Whether you live 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc or you are visiting at this ❄️ WINTER WONDERLAND ❄️ time of year, then this is the post for you!
We all need FRESH IDEAS for family days out over the holidays (and ideas that don’t only involve winter sports!) and – lucky for us – the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc is located at the crossroads with 🇩🇰Switzerland 🇩🇰 and 🇮🇹 Italy 🇮🇹 and close to other parts of 🇫🇷 Haute-Savoie and Savoie 🇫🇷, with plenty of scope for great days out en famille!
Colour code for listings:
Chamonix Valley (Chamonix, Les Houches, Servoz, Argentière, Vallorcine)
Passy and environs
Sallanches, Combloux, Cordon & Domancy
Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc, Le Fayet & environs
Megève & Praz-sur-Arly
Les Contamines-Montjoie & environs
🇫🇷 Further France 🇫🇷
🇩🇰 Switzerland 🇩🇰
🇮🇹 Italy 🇮🇹
❄️ Head to a WINTER EVENT ❄️
There are lots of fabulous outdoor events in January and February au Pays du Mont-Blanc and school will be out again on the 16th February for two weeks (au Pays du Mont-Blanc) for the ❄️ VACANCES d’HIVER ❄️, time to enjoy events during the holidays!
➡️ some recommendations: « La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont-Blanc » (from 12th to 23rd January 2019; in Megève on Wednesday 16th January; see see website) / « La Nocturne des Fiz » in Plaine-Joux / « Les Mystères du Camp de Base Blanc » in Plaine-Joux (Sunday 10th February) / « Conta Musher Race » in Les Contamines-Montjoie (2nd & 3rd February) / « Les Légendes de Combloux, La Combe aux Loups », spectacle on Thursday 21st February, during the school holidays in Combloux;
⛷ Head out SKIING ! ⛷
Perhaps you have a season ski pass, perhaps a weekly pass . . . or perhaps neither . . . here at MBFF, we do not, so we make the most of visiting different ski stations, often those with good deals for families with small children not intent on spending ALL DAY out skiing. Our favourite stations de ski en famille ?
- ⛷ Plaine-Joux – here you can buy a 2-hour ticket / just drag-lifts and new in 2017, a covered magic carpet! / see here;
- ⛷ Cordon – here you can buy a morning or afternoon ticket / just drag-lifts / see here;
- ⛷ Combloux – see here;
- ⛷ Saint-Gervais-les-Bains;
- ⛷ Les Contamines-Montjoie – we LOVE this ski station!) / see here;
- ⛷ Les Carroz & Flaine;
⛷ some further afield suggestions (for a day trip): Les Gets, Avoriaz & Morzine, Samoëns, 🇩🇰 Verbier, 🇮🇹 Courmayeur & Cogne . . .
⛷ night skiing options like: Domaine des Planards (Chamonix) and Les Houches –Tourchet Night Fever!
⛷ new for this year in Combloux (Parking de la Cry): « L’échappé Rando » (ski rando), montée nocturne on Wednesday evenings . . .
⛷ CROSS – COUNTRY SKIING (ski de fond) ⛷
Cross-country skiing (ski nordique) can also be a lot of fun en famille, and there are pistes in:
- Bois du Bouchet (Chamonix);
- Lac des Chavants (Les Houches);
- Plaine-Joux (FREE!);
- Combloux (FREE!);
- several across Megève & Praz-sur-Arly (the Site Nordique de la Livraz is especially great for families; see here);
- Les Contamines-Montjoie’s Parc Nordique;
. . . and some with a (FREE) nocturne option . . .
We especially loved our visit to 🇮🇹 Val Ferret (Italy) last winter season, just through the tunnel from Chamonix!
🛷 Sledging is a great family activity, and we have plenty of fabulous designated areas here au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . slopes where you pull your sledge up the slope yourself, snow-tubing, paret runs, longer sledge runs (like LaLuge in Megève), special outings organised by guides (for example, sledging down the hill by torchlight after a fondue dinner) . . . or perhaps simply a walk through a magical snowy forest with a luge . . .
➡️ for a list of spots to 🛷 sledge au Pays du Mont-Blanc, see updated post Pistes de Luge au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond);
❄️ Head out SNOW-SHOEING (raquettes de neige) ❄️
I have yet to put together a post about snow-shoeing en famille . . . we bought some children’s snow-shoes at Quechua a couple of years ago and the boys love them . . . The wonderful thing about snow-shoeing – as with hiking – is that you can take the time to explore the nature around you (🎄the trees,🐾the animal prints in the snow, even some🦌wildlife), rather than speeding past it all at fast pace on skis!
➡️ magical spots to snow-shoe en famille au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
- Chamonix: 🌲Cascade du Dard (Buvette La Cascade du Dard – sometimes open in winter, please check, new management) / 🌲Le Chapeau in Le Lavancher (La Buvette du Chapeau – sometimes open in winter, please check!) / 🌲La Floria (Chalet de la Floria) on the Petit Balcon Sud / up to La Buvette des Mottets (open in winter);
- 🌲Lac Vert (Passy Plaine-Joux) boucle;
- 🌲 Combloux (Le Cry) for 🐾 animal prints in the forest (there is a special family snow-shoe treasure hunt in Combloux – « La randonnée des p’tits loups »; see here)!
