In addition to its majestic alpine peaks and fabulous natural wonders, Austria also has many manmade attractions for kids. Your main concern with having children along is pacing yourself with enough museum time. After all, it's your vacation too. Our suggestion is to combine city attractions found in Vienna and Salzburg with some motor trips into the countryside.
Days 1 & 2: Vienna: Getting Started
Your kid has probably been held captive on a long jet plane ride and will be eager for exercise. Get the legs moving on Day 1 by climbing the Domkirche St. Stephan, the historic cathedral of Vienna, for a panoramic view. Later, plan on spending 2 hours at the grand Hapsburg palace, Schönbrunn, where special 60-to 90-minute tours are conducted by guides through rooms that offer hands-on displays for children. If the weather is fair, get the makings of a picnic and wander into Stadtpark for a place to enjoy it. Spend the afternoon visiting the amusements, including a famous Ferris wheel, in Praterverband (or "The Prater").
On the morning of Day 2, try to schedule your day around two performances -- that of the concert by the Vienna Boys' Choir and a visit to see the horses at the Spanische Reitschule, which kids always enjoy. Because of scheduling problems, you may not always get to hear the choir, but the whole family can see the Lipizzaners prance to the music of Johann Strauss. Spend the afternoon touring the Hofburg Palace Complex, where children are generally fascinated by the Kaiserappartements, especially the splendid sections where the royal children lived. Cap the afternoon off with a stroll through the Botanischer Garten.
Day 3: The Danube Valley
After renting a car, for which arrangements should have been made in advance, take the "Austrian Romantic Road" (Route 3) west from Vienna along the more scenic northern banks of the Danube. Before leaving Vienna, pack a picnic to enjoy later at a secluded spot. Your first stopover can be at Krems, 80km (50 miles) west of Vienna. You don't want your child to think Austria is all about cities, and Krems is a perfect town for exploring. Kids often think it was created by Disney, with its arched gateways, narrow cobbled lanes, and ancient town walls. You can spend at least 2 hours wandering its streets. Best for exploring is a part of Krems called Stein, a villagelike section of narrow streets terraced above the river.
For your overnight stopover, we suggest you continue 8km (5 miles) west of Krems to the romantic old Danube wine town of Dürnstein. Richard the Lion-Hearted of England was held prisoner here in 1193. Check into one of the old inns for the night and set about to explore. The whole family can delight in wandering the town's castle fortress 159m (522 ft.) above the town. Later explore the Hauptstrasse and the many little streets that branch off from it.
Day 4: Linz : From the Baroque to the Modern
On the morning of Day 4, continue along Route 3 north of the Danube to the city of Linz, a distance of 158km (98 miles) from Dürnstein. Plan an overnight here. After checking into a hotel, pick up the brochure, "A Walk Through the Old Quarter," and do what it says; this attraction could take up to 2 hours of your time. For children, the most intriguing attraction is the Ars Electronica Center, with its hands-on exhibits and its dancing marionettes for the digital age. Kids go on a trip "to the outer reaches of space." As reward for taking the kids here, make a visit to the Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz to see some great art. Children are often mesmerized by some of the paintings here.
Days 5 & 6: Salzburg: It's Not All Mozart
On the morning of Day 5, head south of Linz to the Autobahn (E55/E60), which will carry you directly into Salzburg, 130km (82 miles) to the west. Check into a hotel for 2 nights, then set about to explore the city. Head for the Mozartplatz to hear the Glockenspiel or carillon, the 35 bells that ring from the Residenz. While here, stroll through the Salzburg Dom, or cathedral, on the south side of the Residenzplatz. In the afternoon, book tickets for the whole family for "The Sound of Music Tour," named after the 1965 film that still enjoys worldwide success.
On Day 6, take the family up to the impressive Hohensalzburg Fortress, which is reached by a funicular ride. Allow 1 1/2 hours for this. After a visit, head for Schloss Hellbrunn in the environs. It's only a 20-minute drive. After a visit, call on the zoo animals at the Salzburger Tiergarten Hellbrunn. Following lunch, there's still time to drive to Hallein and the Dürrnberg Salt Mines. Hallein lies only 15km (10 miles) from the center of Salzburg. For many kids, a trip aboard an electric mine train going deep into the caverns will be the highlight of their visit to Salzburg.
Day 7: Innsbruck: Center of the Tyrol
For a final look at Austria, head out from Salzburg on the morning of Day 7 for Innsbruck, 190km (118 miles) to the southwest. Check into a hotel for your final night. Innsbruck is reached by Autobahn A8, which joins Autobahn A93 (later A12) for its final descent on the city.
In Innsbruck, spend at least 2 hours traversing the Old Town on foot. Stroll along the main street, Maria-Theresien-Strasse, and visit the Goldenes Dachl, or golden roof. After lunch, pay a visit to the 15th-century imperial palace, Hofburg, and try to budget time for the Alpenzoo, on the southern slope of the Hungerburg plateau. Not only can you see mammals indigenous to the Alps, but you will also be rewarded with one of the most panoramic views in Tyrol.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.