Garmisch – Winter Fun for the Family

I couldn’t imagine spending a winter in Europe without going to Garmisch. Our yearly trip to Garmisch is one of my favorite things to do, frankly, because it’s probably the easiest trip we take.

We always book our winter Garmisch trip in the summer, as rooms at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort usually sell out months in advance. We usually drive, although we have taken the train in the past. If you are on the fence about driving or taking the train, then consider reading our blog post here. If you drive, make sure you bring your passport and buy a vignette at the border, as the fastest way to get there is by taking a dip into Austria.

Let me start off by explaining why we choose to stay at Edelweiss. Being an Active Duty military family, staying at Edelweiss is a privilege and benefit we certainly do enjoy, but there are also so many other options for lodging. Many people choose to stay at off-base hotels, while others choose to stay at the significantly cheaper Army lodging on base. If that’s what you like to do, then more power to you. However for us, staying Edelweiss is the best option for our family of five.

The room is pretty tight for five people, but with two teens and a ten year old, they don’t really spend much time in the hotel room anyways. I love that it’s an enclosed resort, so walking from the room to the hot tub is doable in a swimsuit and flip flops. Dining is easy, and everyone usually just grabs food at one of the several dining options on the resort. Since we usually book early, I always request a room as close to the lobby as possible. This allows us to step outside of the room and immediately enjoy the Après Ski vibe on our short walk to Zuggy’s Base Camp for a beer and snack. As fitness is important to our family, we enjoy using the workout facility each morning before we get started with our frosty adventures. Once again, Edelweiss may not be for you, but it certainly is a must for us.

A rookie mistake people make when going to Garmisch is not having a plan. While Garmisch is a perfect “relax and do what you want” type trip, you still should plan in advance to avoid frustration. I often see posts in Facebook groups of families that arrive in Garmisch, with no idea what to do next.

The first thing to consider is what to eat. Since there is no store on site, we usually load up a cooler full water, milk, and snacks for the time we’ll spend there. We usually also bring our own coffee maker. You may expect to eat at Edelweiss the entire time you are there, but for the same price or cheaper, you an also eat at popular local restaurants such as Mukkefuck or Gastohof Fraundorfer. However, if that’s your plan, I recommend you make reservations in advance.

So back to my point about Garmisch being an easy “do what you want trip.” The kids enjoy hanging out in the lobby, stuffing their face at the dinner buffet, making Tik Toks in the hotel, and spending hours sitting by the pool. They usually run into a few of their friends there. Nellie enjoys wandering outdoors and soaking in the beauty of the winter wonderland. As for me, I just want to ski and drink beer. We usually try to do at least one family event each trip, whether it’s having dinner or an outdoor excursion. I’m hoping this blog post can give you ideas what to do once you get there.

The photos from in this post are a mixture of our January trips in 2019 and 2020, both during Martin Luther King Junior weekend. If you notice some pictures have more lush snow than others, it’s because 2019 had much more snowfall (at least up to that weekend) than 2020.

By now, I’m sure you know about Neuschwanstein Castle, the beautiful Bavarian castle that inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle. On our 2019 trip, we made Neuschwanstein Castle a stop on our way to Garmisch, while Nellie did it as a solo day trip during our 2020 visit. Getting to the castle from Garmisch is a scenic drive and takes under an hour. The best parking area is at Parkplatz P4, right next to Hohenschwangau Castle.

The walk up to Neuschwanstein is a 20 minute uphill walk, but there are horse and carriage rides waiting and eager for you to pay for a journey up to the castle. You won’t be able to see much inside the castle without scheduling a tour, but most people head there to get their own magical photo of the castle from the outside. The best place to do this is from the bridge Marienbrücke, which is about a 20 minute trail from the castle. Just make sure you check online to see if it is open before heading out. Click here to check if Marienbrücke is open.

Another favorite for Nellie is taking a trip to Partnach Gorge. The gorge, at 702 meters long and 80 meters deep, is a natural wonder to explore during the winter. Witness the mountain stream cutting through the gorge, ornamated with crystallized snow and ice hanging off the side of the mountain. Whether or not you’re staying at Edelweiss, you can sign up for a guided tour of the gorge, bundled with a visit to the Olympic Ski Jump and lunch afterwards. But if you like being on your own time, you can just do your own self-guided tour through the gorge. Entry into the gorge is €6 per adult. Click here for more information about Partnach Gorge.

Garmisch and the surrounding villages are great to wander around in, as long as you’re dressed properly for a few hours in the cold. Nellie loves to put on her snow suit and walk into Garmsich village, admiring the snowy landscape and Bavarian architecture. While I’m skiing in the Zugspitze, she likes to take time strolling Eibsee, a 423 acre lake at the base of the Zugspitze.

Other great activities to do while at Garmisch include watching Alpine Ski races, bobsled races, and Ski Jump competitions, as long as you get there while the events are going on. You may also consider taking a day trip to Dachau Concentration Camp or The King’s House in Schachen, a small castle built for Ludwig II.

Then, of course, there’s all the winter fun. If you are headed there to ski, I assume you already know about skiing (or snowboarding) the Garmisch Classic or Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Even non-skiers can purchase a train or cable car ticket to the Zugspitze to soak in the views from “The Top of Germany.” The Zugspitze is a perfect place for non-skiers to sled, and you’re able to rent your sled once you get there. As a skier, even though the Zugspitze is slightly more expensive and takes more time to access, I prefer it to the Garmisch Classic. The Zugspitze always has much more snow and you can expect it to be less crowded.

If you’re staying at Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, you can sign up for ski instruction at the Hausberg Lodge, a lodge on-site at the Garmisch Classic and operated by Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. Make sure you check to see if the lodge has any activities on going during your stay. Our favorite is to grab dinner while enjoying their night sledding event, which they usually host once during our visit.

I hope you get to visit Garmisch at least once while you are in Germany. For us, it’s an annual family tradition, and easy way to “go at your own pace,” especially coming off of all the Holiday Season madness. Just remember to book early, bring your snow suits, and don’t forget your passport if you plan to go into Austria. Whether you plan to pack your days with activities, or just spend your time relaxing around the resort, Garmisch is truly winter fun for the entire family!