Updated: Sep 14, 2021
About a week into our new lives in Basel we stumbled upon Lange Erlen. My husband said he had run by some kind of free zoo with an epic playground and I figured he was just jetlagged. My girls and I decided to find this magical place and it turned out to be real!
If you are used to the boring old swing-set-and-slide playgrounds of the past you are in for a treat. The play structure at Lange Erlen, built in 2018 by PG Landschaften is said to be based on the habitats of animals such as ants, spiders and beavers, to compliment the nearby animal park. The play structure really is a marvel and seeks to challenge children with its impressive net labyrinth, log nests, ropes and slides.
Free Animal Park
Tierpark Lange Erlen was founded 150 years ago in 1871 and has been open to the public, for free, ever since. Its animals began with a pair of black swans and its residents have expanded to include an eclectic mix of the exotic (i.e. bison and monkeys), the domestic (i.e. goats and horses) and its current focus - those creatures native to the region (i.e. lynx and deer).
The Tierpark (animal park) is laid out in paved paths that are perfect for small children to explore or just a relaxing stroll. The exhibits are well-maintained and interesting and surround a lovely pond with all manner of water fowl, including some black swans, of course.
While the Tierpark is a great on its own, it is also a frequent host to a variety of family-friendly events, including pony rides on Sundays. It also hosts birthday parties and tours and even has a lovely building you can rent for private events. The Tierpark also has an Alder Kids program where children can volunteer to care for the animals.
Operated as a Verein (a Swiss non-profit) the organization is funded by a variety of public and private contributions and has 8,200 members. An annual individual membership is just CHF 30.
Carousel and Kinder Autobahn
If this wasn't enough to occupy your children, there is also a carousel and kinder autobahn in the Lange Erlen grounds. These facilities will most certainly make your change purse a little lighter, but are a huge hit with the kids and can be used as a good negotiating tool for good behaviour.
Snacks and Restaurant
If you are looking to feed your little animals after a day of exploration and play, there is a cafeteria as well as a lovely restaurant (Parkrestaurant Lange Erlen) perfect for a leisurely Sunday lunch. On warm days you can also find a mobile kiosk serving the usual bratwurst and a gelato stand right outside the gates of the animal park.
Grilling along the Wiese
If you prefer to bring your own food, Lange Erlen borders the Wiese river, which is an excellent location for the favourite Swiss pastime of grilling. Although there are a few designated spots for grilling in the nearby forest (reserved on a first come first serve basis), along the Wiese is strictly BYOBBQ. Disposable units are available in your local grocery or the Lotus Grill is a fantastic investment if you develop a taste for it. This area can be pretty busy on sunny weekends, but is great for people watching and when the conditions are right you can even have a dip in the river.
How To Get There
Lange Erlen is easily accessible by bus (36 or 46) and there is a small car park at the playground (though those spots fill up fast on nice afternoons or weekends).
I hope you and your little ones have a lovely day filed with adventure and animals!