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Heidelberg, Germany IS Worth a Stop On Your European Vacation!

 Heidelberg, Germany is a beautiful and famous university town on the Neckar River in Baden Württemberg. About 45 minutes south of the Frankfurt Airport, Heidelberg is definitely worth a stop on your vacation to Germany.

Heidelberg Germany from the castle

*This post includes affiliate links that support this site at no cost to you. Thank you! And many thanks to Heidelberg & Baden Württemberg Tourism Offices for tickets to some of the attractions I mention in this post.*

Heidelberg, Germany IS Worth a Stop On Your European Vacation!!

What were you thinking, Rick Steves?

One of the first things we did after we bought tickets to go to Germany was order guidebooks so we could make informed decisions about our trip. Call me old fashioned or impractical, but I like real books that you can touch and feel. We had already mostly planned where we’d like to go, but I still wanted the book for easy reference. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Rick Steves does NOT recommend stopping in Heidelberg in his GERMANY 2017 guidebook!

University of Heidelberg and the Heidelberg Castle

In Rick Steves’ 2017 Guidebook to Germany, he says this about Heidelberg:

This famous old university town attracts hordes of Americans. Any surviving charm is stained almost beyond recognition by commercialism. It doesn’t make it into Germany’s top three weeks.”

4th or 5th grade class trip to Heidelberg Castle PHV Elementary School

My 4th or 5th grade class field trip to the Heidelberg Castle! Patrick Henry Elementary School.

And that’s it! That’s the only mention of Heidelberg in the entire guide book. I was so disappointed to see that pathetic description of Heidelberg because I spent first through eight grade there as a child. We lived in the Heidelberg area when my father worked as a civilian for the US Army, and while my sister and I went to school with other Americans at Patrick Henry Village, we were not allowed to live on post.

Great friends on the Heidelberg Bergbahn

My German friend and 5 of our collective 7 children, on the Heidelberg Bergbahn (funicular railroad).

Not living with other Americans turned out to be a great benefit, because my sister and I were able to learn German simply by playing with German kids in our neighborhood. We’re lucky to still speak German and have those same German friends to this day.  So, I may be a bit biased, but I firmly believe that Heidelberg is worth a visit on your next vacation to Germany. It’s a beautiful and family friendly city for sure!

Family friendly activities in Heidelberg

Heidelberg Castle from the Marktplatz

A visit to to the Heidelberg Castle

You’ll definitely want to visit the Heidelberg Castle ruins when you go to Heidelberg! They’re great fun for families. The former residence of the Palatine Prince Electors of the house of Wittelsbach, this medieval castle has been built and destroyed many times over the centuries. Prince Elector Ruprecht III started construction on the castle in 1400, but an even more medieval version of the castle dates from the 1200s. In 1693, the castle was destroyed in the 30 Years War.


Elizabeth Gate -Heidelberg Castle

It was rebuilt after the 30 Years War, but destroyed again in 1764 by a fire caused by a lightning strike. At this point, it went to ruin and was pilfered for building material for several other area castles.  In 1883 a portion of the castle was restored to its current condition and you can now see refurbished rooms and get a feel for how royalty used to live here. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in the buildings so I can’t show you the inside. You’ll just have to go yourself. 🙂
splashing in puddles at the Heidelberg Castle

Tour of the Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle Courtyard

We really enjoyed our kid friendly tour of the Heidelberg Castle where the kids learned about court life in the medieval times! Rain didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves – we just donned umbrellas and rain boots and splashed our way through the castle courtyard.

funicular railroad Heidelberg Germany Bergbahn

A trip up the funicular railway, the Heidelberg Bergbahn

If you’re not familiar with the term “funicular railway,” it’s essentially a railway on a cliff where two cars run at the same time (one up and one down) to counterbalance each other. The Heidelberg Bergbahn is one of the oldest electric funiculars in Germany ( in operation since 1890) and runs from the Kornmarkt in the Old City up to the Heidelberg Castle, and then beyond to the Königstuhl.

Bergbahn Heidelberg at Kornmarkt

The city of Heidelberg from the Bergbahn

You can ride the funicular to just the castle, or buy a ticket all the way up to the top. The rail car that goes to the castle is a modern looking car, and the car that goes up to the top (pictured above) is older.  We took the Bergbahn up to the Königstuhl and enjoyed the view to Heidelberg below.
Paragliders from the Konigstuhl in Heidleberg Germany

The kids really enjoyed watching the paragliders from the Königstuhl! While there’s not all that much to do at the top, the view to the town below is quite breathtaking.

