Stuttgart, the centrally-located capital of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, makes for a great jumping-off point for short day trips and overnight excursions. Here are five to try, for five types of travelers.
Beer enthusiasts, sample microbrews in Freiburg. Although Germany is famous for its beer, the American craft beer trend only recently made its way there — and a burgeoning scene can be found in Freiburg. For the past two summers, a craft beer festival, appropriately named Craftival, included 16 breweries. If you miss the festival, head to Decker Garage and sample nine brews in a rustic, re-purposed auto-repair garage. Dozens of trains to Freiburg depart Stuttgart Central Station throughout the day. The ride takes two to three hours each way and costs as little as 27 euros round-trip.
Outdoorsy-types, go hiking in the Black Forest. Hiking was invented in the Black Forest -- the park's first tourist information center opened at the end of the 19th century. Today, the park offers three long-distance hiking trails which can be broken up into shorter, more manageable hikes. Depending on where you're headed, plan on two-to-three hours by train each way. Or, to access more remote locations, rent a car.
Car fiends, visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Okay, this one is technically in Stuttgart, but it's outside of downtown — and worth dedicating the better part of a day to. The Mercedes-Benz Museum covers 130 years of automotive history through 160 vehicles and 1,500 exhibits in its modern, double-helix-shaped building. Admission for adults costs 10 euros.
History buffs, head to Esslingen. Surrounded by rolling hillside vineyards, Esslingen's historic town square -- the Old Town Hall dates back to 1423 -- is lined with well-preserved buildings. An easy 10-minute train ride from Stuttgart, pedestrian-friendly Esslingen makes for a great day of strolling past Medieval architecture, mom-and-pop shops, and authentically-German restaurants.
Families and thrill-seekers, head to Europa-Park. The country's largest theme park, Europa-Park, has over 100 attractions. Not to be missed is Silver Star, Europe's second-largest roller coaster at 239 feet. The equally thrilling Blue Fire Megacoaster launches riders from zero to 62 miles-per-hour in 2.5 seconds. Ringsheim station is a 2-hour train ride from Stuttgart and is within walking distance of the park entrance.