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Boy in red shirt on pebbly shore of Lake Garda. He's looking out at the boats on the lake.

Lake Garda with Kids – Planning Your Trip to Italy’s Family-Friendly Lake

Updated January 16, 2024

Are you planning a family trip to Lake Garda? If so, bravi! Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) is one of our favorite places to visit in Italy with kids.

With clear waters, plenty of pebbly and sandy beaches, theme parks galore, delightful villages, and stroller-friendly lakeside paths, Lake Garda is an ideal place to spend part of your Italian family vacation.

I’m a mamma living in Italy with my three kids and I’ve been traveling here since 2003 and planning vacations here since 2004. This is my guide to visiting Lake Garda with your kids, based on my experience in the area. I hope you find it helpful!

Andiamo – let’s go!

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Where is Lake Garda?

Lake Garda (Lago di Garda in Italian) is Italy’s largest lago (lake), located in northern Italy about halfway between the famous cities of Milan and Venice

Who Will Love Lake Garda

Add Lake Garda to your family’s itinerary if:

  • You want to visit theme parks.  This part of Italy is one of (if not the) best areas in Italy for theme parks.  Gardaland is the most famous one, but there are a ton of others in the southeastern part of the lake.
  • You want an active water vacation.  You’ll find plenty of places to swim, play at the beach, tour the lake on a boat, windsurf, sail, kayak, go stand up paddleboarding, or kitesurf on Lake Garda.
  • You want an easy place to visit with your children.  Lake Garda has so many family-friendly activities and there are family-friendly hotels and resorts that make a visit easy for parents.
  • You’re traveling with a baby or toddler in a stroller.  Lake Garda is one of the most stroller-friendly areas in Italy. 

Avoid Lake Garda If…

Although Lake Garda is a lovely, family-friendly destination, it’s not for everyone.  You may want to visit other parts of Italy if:

  • You’re seeking a truly ‘Italian’ vacation.  Lake Garda has a lot of visitors from Northern Europe, and many hotels and restaurants cater to them with services and foods they enjoy.  For example, you’ll still find pizza, but you’ll see non-traditional toppings offered. 
  • You’re looking for a quiet, tranquil lakeside stay.  Most resorts and villages are lively and full of visitors.
  • You’re not interested in the lake.  Seems silly to say, but if your kids don’t like swimming or you don’t want to spend time on the water, there are plenty of other places in Italy better for your family.
  • You want to see many of the villages but don’t have a car.  Yes, it’s possible to move around Lake Garda by public transport, but if you want to see a lot of the villages and you’re traveling with kids, it’s not ideal.  Either pick a town or two to visit with your family, or rent a car to explore more of the area.
  • You’re looking for a chic Italian lake vacation. Lake Como or Lake Maggiore would be a better pick for you.

When to Visit Lake Garda with Kids

Boys playing at a pebbly beach in Riva del Garda on Lake Garda in Italy. You can see mountains in background.
My boys playing at the beach in Riva del Garda in June

The highlight of Lake Garda is… the lake.  The weather is typically sunny and pleasant enough for swimming and enjoying the water from June through early September. 

However, the area explodes with visitors in July and August (both families and other travelers, especially from Northern Europe). 

If you want to avoid the major crowds, try to visit in early June or early September. 

I try to plan our Lake Garda family trips for mid-June – after Italian school gets out, but before the major crowds arrive.

Helpful Tip:  If you’ll be visiting during July or August, book your accommodation as soon as possible.  The lakeside hotels and resorts fill up quickly.

While you can visit some of the towns during the winter or off-season, keep in mind that many hotels, restaurants, and shops will close up or have limited hours.  Larger cities and towns like Riva del Garda are still bustling and make nice stops for Christmas holidays.

Trying to decide when to visit Italy? Check out our monthly guides:
Italy in January
Italy in February

Italy in March
Italy in April
Italy in May
Italy in June
Italy in July
Italy in August
Italy in September
Italy in October

Italy in November
Italy in December

How Long to Spend on Lake Garda with Kids

I’ve always spent 3-5 days on Lake Garda with my family and that’s been a perfect amount of time.   

While you could manage a day trip, if you go that route, it’s best to have a car or to choose a route with easy transport (like Verona to Peschiera del Garda by train – just a 13 minute trip!).

