Planning The Perfect Family Vacation to The Dolomites

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If you like being outdoors, a family vacation to the Dolomites just might be the most perfect destination ever.  We took our family of 7 with 5 young kids recently and everyone absolutely loved it.

Planning a trip with kids in mind, we tend to find that destinations that allow the kids to run around and play a lot suit our family best.  They’re less stressful, the kids are more engaged, and we all relax better when we’re outside exploring together.

While trips to big cities and museums are fun on occasion, our style of travel is more hands-on, so the Dolomites was the perfect place to visit with our kids.

What is there to do in the Dolomites with kids?

Oh my goodness, there is so much to do in the Dolomites with kids…as long as you’re ready to be active!  This isn’t a place where you’re going to sit still and go on tours – you’ll be moving, exploring, and fall into bed each night feeling pleasantly exhausted.

If your kids like to take things nice and easy, there is no shortage of amazing hikes in every single town that even the smallest kids can do. The area is dotted with spectacular playgrounds and easy bike paths as well.

If your kids are looking for an adrenaline rush, make sure to take them mountain biking or on a Via Ferrata route, where they can have some bucket list-worthy adventures. Make sure to read our other Dolomites article for more advanced adventures in the Dolomites, that may not be suitable for young kids.

Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without GELATO, so make sure that the kids get their daily serving to keep everyone smiling!

When is the best time of year to visit the Dolomites with kids?

This guide to visiting the Dolomites with kids focuses on activities that can be done from late May-October.  If you visit early in the summer, you will find that many things are not open until mid-June (like certain lifts, tours, and rifugios), so keep that in mind with your planning. 

Like most of Western Europe, late July and August are the most crowded times to visit, so if you are looking for seclusion, avoid those times.  We visited the Dolomites the second week of June, and thought that it was just about perfect!

During the rest of the year, the Dolomites is well known for its skiing and winter mountaineering which is a topic for another article.  

What is the best age to take kids to the Dolomites?

When we went to the Dolomites, our kids were 10, 7, 5, 3, and 3 months.  While there were a few things that we did that were a bit tricky for the younger kids, the occasional ride in our packable child carrier and lots of snacks were able to get us through any difficult stretches.

dolomites view with kids

With kids as young as ours, we weren’t able to do any biking or climbing, but we are already planning a trip back in the future.  I think that ages 5 and up are wonderful ages to take kids to the Dolomites. At those ages the kids can hike a decent distance on their own, can ride a bike independently and don’t need a daily nap!

If you have adventurous teens, they will absolutely love exploring the Dolomites.
In our family, we have one child who is really into biking and another who is a fantastic climber, so we are already planning a trip back when they are older so they can do those activities there, since the Dolomites are a wonderful place to go for adventure sports, especially in the teenage years.

Saving money on a Dolomite vacation

To make your trip in the Dolomites easier (and cheaper), I highly recommend getting a multi-day lift pass.  These passes will save you a significant amount of money over buying individual tickets AND they make hiking so much easier. 

Instead of hiking all the way to the top of the mountain to enjoy the view, simply take the lift up to the top, and hike around up there which is SO. MUCH. EASIER.  There are different tickets depending on the lifts you want included, but there are discounts for children from 8-16 and children under 8 are free (carry their passport to prove their age).  

Hiking in the Dolomites with kids

Hiking Lago Di Braies with kids

5km, easy – 50m elevation gain

You’ve undoubtedly seen photos of Lago Di Braies with its turquoise waters,  wooden rowboats, and stunning mountain backdrop. It’s a photographers heaven, and once you get there you’ll be greeted by tons of tourists there to take their own picture of the boathouse scene.  While the boathouse is quite crowded, keep making your way around the lake and you’ll escape the crowds and get some great places to explore with the kids as your reward.  

Along the shores, there are several beaches that are great for taking a dip, or even just relaxing while the kids toss rocks into the water.  A couple of our kids went for a swim, but the waters are pretty icy, so it’s best done on a hot day. Just to be safe, I recommend carrying a compact towel like this one as we almost always need to use ours when we’re hiking near water since someone always falls or jumps in. 

lago di braies boats with kids

Is the Lado Di Brais hike stroller friendly?

