Norwegian Adventure Park: Høyt og Lavt

Høyt og Lavt (High and Low) is a large adventure park filled with ziplines (some over 600m long!), rope ladders, high wire bridges, and much more. About 1.5 hours' drive from Oslo it provided a fun filled day for two dads and five kids aged 9 to 13. The park is well worth a visit if you enjoy physical activity and aren't afraid of heights. There are eleven courses of varying difficulty to choose from, including some easy & low ones for littles kids.

No word on whether the park was named for a-ha's debut album :-)

Travel tips:
  • Dress in layers. We went in cool autumn but some of the courses really get you moving!
  • Bring gloves. Unlike similar parks we've been to in Switzerland, Høyt og Lavt doesn't provide any
  • There's a snack bar but you can pack your lunch and use some of the many picnic tables
  • You will be tempted by some of the tougher courses. They're fun but be careful if you bend the rules to bring your kids along. My 11 year old son Thomas completed most of the course rated 16 year old / 160cm minimum but only because he's tall and strong. A shorter kid in front of us had to be rescued!

Le Puy du Fou: A French Amusement Park

We toyed with visiting Eurodisney but in the end spent a whole day at Le Puy du Fou, a different kind of amusement park. Located in the Vendee region, about 200 miles south west of Paris, Le Puy du Fou park was founded over 30 years ago by locals who wanted to put on a show commemorating their history. Today, it's a large theme park that draws over a million visitors each year. Not only that, it's also a well-known school of the performing arts for the thousands of actors (many of them local teens and young adults) that participate in the shows.

Le Puy du Fou is different from other parks in the sense that it's composed of shows, not rides. When you arrive you're given a timetable of the day's events and can plan your visit around each of the spectacles you'd like to see: Musketeers, Knights, Vikings, Romans, and more. The main shows are elaborate and extravagant, rivaling any you might have seen elsewhere. Our favorite was the Roman one consisting of chariot races, gladiatorial battles, wild animals, and a few dead Christians. Another was a show where over a hundred birds of prey flew over our heads, including falcons swooping in at breakneck speeds from high in the sky.

In the evening we took in the "Cinescenie", the historical show I mentioned at the start of this post. Great fireworks, battles, and props were offset by longwinded dialog and slow parts. Worth seeing once IMO but no more.

All in all a fun, and very different, day.

Travel tips:
  • Probably obvious but plan on spending a whole day here, there's a lot to see
  • Book a week or more ahead and you'll get pretty sizable discounts
  • You're allowed bring food into the park if you want to save money
  • Pay close attention to the schedule, attend the shows in chronological order to make the most of your time
  • The Cinescenie starts between 22:00 and 22:30 and lasts over 1.5 hrs: make sure you're ready to stay up this late (or book into one of the adjoining, themed, hotels)
  • There's a strong Christian bent to many shows: Jeanne d'Arc figures in the medieval show, the Vikings are converted to Christianity by St. Cuthbert (who pops out of a big box), and the Christians eventually prevail in the Roman arena. Personally I could have done without this: Odin, Thor, Jupiter and Mars are all fine with me

Forests Full of Adventure

"Adventure Forests" (Foret de l'aventure in French) have become very popular in Switzerland. They're a wonderful experience for young and, well, not so young, combining the thrills of an amusement park with physical exercise. And of course, the pleasure of being in the middle of nature.

These adventure forests consist of zip lines, rope ladders, tight ropes, and many other obstacles strung between tall trees. There are usually multiple courses of varying difficulty, each one taking 15min to up to an hour to complete. It's all pretty safe as long as you use the climbing gear they give you properly. We visited three parks while we were in Switzerland, our boys loved them! (I did too :-)

Travel tips:
  • Call ahead to find out when there are fewest "adventurers" at the park. Not being stuck behind another group makes a big difference
  • Wear light, loose fitting clothes. Some of the obstacles can be quite physical (though the tough ones always have an escape route)
  • Bring water and snacks, these are available at the park but can be quite expensive
  • Hit the restroom before you and esp. the kids put on your climbing harness :-)

No escaping commercialism... Alpine vending machine!

You're 6,000ft up a mountain in the Swiss Alps. Enjoying spectacular views, wooden glades, the sounds of nature, and suddenly you spot... a Coke vending machine!

Adventure Parks are all the rage here in Switzerland. The one we visited above the village of Vercorin is accessible by cable car. And yes, amidst 400ft long ziplines and arboreal escapades, we really did find this lone Coke machine. I guess you just can't beat the feeling... No matter where you are.

The price of a drink? 4SF or roughly US$3.70.