Auto travelers should plan to park their vehicles and explore the city and the lake region by rail, boat, bus and cable car. The locally-available Tell Pass is good for free travel or half-price travel throughout central Switzerland on all forms of public transport.
Train travelers with a Swiss Pass or Eurail Pass will be covered for most journeys in the area.
Everywhere in Switzerland are cable car and funicular rides to mountain tops. At the top of each is a great view and a restaurant. Lucerne is no exception. Take nearby Pilatus, for example, which not only has restaurants but a pair of hotels, one with conference facilities. There is a lunchtime Swiss folkloric show on the mountain and the last train down at 9:20pm allows visitors to stay for a sunset buffet dinner.
In 1868, Queen Victoria (who reportedly traveled in Switzerland under an assumed name) went to the 7,000-foot summit on a mule, but the most comfortable way to get there now is via boat to the Pilatus-Kulm station where you board the worlds steepest railway. Or, the top can be reached via a series of cable cars from the Lucerne suburb of Kriens. It is best, however, to combine the two; go up one way come down the other. The boat/railway journey is a little over two hours from Lucerne and the cable car ride back down to Kriens takes 30 minutes. From there, it's a five-minute walk to the bus station and another 15 minutes by bus into Lucerne. Of course you can always walk. From the Pilatus-Kulm rail station in Alpnachstad the climb up is about five and a half hours. The decent is just under four hours.
The stress-free way to see Lake Lucerne and environs is via lake boat. The Vierwaldsättersee (a.k.a. Lake Lucerne) is a substantial, irregularly-shaped body of water with many inlets, bays, and lakeside villages. A fleet of 20 passenger vessels crisscrosses it regularly to serve such ports of call as Weggis, Bürgenstock, Vitznau, Brunnen, Rütli and Flüelen. The ride is free with the Swiss Rail passes, as well as some Eurail Passes or you can purchase an all-day ticket. In addition to the regular service, there are special lunch and dinner cruises.
A three-day Lucerne visit might include one day for the main in-town sights as described in the Michelin Green Guide for Switzerland; another for a trip to Pilatus, and the last a day on the lake, stopping where the spirit moves.