Family Fun in the Locarno Sun

posted on | updated on | by Zuri Girl

Friday’s here! School’s out! Car’s packed! Next stop…Locarno!

Whizzing past waterfalls, circling mountain peaks and traveling through the loooong Gotthard tunnel, you will pull up to one of our favorite family friendly hotels by the lake just in time for dinner.

Be inspired by our Family Fun in the Locarno Sun adventure and mark the calendar to discover one of your own!


Friday Afternoon

3 hours south of Zurich, we arrived at Locarno’s waterfront Hotel Arcadia.  After savoring the refreshing herb-infused welcome drinks, the adults were handed room keys and the kids were handed plush doggies perfect for a good night snuggle. The english-speaking receptionist showed us around and we did a quick tour of the rooms. Between the 80 mtwo-room apartment and the one-room apartment, we really appreciated the separate spaces and privacy the rooms offered. A snapshot of sending the kids to dreamland on the baby-blue elephant crib sheets and curling up for a late sunset and Cafe Italia on the lakefront balcony came into clear view!

Unpacking, we were quite impressed with the storage and closets of the hotel. Something only a mom would notice, (especially ones with big families) hotels never seem to have enough space. But we were quite surprised with the number of cabinets, wardrobes and even under the seat bench compartments. Two thumbs up to Hotel Arcadia for sure!

Zuri Girl Tip. Do you have stir crazy car fever after the long drive? Hop on one of the Hotel Arcadia’s bicycles (bring your own helmet) and cycle 10 minutes to Muralto’s Playground Al Burbaglio to let out the wiggles before dinner. There’s a few bikes with baby / toddler seats and handful of child bikes too.

Zuri Mom Tip. The car park (26 Euro / night) is a tight squeeze so we highly suggest dropping the kids at the hotel first and then parking on your own. One of the bellman kept an eye on our kids while we navigated the spot.

Friday Evening

Chow Time! The kids hopped in the high chairs and colored mickey mouse photos as we filled up their non-breakable plates with vegetables and Italian cheeses from the salad bar. The night’s theme was Ticino specialities and in addition to the hot & cold buffet, we ordered a freshly prepared family-style penne with a tomato cream sauce for the table. It was gone in minutes!

Zuri Girl Tip. Try the local non-alcoholic favorite Aperitivi, Crodino that actually comes from Crodo, Italy and is very popular among the locals in Ticino, or Il Martin Pescatore’s White Merlot from Tenero.

Zuri Mom Tip. Request a dinner table close to the playground, perhaps even opt for the lounge tables. The kids can eat and then it’s an adult stress-free conversation as they skip off into the sand pit and swing sets.


Saturday Morning

After a hearty breakfast of Bircher Müsli, smiley faced hard boiled eggs, Ticino dried meats, breads & cheeses and freshly prepared omelets, we headed for the 10.05 am ferry boat.  Destination…Brissago Islands.

At first you might consider an island with 1,700 plant species not your typical child-friendly outing, but this inkling instantly switches when little explorers are handed a Treasure Map and venture off on an interactive hunt. Equipped with sunscreen & hats, it’s a morning of running along winding floral pathways, ducking between tropical vegetation, climbing stone houses and meandering through secret lookout points.

The island itself has a few shady spots ideal for a water break, but as there’s really only 1 main path, it can get quite crowded in peak season (a hiking back pack would be ideal but a stroller is possible through most of the island). Bring some sliced veggies, local Biscotti alla Farina Bona and water and ensure you know the return boat times. It is a good idea to plan approximately 2 hours on the island.

Zuri Girl Tip. Save the island restaurant & hotel for a date with your man or treat for your mum. It’s simply stunning with Mediterranean architecture, Roman accents and elegant landscaping. We didn’t have a chance to see the hotel rooms (10 double rooms are available), but were seduced by the restaurant menu and enjoyed a locally sourced lake fish and veggie loaded quinoa salad. Wedding party venue anyone??!!

Zuri Mom Tip. We highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets if you can (have a family member head over if there is down-time the day prior?), as there is only 1 cashier and well…picture a 100+ person boat docking to a 2-person cashier…a mini-me meltdown avoided!


Saturday Afternoon

If your didn’t think photo opportunities could get any better, head 10 minutes via ferry boat from the Brissago Islands to Ascona and expect your jaw to drop and a smile to widen as you’re greeted by a stunning panorama. A waterfront parade of pastel-colored buildings, outdoor pizzeria’s and zen-like benches…all of which lead to a cobblestone village buzzing with local artists, high-end boutiques and Italian inspired eateries. We didn’t have the time to check it out for ourselves, but Ristorante al Piazza came highly recommended as a tasty child-friendly pizzeria.