Heidelberg Hauptstrasse at night

A walk up the Heidelberg Hauptstraße

Of course, no trip to Heidelberg is complete without a stroll up the Hauptstraße, especially if you like shopping or are looking for souvenirs. Starting at Bismarkplatz and going to the Rathaus, the Hauptstraße is a mile long pedestrian area home to many shops, the Hotel Ritter, the church Heiliggeistkirche, and lots of cafes and restaurants. It’s always crowded with Germans and tourists and is the perfect place to grab an ice cream cone and people watch.

Heidelberg Hauptstrasse

A flower stand on the Heidelberg Hauptstrasse

I honestly can’t tell you how much money I used to spend at the Hauptstrasse where I bought all of my own ESPRIT and BENETTON clothes when I was 12. My kids enjoyed walking up and down the street as much as I used to.

Things we didn’t do, but would have enjoyed:

A boat trip on the Neckar – There are several different boat trips to take on the Neckar to show off the town and neighboring castle ruins as well. We had hoped to take a tour, but unfortunately, they don’t operate in the winter. Since we were there before April 1, we lost out. 🙁 Oh well! Next time, right?!

A visit to the Heidelberg Zoo – We just ran out of time on this trip, but I did visit the zoo when I was younger with my own parents. Camels, monkeys, sea lions, pelicans, and more! I honestly can pass on zoos, but the kids always enjoy them.

A walking tour on the Philosophenweg – Philospher’s Walk – This famous walking path winds up the hill above the Neckar River across from the Heidelberg Castle. University professors and philosophers used to walk on this path for inspiration as it offers breathtaking views of the city and the castle! Another must visit place for our next trip to Germany. 🙂

We always enjoy Heidelberg. It’s true that here are a lot of American and Japanese tourists, but I found them in every single German city we visited.  There’s a reason tourists throng to the area – it’s just beautiful! I hope you’ll add it to your list of must visit towns in Germany. For more information about Heidelberg, be sure to visit Tourism Heidelberg’s website.

What to learn about more fun places to visit in Germany? Read these posts!

What to do in Tübingen and the surrounding area

Visiting Neuschwanstein

What you need to know about driving in Germany

Despite Rick Steve's claim that Heidelberg Germany is not worth a trip, here are several reasons why you might want to visit this beautiful city during your European Vacation.

3 Things 1.28.17: Rainbow Le Creuset; Family Read Alouds; Niagara Falls in the Winter

Happy Saturday, dear friends. Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your lovely weekend to enter my world. In today’s post, I’m sharing pictures of my completed Rainbow Le Creuset Collection, our current family read aloud, and beautiful pictures of Niagara Falls in the Winter.


*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting my blog.*

3 Things 1.28.17: Rainbow Le Creuset; Family Read Alouds; Niagara Falls in the Winter

le creuset

3-things-1Rainbow Le Creuset

My rainbow Le Creuset is complete with the addition of a 3 quart Soleil Balti cast iron dish! I’m so excited to see the complete rainbow, but part of me feels a bit bummed…because Lead Safe America recently found unsafe levels of cadmium and lead in the paint of some Le Creuset products. I heard this sad information a while ago, before I got the last yellow piece. I love cooking with my Le Creuset – I use my 7 1/4 quart cassis (purple) round French oven the most, but I do use them all.

So when I heard about the heavy metals in Le Creuset, I was sadden. I did a little research and couldn’t find any information on Le Creuset’s own website (go-figure). But I am encouraged by research conducted by The Soft Landing. They claim only two cookware companies address the issue of heavy metals in their cookware at all and say that Le Creuset strictly controls cadmium which they use in the paint that adorns the outside of the pots and uses agents to prevent it from flaking off. They also claim that Le Creuset is one of very few companies to subject their products to third party testy to verify safety.

The one thing that makes me squirm a little is that Le Creuset claims not to use lead at all, yet Lead Safe America found lead in their products. Hmmmm. All I say is I am struggling right now with my love for Le Creuset.  

story of the world

3-things-2Family Read Alouds

Do you read aloud to your family? I used to read a lot to the kids when they were younger, but I have gotten away from it since they went off to school. We just started a new read aloud, though, and it’s a lot of fun. We’re reading a chapter from the Story of the World, Volume 3 after dinner every night, or as often as we can. We’re all learning a bit about history before out trip to Europe in March. The kids are fascinated, and admittedly, so am I, because I either never learned a lot of the facts they discuss in this book, or have forgotten them. I even had the kids watch the hilarious Netherlands Second Spoof because it touched on topics from the book! It is possible to find modern connections to make learning history more interesting.

beautiful niagara falls in the winter

3-things-3Niagara Falls in the Winter

It turns our that Dan and I are on an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls this weekend to pick up supplies for the Passive House we’re currently building in Wilton. I guess we’ll find any excuse to take a road trip. At 10 hours away, it’ll save us quite a lot of money to go get this stuff ourselves, as opposed to having it shipped, so we’re off.

