Cheesy Fun at the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsHave you ever met an internet friend in person? 

Back in the iffy days (as in over ten years ago in the dark ages when Facebook didn’t exist and you couldn’t just look up about anyone on the planet), I took a chance and got to know two people online who turned into wonderful, real-life friends (hi, Jen! hi, Aaron!).

I’ve since met a handful more, none of whom have turned out to be criminally inclined.  It seems that what used to be weird with a hint of creepy, or a chance of freaky is now… well, normal.

Results (not?) typical.  Do (not?) try this at home.

A few weeks ago, one of my readers here at TTM and I started emailing back and forth, excited to discover a long list of things we had in common.  And then, she went out on a limb and invited our family to stay with hers, ya know, because it would thrifty and require travel.

Bingo!

And, so we found ourselves driving to Luxembourg to meet Rosie and her family (you can check out her blog here).  The kids had a blast together, and we felt as if our new friends were already old friends.

Despite it’s bad rap, the Internet really can bring people closer together.

Rosie suggested we spend part of the weekend visiting the Luxlait Vitarium, a milk museum about 30 minutes north of Luxembourg‘s capital.  I had wanted to make a stop here back in March, but we chose to continue on to the castle at Vianden instead.  A few phone calls later, we were all set to drag five kids along on a dairy tour.Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with Kids

Now, we travel a lot more than most families, and I spend an enormous amount of time researching kid-friendly activities at our various destinations (time I could be spent doing things like, uh, sleeping).  I end up chucking most of the suggestions I come across –  museums, zoos, theme parks, blah, blah, blah.

Often these attractions are expensive and rather unextraordinary.  I mean, a zebra is a zebra whether the zoo is in New York or New Zealand.  But, a milk museum?  With interactive exhibits?  And taste testing?  Now, that’s something I haven’t heard of before.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsIn case you aren’t up on your national milk brands (I’m not), Luxlait is the official dairy product brand in Luxembourg.  The Vitarium is a visitor center of sorts (an interactive experience, really) that’s attached to a ginormous factory that turns a gazillion liters of raw milk every day into ready-to-sell dairy products.

The entrance fee to the Luxlait Vitarium is rather steep, so our two cheapskate families visited on the weekend when tickets are less expensive.  Also, we booked an English tour to make us feel like we were getting more for our money.  And, boy did we ever!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsAfter securing our jackets in the free lockers, a staff member instructed us to don on some rather spiffy 3D glasses and a stark white lab coat.  Fully costumed, we were then treated to a hokey but entertaining welcome video.  The two characters in the film served as guides for the next hour, contrasting new and old methods of manufacturing Luxembourgish milk products while leading us through the gigantic factory.Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with Kids

The kids were fascinated by the robots and machines used to fill, package, and collect the dairy products.  The adults were amazed at the spankin’ new facilities, extensive areas we were permitted to peruse, and that the whole shindig held five kids’ interest for an entire hour.

That alone is worth the price of admission, right?

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsWhen the tour ended, our (human) guide allowed each person to select a Luxlait product to sample.  We gorged ourselves on chocolate milk, eggnog, milkshakes, and Luxembourgish cooked cheese (slimy and spreadable yet somewhat solid.. very strange).

Of course, we needed to work off all those whole milk calories, so we moseyed on over to the interactive stations.  Racing, biking, stomping, jumping, balancing, listening, pulling, lifting, weighing… We were huffing and puffing long before we ran out of activities to try!  Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsThrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsThrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsAll of the forty-plus, hands-on exhibits emphasized healthy eating and exercise… and, of course, how dairy is at the heart of both of those things.

To be honest, the whole experience felt like one continuous commercial for Luxlait products.  But, it was FUN.  Plus, the products are of a high quality and really do taste great.  Well, except for the cooked cheese.

I think the marketing genius behind the Vitarium just received a raise…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Visiting the Luxlait Vitarium Milk Museum in Luxembourg with KidsIn short, if you’re looking for a uniquely Luxembourgish experience that you won’t find replicated in Sydney or San Jose, make a beeline for the Luxlait Vitarium the next time you find yourself in the Grand Duchy.

For Rosie’s take on our milk museum visit or to simply stop by and say hello, click here.

