Amsterdam is world-renowned as a place for adults, but in reality, it’s actually a family oriented city with endless activities for children. There isn’t a perfect time to visit Amsterdam with kids, but I highly recommend staying far away during the rainy months of December through March. There are treasures to be discovered by the kiddos in every nook and cranny of Amsterdam. Here are ten of my favorites…
1. The “speltuins” (or as we like to call them in English, playgrounds) are a must see if you are visiting Amsterdam. The world’s coolest playgrounds can be found sprinkled about in almost every neighborhood. Each playground has its own personality. For example, my kids love the “wooden playground” with huge wooden climbing poles, nets and ropes. There is even a “Toy grave yard” playground where all the abandon toys from that particular neighborhood go to be played with by all. You could go to a different playground every day for months and still not visit them all.
2. The Artis Royal Zoo, located in the city center of Amsterdam is a must-see for kids of all ages. The kids are able to get closer to the animals than they would in a larger zoo. The zoo continues to use its original buildings from 1838 adding to its charm. There is a small planetarium, aquarium and petting zoo and of course, a super cool playground. A large, modern café overlooking the African plane is located in the zoo with all sorts of yummy foods. You can also bring your own picnic lunch and if it’s nice out, there are plenty of green patches to spread out your blanket.
3. Often compared to NYC’s Central Park, Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s green oasis among the canals and historical buildings. Since most families are not lucky enough to have gardens in Amsterdam, Vondelpark is a great place for getting the kids energy out. The mother-of-all playgrounds can be found here along with a huge kiddie wadding pool. In the middle of the park wooden tree huts with swinging rope bridges can be found for the older kids. In the summer, there are children’s programs at the open air theater on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons. You can even sit on the terrace of an old milk house overlooking a very popular playground and have coffee while your kiddies play in the sandbox, swings or zip line.
4. Amsterdam has about a dozen petting zoos around the city. These mini-farmyards have anything from egg laying chickens to large bulls and work horses. At most places the kids are allowed to feed the animals and if they are lucky pet them, too.
5. Just on the outskirt of city is Amstelpark, a wonderland for both kids and adults. The Amstelpark has some of the most beautiful gardens and the most gigantic playground and petting zoo. On the weekends, the kids can take a train ride around the park and can get a glimpse of an old windmill along the famous Amstel River. In addition to having a snack bar, the playground also has token rides like bumper boats, race cars and a mini-train. The playground for the older children is in a pit giving parents the time to roll out their picnic blankets and enjoy a nice relaxing day.
6. A trip to the Amsterdam Forest is the family fun jackpot. There is so much to do there for kids of every age. A favorite is the Goat Farm Ridammerhoeve where hundreds of goats are running around for the kids to pet or feed with bottle of milk. Sometimes there is a competition between goat and child who get to go down the slide first! Also at the farm is a small restaurant that serves biological products and cheese and milk made from the resident goats. Just down the main street running through the forest is thea pancake restaurant, Boerderij Meerzicht, with an awesome playground beside the terrace and deer you can feed. For the older kids, the Klimpark Fun Forest climbing park located just at the entrance is a hit with kids 6 years and older.
7. A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without visiting the city’s world famous museums. A favorite with children 3 years and above is The National Maritime Museum,where a life size replica of the Dutch East India Company ship ‘Amsterdam’ is docked. Everyone young and old can climb aboard and explore the entire ship. Warning: It can be nerve-wracking chasing after the little ones up on the top deck. Another favorite is the Van Gogh Museum and there is a free kids atelier on the weekends. And for the almost-impossible-to-entertain-older-kids The Amsterdam Dungeon is a fun combination of history and entertainment and sure to be an unforgettable experience.
8. You haven’t seen Amsterdam until you have seen it from the water! The perfect way to do this is by taking the kiddies on a canal cruise around the city. The tour boats can be found mostly in the center of the city and lasts less than an hour. The glass top boats are a hit with kids from all ages, but just be aware if you have a stroller you will have to leave it at the boat office dock. Even as babies my kids loved to take the cruise and discover their city.
9. The Dutch are famous for their crepe-like pancakes and almost all Dutch kiddos have pancake mania. A fun pancake restaurant for children ages 5- 12 years is the Kinderkookkafé (Kids Cook Café) located near the Vondelpark. The kids take over the small restaurant by cooking their own pancakes and they can even sign up to play chef for a day (8 years and up). And for another pancake adventure try cruising around the former Amsterdam harbor enjoying all you can eat pancakes on the infamous Pancake boat. You can cruise around for an hour or a longer 2.5 hour cruise. Just keep in mind Wednesday afternoons are reserved for parties.
10. For kids four years and older, the lesser known and thankfully undiscovered by the masses Ondekhoek (Discovery Corner) totally rocks! Kids are given a choice of 36 different science experiments and activities to complete with little or no parent supervision. My kid’s favorite experiments were making coins, soap and a spoon. Bring a packed lunch and go early because I had to drag my kids out after 4 hours. If your kids are a bit older bring a book because they really encourage the kids to learn on their own.
Got any other tips for seeing Amsterdam with kids? Leave them in the comments!