Our full guide on where to take children on a family holiday to Lake Garda in Italy
Tourists flock every year to stunning Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) in northern Italy.
It’s a fabulous destination for a family holiday as we discovered on a recent trip.
Here’s our full guide to the best activities for children in and around this, Italy’s biggest lake, with its beautiful turquoise waters.
1. Visit a lakeside town
Spend time exploring the lovely towns and villages around the lake and enjoying an ice cream or two, such as:
A pretty village on the eastern side of the lake dominated by a 14th century castle and walls.
The centre has a ferry stop, small harbour and plenty of ice cream shops and restaurants.
It is mostly pedestrianised with car parking around the outskirts which means it feels safer to walk around with children.
Near the centre next to the castle is a small playground.
The town which gave the lake its name has a nice lakefront walk along its harbour, cobbled streets to explore and a busy market every Friday.
Our children were interested in a fun bridge on the lake shore where couples from around the world have left padlocks proclaiming their enduring passion!
This is the area’s tourist trap. Sirmione gets busy quickly, its narrow streets full of tourists, ice cream shops and restaurants.
It’s a stunning spot, the castle entrance is spectacular and worth a walk around (children enter for free, adults 6 euros).
On the other side of the town’s streets are thermal baths and at the top of its peninsula the remains of a Roman villa, Grotte di Catulla. It is incredible but a long walk for children so only for the most dedicated walkers.
Everything in Sirmione is more expensive than elsewhere in the area. The ice creams here are massive but at least double the price of other places.
There are plenty of lovely spots to sit and play away from the main thoroughfare, a few stony beach areas and nice park towards the Roman remains.
This town is made by the stunning blue waters of the river Mincio as it meets the lake. Its centre isn’t as pretty as some as Peschiera is also a working town.
However there are plenty of restaurants around the streets near the ferry port.
We walked into the town a few times from our holiday park Campeggio Bella Italia (see our review of it here here), which was a pleasant 15-minute stroll along a tree lined lake shore promenade.
2. Get around by ferry
The most fun and often the fastest way to see Lake Garda’s towns and villages is by ferry.
Every major place has a ferry stop and in high season there will be a boat roughly every hour between 8 and 6pm.
You must buy tickets before you board which are priced based on the distance you are travelling, from around 10 euros for a short return journey to 35 euros for a whole lake pass for a day. Children’s tickets cost around half an adult’s price.
The ferries are large, accommodating 500 people, boarding is efficient, there are toilets on board and a food and drink service in high season.
It is a smooth journey but because the lake is 50 miles long it takes at least three hours to get from top to bottom.
You can pick up ferry timetables from every ticket office where the boat docks or follow this link.
3. Parco Naturo Viva
This large zoo and safari park was set up by a husband and wife in 1969 and has expanded over a huge site.
The ticket price includes both the zoo and safari drive and you must do both to see all the animals – giraffes and zebras for example are only on the safari.
The safari takes around half an hour and is safe to do in your hire car. There are no dangerous monkey enclosures to threaten your windscreen wipers!
The main zoo is a large parkland which is steep in places.
It is divided into continents with the Africa section near the start featuring lions, rhinos and hippos. The Asian area has tigers and snow leopards with the Americas section including bears and colourful macaws.
Their latest attraction is a giants of the world indoor enclosure which has a Komodo dragon, anaconda, piranhas and giant otters.
There is also a dinosaur area with full size scale models of a T-Rex, stegosaurus and triceratops.
Picnics are allowed and there are several reasonably priced restaurants across the site.
The site is beautiful and makes for a pleasant walk – it will take you at least four hours to get round.
Signs are in Italian, German and English except for the dinosaur section.
Parking costs 2 euros on top of the ticket price.
This is Italy’s biggest theme park. There are lots of rides (and lots of queues) and you can easily spend a whole day here.
For smaller children there are four main sections, including a Peppa Pig Land.
This is smaller than the UK equivalent with only four major rides – a balloon ride, small train, circular boat trip and Peppa Pig’s house, which is frankly just a room where you can find pretend strawberries and pancakes.
It won’t take more than 90 minutes to do this part of the park but will still be a thrill for Peppa fans. All the music and songs are in Italian but the signs are also in English.
Near the entrance is a large carousel and other rides for younger children. And it’s only a short walk to Fantasy Land which has a plane ride and farmyard tractor ride.
Our two children loved an area for under 7s at the far end of the park with two gentle rollercoasters, a relaxing monorail, teacups ride and a dizzying Peter Pan ride.
Tweens and teens are more than catered for in the rest of the park with rides including spectacular rollercoasters.
Daily shows take place in two on-site theatres and there are themed events through the year at times like Halloween and Christmas.
There are lots of food options from candy floss stalls through to a la carte restaurants and everything in between.
Car parking costs six euros on top of your ticket.
5. Sea Life Aquarium
At Gardaland – on the other side of the car park – is the Sea Life Aquarium. You can buy joint tickets to Gardaland and Sea Life and visit them on the same day or consecutive days.
It doesn’t take that long to go round but is interesting and a good option for a rainy day. Children can do a quiz on the way round, in English, with the answers to each question on the information boards.
There is also a cafe at the end of the route around the aquarium.
6. Movie World
This is a smaller theme park just up the road from Gardaland based on films and special effects.
It has live shows and themed restaurants. We didn’t have time to visit on our trip.
7. Parco Giardino Sigurta
For a relaxing day out, the huge gardens of Parco Sigurta are a 15 minute drive south of the lake, on the banks of the river Mincio.
This 600 acre park is vast with a small animal farm, beautiful gardens, a fun maze and other trails like a zig zag path through woodland.
The park would take hours to get around on foot but you can see it all in an hour if you hire a golf cart or take the train which circles it.
Our children enjoyed walking around first, despite wet weather and then taking a golf buggy (you need a driving licence to hire one) to explore the far flung parts. It has a screen with an interactive map and English commentary.
There are food kiosks and toilets around the park plus a restaurant on site.
8. On and in the water
The lake is clear and inviting – most towns have places where children can swim and some offer water activities like pedalo boats and windsurfing.
The beaches are pebbly so take beach shoes for paddling.
More reading about our trip
For our full review of our holiday, go to:
To hear about our accommodation when we stayed at Lake Garda go to: We review a family stay at Bella Italia holiday park on Lake Garda in Italy
We also spent time in nearby Verona, read: What to do with children in Verona
Disclaimer: We were provided with ferry tickets and entrance to the attractions in exchange for this review. All opinions are our own honestly held views.
*Where have you visited in Lake Garda, is there anywhere we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!