Practical tips for visiting the Luxlait Vitarium with your family:

  • You can get to the Vitarium by bus or car.  Bus schedule here.  Parking is plentiful and free.
  • Try to visit on the weekend when tickets are cheaper.  Kids under 6 are free.  Current ticket prices here.
  • Book a tour (included in the admission price) in your preferred language at least a few days in advance.  Make a reservation online here.
  • Take kids potty before joining the tour because it lasts one hour and you’ll need to walk a LONG way back to the loo.
  • We brought a pram with us for Big Foot, so I can personally certify the tour is stroller-friendly.
  • Pack a picnic lunch because the cafe and restaurant are expensive.

Signature-MarigoldMore Luxembourg with Kids!  Read about our frigid morning in the city of Luxembourg here and an afternoon spent at Vianden Castle here.

Vianden Castle with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Vianden Castle, LuxembourgSince I knew we’d only have one day in Luxembourg as part of our BeNeLux week, I wanted to squeeze in one more stop in addition to our morning in the capital.

Our family is totally into visiting ruins these days, so I thought it might be fun to pop in to a castle that has been restored.  Vianden is one such castle, located in a small town of the same name in the northeast corner of Luxembourg.  Lucky for me, this castle was a huge hit with all male members of my household.

Imagining what it must be like to charge up this path hundreds of years ago.

Imagining what it must be like to walk on these stones hundreds of years ago.

If you are able to visit Vianden in the summer during their Medieval Festival, I hear it is spectacular.  But even if you find yourself charging up the stone path while fighting gusts of icy wind, you’ll still enjoy Vianden Castle.

The chapel dome.

The chapel dome.

The castle is restored, and all the rooms are interesting in their own way.  For those concerned about little fingers touching things they ought not to, note that most of the hands-off items are in the first few rooms.  After that, the task shifts to keeping small bodies away from big drop-offs.

Treasures galore!

Treasures galore!

The beginning of the marked route through the the open rooms features old knight armor and weapons from the many centuries Vianden has been standing.  Other highlights include the chapel, the dining hall, the well, and some very Narnia-looking wardrobes.  History buffs will need to brush up on their German and French; none of the exhibit information cards were written in English.

Searching for Aslan.

Searching for Aslan.

In one of the rooms, I noticed a puzzle, some plastic swords, and a few other souvenir-type items in a glass case.  I whispered to Doc Sci, “Be ready – we’re going to be hit with the gift shop on the way out.”

But, I was wrong.  No gift shop.  If you’d like to purchase a trinket bearing the visage of Vianden, you’ll have to do so from the tiny admission booth near the entrance.

Following the prescribed path.

Following the prescribed path.

For those interested in practicalities, Vianden has two sets of bathrooms: one outside the castle, and one inside on an upper floor.  Bring your own baby changing mat.  It is possible to push a pram up the hill to the entrance, but you’ll have to ditch it to go inside the castle.  When we visited, the only refreshments available came from a soda vending machine.  It looked like a cafe was being constructed, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  Until then, bring your own…

My favorite feature of this castle was how it seemed to be forged from the rock itself instead of just sitting upon it.

My favorite feature of this castle was how it seemed to be forged from the rock itself instead of just sitting upon it.

If you’re in need of an ice cream or bottle of water on a warm day, I noticed a small souvenir shop in the town a short walk down the road from the castle.  You’ll have to go further and cross the river for anything more substantial.

Delightful details.

Delightful details.

For outdoorsy types, Vianden is at the top of several hillside hiking trails.  Visit the castle, and then hike your way down the mountain to the river and village below.  We didn’t venture out due to time restrictions, but a quick look revealed the path to be rather steep.  Take care when going down with little ones underfoot.

Doc Sci snapped a quick photo of these hiking routes leading down from Vianden Castle.

Doc Sci snapped a quick photo of these hiking routes leading down from Vianden Castle.

All in all, Vianden Castle is a delightful gem on the Luxembourg – Germany border.  It’s worth your time, but make sure you have plenty of it.  The roads leading in and out of Vianden are rural, winding, and often stop-and-go.

The castle is a short walk from the small parking lots on the side of the hill.

The castle is a short walk from the small parking lots on the side of the hill.

Not able to get to the castle at Vianden?  Consider these other kid-friendly destinations in Luxembourg.

  • Gaalgebierg – A park with animals near Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg.  Free!
  • Parc Merveilleux – An amusement park with mini golf, pony rides, an animal park, playground, and more! Route de Mondorf L-3260 Bettembourg.
  • Luxlait Vitarium – A brand-new, hands-on museum all about MILK!

