pizza for breakfast, lunch and tea. And, as a parent, it would be all too easy to just let them – leave them on their own at the hotel whilst you and your OH nipped out for romantic walks and afternoon Bellini’s. But, these grumpy, spotty kids won’t be holidaying with you for much longer and the years are approaching when they’ll be choosing Ibiza over family villa’s and evening BBQ’s. So when it comes to planning the perfect family holiday where everyone will be happy and there’s something in it for both adults and children, I think I may have just stumbled across the best holiday destination with teens this side of Centre Parcs. And, hopefully you will be able to convince them you’re not so boring afterall and you manage to squeeze out of them an extra few vacations.
Lake Maggiore With Teens
Only an hours distance by car from Milan Malpensa airport, Lake Maggiore sits alongside other more well known Lakes like Garda and Como, right on the edge of the Swiss border. We felt it was time to introduce the kids to Italy and knew a lot of pizza and icecream would be on the cards, but only having Lake Como to compare it to we did wonder just how impressed they would be with northern Italy – I mean, it’s truly beautiful and all, but would the scenery suffice and would the gorgeous little towns inspire them as much as they do us? After a bit of research however, it turns out that us adults were about to be impressed by this particular Italian lake too. There are activities and attractions galore and so many things to see and do.
Lake Maggiore is stunning and no matter which way you turn and what town you find yourself in, the vista’s are amazingly gorgeous – I’m going to throw it out there and even say that if they were both in the Boxing ring, Lake Como vs Lake Maggiore, I think Maggiore would have its gloved hands in the air when the final bell rings, and that’s saying a lot when you consider how epic Como is. But on top of that, the towns of Maggiore have a really friendly feel to them and tourism just isn’t as offensive here as it is in other areas. Add the fact that it’s also not as expensive as its neighbour, Lake Como, and you really are hitting on a sweet spot that qualifies as a good family vacation destination.
As adults this Italian location has plenty to offer : Daily markets at most of Maggiore’s towns, day trips to Botanical Gardens, boat rides to Lake Maggiore’s 3 Borromean Islands and stunning drives along the roads which cling to the Lakes edge. But, what does it have to offer for families and what is there to do with teens that will stop the grunting?
Top 5 Things To Do With Teens on Maggiore
Ride In A Bucket
For some of the most epic views of Maggiore ride the Funivia del Lago Maggiore Cableway. All teens like a bit of mild peril so a 16 minute cable journey up the side of Sasso Del Ferro in a bucket you could jump out of is definitely going to be one of the best activities you will do fo sure. Views of the Alps and the pre-Alps along with Maggiore below you, are the reward of this slightly shaky cable journey. €25 for a family of 4 is an absolute bargain for this experience and you have the option of calming your nerves with a drink on the terrace once you reach the top. And, seeing as the teens aren’t old enough for an Aperol Spritz yet, it’ll be you the adult providing the fun on the return journey with your Dutch courage and bucket-shaking skills!
Laveno at the bottom is a worthwhile town for a meander too and we sat for a good while watching the local kids jump off the wooden pier into their very own lake. I can’t even imagine how amazing it must be to grow up on the shores of Maggiore.
Do not be fooled by the lack of infrastructure and feeling of post-apocolypse in this remote mountain tourist attraction! We approached on a road that could do with a bit of TLC and had to search for the entrance with not a soul around to ask for directions. But we are nothing if not persistant and eventually found what we were looking for. Perhaps the end of May isn’t peak season and maybe Summer holidays will be met with crowds and queue’s but as we finished our climb through a misty forest we were met with a DIY Big Dipper that had you questioning whether you had your affairs in order.
After disclosing our funeral songs to each other we bought tickets and climbed aboard our own little bobsleighs. A few safety instructions were read out and the brakes were let off! We were the first visitors of the day so I thought I would sacrifice my children first on the dummy run and chose to go last. Unfortunately, being at the back of the queue, I failed to hear the safety instructions properly and hadn’t heard the bit about pulling the brakes when the danger signs flashed up. Needless to say, the 1 mile ride took very little time and gave me an instant facelift but supposedly the beauty of this bobsleigh rollercoaster is that you can take it at your own speed and negotiate the bends without giving yourself whiplash. And if it’s not a foggy day like it was when we rode it, the views are supposed to be quite spectacular too. Incidentally, the weather in the Italian Lakes can be very changeable but we have found on all of our trips that you rarely get a full bad days weather and the morning mist does tend to clear by 11am, so if you are looking at mountain activities where a view is key then maybe wait until after lunch.
