Here it is, October already!  Fall is definitely here, bringing in cool gusts of wind, colorful leaves and some rainy weather.  While that hopefully translates into white and powdery conditions in the Alps, in the cities it can be a little… well… gray and dark.  And if you’re a parent of young kids, you might be wondering how to keep your little ones happy and entertained throughout the Swiss winter.

Fear not.  Below are my suggestions for indoor play areas in Geneva, the Lake area, and all the way in Zurich.  All are guaranteed to satisfy your child’s need for fun, room to run, play, jump and climb.  Also, if your child has a winter birthday, these places are great locations for a birthday party (some require a reservation). Up first is Yatouland:

Yatouland is located right behind the IKEA in Vernier.  There is plenty of parking right outside the building, and your young aviators-in-training will get a kick out of the jets taking off and landing what seems (and sounds!) to be 5 feet overhead.

Yatouland features bouncy castles, a soft play area for toddlers 0-3 years, trampolines and laser tag for older children.  The facility is open Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, and there are several other locations located in Vaud, Valais, Fribourg, Neuchatel and the Jura.

Another option is Espace Junior, opening Saturday, October 6, 2012 at Palexpo’s Halle 7.  This enormous temporary play area rolls through Geneva each winter, generally early-October – mid-January (it closes January 13, 2013).  Like Yatouland, the Palexpo Espace Junior is open on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

My only complaint?  That it doesn’t stay open through March or April, when the weather is finally warm enough for significant outdoor play in Geneva’s beautiful parks.  There are several other Espace Juniors in Switzerland, and their year-round location can be found in Aigle, on the opposite side of Lake Geneva.

As you can see in the photo below, Espace Junior has endless options for the 2-12 year old set.  There are many bouncy castles; two race tracks (one with “real” race cars and the other with scooters and tricycles for the youngest drivers); and a host of other activities and games.

This last one is a bit further afield, all the way in Zurich.  But if you’re say, from the American Midwest, or used to wide-open spaces, then making the 3-hour drive might be a good way to spend a day or weekend.  Zurich has a wonderful zoo (a post for another time), but unfortunately it was pounding rain on a recent Sunday and we had to find an alternative for the little ones in our party.  Tired of being strapped into carseats, our toddlers needed to stretch their legs.  A short bit of research yielded several options.  But as soon as we clicked over the pictures of Trampolino, we knew where we were headed.

Behold Trampolino:

Our first thought when we walked through the door?  “There is no way that this place could exist in the U.S.!  Think of the liability risk!”

The kids were in awe, and when we left 3 hours later they were exhausted and all-to-happy to climb into their car seats for a rest!

So where to begin with Trampolino?  There is a Ferris wheel, a train, multiple slides, a ball pit, many trampolines, a soft play area for the littlest visitors, games and other activities, and a restaurant and take-away food counter.  The centerpiece however is the gigantic circus tent/ funnel structure that dominates the center of the facility.*  We will definitely be heading back soon!

There are other indoor play areas in Geneva, including a new one at Vitam Park, but I’ve personally visited the three featured in this post and can recommend them.  Hopefully they provide a useful starting point for indoor winter (and year-round) fun.

*All photos courtesy of the Yatouland, Espace Junior and Trampolino websites, except for 5th photo.

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