If you’ve been to Vianden or any other place of interest to little ones in Luxembourg, I’d love to hear about it below!Signature-Marigold

Snapshot: Luxembourg with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Luxembourg with KidsI’ve long wanted to go on a BeNeLux trip, and the week before Easter I finally did it!

In a nutshell, the BeNeLux countries were beautiful, the food amazing, the weather freezing, and the itinerary exhausting.  We had three (three!!) home bases in 7 nights.  I generally do not like to travel this way with kids, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbled this time.  So, ready or not, here comes a whole host of posts (ha!) on everything BeNeLux we could jam into one week.

Welcome to Luxembourg!

Welcome to Luxembourg!

First up, the Lux part!  Doc Sci and I carefully woke the boys up around 430am on a Monday morning and crept silently to our car.  Under the cover of darkness, we made our way through France to Luxembourg.  We were hit with two curve balls – the traffic going into Lux happened to be a lot heavier than anticipated, and the weather in Lux was much colder than predicted.

The Grand Ducal Palace, official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

The Grand Ducal Palace, official residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

After finding our way to what has to be the BEST park in Lux, we awkwardly dressed the boys in their day clothes (they slept in the car wearing pajamas), trying to maneuver socks and buttons in our cramped car.  We fed the boys and the baby breakfast, and set out for a walk around the old city.

We were the only crazy tourists out at 8am.

We were the only crazy tourists out at 8am.

Good morning, beautiful church.

Good morning, beautiful church.

Funky fountain near the city's history museum.

Funky fountain near the city’s history museum.

I had envisioned savoring the beauty of the architecture and appreciating the stillness of the morning unclouded by throngs of tourists.  Oh, the streets were empty all right.  But the only thing I thought about was how I could barely feel my feet.  After a few hey-we-were-here pictures, we headed back to the park.

Fancy a bite to eat?  Better have a wad of cash - this child's expression at the ridiculously priced kids meal says it all.

Fancy a bite to eat? Better have a wad of cash – this child’s expression at the ridiculously priced kids’ meal says it all.

I might've ponied up to try this Mexican restaurant (isn't Chi Chi's a cheap salsa in the US?!), but 8am is a little early for me to be breaking out the burritos.

I might’ve ponied up some euros to try this Mexican restaurant (isn’t Chi Chi’s a cheap salsa in the US?!), but 8am is a little early for me to be breaking out the burritos.

On the way back to the park and our car, we found the tourist office.  We stopped in (hello, free heat) and were told that we had caught all the interesting sights.  The only thing we missed and couldn’t do anyway because of our time schedule was the underground casemates tour (a great description of the tour can be found here).  The admission is surprisingly reasonable, and we will definitely do this tour should we have the opportunity to return to Luxembourg.

Even without the cold, we probably could have spent one day in Luxembourg – max.  The city is quite compact, and very walkable.  If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, prams are okay, but a backpack carrier would be better especially if you plan on walking up and down the fortress walls or taking the casemates tour.

When researching Luxembourg, I noticed a hop on-hop off tour.  I have to say that after seeing Luxembourg in person, that tour is most likely a waste of money unless you have limited mobility.  The tour buses are not frequent, and all the sights are quite close together.

Luxembourg is a city with layers and layers and layers of history.  Seeing the old fortresses was Doc Sci's favorite part of the morning.

Luxembourg is a city with layers and layers and LAYERS of history. Seeing the old fortresses was Doc Sci’s favorite part of the morning.

Another view from the old fortress.

Another view of the city from the old fortress.

Though I loved taking in the view of the Grand Ducal Palace, I know the boys thought the pirate ship playground was the highlight of our morning in Lux.  If you’d like to visit yourself, the huge park is located near the corner of Avenue Monterey and Boulevard Prince Henri, right next to the Monterey parking garage.  Free (warm!) bathrooms are located in the park as well as in the parking garage.  Many cafes are within walking distance should you need a bite to eat.  (More about this park here.)

The gigantic pirate ship playground!

The gigantic pirate ship playground!

Though it's hard to tell, this slide is at least two stories high, maybe three!

Though it’s hard to tell, this slide is at least two stories high, maybe three!

This park ROCKS!

This park ROCKS!

My snapshot of Luxembourg: bitter cold, enchanting, historically fascinating, and very expensive.

Have you been to Luxembourg?  What was your favorite part of Lux to see, do, taste, or experience?Signature-Marigold