Family-Friendly Activities on Lake Garda

The Lake Garda area is full of things to do with children.  From amusement parks, to playing at the beach, to climbing castles – there’s something for everyone in your family! 

Here are some of our family’s favorite things to do when we visit Lake Garda:

Ride a Bike on a Lake Garda Bike Path

Mother and kids cycling on Lake Garda path in Italy. You can see lake and mountains in background.
Cycling on the southeastern shore of the lake

Lake Garda has an extensive network of bike paths, and there are bike rental shops all over (at hotels, resorts, and in towns).  Because the paths are flat and mostly car-free, they’re excellent for riding with kids.

Good To Know:  There aren’t railings between the bike paths and the lake, so it’s important your child can confidently ride a bike.  If not, you can get a bike with a trailer or a bike that attaches to the back of yours (or both!). 

Helpful Tip: Make sure your kids have proper shoes for cycling.

What We Did:  On our last trip, we rented from Cisano bike rent.  It’s lakeside in Cisano, between Lazise and Bardolino, one of the best bike paths on the lake.  I rode with my toddler on a bike seat and my preschooler in a trailer (he didn’t feel like riding).  My other child rode his own bike.   

If you love cycling with your kids, check out the Dolomites Cycling Paths

Spend the Day at Gardaland

View of Gardaland Resort on a sunny day in northern Italy. You can see a green rollercoaster track, a white roller coaster, and Aladdin's castle.

Gardaland, in Castelnuovo del Garda, is one of Italy’s most popular theme parks and it’s a well-organized, fun, clean amusement park worth a visit for families with kids of all ages. 

We’ve been with kids from ages 1-9 and everyone has always had an amazing time. 

Not only are there rollercoasters and rides at Gardaland – you can also buy a ticket to LEGOLAND Water Park (inside Gardaland) or SEA LIFE Aquarium (next door to Gardaland).

You can read my Tips for Visiting Gardaland and read about Our Experience at LEGOLAND Water Park.

And, if amusement parks are your jam, there are many other places nearby you may want to check out, like:

  • Caneva Aquapark – my boys adore this water park with epic slides (and my husband does too); not amazing for little kids (LEGOLAND Water Park is much better)
  • Movieland Studios – cinema-themed park
  • Jungle Adventure Park – ropes courses and ziplines

Good To Know:  If you decide to visit a Lake Garda theme park in the summer, expect long lines and crowds.  If you’re visiting Lake Garda just for the theme parks, try visiting in spring or fall, when kids are back in school.

Go for a Swim in Lake Garda

People wading in the water at Jamaica Beach in Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy.
My boys playing in the shallow waters of Jamaica Beach

Yes, you can swim in Lake Garda, and you’ll see people in the water and playing on the shore at beaches around the lake. 

While they aren’t the picture-perfect beaches of Sardinia or Puglia, the water is clear and refreshing and there are plenty of nice spots along the lake to pass a pleasant afternoon with your kids.

Here are our favorite beaches for kids from our travels around Lake Garda:

Riva del Garda – pebbly, crystal clear water, fairly shallow but does get deeper quickly; can rent paddle boats; excellent area around the beach for food and walking around

Sirmione – a few nice beaches around Sirmione, including Spiaggia delle Bionde which is pebbly (with some rocky slabs) and has toilets, shade, and restrooms onsite, shallow entry; with bigger kids, check out Jamaica Beach (stone slabs so not great with tiny ones, no stroller friendly access)

Lazise – a couple of beaches around town; small pebbles; shallow entry; nice to pair with a visit to the town center or a bike ride on the bike path

Peschiera del Garda – there are many beaches along the water to the west of Peschiera; they’re pebbly and have shallow entrances into the water; plenty of eateries; they’re all on a stroller-friendly walking path

Good To Know:  If you’re staying in a family hotel or resort on Lake Garda, it’s likely you’ll also have access to a swimming pool (and many of them have fun toys and slides for kids).

Read more about Our Favorite Lake Garda Beaches

Climb one of Lake Garda’s Castle Towers

There are multiple castles you can climb in villages around Lake Garda.  The most dramatic one is the Scaliger Castle in Sirmione – it’s in the water and climbing to the top give you amazing views of Sirmione and the lake. 

We also love the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine (yep, same name).  Along with the beautiful views, it’s a fun castle to visit with kids because there is art on the property, both inside and outdoors.