🌲🛷 Go for a FOREST or LAKESIDE walk! 🛷🌲
We might not be able to go for a hike at high altitude en famille over the winter months, but we can still have a 🌲 stroll through a forest or around a lake – especially magical with ❄️ fresh winter snow (and you can pull little ones on a 🛷 luge or carry them in a baby carrier) . . . here are some winter wonderland photos to inspire you: 🌲Bois du Bouchet (Chamonix), 🌲 Lac de Passy, 🌲 Lacs des Ilettes (Sallanches) . . . good to know: when there is fresh snow at Lac de Passy, there are some little slopes at the criques end of the lake that are perfect for 🛷 downhill sledging!
➡️ more ideas: Pistes de Luge au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond);
We are lucky au Pays du Mont-Blanc to have some ⛸ super seasonal outdoor rinks, some with mulled wine on the side-lines, spectacles, and evening openings . . . and, if the weather isn’t great, then we have ⛸ THREE indoor ice-skating rinks in: ⛸ Chamonix, ⛸ Saint-Gervais-Mont-Blanc;,⛸ Megève;
Outdoor rinks au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
- Vallorcine (Résidence);
- Les Houches;
- Sallanches (only over the Christmas holidays);
- Les Contamines-Montjoie;
There are ice-skating sessions for young children:
- ⛸ Jardin des Glaces in Saint-Gervais on Tuesdays during the school holidays;
- ⛸ Jardin des Glaces at Les Contamines outdoor rink Les Loyers on Wednesdays oand Sundays at 10h;
- ⛸ Jardin de la Glisse in Megève on some Sundays . . . and sometimes spectacles and ice-hockey matches and curling too!
➡️ see post: Seasonal ice-skating au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond) for more information . . .
🏔 Au Pays du Mont-Blanc we have the Chamonix-Luge-Alpine-Coaster in the Parc d’Attractions (see here) . . . and the Luge 4S in Megève (see here). . . a little further afield, in Les Carroz, the new Speed Dragoz will open for the Christmas holidays, with a virtual reality option for the passenger (see here)!
🏔 Au Pays du Mont-Blanc, 🐓 La Ferme Les Montagnards GAEC (Ormaret, Combloux) has FAMILY VISITS scheduled over the holidays (with a reblochon-making atelier) / see FB page / be sure to book;
🏔 other farms to visit au Pays du Mont-Blanc: 🐂 Ferme Le Gaec Val Mont-Blanc (Gemoëns, Combloux) / 🐑 Chèvrerie Les Cabrettes (St Roch, Sallanches) / 🐂 La Ferme de l’Aberieux (Cordon) / 🐑 La Ferme des Roches Fleuries (Saint-Gervais-les-Bains);
further afield: 🐓La Ferme de Chosal (Copponex) – an absolutely FABULOUS pedagogic farm, with animals, green-houses, a land-art walk, workshops, an ethical & social spirit . . . / opening hours: every day, though the pedagogic farm will be shut in January (Sentier Art et Nature will remain open) / see website for more details / address: 98 route de l’Usine, Chosal, 74350, Copponex;
The superb (and local) 🏔 🦌 Parc Animalier de Merlet is shut over the winter months (except for organised snowshoeing outings, which can be booked – see here).
Not too far away, in neighbouring 🇩🇰 Switzerland 🇩🇰, we visited 🦌Le Zoo des Marécottes for my son’s birthday a couple of years ago, right at the end of December . . . it was a sunny winter’s day, we took the train, and it was MAGICAL! The sun shone through the trees for the short walk from the Marécottes train station, we fed deer, we had a cosy lunch (with cake and candles in the restaurant on-site) . . . highly recommended for the winter holidays!
Other options au Pays du Mont-Blanc and nearby:
🏔🐶 Elevage des Saints-Bernards (Les Houches) – learn all about the beautiful and fascinating Saint-Bernard breed here at the Les Houches chenil / opening hours: 10h to 11h30 and 14h to 17h (shut on Sundays and Monday morning) / address: 223 chemin des Vorziers, La Fontaine, 74310, Les Houches / tel: 04 50 47 23 60 / website;
🦌DomaineleCoulairon(élevage de rennes in Megève) – reindeer au Pays du Mont-Blanc, and here you can visit the élevage! / various formules available (you need to book in advance): formule découverte, visit + goûter, and visit and dinner (in a typical Finnish Kota!) / you can also visit the bergerie / website / FB page / address: 1850, route de la Côte 2000, Megève / tel: 06 80 57 21 94 / reservations;
🇨🇭🦌 Conservatoire et Jardins Botaniques de Genève (botanical gardens) – there is a small animal park with deer and ducks here, and the gardens are lovely all year-round / FREE to visit! / see MBFF post here;
🇨🇭🐗 Parc aux Animaux du Bois-de-la-Bâtie (Geneva) – set over an area of 2,5 hectares, there are about 300 species of indigenous fauna here, including some endangered species and conservation projects! You’ll find explanatory panels about the animals on your route around the park / opening hours: every day (November to March: 8h to 18h) / FREE to visit! / website / address: Le Bois-de-la-Bâtie, chemin de la Bâtie, Geneva, Switzerland;
🐺 Go DOG-SLEDDING! 🐺
As a Christmas present to the family last year, we went husky dog sledding with 3D Nordic (before they headed off for new adventures with their doggy friends this autumn and and winter to Lapland) . . . see here for the MBFF post about our super experience . . .
🏔 other companies offering dog-sledding fun this winter au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
- Huskydalen (Les Houches) – see website;
- Les Granges de HeÏdi (Passy & environs) – see website;
- Les Voyageurs de l’Hiver (Les Contamines-Montjoie) – see website;
On 16th January 2019, « La Grande Odyssée Savoie » (dog sled race) will be passing through Megève in the afternoon / see website for more details;
The weekend of 2nd & 3rd February 2019, there is the « Conta Musher Race 3ème édition »
In 🇨🇭 Champex (Switzerland), you can even be pulled along by a Saint-Bernard dog (Randonnées Hivernales through 🐶 Barryland – Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard, see here)!