The beginning parts of the hike are doable with a large wheeled stroller like this one, but you will not be able to make it all the way around the lake with a stroller.  

TIP:
When you head to Lago Di Braies, make sure that you get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the biggest crowds and to make sure that you can get a place to park.  There are restaurants right near the lake that are great for grabbing a bite to eat, or getting the kids a snack after their day of hiking.   

Hiking Tre Cime Di Lavaredo with Kids

10km, moderate – 340m elevation gain
Parking 30 Euro/day

This is probably the most iconic hike in all of the Dolomites with its towering three peaks.  If you’re looking for a great high alpine hike with unobstructed views, then this is the hike for you.  Hiking around the base of the 3 peaks, this is a pretty rocky hike without much vegetation, which is typical for high alpine hikes.  Instead of lush forests, you’ll be getting an up-close look at some of the most stunning geological formations in the area, and in the summer you’ll be greeted by a carpet of wildflowers.  

The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop begins at Rifugio Auronzo.  If you want to simplify your hike, you can stay in one of their rooms there, and with 130 spaces for dining, Rifugio Auronzo is a great place to grab a bite to eat as well.  

tre cime lavaredo with kids

Once you come around to the north side of the peaks near Rifugio Lavaredo, you can continue north to Rifugio Locatelli for some of the best views of the peaks from down in the valley below.  If you want a somewhat shorter hike, you can cut across the valley right at the base of the peak, which also cuts down some of the elevation gains.  

Along the base of the peaks, there are several alpine lakes that are just a bit off the trail and make a great spot to take a break or have a picnic lunch.  Our kids enjoyed taking their shoes off and soaking their tired feet in the water as a bit of a break from the day of hiking. Another time we’re grateful that we always throw a compact towel in our day pack.

Hiking Seceda to Pieralongia with kids

4km – Easy to moderate

seceda to peiralongia

This was my favorite hike in all of the Dolomites and one of the best easy day hikes that I’ve ever done in the world.  To make this hike significantly easier with kids, plan on taking the cable car up toe Seceda from the gondola station in Ortisei.  As you get off the cable car at the top of the Seceda station in Ortisei prepare for some of the most stunning scenery in all of the Dolomites.  The jagged cliffs seem like something straight out of a painting, all the while you’re surrounded by jagged peaks as far as the eye can see.  

As tempting as you may find it to set out on the trail, you must first spend some time at the top of the cable car to enjoy the playground with the children.  Mountaintop playgrounds are very common at the top of cable cars all throughout the Dolomites and Alps, which the kids are sure to love.  

Seceda playground

Seceda looms just down the hill from you and from every side, you are surrounded by jagged peaks and on a clear day, the views are pretty unreal. 

Hike along the mountainside for your own iconic photo and then keep hiking down to Pieralongia for more great views along this simple trail. 

seceda rifugio

Make sure to stop at Rifugio Troier to get a treat or some lunch, and that’s a great way to break up the hike (the apple strudel was amazing there).  Right outside of the Rifugio is a great playground for the kids as well as lots of lounge chairs for you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

Exploring the Lagazoui Bunkers and Trenches with Kids

The famed Lagazoui tunnels are one of the most iconic routes in the Dolomites from World War I.  The route starts at the top near Rifugio Lagazoui and winds its way in and out of the mountain through a series of tunnels, bridges and steep trails.  

While the main Lagazoui Tunnel route isn’t a good hike for kids (at least in its entirety), there is still plenty to explore at both the base and top of the cable car.  At the top, there are several old log huts that you can go in and explore. At the base of the cable car, there are several bunkers and trenches (just to the northwest of the car park), that you can walk through and explore.  Visiting these trenches really made us appreciate what it must have been like to fight a war in a place like this (not to mention imagining what winter was like here during the Great War). 