Fun Fact:  There are multiple Scaliger castles because they’re named after the della Scala family that ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries.  The family was also called by the names Scaliger, and Scaligieri.

Take a Chairlift into the Mountains above Lake Garda

If you’re loving the lake but craving the mountains, you don’t have to go far.  Take the funivia (cable car) up from colorful Malcesine to Monte Baldo.  It’s a unique experience because the cable car rotates as you ride up!

At the top, you can go for a hike on well-marked trails, check out the views (gorgeous!), or stop in at the rifugio for a meal or drink (I love the thick hot chocolate!). 

Walk along a Lakeside Path

Hand pushes stroller along lakeside path near Peschiera del Garda. You can see Lake Garda on the left and street on the right.

You can walk on paths at some of the other famous Italian lakes like Lake Como and Lake Orta, but Lake Garda has the most extensive network of lakeside paths that I’ve seen.  It’s an excellent place to stroll with your kids before or after dinner.  And, you can book accommodation outside of town and walk into the lake (with your stroller!) for dinner or to explore.

Visit Lake Garda’s Villages and Towns

Boy chasing a ball in a piazza in Lazise, Italy. The stone street has black and white stripes. Colorful buildings surround the piazza.
Lazise

Check out one of the towns and villages on the lakeside.  Some of our favorites to visit with kids include:

  • Bardolino
  • Riva del Garda
  • Sirmione
  • Torri del Benaco
  • Lazise
  • Peschiera del Garda
  • Malcesine

Where to Stay on Lake Garda with Kids

Swimming pool at Camping Bella Italia at Lake Garda. There is one person swimming in pool. You can see colorful water slides and play areas in background. Cloudy day.
One of the pools at Camping Bella Italia in Peschiera del Garda

There are plenty of options for family accommodations on Lake Garda.  In fact, Lake Garda has some of the best kid-friendly hotels and resorts in Italy – think pools with kids slides, family-friendly evening entertainment, and on-site restaurants that cater to kids.

The Area of the Lake We Stay In:  We usually stay in the southeastern part of the lake. It’s convenient to reach by car or train and it’s close to family-friendly towns and activities.

Accommodation Options: You can find everything from simple B&Bs to luxurious 5-star properties.  Even if it’s not your typical travel style, look into staying at a family resort on Lake Garda.  Family resorts are easy for adults and kids have a blast.

Best Area for Theme Parks: If you’re planning on visiting any of the theme parks, it’s best to stay nearby (the traffic can be horrendous).  The Peschiera del Garda area makes a nice base because it’s close to Gardaland and you can explore the lake and the center of Peschiera del Garda.

Family-Friendly Lake Garda Hotels and Resorts

Camping Bella Italia (Peschiera del Garda) – Enormous family resort with swimming pools and water slides, family entertainment, multiple restaurants, beach access, kids play areas, onsite market and shops, and more.  We’ve stayed here twice and have even brought friends to this family resort just outside of Peschiera del Garda.  You can read all about the resort in our Review of Camping Bella Italia.

Sisan Family Resort (Bardolino) – Another family resort just north of Gardaland.  Swimming pools for kids, multiple accommodation options, car-free resort area (little ones can run around).

Quellenhof Luxury Resort (Lazise) – Best for families with small babies or teens because it’s a high-end property without a lot of kid-focused amenities.  Close to Gardaland and other towns worth visiting.

Camping Piani di Clodia (Fossalta) – Similar to Camping Bella Italia, plenty of kids pools and a fun playground, beach access.

Hotel Leonardo da Vinci (Limone sul Garda) – On the northwestern part of the lake, and a little more quiet than the southeastern part.  Family-friendly (but not family-focused) hotel in Limone sul Garda.  Hotel Leonardo da Vinci is in the town where the famous suspended cycling/walking path begins.

Du Lac et Du Parc Grand Resort (Riva del Garda) – If you’re looking for more of a city stay for your family, Riva del Garda on the northern tip of the lake is your spot.  It’s busy, with plenty of events and activities on offer.  We like the beach (and there are other water activities like pedal boat rentals and sailing), and it’s easy to access it from this hotel.  The huge gardens are a plus, and you’re surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

Check out my general guide to Accommodation Options in Italy – From Agriturismos to Villas

Lake Garda Family-Friendly Restaurants

Colorful buildings inside Peschiera del Garda.
Peschiera del Garda pedestrian center

Eating around Lake Garda with kids is easy (yay!) – there are always high chairs available, you can eat early, there are always kid options on the menu. 