🐴 Try SKI-JOËRING or PONEY-LUGE 🐴
You might also like to try 🐴 ski-joëring (a person on skis is pulled along by horses) . . .
- 🐎Centre Équestre du Mont-Blanc (Les Houches) – website / FB page / address: 130 chemin du Paradis (route des Granges), Les Houches;
- 🐎 Les Ecuries du Duc (Combloux) – little ones are too young for ski-joëring, but at the Ecuries des Ducs stables, children from 1+ years can try out poney-luge / ski-joëring for 4+ years (and with Piou Piou level of skiing, or know how to take téleski); bring skis and helmet!
- 🐎 Centre Equestre Les Contamines-Montjoie – during the school holidays / see here;
- 🐎 La CheVallée (Les Carroz) – see here;
Try out FAT-BIKING or MOUNTAIN TROTT‘ !
You can now go biking on ❄️SNOW, thanks to the concept of the FAT BIKE! Fat Bikes are mountain bikes with large tyres and good traction, which allow you to travel over snow, sand or mud with relative ease. and – accompanied by a powerful electric battery – you can even get up hills easily! You can hire a FAT BIKE or head out with a guide.
🏔 good places to FAT BIKE en famille au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
- Chamonix – Bois du Bouchet, Arve River, Petit Balcon Nord / you can hire a bike from Legend CHX, Zero G or plenty of other sports shops;
- Passy Plaine-Joux – here you’ll find a relatively flat trail! / rental: Lou Pachran Restaurant;
- Combloux (Le Cry) – for 5km downhill through the forest!
- FAT BIKE guide: Allan Julliot (see here);
- Le Parc Patrice Pontet (Les Contamines-Montjoie) – along the river, there is a lovely trail;
Alpes Aventures offers Mountain Trott’ (a trottinette with fat tyres for the snow!) in Combloux & Megève, and perhaps soon at Cordon! (we tried this out at Neige en Fête!) / in Combloux, you can do a descente Mountain Trott’ once the pistes are shut for the day . . . you head off from the summit of the Télésiège de Beauregard (at 1500m), and descend 600m, for an hour of fun skirting between the forest and ski pistes, arriving in Combloux village! / see here for more details / price: 40€, with a guide, helmet and Fat Trottinette included (you need to pay for télésiège, if you are not already in possession of a forfait;
Try out a SNOWMOBILE!
In Les Gets, Mountain E-Park has snowmobiles for hire for children / FB page / address: 529 route de Gibannaz, 74260, Les Gets / tel: 06 76 96 88 98;
There are also snowmobiles for hire in the lovely Val Ferret, through the tunnel in 🇮🇹 Italy.
🚜❄️ Learn about ski station jobs & baptêmes en dameuse ❄️🚜
In Praz-sur-Arly and in Les Contamines-Montjoie, you can have a go in a dameuse! / the perfect birthday treat for little ones!
- ❄️ Les P’tits Pros des Cimes (Praz-sur-Arly) – learn all about the work of a dameur, a pisteur, learn about the snow machines . . . / from 8+ years / see here;
- ❄️ Les Contamines-Montjoie – during the school holidays / see here;
If not under ❄️SNOW, then we have 🏔 plentiful playgrounds au Pays du Mont-Blanc! See PLAYGROUND & SOFTPLAY option under TOPICS section on the website homepage . . .
An option for climbing thrills in (and on!) catamaran nets suspended high up in the forest is Filenvol (open ALL year!) – we have been to Filenvol twice now, and both times had a fabulous experience! The concept is to run and jump and slide within large nets suspended from the trees (no need for harnesses!) . . . giant trampolines in the trees (there is even a football area!) / there are hammocks (adults can bring a book!), a small buvette and plenty of spots for picnics here / opening hours: 10h to 17h / price: see here / address: 396 chemin du Vallon, 74560, Monnetier-Mornex (near Salève/Annemasse) / website;
Children generally love 🚂 trains and train journeys . . . luckily, there are some memorable train journeys (big and small!) 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
🚂 Montenvers cobble train & Mer de Glace – the iconic cobble train departs from Chamonix (behind SNCF train station) and heads up to the Montenvers glacier and ice grotto! / see here for MBFF post / Les Trains de Noel du Montenvers on 22nd & 23rd December (activities for children and meetings with Santa);
🚈 Mont-Blanc Express from Le Fayet to Martigny – with a carte d’hôte, you can take this train for FREE between Servoz and Vallorcine . . . and it goes as far as Martigny in Switzerland! / a lovely excursion, with views of the snowy peaks throught the upper windows . . . / see here for more details;
🚃 Le Tramway du Mont-Blanc – is the highest-reaching cobble train in France, leaving from Le Fayet or Saint-Gervais and reaching up to the Nid d’Aigle (2372 m) / journey up through forests and fields of ❄️ SNOW / open from 22nd December / see here for more details / Le Tramway Magique on Mondays 24th & 31st December, at 10h from Le Fayet or 10h10 from Saint-Gervais;
🚡🚠 Take a CABLE CAR ride for a BIG THRILL ! 🚡🚠
🏔 Aiguille du Midi (Chamonix) – a visit to Chamonix for the first time (or with visitors) often includes a trip up the Aiguille du Midi viewing platform (3777m), with its 360° panoramic view of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps (and with the ascenseur, you can reach the terrace at 3842m) / * WINTER 2018 – the second cable car up to the Aiguille du Midi summit is once again OPENING (22nd December) after extensive renovation work!* / see MBFF post here for details about a family visit and activities on offer;
🇮🇹 Skyway Monte-Bianco (Courmayeur) – opened in 2015, the Skyway Monte Bianco is a marvel of Italian engineering and technology, giving you access to the Punta Helbronner (3,466m), with its views of Mont-Blanc (the Télécabine Panoramique Mont-Blanc, across the glacier to the Aiguille du Midi, is also shut for renovations);
Take a GUIDED TOUR!