Visiting the Lagazoui trenches and bunkers was a great way to give our kids a little taste of war history without the gore and details that are often in museums, that they’re not quite mature enough for.  

Go Ebiking with Kids

If you haven’t ridden an ebike yet, your trip to the Dolomites is the perfect time to do it.  Ebikes don’t take away any of the fun of riding a bike, but really make it a lot easier to get up hills – and there are A LOT of hills in the Dolomites, so you’ll be grateful for that extra boost of power.

boy riding mountain bike

While we didn’t take our kids biking on this trip, we saw ebikes everywhere (they far outnumbered traditional bikes), and they even have them for kids.  If you’re interested in going ebiking, you can go down a sidewalk or a road, down a dirt path, or even down a mountain biking single track, all depending on the bike you rent.  If you’ve got younger kids, nearly every rental shop also rents out trailers that the kids can ride in, so no one is excluded from the adventure.  

Have a picnic in Santa Maddalena

Santa Maddalena has one of the most beautiful and peaceful settings in all of the Dolomites.  While it doesn’t have a lot to do as far as adventure, it’s a wonderful place for a slower-paced day and is the perfect setting for a picnic.  When we were there, we only saw one other tourist, the locals, and a bunch of cows.  

Explore the Mountain Top Playgrounds

The Dolomites, as well as the rest of the Alps, have some of the best playgrounds that I’ve seen EVER!  There’s something about European playgrounds that’s instantly better than American playgrounds, (probably stemming from the fact that everything in the US is built to avoid a lawsuit, whereas their European counterparts are trying to encourage actual play and experience).  

At the top of nearly every cable car and outside of many rifugio’s, you’ll find amazing playgrounds. If you have a multi-day lift pass, you could easily spend an entire day hopping from lift to lift and exploring the playgrounds.

These are often complete with underground tunnels, ziplines, giant climbing towers, and of course gigantic slides.  If you’re lucky you’ll discover one with boats that kids can take across the water or rivers that they can reconstruct as well.  

Make sure to leave some extra time in your day each day for playing on the playgrounds! 

Visit the Adrenaline Centre in Cortina

The Adrenaline Centre is a ropes course that’s designed for both kids and adults to challenge themselves on a course up in the trees.  There are three different courses depending on your height, weight, and comfort level. The easiest has nets all around it and is fairly close to the ground.  The most difficult course is up to 16m up in the trees!

Best places to stay in the Dolomites with Kids

There are so many fantastic options for lodging in the Dolomites that you won’t want to spend your time at an ordinary hotel!

Dolomite Farm Stays

The Dolomites has stayed true to its roots (despite tourism) and all over the countryside, you’ll see many working farms.  There aren’t many places in the world where you can get a chance to stay on a working farm, so this is something really unique to this area.

We stayed on a farm with cows, pigs, chickens and ducks, and it was such a fun experience for the kids. We got to help with the farm chores and fee the animals, which the kids were all thrilled about.  Every farm that we looked into had something unique to offer from learning to milk cows, to cheese making classes, so there really is something for everyone!

Airbnb

Thanks to Airbnb, we’ve been able to stay in some pretty incredible locations all over the world, but the DOlomites was one of our favorite Airbnb stays.  Staying in the town of Ortesei, we had a house that overlooked the valley with GIANT picture windows, giving us perfect views of the surrounding mountains – it was AMAZING!

Mountain Rifugios

All throughout the Dolomites, you’ll find Rifugios.  These huts and cabins are designed to give hikers and skiers a break and respite from the weather, and many of them can be reserved to stay in overnight.  Our family stayed in Rifugio Lagazoui and had the most wonderful time. Our stay there is in my top 3 stays in the whole world! The beds were comfortable, the view and sunset were amazing, and the food was first class.  On top of it all, everyone was incredibly welcoming and inviting to our children which made a world of difference. If you’re visiting the Dolomites, plan on staying a minimum of one night in a Rifugio.  

Best Places to Stay in the Dolomites

Find the best unique accomodations in the Dolomites!

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