You can also access Alpyland via the cable car from Stresa to Mottarone (which is another tourist highlight of Lake Maggiore) but we continued in our hire car down the other side of the mountain to Lake Orta as we’d heard that Orta San Giulio was a secret spot the Italians were trying to keep to themselves. It’s clear to see why…
Lake Maggiore Zipline.
Right at the top of our Bucket List for Lake Maggiore was an adventure activity that was causing me sleepless nights! I genuinely hoped the ZipLine centre would burn down before I got the chance to show my kids how chicken I was. However, it turns out all of the worrying was for nothing.
You must read my review of the Lake Maggiore ZipLine flight that we did – it was definitely the most thrilling thing I’ve done since stroking Dave Grohl’s arm – a 2K flight at 80mph across some of the most awe inspiring views below. Everyone needs to experience what it’s like to fly like a bird at some point in their life, so why not do it over the slopes of the Italian pre-Alps with your kids. The Maggiore Zipline was the absolute highlight of our holiday for all of us and the experience will stay with us for a long time. Seriously, read my review, and if you only get to do one thing with the kids at Lake Maggiore then make this your choice!
Hire A Boat.
This activity is possibly the perfect collection of ticked boxes for both kids and adults wherever you are in the world – hiring a boat has always gone down well in our family. Unlike Lake Como, Lake Maggiore’s pretty towns mostly sit at the base of the mountains that meet the Lakeshore and the rest of the view is of lush green slopes of fir and cedars all the way to the top. This sets the scene for the prettiest boat-ride you could ever take and there are dozens of spots you could moor-up for lunch or aperitifs. It’s a nifty way of visiting a few towns in one day and if you place the responsible teens at the helm you may even get the chance to put your feet up for a bit – there has to be some advantages to grown up kids.
We saw fliers everywhere on the lake, prices ranging from €30 for an hour. You can hire boats where you don’t need a skippers license and the boat owners often have lots of great local recommendations for you.
Water Parks and Lido’s.
We’re not an ‘all-inclusive hotel’ kind of family – there’s too much out there to explore. However, the times we have been tied down to a pool with a bar, everyone in the family has totally loved it. So, that’s why we looked into visiting a water park or lido on Lake Maggiore. They don’t come cheap but if you know the weather is going to be good then take a picnic and plan to stay for the day. The adults get to chill out with a book whilst the kids get to have fun in the water! Here are some of the best picks for Lake Maggiore if you fancy a day at a Water Park or outdoor pool…
- Splash & Spa in Rivera-Monteceneri, Switzerland costs about £75 for a family of 4 for 4 hours and has some of the best water slides targetted at teens. There’s also a wave pool and some very nice adult lounging areas, plus the Spa facilities.
- The Lido at Locarno, Switzerland. Indoor and outdoor pools with 4 slides. Not quite as exciting as Splash but what an amazing backdrop. So if the kids are happy to make their own entertainment in the water, including on the beach where there is also beach volleyball, then this Lido is a more pleasant setting for the adults to relax at.
- Ascona’s Lido is very good value for money and you pay for each activity individually. Activities on offer for teenagers include pedalo’s, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, banana boats and giant lake inflatables á la Wipeout.
- Cannobio has one of the widest sandy beaches on the shores of Lake Maggiore and a most beautiful square overlooking the waterfront. Drop the kids off in one of the three harbours to do waterskiing, wakeboarding or scuba diving whilst you spend a while in this very pretty town of Maggiore.
Best Family Hotel On Lake Maggiore
We stayed in an apartment near Ghiffa – Venegoni Maison De Charme. It’s hard to find stylish accomodation in Northern Italy sometimes so it took a lot of searching before we came across this place. The location is perfect; half way up the lake, making it accessible by motorway from Milan and not too far from Switzerland for our planned day trip. From Ghiffa upwards the towns and views just become breath-taking – definitely the prettier end of Lake Maggiore. Our host was fantastic, spoke great English and had a tonne of advice and recommendations. What sold it to us was the balcony. With this view we felt no need to eat out each evening so we either got takeaway pizza or ate fresh pasta bought from the local Italian supermarket. There was more than enough space for the 4 of us and the beautiful grounds were there for your enjoyment too, so if you wanted to eat in the garden – also with a lake view – then this was possible too. The local town of Intra had a lovely little square, plenty of decent restaurants and ice-cream places and was also where you caught the boat to Lake Maggiores islands and to the other side. So if you’re after a modern apartment with great views in the perfect location, this is the spot!
Would you consider Lake Maggiore as a family holiday destination? Maybe you’ve been? Drop me a line with your recommendations as I’m sure we will be returning in the very near future – if the kids haven’t booked Ibiza with their firends already!
If you’re looking for more – Kara over at ChelseaMamma has put together the perfect itinerary for a family holiday to Italy – give it a read!
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