Whether you are a tourist wanting to learn more about the history, culture and architecture of the town you are visiting, or a resident wanting to learn more about where you are living . . . then there are plenty of guided tours to choose from . . . here is a selection of what is on offer during the winter months:
Chamonix Valley – Les Virées Culturelles de Christine – see website for more details;
Chamonix Valley – Teresa Kaufman’s Photo Walks – see website here;
Passy & Plateau d’Assy – visit the architectural wonders (the sanitoriums, Notre Dame de l’Eglise church and more) / more details on Passy Mont-Blanc Tourisme;;
Visite guidée de l’entreprise Lorenzio Granit du Mont-Blanc (Comboux) – visit Laurenzio’s granite production and learn about the métier des graniteurs, from extraction of the granite from Mont-Blanc to the finished product (chimeys, work desks, fountains, tables and more . . . ) / see here for more details / when? every Friday from 17h to 17h45 / price: 5€ and free for under 15s / address: 340 route de la Barme, 74920, Combloux / reservations: here;
Cordon – visit the Baroque church / more details on Cordon Tourisme;
Megève – visit the town or the route de la Calvaire / more details on Megève Tourisme;
The castles in Haute-Savoie & Savoie all seem to go into winter hibernation, but the 🇮🇹 Aosta Valley in Italy is also dotted with castles in strategic spots along the valley . . . and many of these are open to visit over the wintertime! The MBFF tribe has visited a handful of these Aosta valley castles, and I’d be keen to visit a castle dusted in winter snow! See Valle d’Aosta Tourism website for a complete list of the castles open to the public (mostly, you will visit as part of a guided tour).
Here are some of the 🏰 castles in the Aosta Valley:
- 🏰 Sarre Castle – once the hunting & holiday residence of the House of Savoy;
- 🏰 Sarriod de la Tour Castle – set among orchards, looking out over the Dora Baltea river;
- 🏰 Fénis Castle – towers, crenellated walls and fairy-tale charm make this castle a popular visit;
- 🏰 Forte di Bard – once a near-impregnable fortress . . . now a complex of museums, art exhibitions & events, restaurant and hotel / the MBFF tribe LOVE this fortress and its exhibitions; see here for MBFF post);
Try BUNGEE JUMPING!
At the Pont de Saint-Gervais, you can try bungee jumping . . . / organised by Compagnie des Guides de Saint-Gervais-Les Contamines . . . / every Thursday 13h30 to 16h30 / tel: 04 50 47 76 55 / price: 90€;
Try out PAINTBALLING or LASER GAMES!
🏔 Au Pays du Mont-Blanc, there are paintball & lasergame zones in: the Chamonix Valley, near Lac de Passy and in Megève . . . (and laser games indoors at the Bowling du Mont-Blanc in Sallanches).
- Chamonix Paint-Ball – paintball & lasergame (12+ years) / website / address: route de la Promenade des Crèmeries / tel: 06 07 36 01 51;
- Paintball Mont-Blanc – is located in the forest in Les Tines (8+ years) / website / address: Les Liarets, lieu-dit Les Tines, 74400, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc;
- Fiz Paintball (near Lac de Passy) – five different zones to play (classic, forts, jungle, speedball, airball) for 8+ years / website / address: Lieu-dit « Les Îles » (autoroute A40, sortie n°21 « PASSY – SAINT GERVAIS »;
- Paintball Experience Megève – paintball, lasergame, archery tag, airsoft . . . / 6 games areas / for 6+ years / website / address: chemin du Thorbiau, 74120, Megève;
💦 A SPA DAY or THERMAL BATH day en famille 💦
If you have been ⛷ skiing a great deal, then perhaps you’ll feel in need of a 💦 thermal bath or spa day? En famille, you have superb (and larger) options in 🇩🇰 Switzerland, just past Martigny, where the whole family will be welcome:
🇩🇰💦 Les Bains de Saillons (Valais, Switzerland) – set among terraced vineyards, with a view of the little castle atop the medieval bourg, this spa and aquatic centre has both indoor and outdoor attractions . . . three thermal pools (32 to 34°C), a semi-Olympic pool (28°C), a thermal river (120m long), hammam, sauna and jacuzzi and more . . . / there are restaurants and hotel facilities on-site! / price: adults CHF24 to 28, children (4 to 16 years) CHF13 and FREE for under 4s! / address: route du Centre Thermal 16, 1913, Saillon, Switzerland / tel: +41 (0)27 602 11 11 / *NB – keep a watchful eye on children in the river rapids; it can get very busy!*
🇩🇰💦 Les Bains de Lavey (Vaud, Switzerland) – have a lovely location and are reserved for 4+ years / 🕯candle-lit evenings on Thursdays / address: route des Bains 48, Lavey-Morcles, Switerland / FB page / website;
🇩🇰💦 Leukerbad (Loèche-les-Bains, Switzerland) – much further afield, but worth a mention as these thermal baths have a beautiful setting, amidst the snowy mountain peaks . . . a visit here is a real escape, a mix of well-being and fun! / there are 10 pools (between 28°C and 43°C!), and a new bassin aventure, two dedicated pools for children and waterslides (one with inflatable rings) / price: adults CHF 25 to 30, children (8 to 16 years) CHF 14 and free for under 8s and open to all children from birth! / massages for children & parents available / website;
