Post by International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when a colleague returned from a trip to Amsterdam gushing about how family-friendly the city is. Up until that point, I confess, I’d let stories of risqué attractions and smoky cafés color my opinion of the city. I had already discounted it from our family’s European travel plans – but I learned Amsterdam is so much more than red lights and smoke shops. This quintessential Dutch destination is known for its poignant history, famous artists, picturesque canals, and delicious food and beverages; it’s within driving distance of multiple U.S. military duty stations in Europe -- and it is a city that should not be missed!
Ready to go? Here are five must-have tips for families visiting Amsterdam to help you plan your trip.
Reserve accommodations on the outskirts of the city.
Long days of sightseeing in congested cities tend to leave children feeling over-stimulated and downright exhausted. After you have accomplished everything on your daily travel itinerary, escape the busy streets and bustling night life by retreating to a house or hotel in a nearby town. Staying outside of the Amsterdam city center will save you money while also offering you a peaceful place to rest with scenic views of flat, green countryside, working farms, narrow canals and glass greenhouses filled with rows upon rows of colorful flowers year-round.
Sample and share lots of sweets.
Dutch chocolate has made a name for itself around the world, but there are plenty more delicious treats to be found in the Netherlands. Pick up a bag of stroopwafels – sinfully delicious confections that consist of a sticky caramel filling sandwiched between two waffle cookies – for your kids to nibble on and keep their sugar levels stable as you walk around the city. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself eating as many as they do.
A meal (it doesn’t have to be breakfast!) at a pancake restaurant is also a must when you are in Amsterdam. Traditional Dutch pancakes are cooked thin like crepes, only the filling is mixed in and cooked with the batter. Kids will especially love poffertjes – small, fluffy pancakes baked in a special pan and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Plan kid-friendly activities.
In between visits to popular Amsterdam attractions like the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, plan adventures the kids can look forward to. Canal cruises are a fantastic way to tour the city while little ones can rest their tired feet. When it’s time to burn off pent-up energy, take them to the NEMO science museum, where they can explore five floors of hands-on activities designed to stimulate their senses. There is also a fantastic playground across the street from the Heineken Brewery, where parents rest on park benches while children run around freely.
The Artis Royal Zoo is a paradise for kids and parents alike. Enjoy getting up close and personal with the many animals on site, and delight in the natural beauty of the shady trees and lush gardens at one of the oldest zoos in Europe. You’ll forget you are in the center of a busy city.
Save money by purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card.
Purchasing the I Amsterdam City Card is a great way to explore the iconic locale with children on a tight military family budget. The price of the pass includes one free canal cruise, unlimited use of the city public transportation system (bus, tram and metro rides), and entry to special kid-friendly attractions, such as the NEMO Science Museum and the Artis Royal Zoo. Choose the 24-, 48-, 72- or 96-hour city card, depending how long you are staying.
Explore outside the city.
If you have a little bit of extra time on your hands, plan an excursion or two outside of Amsterdam. Visit the kaleidoscopic tulip fields and spend a day at Keukenhof Gardens in the late spring and early summer; dip your toes into the chilly North Sea or hunt for shells along one of the many beaches within an hour’s drive of the city; or venture out to Zaanse Schans to learn more about Dutch heritage and see eight beautiful windmills.
Have you been to Amsterdam? What are your tips for families visiting this quintessential Dutch destination?
Check out the USAA – International FAQ
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.