Let me start off by saying this post is likely to be more beneficial to families serving in Europe (specifically Germany), than to friends and family who are stateside. While the combined towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the views are amazing, this post is more about what those stationed in Europe can anticipate at the Edelweiss Lodge tin Germany.
Edelweiss Lodge & Resort
Edelweiss is a recreational hotel/lodge owned by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is located in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian order; it was built o replace a series of older Armed Forces Recreation Center AFRC) hotels in that area; it opened in September 2004 at a cost of $80 million.
There are four AFRCs worldwide; all are full-service resort hotels intended to provide quality, wholesome, affordable, family-oriented vacation recreation opportunities to Service members, their Families, and other authorized patrons (including official travelers)
· Dragon Hill Lodge, Korea
· Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, Germany
· Hale Koa Hotel, Hawaii
· Shades of Green on Walt
World Resort, Florida
All are part of the Military Welfare and Recreation (MWR) program. Most have always been open to retirees as well as to service members, but Edelweiss went through a period where they were the exception to the rule. As of 2019, this is their description of who is eligible.
GARMISCH, Germany — Active-duty military service members, retirees and civilian/military ID cardholders living outside Europe are now eligible to vacation at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch, Germany. The Edelweiss Resort recently received approval from U.S. Army Europe and the Federal Republic of Germany to allow military members stationed outside Europe and retirees to visit the resort on a limited, space-available basis.
Now that you know if you are eligible to stay there, let’s talk about whether or it you will want to! To be fair, let’s go back to what organization runs it, and what their mission is.
Most online references to their mission read much like this: (although they didn’t underline those words – I did! “MWR's mission is to contribute to the retention, readiness and mental, physical and emotional well-being of military personnel and to the welfare of their families by providing a varied program of recreational, social and community activities. “
As the spouse of a retired service member, I totally get that their focus has primarily been on military personnel and their families. After all, there are far more military families in need of affordable recreation for their families than retirees and or other DoD employees and their families. If MWR can keep them entertained and happy, they are much more likely to be resilient and achieve readiness when it’s needed. When we were younger and living on the salary of an enlisted soldier, we were very limited on vacation destinations, amenities and activities we could take advantage of, and how many days we could stay. If we had also had two or three children, it would have been next to impossible to plan even an extended weekend at a place like Edelweiss. MWR does a nice job of accommodating those families; giving them an affordable get-away that otherwise would be much less likely.
That brings us to, those who are eligible – other than military service members and their families! It looks like a more current version of the MWR mission includes civilian employees and retirees. Again, they didn’t underline any words; I did! This statement was published on their website February 2021.
Armed Forces Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR)
“The mission of MWR is to serve the needs, interests, and responsibilities of all people in the Army community-Soldiers, their Families, civilian employees, military retirees, and other eligible participants-for as long as they are associated with the Army, no matter where they are located.”
Ten years ago, when my husband was still on active duty and stationed in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) we went to Edelweiss….twice. Once on our own, and once when stateside family visited us. We were very impressed with Garmisch-Partenkirchen (a darling example of Bavarian charm with gorgeous murals painted on most of the half-timbered buildings), with the exquisite views of the snow-covered Alps and ski runs, as well as the darling shops and restaurants. If lucky enough to be there at the end of the year, it’s the ideal setting for getting your Christmas spirit on! We were also impressed with Edelweiss Lodge, mostly because of it’s size and the log-cabin effect upon entry. Of course, there was no Covid effecting available tours, spa service or hours, and no restrictions that applied. There were a lot of side tours that could be booked and were fully-staffed to keep everything running smoothly. There were plenty of dining options, and all were affordable. The staff was extremely accommodating and in general it was a very-impressive place for families stationed in Europe.
The only downside (for both visits ten years ago) was.the lack of activities designed for couples who don’t have children, or only have adult children. There were an abundance of kids, but back then they seemed more well-disciplined, less rowdy, and mostly contained to areas where you would expect to find lots of kids. Although many kids are adorable (especially yours, I'm sure!) ,we would welcome the availability of adult experiences for people who have already raised theirs!
Now that my husband is a retiree (no longer active duty) and we are back in the KMC, we decided to give this another shot. We revisited Edelweiss during Thanksgiving 2021, when there were anticipated inconveniences due to COVID, including staffing shortages in housekeeping and the dining facility But the Lodge had also become even more saturated with large families. For many, it was the first time the family (often including visiting relatives from the states) had enjoyed a family vacation in two years! So we should not have been surprised to see so many kids everywhere.
Since MWR is indeed fulfilling their mission for military service members and their families (and I commend them for that), they are not going to change their protocol any time soon. They aren’t likely to say “only those 12 and older are allowed on the carriage rides after 7PM”, which could provide a more romantic atmosphere for the childless couples, and they don’t have enough staff to monitor the dining area to keep 7 and 8 year -old kids from running between buffet tables unsupervised*. They do carve out one hour a day of evening adult only pool time, but since the pool is packed with kids for the other 23 hours each day, the question is whether or not you want to get in it And by the way, that one hour is in the evening…..not necessarily when you would prefer to be utilizing the pool.
*I am not in any way suggesting all the children at Edelweiss are unsupervised. There are, of course, many parents who do an outstanding job of parenting, who give their kids sufficient rules to follow, and make sure they treat others as they would like to be treated. hose families probably outnumber the others, and hopefully remind childless couples why kids are great!
Gorgeous photo taken by Ina Frenzel
I really don’t want to make this about kids or large families, since military families are who these facilities were designed for. I want to make it about alternatives. If you are a childless couple, single soldiers, or have already raised your children, consider making the trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and stay somewhere in town – not at Edelweiss. Although the lodge is worth seeing once, you can still visit and even take advantage of the tours they offer (see statement below from Edelweiss), but by staying at any of the hotels or BnB’s in town, you will have lots of shopping, tourist attractions, skiing, restaurants and pubs at your disposal in a more relaxing environment. Although there is a five-day minimum stay at Edelweiss during Thanksgiving, we cut out three days early (very telling)!
The bottom line is twofold; 1) We LOVE Garmisch-Partenkirchen and would definitely go again – but stay in town, 2) If you are a military family trying to give your kids an awesome experience that keeps them occupied all day every day and stretches your dollar, Edelweiss is perfect! It is just one more advantage of serving overseas and making your kids love this assignment!
Book early! They are typically booked pretty far in advance, especially for any holidays! Visit their website. And be sure to make advance reservations for the guided tours offered; your kids are going to love Neuschwanstein Castle. Be sure to ask if any of the tours are effected by current COVID restrictions; better to know up front than disappointed later (We had that happen!)
Also check out the Zugspitz!
I have to think these sentiments would also apply to the other three AFRC facilities offered through MWR (listed above). Have you visited any of them? What was your experience?
From the Q&A section on the Edelweiss website……
What if I am staying somewhere else, can I use the Edelweiss Resort facilities? Restaurants, food and beverage outlets, ski lessons, rental equipment, bike rentals, massage therapy, special events, pool and hot tub are all available at regular rates to those not staying at the resort if you are granted installation access by USAG Bavaria. Guided tours are available on a space available basis. We give priority to guests staying with us.