🇩🇰💦 Les Bains d’Ovronnaz (Valais, Switzerland) – nestled in a cirque of mountains, there are two outdoor pools here, and indoors there is a children’s paddling pool / massages for children & parents available / restaurant on-site (Panoramic Alpine Spa under renovation, due to fire damage) / website;
🇮🇹💦 Pré St Didier QC Termes (Aosta Valley, Italy) – this spa, through the Mont-Blanc tunnel and a bit further, is reserved for 14+ years (for ultimate parent and adult relaxation!) / website;
Here, 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc, we have some smaller options for thermal springs and spas and children’s soins:
💦 Les Granges d’en Haut (Les Houches) – this is one of my favourite spas au Pays du Mont-Blanc: small, stunning views and friendly and professional staff! / it is run by Deep Nature and there is: an outdoor Finnish sauna and Nordic bath on the terrace, and indoors there is a small swimming pool, lounging chairs, hammams and sauna / *good to know – there are also yoga and pilates classes held here / booking a massage or treatment allows you entry to the spa and pool; or you can simply purchase entrance to the spa and pool for 29€ / Deep Nature also offers a series of children’s soins / see website for more details / address: 1000 route des Chavants, 74310, Les Houches / tel: +33 (0)4 85 30 00 17;
💦 Résidence & Spa (Vallorcine) – the Spa du Mont-Blanc by Cinq Mondes is open to non-hotel visitors by reservation / there are also children’s soins available (children must be accompanied by an adult) / see website for more details / address: Résidence & SPA Vallorcine Mont-Blanc, Chef Lieu, 74660, Vallorcine / tel: +33 (0)4 50 54 75 20;
💦 Les Thermes de Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc (Le Parc Thermal, Le Fayet) – these thermal baths (famous for the curing properties of its thermal waters), have been renovated and re-branded and offer: a parcours through the spa facilities, massages, and they sell their own products / for 13+ years / family option: « Accueil Famille » from 3 to 13 years on Saturday and Sunday mornings AND « Maman Bébé Papa » – with a coach, exercises . . . (see here) / produce for sale / website / address: 355 allée du docteur Lépinay, Le Fayet, 74170, Saint-Gervais les Bains;
➡️ see post: Chamonix Valley Spas & Massages for more ideas for spas in the Chamonix Valley.
Visit a CAVE or the UNDERGROUND WORLD
Not too far from the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc, you have two underground options this time of year:
🦇 Les Grottes de la Balme (Isère) – these caves are located a 40mins drive to the east of Lyon, 2 hours from Chamonix / the temperature in the caves is between 12° et 15°C all year-round (so warmer than outdoors during the winter months!) / no dogs allowed, no camera flash / picnic spot at entrance to village, with rain shelter, WC and playground / opening days: from 16th February, 14h to 18h / website / tel: +33 (0)4 74 96 95 00! / address: rue des Grottes, 38390, La Balme-les-Grottes;
🇩🇰 Bex salt mines (Salines de Bex) – located between Martigny and Montreux in Switerland, are another great underground option – here you discover the origin of the Sel des Alpes in the underground labyrinth (several kilometres open to the public) and learn about the excavation techniques used from the first gallery of 1684, up to modern times / opening hours: see website / address: route de Gryon 31, Bex, Vaud, Switerland / tel: +41 24 463 03 20;
If you are getting valley fever, or you are wanting to escape ☔️ bad weather ☔️, then it can be fun to go for a day excursion . . . Being on the crossroads with 🇩🇰 Switzerland and 🇮🇹 Italy, there are plenty of options! And, more options nearby in 🇫🇷 Haute-Savoie and 🇫🇷 Savoie too . . . Remember that for travel on the Swiss autoroute, you’ll need a VIGNETTE (available to buy at the Douanes (Customs) and now also at Mountain Store in Passy) and, though the aller-retour journey through the Mont-Blanc Tunnel is VERY expensive, you can get a 10-trip card (to be used within the year), which will reduce the cost considerably!
🇩🇰 A day out in Martigny (Switzerland) 🇩🇰
From Chamonix, it is a short 45 minute drive or train ride to Martigny in Switzerland . . . once there, you will have a true feeling of dépaysement, with:
- a lovely town centre;
- 🏟 Roman ruins (an amphitheatre and more . . .);
- the wonderful 🎨 Fondation Pierre Gianadda for art exhibitions, photos, vintage cars and sculpture garden with Roman ruins (see MBFF post here or website);
- and the equally lovely 🐶 Barryland – Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard (see here for MBFF post or website).
🇩🇰 A day out in Geneva (Switzerland) 🇩🇰
Geneva is not far from the Pays du Mont-Blanc, but you do get a little distance from the snowy peaks . . . and you can enjoy a wander through the Old Town (where you could head up the towers of the Cathédrale St Pierre or visit its crypt), a stroll down to Lac Léman to visit the Jet d’Eau (or take a boat ride), a visit to Le Parc des Bastions and its Christmas Market (« Noel aux Bastions » – until 30th December), the Botanical Gardens or you could visit an exhibition or museum . . .
current exhibitions 2019:
- « César et le Rhone » at the MAH;
Or, alternatively, you could visit the quaint Carouge, with its lovely cafés and restaurants and unique boutiques . . .
