We go to Ireland about once a year to see my husband’s family, and when we do we like to swoop by a major European city for a stopover if we can. This year since both our kids have read The Diary of Anne Frank, and are endlessly intrigued with Anne’s story, we chose Amsterdam. Although I’ve been there before, pre-kids, what a wonderfully kid-friendly destination it turned out to be!
We had three days and so much to choose from. Here is a list of all the things we wanted to do:
- Stay in a “real” Dutch hotel that’s kid-friendly and centrally located – we didn’t want the generic American hotel chain experience.
- Take a boat tour of the canals.
- Go to the Anne Frank house and museum. (Be sure to book your tickets online before you go to avoid the lines; it’s popular.)
- Eat mini pancakes, and try bitterbollen, and Dutch foods.
- Explore the newly renovated Riijksksmuseum.
- Take a trip on the train or tram.
- See NEMO, the kids science museum (that’s shaped like a ship!).
- We wanted to ride a bicycle (ok, my husband didn’t, but we did, but in the end, we didn’t because we were cowards. There is a lot of traffic and it was raining.). But if you are more adventurous, you can find a good city bike tour for families here.
- See some Rembrandts at the Rembrandt Huis (where he lived and painted!)
- Go to the Van Gogh museum.
- See the Artis Zoo.
With only 3 days, in Winter, seeing everything on our list just wasn’t possible. We are definitely going to have to go back. This is what we did (and I highly recommend all of it.)
Day 1: Checked into our beautiful 17th c. hotel on the canal in the heart of the city (see this post for more on this special hotel - it is the place to stay when in Amsterdam). We left our bags and immediately walked around the city (no one drives! They walk or ride bikes.) We were amazed at how many people are on bicycles, and how small the cars are! It was tricky trying to cross streets with all the foot traffic, trams, cars, and bikes – so if you do go, stay alert!
We noticed that moms tote their tots around on bicycles in big wooden boxes – and a lot of the moms are biking in high-heeled boots!
Day 2: We walked to Anne Frank house, walked around the city some more, went to Rembrandt House, spent a very long time making ginormous bubbles with some hippies in Spui Square (which is actually a triangle), walked some more, went to a Dutch restaurant with a local Dutch friend who ordered bitterballen, a savory Dutch treat, Dutch sausage and cheese, and mini pancakes for us. Note: Mini pancakes come in all flavors – sweet with cream and strawberries, or savory with cheese and meat, and kids love eating them.
Day 3: Spent the whole day at NEMO, a wonderful hands-on science museum for kids of all ages – not to be missed! You could spend two whole days here and not get to do everything.
We had planned to go to NEMO in the morning and hit the Van Gogh or Riikjesmuseum in the afternoon, but NEMO turned out to be so endlessly interesting that by the time we got out it was late afternoon, and raining, and almost dark, so we only had time to walk to the train station and jump on the train to Schiphol airport. An interesting note about NEMO – there is a “Let’s Talk About Sex” exhibit for teens. The Puritan in me instantly shunned it, but my husband said it might be a good exhibit for me to walk through with our twelve-year-old. Luckily, I decided to go take a peek in it myself before bringing her – we thought it would be a kind of birds & bees primer, but it was more, oh, so much more. They had hundreds of jointed doll couples in a glass case demonstrating all of the possible positions one can um, fornicate in. They had positions in Amsterdam that I didn’t even know about. Next was a “peep show” – you put coins in and then duck behind a red velvet curtain to watch – well, to watch I don’t know what but if it was anything like the doll poses, I wasn’t going to bring my 12-year-old who still believes in Santa Claus in there.
I ran out.
My husband laughed and said I am repressed. Compared to the Dutch, who still sell marijuana in some “coffee shops,” yes, I guess I am. (-:
The train ride to Schiphol was in itself interesting for the kids, because we got to go upstairs to the 2nd floor (!) and watch all the landscape and Dutch homes (mostly apartments) fly by. And, kids love trains.
We were yucking it up in the carriage like the Americans that we are, laughing and trying to speak to each other in Dutch when a man informed us that we were seated in a “Silent” carriage – no talking! Oops! So we spent the rest of the trip in silence, which actually was pretty unusual and interesting for the kids too. (-:
So do I recommend going to Amsterdam with kids? Definitely.