The kids and I actually went to Niagara Falls in the winter – January of 2013 – with my amazing friend Robin and her three boys. The funniest part of the trip were the Chinese tourists who were enamored with the nine of use – two women and their seven collective kids. They took a picture of our group even and I wish we would have thought to have them take a picture with one of our cameras, but we didn’t. I laugh every time I imagine the stories they told their Chinese friends about the two crazy American women with seven kids!

Niagara Falls lookout

Niagara Falls in the winter is really beautiful, but we were not properly prepared for the brutal cold we faced there, and I swore I would NEVER go back to  in January…yet here we are. I’ve been promised 40 degree temps and a balmy beach vacation. I’ll keep you updated on how that works out for me – lol. If you’d like to visit Niagara Falls in the winter, here are some of the amazing sights you might see!

Niagara Falls Frosty Trees

Niagara Falls in winter

Frost at Niagara Falls
And that’s it you guys. Another week at the Passive-Aggressive house has come to close. I look forward to catching up with you next week. What’s been going on in your world?

Niagara Falls in the Winter pin

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

There are so many amazing things to do in New Orleans and it has long been on my bucket list of places to visit because it’s full of rich history, delicious food, and so much more. If you haven’t been to New Orleans, you must go. And take the whole family because everyone will enjoy it!! 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

*Many thanks to the New Orleans CVB for complimentary tickets and discount passes which allowed me to try many of the things in this post.* 

5 Reasons New Orleans Must Be on Your Bucket List

From above-ground cemeteries to streetcars to museums and zoos, there are so many family-friendly and educational things to do in New Orleans. Yes, New Orleans is infamous for Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras, but it’s also a great place for the whole family, kids included.

The French Quarter
The French Quarter New Orleans

Founded in 1718, the French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and the whole district has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  In addition to stunning and colorful buildings, history lessons abound here. For instance, prior to the Louisiana Purchase, all residents of New Orleans were required to be Catholic – religious freedom was not a right! Slaves were also allowed to buy their own freedom (something they were not permitted to do elsewhere) and the Creole culture is really fascinating. Ghost and voodoo stories are everywhere and so interesting!

Beautiful buildings in the French Quarter in New Orleans

The French Quarter is full of beautiful architecture, educational museums, unique shopping, and lots of delicious food. Make sure to stop in the French Quarter for a beignet and a crepe! More on them later, but no trip to New Orleans is complete without a walking tour of the French Quarter.

The Garden District

The Garden District was developed between 1832 and 1900 and is home to so much amazing architecture. We took the streetcar down St. Charles Avenue to get to the Garden District because we wanted to see the beautiful mansions and the above-ground cemeteries. The Garden District did not disappoint!

beautiful architecture in the Garden District

Also called Hollywood South, Nicolas Cage, Anne Rice, and Sandra Bullock all have homes in this beautiful neighborhood. The original cafe from the Eiffel Tower is also in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue. It was a restaurant for three years in the 1980s, but didn’t make it financially, and today it houses event space.

lafayette cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery #1 is another must visit destination in the Garden District. There aren’t very many above-ground cemeteries in the world and they are fascinating to tour. If you can, go with a tour guide to learn more about the historic significance. The tour guides work for tips and are very fun and knowledgeable.

Street Car to the Garden District in New Orleans

So Many Family-Friendly Attractions in New Orleans

In addition to exploring the French Quarter and the Garden District, your family will find many more family friendly attractions! I love visiting history-rich locations and New Orleans does not disappoint. So many museums sneak in interesting history and science lessons, and I love that when I’m touring with my kids.

Things your kids will love:

Mardi Gras World – call for a free shuttle to pick up your family so you can explore Mardi Gras floats, costumes, and masks!

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium – kid friendly museum with thousands of butterfly and interactive insect exhibits.

Audubon Aquarium of the Americans – over 15,000 different types of sea life live in this famous aquarium! Both young and old folks will find plenty of fun things to marvel at here.