🇩🇰 A day out in Lausanne (Switzerland) 🇩🇰
Facing Evian (which is located on the opposite side of the lake), Lausanne is a lovely town to visit, sprawling from the Old Town and its cathedral at the summit of the town’s hill, down through the shopping centre, the train station and then down to Ouchy on the lakefront (where you will find the Olympic Museum). There are plenty of other museums to visit (see Museums & Exhibitions post) and the new aquarium Aquatis. Until the 31st December, you can enjoy the lovely Christmas markets of « Bô Noël » and also the light installations of « Lausanne Lumières ».
🇮🇹 A day out in the Aosta Valley (Italy) 🇮🇹
🇮🇹 Courmayeur – a short drive through the Mont-Blanc Tunnel will bring you into Courmayeur . . . the cobble-stoned Old Town is atmospheric and there is a super park (weather permitting) at the entrance to to town. For a day trip, you could also include the Skyway Monte-Bianco or a trip into Val Ferret for cross country skiing, snow-shoeing and snowmobiles . . . or a trip to the lovely Termes de Pré St Didier;
🇮🇹 Aosta – further down the valley you’ll come to Aosta, which makes for a lovely stop: a pretty town centre, 🏟 Roman ruins (with the🎄Christmas Market within, until 6th January 2019!), museums, and lovely🍕restaurants;
For more information about the 🏰 castles dotted throughout the Aosta Valley, see the castle section above.
🇫🇷 A day out in Annecy 🇫🇷
The lovely lakeside town of Annecy makes for a relatively quick escape from the mountains and valleys of the Pays du Mont-Blanc! Local residents enjoy day trips here to experience the change of scenery throughout the year. During the Christmas holidays, you can visit the 🎄Marché de Noël and the Village de Noël until the 6th January 2019 . . . you can head to the various playgrounds by the lakeside, take a stroll or ride draisiennes in the Parc de l’Europe . . . stroll through the Old Town and visit the Château d’Annecy or the Palais de l’Ile (good family packs available) . . . and in Cran-Gévrier, there is La Turbine, with interactive exhibitions for children (see museum section below).
The village of Talloires also makes a lovely visit . . .
Alternatively, there are lovely family walks, suitable for buggies in Doussard’s nature reserve, and Saint-Jorioz (see here).
🇫🇷 A day out in Evian 🇫🇷
The thermal waters lakeside town of Evian makes for a lovely day out en famille . . . during the Christmas holidays, you could see the exhibition 🎨 « Légendes des Pays du Nord », at the Palais Lumières . . . also, until 14th January, there is Evian’s very special holiday event « Le Fabuleux Village ou la Légende des Flottins »!
Alternatively (or as well as), before arriving in Evian, there is the lovely medieval lakeside village of Yvoire . . .
Further suggestions for weekend visits:
🇫🇷 Lyon – a beautiful Old Town, plentiful museums, the wonderful Parc de la Tête d’Or and zoo, the Christmas market until 24th December / see website This is Lyon for some ideas;
🇫🇷 La Drôme – perhaps not the most obvious time of year to visit . . . but we had a lovely December weekend in this stunning region (despite the rain!), with a visit to perched Plus Beaux Villages de la France (see website), La Ferme aux Crocodiles (see website), Le Château des Adhémar in Montélimar ;
🇮🇹 Cogne – this quaint cobble-stoned village is a one hour drive from Chamonix, through the Mont-Blanc tunnel and a bit further / in wintertime: skiing, cross-country skiing, ice-climbing, lots of hotels with spas . . .
If you have ☔️bad weather during your holidays☔️, then don’t worry, as there are plenty of options these days!
🧗♂️ Go to an INDOOR CLIMBING WALL ! 🧗♂️
Unless you fancy some ice-climbing outdoors, then you’ll have to head to an 🧗♂️ indoor climbing wall for some winter climbing . . . we have lots of options 🏔 au Pays du Mont-Blanc:
🧗♂️ Chamonix – located within the Centre Sportif Richard Bozon / for children 6+ years (and children 6 to 14 years must be accompanied by an adult) / see here for details;
🧗♂️ Les Houches – the climbing wall in Les Houches is called Mont Blanc Escalade / see here for more details;
🧗♂️ Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – the indoor climbing wall in Saint-Gervais is located in one of the pillars of the Pile Pont / there is an outdoor bouldering wall / open Tuesdays and Thursdays between 19h and 21h / you must bring all of your own equipment / tel: 04 50 47 73 40 / see here for more details / more information through MJC Saint-Gervais;
🧗♂️ Megève – Le Palais’ mur d’escalade / see here for more details;
🧗♂️ various gyms are also available through climbing and alpinism clubs and the CAF (ENSA, Passy Club d’Escalade, Sallanches’ Gymnase du Rosay);
We have several 💦 public swimming pools au Pays du Mont-Blanc . . . you’ll find baby pools in Chamonix (and also an indoor slide), Saint-Gervais and Megève (you’ll need to check opening hours, as these vary over the year):
- 💦 Chamonix (Centre Sportif Richar Bozon) – see here;
- 💦 Marlioz (Passy) – see here;
- 💦 Sallanches – see here;
- 💦 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains – enjoy the artwork of 2KM3 artists while there ! / see here;
- 💦 Megève (Le Palais) – see here;
Further afield, you have the 💦 bigger option of parcs aquatiques, with slides and other features:
- 💦 Vitam Parc (Neydens, near St-Julien-en-Genevois) – see here;
- 💦 Aquariaz (Avoriaz) – see here;
- 🇩🇰💦 Aquaparc (Le Bouveret, Switzerland) – with Christmas activities, see here / and then SHUT for environmental works until 26th January;
*good to know – don’t forget swimming trunks (NO boxers!) for boys and men, else you’ll have to buy some!*
We have plenty of fabulous 🎨 local museums au Pays du Mont-Blanc, some offering temporary exhibitions and family and children’s guided visits and workshops over the Christmas holidays:
- 🎨🏔 Le Musée Alpin (Chamonix) – see here;
- 💎🏔 L’Espace Tairraz & Musée des Cristaux (Chamonix) see here;
- 📸🏔 La Maison de la Mémoire et la Patrimoine Janny Couttet (Chamo nix) – see here;
- 🎨🏔 Le Musée Montagnard (Les Houches)– see here;
- 🎨🏔 Maison Forte de Hautetour in Saint-Gervais – see here;
- *please note that the Centre de la Nature Montagnarde in Sallanches is currently SHUT for renovations, re-opening planned for 2020*).
