Linnaeushof which is about half an hour’s drive or an hour on public transport from Amsterdam – between the lovely city of Haarlem and the coast – is very clear about it’s USP. Billed as Europe’s Biggest Playground, it’s been entertaining kids since 1963 but has been well maintained and regularly updated since.
We arrived the day after it opened for the start of the season at the very end of March. Although the weather was dry, it was overcast and chilly as we waited for the gates to open and when the boys rushed in and looked at the slightly sodden equipment after a heavy night’s downpour I have to admit my heart sunk slightly and I wasn’t sure that our planned day out would last more than an hour.
How wrong I was…
There’s no question that as with any primarily outdoor activity, those who visit on a sunny day will get the most from the experience and when the sun broke through after an hour or two, things looked decidedly more…well sunny.
Linnaeushof is brilliant. Hidden within a large wood you’ll find a huge amount of play equipment that is all human-powered. Our boys started on the pedalos (one of the few activities that really needed adult-length legs to pedal) before racing across the huge rope bridge to the pirate island.
With each area we explored we discovered new and thrilling activities. Climbing, swinging, bouncing, balancing, hanging and pedaling. After the lake the boys legged it to an undercover, undersea bouncy castle and a set of trampolines, before dashing to the little train in time for its departure. The train does a circuit of the pre-school and kindergarten area of the park, the highlight of which for under 5’s is probably the traffic village – a road system with a range of tricycles, complete with traffic signals, crossings, a place to “order” fast food and a police and fire station.
Then it was onto the indoor area. Although small, the boys spent a great deal of time here and particularly enjoyed the child-sized bumper cars, a soft play castle area with tunnels and sliding panels and the highlight for them which was overhead “helicopters” that the boys delighted in pedaling across the ceiling.
Next we hit the mini-golf which cost an extra couple of euros (no doubt to cover missing balls) and is always a hugely loved activity for my pair.
They were a little too short for the go-karts (one of the only height-restricted activities in the park) so next it was time to shoot down the slides before another overhead adventure – a wonderful pedaled “monorail”. At first the boys cycled it together, but they quickly grew in confidence and were soon racing across it solo despite the fact it must have been extremely hard work.
As it was so early in the year and not yet warm, the water playground (with slides, tubes, pumps, bridges and islands) and the sand areas were still closed but this is definitely a dream in high Summer and we looked longingly at the equipment just waiting for a hot and balmy day (although no doubt the park gets significantly busier in school holidays).
The most wonderful thing about Linnaeushof is how much fresh air and exercise the kids get here compared to usual theme parks. Almost everything involves manual operation so without realising it they are using vast amounts of energy and for my two building confidence on equipment that, whilst safe, pushes their boundaries for height and speed.
The only downside is the dire food on offer in the cafe, but picnics are more than welcome and next time I’d definitely stock up on supermarket treats and bring them along with swimwear and towels on a sunny day.
After a final revisit of all their favourite attractions, I dragged the boys away reluctantly with a promise that we would return.
Entry costs €13 (or €12 in advance) for all kids over the age of 2, but its so well worth it and even 2 and 3 year olds will get tremendous value for money as will their older siblings – I’d say even teenagers could have a great day out here. Parking is an extra €6.
Don’t expect a theme-park sized attraction, and do explore all the play equipment. We didn’t even make it to the interactive arch which sets jumping and dancing challenges, the bouncing bike, the climbing walls or the ‘fitness dome’.
As we piled back into the car, Osc was snoring within 5 minutes. The boys’ rosy cheeks, bright eyes and the best night’s sleep we’d all had in weeks sealed the deal.