A wise man once said, "Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is." Still, there are a few ways to help our tiny brains (and our tiny offspring) get a sense of just how big our (solar) neighborhood can get.
One good example is the Planet Trail on Uetliberg hill, on the outskirts of Zürich. At a scale of one meter of trail to one million kilometers of space, the trail manages to both shrink the Earth down to the size of a marble and turn the trip to Neptune into a scenic two-hour hike.
Anyone who walks the hour-and-a-half to two-hour walk from Uetliberg to Felsenegg will enjoy impressive panoramic views of the city, the lake and the Alps, and will also gain a fascinating insight into our solar system with models of the planets on a scale of 1:1 billion.
C. L. Hanson from the Rational Moms blog recently took her family on the hike:
It was great fun for us to get a feel for how the sizes and distances really compare! […] From the inner planets you can still see the sun quite well, and all of the inner planets are just a short walk from one another. So you get a real learning experience when you see how far you have to hike to reach the orbits of the outer planets.
So there’s another reason to visit Switzerland, as if CERN, great transit, and the Large Hadron Collider weren’t sufficient.
UPDATE: If you won’t be in Zürich anytime soon, our commenters say there are solar system models in Melbourne, Eugene, Maine, Boston, Vermont, Flagstaff, Ithaca, Gainesville (FL), Gainesville (GA), Divonne-les-Bains, Kent, Scotland, York, a whole bunch in Germany, and (coming soon) a huge one covering the whole UK. (Whew!) Do you know of any others?