Over the winter, there will be an outdoor photo exhibition at the Plateau de la Croix in Saint-Nicolas-de-Véroce: « Sports d’Hiver » . . .
Further afield, you have fabulous museums (again, many with workshops for children) in:
- 🇩🇰 Geneva – 🦌 Muséum (Natural History Museum) / 🎨⚱️MAH (Musée d’Art et Histoire) / 🎨 MAMCO (Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain) / MEG (Musée d’Ethonographie de Genève) / 🔭Le Musée d’Histoire des Sciences . . . and many more;
- 🇩🇰 Martigny – 🎨 Fondation Pierre Gianadda / 🐶 Barryland – Musée et Chiens Saint-Bernard;
- Cluses – 🕰 Musée de l’Horlogerie et du Décolletage;
- Annecy – Le Château d’Annecy, Le Palais d’Ile . . . ;
- Evian – 🎨 Le Palais Lumière;
- 🇮🇹 Aosta Valley (Italy) – 🏟 the Roman ruins in Aosta or the FABULOUS 🎨📸 Forte di Bard further down the valley in Bard;
Somewhere in-between a museum and a creative playcentre, a whole new breed of interactive centres has taken off in recent years, where children can explore and create and understand through doing . . . here are some suggestions not too far from the Pays du Mont-Blanc:
La Turbine in Cran-Gévrier (near Annecy) – Le Centre de Culture Scientifique Technique et Industrielle de Haute-Savoie is an innovative pedagogic centre equipped for families to learn about science in an interactive way / current exhibitions: « Tic Tac Temps » (learning about the importance of time and the passing of time in our environment, for children 3 to 6 years) AND « CLOCK: les horloges du vivant » (Does a sunflower really follow the sun? Why do we sleep? A koala sleeps 20h per day; is it lazy or is this a necessity? How fast do the wings of a hummingbird flap? – an exhibition looking at time in relation to animals, humans, plants, clocks and sleep, for children 8+ years) / opening hours: from Tuesday to Sunday, 14h to 18h / / FREE entry on first Saturday of month! / address: place Chorus, Cran-Gevrier, 74960, Annecy / tel: 04 50 08 17 00 / website;
🇩🇰 Exploracentre (Geneva) – a brand new interactive exhibition space in Plainpalais (Geneva), where the only rule is that it is “FORBIDDEN to NOT TOUCH”! / for the whole family, to learn about the world, science, how things function . . . / first exhibition: « La Science fait son Cirque » (learning about the science behind certain circus acts) . . . / workshops over Christmas holidays: 10h30 to 11h30 for little ones 4 to 6 years: « A la découverte des sens » & « Sur l’île de Robinson » AND 14h30 to 16h for 7 to 12 year olds: « Silence…Moteur…Action ! » & « Light Painting » / Christmas holiday opening days: from 31st December to 6th January (shut over the Christmas week) / website;
🇩🇰🎨 La Maison de la Créativité (Conches, near Geneva) – shut over the Christmas holidays, but re-opening 7th January . . . / see MBFF post about the FABULOUS creative centre for under 6s;
🇩🇰 Espace des Inventions (Lausanne) – a place for families and children to experience and experiment with science, technology and art, through the exhibitions / current exhibition: « L’ARBRE – de la petite graine à la vieille branche » – trees in science & nature, and as represented in 🎨 art / for children 7+ years / workshops for children here / opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday, 14h to 18h and Sunday and bank holidays, 10h to 18h / FREE entry on first Saturday of month! / website / address: Vallée de la Jeunesse 1, 1007, Lausanne, Switzerland / tel: +41 (0)21 315 68 80;
➡️ see post: Museums & Exhibitions au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond) for more information concerning opening hours, prices, and current exhibitions at all of the above museums (and plenty more suggestions too).
