Swiss travel: Swiss Vapeur Park

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Playtime is serious business around these parts. I took X to his first Gymboree class – yes, they exist even in Switzerland. I’ve heard a lot of moms tell me it’s super overpriced and not worth it. That wasn’t my experience – the entire thing was basically designed for a kid like X. I can see if you have a quiet kid who spends most of his time playing in the corner with a ball, sure, not worth it. But I had put X in a class with older kids, and he was still five times more active than the next energetic kid. Like, blink and you miss him. He had so much fun. I think. He doesn’t laugh a lot when he’s playing, because as I said he takes it seriously. He had to try out every piece of equipment. He would jump onto the rocking horse and rock as hard as he could for about 20 seconds, with a fierce look of concentration on his face. Then he’d jump off and dash to the next thing. It’s cute, but it’s exhausting. If I can let someone else take over running the play for a few minutes, well, that’s just awesome.

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Speaking of play. We came across the most amazing amusement park ever. We had driven by the Swiss Vapeur Park before, and based on the description of it, we thought it was a train museum. Now, X, being a tiny male, loves all things train, so we figured it would be a fun excursion for the day. Boy, were we all excited when we got there and we realized it wasn’t a museum at all, but rather a miniature train set, built up large enough that people could ride on the trains! How many people have looked at a really cool train set and thought: I’d love to ride that? All people, that’s who. I’m not a huge train person, but even I’ve thought that. X was in heaven, if his shrieks every time a train passed by was anything to go by.

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Some of the trains had little carriages to sit in, but others were just long benches that you straddle. I was a little nervous to go on one of those with X, due to his propensity to leap from things at inopportune moments, but we found if we just tucked him in between us, he wasn’t able to wiggle away. Not that he didn’t try.

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All the trains were steam powered, which was pretty cool in itself. But the park was so much more than riding awesome little trains. The whole place was designed as different aspects of traditional Swiss life, like a village, complete with church, station, candy shop and creperie. There was a girl working in tiny creperie, designed so she stood two full storeys tall. It made her look like a giant. I wonder if she enjoyed that aspect of her job or not. I think I would love it, I would probably make giant noises way more than was funny.

It didn’t hurt the whole setup that the background for the park were the actual Swiss Alps. It was a beautiful fall day and we couldn’t get enough of being outside.

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There were several restaurants set out over the park, each with a different atmosphere, but we gravitated to the creperie because: crepes. I think X’s favourite building was the miniature castle. He was hoping someone would open the door and let him in.

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It was basically the most exciting place you could be if you are between the ages of 1 and 12. Scratch that, 1 and 80 because it was so much fun (I used 80 because I figure at 80 you might start to feel undignified riding around on a miniature train. Or maybe not. I hope not. Octogenarians of the world, go out and ride a train! Unless you’re worried about falling off one of the little trains and breaking a hip, which would be a valid reason not to. Very undignified. How would you ever explain that one.)

I recommend this place for anyone with kids traveling through Switzerland. It only takes a half day to explore, but is very rewarding in terms of everyone’s happiness.

As with many of our favourite places we visit, the hardest part was saying goodbye to all the trains. But we had a sleepy toddler who was a little overwhelmed by the dizzy joy of the day. We couldn’t have been happier with the experience, and will definitely be back. Potentially at birthdays and such.

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