However, I’ve found that the food is often (but not always!) mediocre or caters to the northern European visitors. 

One of my favorite places to eat with kids is in Peschiera del Garda (tons of options and it’s gorgeous).  We love to pick a spot on the piazza or the canal and enjoy an outdoor meal. 

As far as local specialties, your kids may or may not be willing to try:

  • Bigoli (pasta) with sardines
  • Risotto with tench (lake fish), or plain
  • Polenta
  • Lemon sorbet

Good To Know:  Lake Garda also has excellent olive oil – be sure to try some while you’re in the area!

Traveling to Lake Garda with Your Family

Best Airports for Lake Garda

Verona (VRN) and Bergamo (BGY) are convenient airports for Lake Garda, but you’ll likely find the best rates for Venice and Milan Malpensa (MXP) or Milan Linate (LIN).  Once you arrive, either rent a car or fork over some Euros for a private driver.

Read more about
Renting a Car in Italy
Renting a Car in Milan
Renting a Car at the Bergamo Airport

Driving to Lake Garda with Kids

I highly recommend traveling around Lake Garda by car if you’re visiting with family.  It’s the easiest way to get around.  Plus, you decide when to go to the theme parks and villages.  Just remember that traffic on the lakeside roads is heavy (build extra time into your plans).

Read about
Driving in Italy
Car Seats in Italy

Taking the Train to Lake Garda with Kids

Taking the train in Italy with kids is fun, and if you won’t be moving around too much and you don’t have too much luggage (or baby gear), you can easily catch the train to Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda. 

Then, use buses, taxis, or private drivers to get around the lake.  I’ve used buses (even having a car available) because I don’t have to worry about parking or sitting in traffic.  You can bring a stroller on the bus.

Read more about
Train Travel in Italy
Best Apps for Italy Travel

Things to Do with Kids Near Lake Garda with Kids

Three boys look at a boat in the lake. Forested mountain in background.
My boys playing in the water at Lake Molveno
  • Parco Giardino Sigurtà – extensive park and gardens full of flowers and trees; rent a bike; walk through the labyrinth; visit the petting zoo
  • Lake Molveno – amazingly family-friendly lake and village; so much fun for all ages and adults; Read our Guide to Lake Molveno with Kids
  • Verona – stop by Juliet’s balcony; see an opera at the ancient arena; shoppers can check out Via Mazzini
  • Canale di Tenno – well-preserved medieval village in the hills above Riva del Garda; interesting for older kids
  • Dolomites – Italy’s mountain playground, perfect for families!; read our 7-Day Family Dolomites Itinerary

I hope you have an amazing trip with your kids at Lake Garda!

Boys checking out the view of Lake Garda and the mountains from a stone path in Malcesine, Italy.
Checking out the view of Lake Garda from Malcesine

Need help deciding where to go in Italy with your family? Read
Best Places to Visit in Italy with Kids
Best Things to Do in Italy with Kids
Realistic 10 Day Itineraries for Italy with Kids

Lake Garda with Kids FAQ

Can I go wine tasting with kids in the Lake Garda area?

Yes, you can taste wines around Lake Garda.  If you’re planning on visiting a winery with kids, call ahead to see if there are kid-friendly options for the tasting and/or visit.  Or, visit an enoteca in one of the towns on the lake for a quicker tasting (that can easily be followed by a dip in the lake or a playground visit).

Can our family visit Lake Garda on a day trip?

While I think it’s best to spend a few days on a family trip to Lake Garda, a daytrip is possible if you’re coming from nearby and you stick to one or two towns. 

Is Lake Garda stroller-friendly?

Yes, Lake Garda is stroller friendly.  In fact, it’s one of the best places to travel in Italy with a stroller.  There are wide lakeside paths and plenty of pedestrian streets in the small villages and towns.  You’ll see families with strollers everywhere at Lake Garda.

Are there kid-friendly roller coasters at the Gardaland theme park?

Yes, there are rides and and roller coasters at Gardaland for all ages, from toddlers to adults.

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