🌲Visit an ÉCOMUSÉE🌲
🌲Ecomusées explore nature and customs of yesteryear, and some have some outdoor activities and exhibits, so they generally work better on fine weather days . . . here are a selection open over the winter months:
🌲La Maison du Salève (Présilly) – a visit to La Maison du Salève makes for a wonderful family day out, preferably on a fair weather day as the gardens are lovely and there are walks to enjoy en famille nearby . . . originally an 18th century farm from the Chartreuse de Pomier, La Ferme de Mikerne has been renovated to host a cultural centre recounting the history of the Salève mountain and its environs / MBFF post here / website / address: 775 route de Mikerne, 74160, Présilly;
🌲Le Hameau des Alpes (La Clusaz) – learn about the rich culture and patrimoine of La Clusaz . . . learn about how skiing has evolved, about the making of Reblochon cheese, learn about a traditional oven, learn about the old greniers, and an old sawmill . . . / website / address: Hameau des Alpes, 44 route de la Patton, 74220, La Clusaz;
🌲L’Ecomusée PAYSALP (Musée Paysan & Croq’Alp) – website / address: 628 avenue de Savoie, 74250, Viuz-en-Sallaz;
If it is ☔️raining or you have very small children to entertain, why not visit one of our 📚 médiathèques au Pays du Mont-Blanc? There are three big ones, with superb children’s areas (and sometimes storytelling sessions and ludothèques too) in:
- 📚 Chamonix (see here);
- 📚 Sallanches (see here);
- 📚 Megève (in Le Palais) (see here);
- 📚 and there are smaller bibliothèques in the other towns and villages au Pays du Mont-Blanc;
📚 Do check opening hours before planning a visit, as these vary from day to day! For storytelling and spectacles options over the holidays, ➡️ see post Christmastime au Pays du Mont Blanc . . .
There are plenty of films to be enjoyed en famille this Christmas: new releases include The Grinch who Stole Christmas, The Nutcracker, Oscar et le monde des chats, Mia et le Lion Blanc . . . and an old favourite of the MBFF tribe (we have this on DVD!), Balto, will be showing at the Cinéma Vox Chamonix.
There are TWO big cinemas au Pays du Mont Blanc:
- 🎥 Cinéma Vox Chamonix (see here / there are a selection of films in VO);
- 🎥 Ciné Mont-Blanc in Sallanches (see here / very occasional films in VO / Cinékids at 11h on Sundays – special screenings adapted for wee ones!);
🎥 and there are also lots of smaller screens with a good selection of films (some foreign language films in VO with subtitles), so ➡️ see post Cinemas au Pays du Mont-Blanc for more information.
For ☔️ RAINY DAYS ☔️, there is 🌈 Le Parc en Folie softplay in Sallanches’ industrial zone, where there are always workshops planned over the Christmas holidays / the NEW 2018 / 2019 Parc en Folie in Combloux has now sadly SHUT, due to lack of visitors! / see FB page for more details / address: 1431 avenue André Lasquin, 74700, Sallanches / tel (Sabrina): +33 (0)6 37 16 47 32;
FURTHER AFIELD: for more ideas for 🌈 larger softplay centres a bit further afield, ➡️ see MBFF post Softplay, Indoor Play & Bouncy Castles au Pays du Mont-Blanc(and beyond).
There is also the 🌈 Centre Kapla ANNECY – there are workshops organised here (4+ years) / Christmas holidays opening: 22nd, 26th, 27th and 29th December AND 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th January 2019 (workshops: 10h to 11h30, 14h to 15h30 AND 16h to 17h30) / website / address: 391 rue de l’Artisanat, Poisy (near Annecy) / reservations:+33 (0)4 50 24 80 10 / price: 12€ per person;
And for older children, who have outgrown the idea of sofplay and Kapla (actually, when does one ever outgrow Kapla?), then you could try:
🤸♀️Elevation Indoor (Neydens) – this is a freestyle indoor parcours centre, with trampolines / opening hours: see general opening hours here / see website or FB page for more details / address: 13 rue du Jura, Neydens / tel: +33 (0)4 50 74 02 83 / *NB – if you go for the first time, under 18s must supply: copy of identity card or passport of PARENT; adults must provide copy of of identity card or passport*
🏎 Visit an indoor KARTING TRACK 🏎
Summer 2018 saw the opening of an indoor karting centre – Urban Kart’in – in La Roche-sur-Foron! We’ve not yet been to test it out, but it gets rave reviews! A karting piste “Made in Italy“, with a bridge and tunnel for driving indoor karts “Made in France 100% électrique“ (unique in Haute-Savoie and Savoie) / for 7+ years! / 24 karts (18 for adults and 6 for children) / best to reserve: 04 50 03 66 78 / website;
🎳 Spend an afternoon or evening BOWLING 🎳
The 🎳 bowling alley in Chamonix recently SHUT down (to make way for a new hotel), so the 🎳 only bowling alley au Pays du Mont-Blanc is now in Sallanches – Le Bowling du Mont-Blanc (there are also laser games, a new Escape Room, and a restaurant and bar on-site) / good to know: it is opposite the Ciné Mont-Blanc / see website for more details;
🎮 Visit a VIRTUAL REALITY centre or ESCAPE ROOM 🎮
For teenagers and older children, then perhaps a visit to a 🎮 virtual reality centre or escape room (where you work as a team to solve puzzles against the clock, in order to be “let out” of the room!) will offer up some amusement on a ☔️🌧 RAINY DAY?
- 🎮 Escape Game Chamonix (Chamonix Sud) – the first escape room in Chamonix! / 12+ years (within family booking) / website / address: 26 Place Edmond Desailloud, Chamonix Sud;
- 🎮 Escape Room at the Bowling du Mont-Blanc in Sallanches – NEW!
- 🎮 Laser Game Evolution (Ville-la-Grand) – website / address: 14 rue de Deux Montagne, 74100, Ville-la-Grand;
- 🎮 Cortex Virual (Annemasse) – website / address: 12 rue Germain Sommeiller, Annemasse;
- 🎮 E.Réel (Annecy) – website / address: 486 route des Prés Rollier (ZAC de Bromines), 74330, Sillingy;