Sole Gelateria was our cool-off point. Watermelon & kiwi terrace cushions gave our feet a break and the malaga, coffee and pistachio gelato gave our tummies a treat.

Zuri Girl Tip. In 2017, patissier Gianluca Fiorentino from the restaurant Ciani in Lugano, created the “Quasi uno Stecco” which was awarded the best gelato at the 2017 patisserie world championship in Milan. While this dessert – made with with coffee, chocolate, saffron, raspberries and lime – was created exclusively for the championship and can no longer be tasted anywhere…you can indulge in his desserts at Ciani if you have the time to venture over to Lugano!

Zuri Mom Tip. There’s a few ferry boats that travel between the islands. The ones we took were stroller friendly with a small space for storage upon boarding. We found it easiest to stay on the lower deck as the shaded part of the upper deck fills up fast and the open railings were a bit too tempting for toddlers. As with most Swiss transport, a full bar and snacks are available for purchase.


Saturday Evening

Looking to squeeze in some local shopping for the ladies in the family? Head on over to the Lisa Pomari boutique, or Mae, a Swiss fashion designer who makes some very high quality, stylish and affordable summer shoes and belts. If the adrenaline is in full swing, head to Lido Locarno. Open until 9pm, splash indoors & outdoors with pools, slides and thermal baths.

Or if the feet are aching, jump right into the hotel’s outdoor heated pool for a pre-dinner swim. We took that route and then quickly changed for the hotel’s outdoor BBQ overloading our plates with charcoal roasted prawns, lamb, steak, chicken and Ticino Wurst. Delish!

Zuri Girl Tip. Ditch the kids with dad and head to the hotel’s 6th floor rooftop deck. With white sun chairs and herbal infused ice-water, it’s what you spend your hausfrau days dreaming about.

Zuri Mom Tip. The Hotel Kid’s Club is geared towards small kids, probably peaking at 8 years of age. With legos, a play kitchen and outdoor toys, it’s a stress-free play area and in summer, child care is included.


Sunday Morning

After another hearty all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast, we bid farewell to the helpful waiter, Dusan, bought the house-made Bolognese Sugo al pomodoro as a souvenir and ventured to one-last excursion la dolce vita style: a mountain adventure known as The Pearl of Lake Maggiore.

A 2-part journey we boarded a blue funicular and ascended 395 meters to Orselina and then transferred to a red cable car 1,340 meters to Cardada. There’s an additional chair lift 1,670 meters up to Cimetta, but we weren’t confident on the small kids in the chair lift and were already stunned by the view at Cardada.

You can easily spend the day bouncing between the barefoot sensory trail and oversized grassy area creatively built with a coordinated seesaw swing and Noah Ark playground. To really exhaust the little ones (remember a 3+hour journey home awaits you) try the 1.2km interactive hike.

Right at the top, choose between a bring-your-own lunch at the 10-person picnic table (if available) or the mountain terrace restaurant. If your tummy isn’t rumbling too much, there’s also 4 other restaurants along the hiking trail.  Oh the decisions we have to make ladies!

As all good things must come to an end, make the return trip down, but before venturing home, walk over to the 80-square meter Locarno Piazza Grande, home of the Locarno Film Festival. Here you have your choice of outdoor restaurants set against historical architecture.

Saving the best for last, La Mini Gelateria is a MUST! A tiny kiosk features a darling man creating and serving artisanal gelato in non-traditional flavors. He emphasizes natural ingredients, no added sugars and even ensures our vegan friends have a few options.

Zuri Girl Tip. Pop by Bar Pasticceria Fontana for Ticinese Honey and Ameretti Cioccolato Cookies to bring home. Next dinner party gift – check!

Zuri Mom Tip.  It looks a bit like the Dolder Bahn, but there’s not a ton of space for strollers on the Orselina funicular. Although it’s doable, a hiking backpack or baby carrier, would be more ideal. It is also possible to walk back down from Orselina, the Wanderweg signs posted it at 25 minutes.


What’s Next?

Even with the Ticino Ticket, we could only accomplish so much in 48 hours, but no doubt we’ll be back for more!

Next up on the agenda… Monte Tamaro, the 1,960 meter mountain with high rope course, 800 meter long toboggan run and 60km flying fox, Lama Trekking in Iseo, overnight hiking in Valley Verzasca and making an ‘ohne’ kids trip to the yoga trail in Sass da Grum on Monte Gambarogne.

Enjoy gals!


Hotel overnight provided by Ticino Tourism

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