Louisiana Children’s Museum – 30,000 square feet full of interactive and hands-on-learning suitable for children from birth to 11 years of age. If you’ve ever been to a Children’s Museum as an adult however, my guess is even older guests will find fun things to do.

National WWII Museum New Orleans

National Wold War II Museum – Older kids might enjoy learning more about World War II at the World War II Museum. It’s another interactive museum where visitors follow the life of a real WWII soldier and see how he or she fared during the War. I really enjoyed this museum and would love to spend more time there on our next visit.

Transportation is Easy in the Big Easy

Ride a Street Car in New Orleans

I loved pretty much everything about New Orleans, but one thing that is especially nice is how easy it is to get around the downtown area without a car. Once we got from the airport to our hotel (via Uber) we walked, took the streetcar (a steal at $3 per person per day!),  and also enjoyed the Hop On Hop Off Bus

Hop On Hop Off Bus New Orleans

The Hop On Hop Off Bus was fun because it was more than just transportation. The knowledgeable tour guides shared personal stories and insights into the city, and funny stories as well. It costs a little more than the streetcars, but it’s also a great way to see the city, and tickets are valid for three days.

You really don’t need a car for visiting downtown New Orleans. That said, a car would have made visiting the plantations easier, something we didn’t get to do on this trip. That just means I have to go back, right?!

The food is delicious in New Orleans

Food is Delicious in New Orleans

Let’s not forget about the food, because the food in New Orleans is delicious and plentiful. Everywhere we went, there was something else to try and everything we ate was better than the last. From beignets, to beans and rice, to muffulettas, to crepes, everyone in your group will find something amazing to eat. Food you must try while you’re in New Orleans:

Beignets from Cafe du Monde in the French Market – because you can’t go to New Orleans without eating beignets…

Charbroiled Oysters from Drago’s Seafood Restaurant – they were really tasty, a great way to eat oysters if you don’t really care for them!

The Works Crepe  from the Crepe Cart at the Farmer’s Market in the French Quarter – this crepe was my absolute favorite lunch during our trip. I wanted to eat another one every single day. 

A Muffuletta at Central Grocery – followed closely by the muffuletta. I could have eaten this every day too.

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters - one of the many fun things to do in New Orleans

Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters – such a fun experience. The food, service, and ambiance were all really neat.

And there you have it – five reasons you must put New Orleans on your family bucket list. I took this trip without my kids, but I know they would love the city as much as I did. And since I didn’t get to visit any of the plantations or many of the museums, I am excited to return, hopefully sometime soon, and with my family!

 If you haven’t yet made it to New Orleans, put it on your list! If you have been, I’d love to hear what you most enjoyed!

Find out all of the many things to do in New Orleans and add the city to your family bucket list.

Pandora Bracelet Charm Giveaway

How would you like to win a charm of your choosing, valued up to $65? Read to the end for a very special Pandora Bracelet Charm giveaway!

Pandora Bracelet Charm Giveaway

*Many thanks to Pandora Mall of America for sponsoring this post. All opinions are mine.*

Pandora Bracelet Charm Giveaway

I’ve always liked bracelets and charm bracelets have captivated my imagination for a long time. Until Pandora Mall of America sent me a charm and bracelet recently, though, I haven’t had one. Now, it’s safe to say I’m hooked.

Pandora Charm Bracelet

And the best part is, now anytime a family member asks for a gift idea, I can give them one! Pandora charms are the perfect idea – they’re not that expensive and they’re fun. My charm bracelet looks a little lonely with only one charm and I see plenty of charms I would love to have in the Pandora Be Charming Gift Guide!

Iowa Sky

Pandora Mall of America sent me the Vintage Night Sky Charm for this post. I chose it because one of the things I love most about living in Iowa is the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. This charm reminds of the beautiful Iowa sky! Next, I think I would like to add the Germany Heart Flag Charm and also the Eiffel Tower Charm. I grew up in Germany and a visit to Paris a few years ago with my husband is one of my top three all time favorite married getaways. I also love the Suitcase Charm and my list goes on and on. 😀

Pandora Charm Giveaway!

How would you like to win a new charm for your bracelet? To enter, just use the Rafflecopter form below! Contest ends at midnight on Jan 2, 2017. SimplifyLiveLove is not responsible for shipping.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win a Pandora Bracelet Charm Giveaway and you can choose whichever charm you'd like, valued up to $65. If you're a Pandora fan, enter today! Contest ends Jan 2, 2017.