Slovenia may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think "family vacation," but that might be the best reason to visit. With its under-the-radar status, your family will discover a more authentic European experience that's less overwhelming than London or Paris. And with its medieval history and ecotourism experiences, there are plenty of kid-friendly activities year round.

During warmer months from May through September, the country is lush with greenery and nature loving families can take full advantage of biking through Alpine mountains, hiking dense forests, swimming in clear, glacial lakes, and canoeing through turquoise-tinted rivers. Winter time may be an even more magical time to visit with Lake Bled looking like a scene straight out of Frozen, Ljubljana getting into the holiday spirit with a beautiful Christmas market and light display, and top-notch ski resorts like Kranjska Gora and Krvavec.

What's even better, as a small nation everything is easily accessible with few destinations more than a couple of hours drive away. And compared to other major European destinations, prices for food and accommodations tend to be a bit more reasonable. So, where are the best places to go with kids in tow? Start with these.

Visit Ljubljana's Museums, Zoo, and Botanical Garden

House of Illusions
Reality is an illusion at the Museum of Illusions (Photo courtesy of the Museum of Illusions)

The capital city of Ljubljana has some unique cultural offerings for young travelers with short attention spans.  One can't-miss museum that's perfect for kids is the House of Experiments, where science meets fun with nearly 50 hands-on experiments. Another is the Museum of Illusions, featuring 40 mind-bending exhibits with names like the Infinity Disco Room and the Anti-Gravity Room.  Note that many of the city's museums offer free admission for small children.

Elsewhere in the city, animal lovers will want to stop at the Ljubljana Zoo. While not very large, this centrally located zoo features star attractions like tigers and elephants. Kids can get up close with their favorite animals by joining a zookeeper at feeding time, going on a photo safari, or taking a guided stroll during one of the zoo's night tours.

Older children and teenagers may also appreciate Ljubljana's Botanical Garden. The glass greenhouse alone features nearly 400 plant species. For more ideas on how to spend a perfect day in the city, check out this guide

Visit Barnyard Animals & Stay on a Working Farm

Hundreds of Slovenian farms are open to visitors

If you love animals but want to get a little more hands-on, one increasingly popular tradition for tourists in Slovenia is farm stays. What better way to connect with locals and spend time outside than by staying on a real, working farm. Kids can run around, play with farm animals, and even get their hands dirty taking part in farm activities while learning about growing vegetables, or seeing how cheese gets made. You may also discover your inner locavore while enjoying meals prepared using fresh farm ingredients.

With over 850 tourists farms available families can choose from traditional bed & breakfasts to farms featuring modern accommodations. Most farms offer overnight stays, but others are available for day trips. If you are sticking close to Ljubljana, we recommend checking out Pri Lazarju Farm Stay while those visiting Postojna should try Smrekar Farmstead. Not sure where to start? There is a nonprofit called The Association of Tourist Farms of Slovenia that can help you sort out where to stay by region, price and farm type.

For more on unique lodging options in Slovenia, take a look at this article.

Take a Train Ride Through the Postojna Caves

 A train ride through Postojna Cave (Photo courtesy of Postojna Cave)

Slovenia features some of the most extensive and breathtaking cave systems in Europe. While heading into the dark underground may sound scary for children, Postojna Cave is set up for family entertainment. Children will especially love the brightly colored indoor train that's been operating underground for over 140 years.

Hop aboard as the train takes you two miles deep, followed by a 90-minute walking tour that takes visitors through cavernous rooms full of towering stalactites and the famed 15-foot-tall "Brilliant" stalagmite.

If you're lucky, you may even see an olm, an aquatic amphibian with nicknames like the "human fish" or "baby dragon." These pale creatures, best characterized as blind salamanders with external gills, can grow to about a foot in length and live to nearly 100 years old.

Be sure to pack extra warm clothing: it gets chilly underground.

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Visit a Slovenian Spa, and a Waterpark for the Kids—In the Same Place

Family fun in the sun and water (Photo courtesy of Terme Čatež Spa)

For a perfect balance of relaxation and adventure, be sure to visit one of the country's numerous spas and waterparks. It doesn't get more family-friendly than this: in Slovenia, spas often double as water parks, so parents can enjoy thermal pools and massages while kids take advantage of water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, and more.

Most larger spas feature hotel rooms or apartments on the premises, along with indoor and outdoor pools, wellness activities, and outdoor recreation like golf, tennis, and biking. As one of the newer resorts, Terme Ptuj features the most extensive water slide system in Slovenia, along with a wellness center, saunas, fitness classes, and more. Terme Čatež Spa is another excellent option for enjoying aquatic attractions all year round.

Take a Cable Car to the Top of Mount Vogel

Crisp mountain air direct from the source (Photo courtesy of Vogel Ski Center)

If you want to enjoy nature and have a gravity-defying adventure, head to Mount Vogel. Located on the southern end of the Julian Alps within Triglav National Park, Mount Vogel offers stunning views of Lake Bohinj. Thanks to a closed cable car, these views are easily accessible: the ride takes you over 5,000 feet above sea level in about five minutes. You could also hike up in about two hours.

Day hikes in the region are great in summer. But if your family loves to ski, wait until winter, when Mount Vogel becomes Slovenia's top ski destination, complete with a children's park. For more on unique experiences during Slovenia's winter season, read this article.

See Kid-Friendly Exhibits in Centuries-Old Castles

Predjama Castle in all its fortified glory

Thanks to its rich history, Slovenia has no shortage of stunning castles. Many offer family-friendly activities. Overlooking the capital, for instance, is Ljubljana Castle. Beyond traditional tours with an audio or personal guide,  Ljubljana Castle also has a "Time Machine" where guests are greeted by costumed characters from six different time periods. The grounds also feature the Museum of Puppetry, which can be fun for children. 

For something truly magical, visit Predjama Castle. Located just a few miles from the Postojna Caves, this heavily fortified castle was built into the mouth of a cave on a cliff's edge. During the 15th century, the castle sustained a long siege; later, they discovered a network of hidden passageways beneath the castle that allowed for fresh food and supplies to get in. On Saturdays, a night festival brings dancing, music, and fire games to the castle grounds. Sundays feature a medieval-style knights tournament. 

Other noteworthy castles include Slovenia's oldest, Bled Castle, with over a thousand years of history, and Celje Castle, located near Laško.

Kayak, Canoe, and Raft Along the Soča River

Kayaking through emerald waters on the Soča River

Located on the western edge of Slovenia, the emerald waters of the Soča River run through rocky gorges and canyons and over numerous waterfalls. Rafting is available for those ages four and up. Rafting is available for those ages 4, and up while those, a bit older can enjoy kayaking or canoeing. Most tours spend about an hour and a half on the water with another hour of travel time to and from the destination. Families can expect light rapids as well as calmer areas for kids to jump, swim and play. Some of the more family-friendly companies include Soča Splash, Soča Rider and the Bovec Rafting Team which also offers multi-day packages.

Afterward, head to the town of Bovec in the Soča Valley to partake in other activities including hiking and biking. Don't miss Boka Waterfall, the highest in Slovenia. 

For more travel inspiration, read this article about the best destinations in Slovenia.