For as long as we’ve been coming to Amsterdam, I’ve been a huge fan of the wonders of the Amsterdamse Bos. This amazing forest which was planted in the 1930s is three times the size of New York’s Central Park and is packed with hidden corners, activities, sporting clubs and recreational areas. I’ll save the full the details for another post but if you’re looking for splash pools or a rowing lake; a fairytale pancake house or an open-air theatre; swimming ponds or a goat farm; sailing or riding; trails for biking, running or ambling slowly or even a herd of highland cattle or a naturist hill (!) then you’ve coming to the right place.
At the top end is the Bosbaan cafe looking out over the rowing lake. To the left is the Bos Winkel shop and next to it you’ll find Fun Forest which might just be the best of all the activities on offer.
Those familiar with Go Ape in the UK will have some idea what to expect but our boys thought it had more in common with the magnificent Acroforest in Normandy due to the variety and challenge of the course.
On arrival, kids are measured and given a coloured helmet which varies according to their height. This is a brilliant idea as its easy for the staff to see if children are on the right course. They are then carefully fitted with safety harnesses – as you would expect this is done extremely methodically and adjusted to ensure the tension is secure.
Once everyone joining the session is kitted up, the group are taken over to the training course. A clear safety briefing is given (this can be done in English as well as Dutch) and everyone completes a short module to ensure they are comfortable and happy with the techniques. Once complete they are fitted with a wrist band and are allowed to explore freely.
Staff have red helmets and are easily spotted if help is needed. They were brilliant when one child lost their nerve at the start of a zip-line, patiently encouraging until the young girl felt brave enough to take a small leap of faith and when my son came to a stop halfway across another they quickly threw him a rope and pulled him smoothly to the end.
But help is rarely needed as the kids discover an inner confidence that many weren’t aware they had. There’s never any rush as children (and adults because yes, the courses are open to all) are given up to three hours to explore. The courses aren’t crowded so children go at their own pace inevitably discovering new talents as they engage their bodies and brains in both fine and gross motor skills as they navigate between the trees.
Age-wise children from 6 years old are welcome whilst those 14 years and older can enjoy the extreme course which involves a bungee and a free jump.
Fun Forest is open from February to November. In the colder months it operates on weekends and Wednesday afternoons whilst in the school holidays it is open daily. In the shoulder months you can also visit on Thursday and Friday afternoons.
Tickets are priced between €20 and €26 depending on age and, given the length of time on the course, it feels well worth the price. Our boys couldn’t understand why it had taken us so long to visit and are already planning their next one. I’m just holding my breath as they build up to the extreme route!