I’m not big on cities when travelling or holidaying – especially not with the kids. Kids (my kids at least) want play or action and for us that usually meant water or snow. So, cities – well – I usually give them a miss. However when living in England we often went on long weekend or mini breaks and one of our favorite little side-jaunts was to the city of Amsterdam.
Now this is not the first place that comes to mind when travelling with kids – what with the red light district and cafes with certain condiments that you are not supposed to give your kids – most think of this as more of an adult destination, but for us this ranked right up there as one of our favorite family holidays.
For me of course, being the right time of year, one of my main goals was to see miles of tulips in full bloom. For the kids (I only took the younger two this time) I had sold this trip on food and bikes, so that was their main goal! The youngest was also studyingvan Gogh at the time so she wanted to see his ‘real paintings in real life’ and she had recently got interested in her Jewish ancestry so wanted to see one of the other star attractions of course – Anne Frank’s House.
So biking was the answer to the need for activity for the girls – particularly for the middle one who really needs it (no snow or beaches on this trip to keep them entertained). And really that is what this blog is about. I could write about the museums and main sights but you can read about those anywhere. The main thing in Amsterdam is how friendly it was as a holiday destination with kids – middle stage kids (5-12)!
It turned out to be one of the best weeks we have had in our travels mainly because of the ability to bike everywhere safely. The Dutch have set their lives up around biking and it is nothing short of easy to zip around the city and all the sights on a bike without worrying if your kids are going to end up under a car! We didn’t take public transport at all apart from canal boats and a train to get us out to the country for a couple of days biking round the tulip fields.
Even better where the kids are concerned – is the food. The Dutch do cafes well, and they do food well too. This is another good reason for biking everywhere because too much time even looking at the spoils on offering is going to make you load on the lard without a bit of exercise! And, no, we did not partake in any special cookies. I didn’t even tell them about those. The Dutch make it easy to tell which cafes are which, so there is no issue of accidentally buying your kids the wrong kind of cookie.
We did the obligatory visit to see Van Gogh’s paintings in real life, the replica 18th century ship at the Maritime Museum (a good place to bike ot) Anne Frank’s House etc and spent time playing in Vondel Park and watching street artists in Dam Square (another great free activity for the kids). What we also did – whether approved of or not was wander the Red Light District – they found it quite fascinating (one way to teach them about varying professions in life). The referred to it in whispered tones as the ‘R-L-D’ and asked if they could go back in fact (although that may have had something to do with a certain cafe as well)!
The canals and boats and the docks are also a great way to spend some time and entertain the kids – between cafe stops, Relaxing for any age and adding another perspective to the city, they are another feature to keep kids interested and happy.
For me the Kuekenhof Gardens were a little over-manicured – although the displays of tulips really are fabulous – who knew there were so many millions of varieties! But again a great place to spend a day as it comes complete with entertainment of trees and water to run around plus an animal petting park! We left the middle one with the animals for a while as she was never going to spend more time exploring the tulips once she had found the animals and knew she could sit in with them.
Finally biking around the country – the kids Loved it (with a capital L). Just choose an area and take a train to somewhere in that area and start biking (no problem taking bikes on trains – we are in the Netherlands after all). One of the most popular spots is the Bollenstreek which is very handy to the Keukenhof Gardens – you can easily spend a day or morning at the Gardens and then hire a bike from there using it as your take off point. Otherwise the Noordoostpolder in the north (take a train to Den Helder) is the main area for growing tulips and still very close to Amsterdam. A couple of days of leisurely cycling (its flat after all) through villages and cafes and fields of tulips – you can’t really beat it!