20 Best for 2020 – Amsterdam’s most exciting family-friendly day-trips
Amsterdam is an incredible city for kids but there are times when we are looking for adventures a little further afield. The Netherlands is tiny, so if you’re searching for the best day trips from Amsterdam with kids, read on, these 20 wonderful places are just a hop, skip and train (or car) ride away.
And don’t forget to click on the place names for our fuller in-depth reviews.
Just beyond the Amsterdam boundary (and being a tiny city this makes it virtually a suburb) lies the gorgeous village of Muiden with its fabulous medieval castle. Imagine a fairytale fortress surrounded by a moat and complete with turrets, battlements and secret passageways worthy of any young prince or princess and you’re picturing one of our favourite day trips from the city. So hop on the train (or even a bike) and head on over. Dragon not included.
We’re often asked about Amsterdam’s best playgrounds but if you’ve got a day to spare why not take a trip a little further to Europe’s biggest – the incredible Linneushof. Open from the end of March to the end of October, its perfect for all ages from toddlers to teens. A good night’s sleep is virtually guaranteed after the littles (and not so littles) have bounced, swung, hung, run, balanced and pedalled in the fresh air on equipment that is 100% human-powered. For the minis there’s a special area with a traffic village and when the sun comes out so does the splash pad. If yours are like ours the only thing they won’t want to do is leave.
There’s a lot of competition on this list, but my very favourite day out is the wonderful Zuiderzee open air museum. Step off the boat and into the Netherlands of the past with houses, shops, schools, churches and windmills that bring to life the country of the past. Hugely interactive and utterly charming it sounds touristy but somehow manages to remain sweetly authentic and exceptionally picture perfect on a sunny day.
On a spectrum of 1 to touristy, this attraction is off the scale but its still worth considering for a day out if you don’t mind sharing your windmill shot with a coachload of other tourists. Those in the know head to the museum at the visitor centre to see the original biscuit factory recreated, then get ready to pose in giant clogs and head home with plastic tulips. It’s on the well-trodden tourist route but the line of windmills at sunrise and sunset still manage to wow.
Volendam and Edam
Much like Zaanse Schans these two locations are close enough to Amsterdam to mean that day-tripping tourists often head here for a slice of countryside living, fresh herring and cheese. They are therefore pretty full of tourist kitch but don’t let that stop you if you fancy a day out. Edam is still a pretty town and in order to meet tourist demand, farmers bring cheese by horse and boat on Wednesdays. Volendam’s harbour is famous for the fresh herring catch, so skip past the plastic clogs and tulips and head to one of the more authentic eateries at the edge of the harbour for some straight out the sea delights (avoiding the opportunity to dress in traditional local costume for a snap)
Edam may be closer but Gouda is our tip for a cheese-lovers outing. Being a little further from Amsterdam it manages to avoid the worst of the coach trippers and hosts a cheese market in Spring and Summer. It also lays claim to being the place the stroopwafel was invented and houses The Netherlands’ original and best unofficial Lego shop with a magical play area at the back. Alkmaar is another great bet (pictured below) where you’ll find a huge traditional cheese market on Fridays in summer. Yes its touristy, but its still good fun and there are exclusive kids’ tours although these are only run in Dutch. Whilst you’re there, join a canal tour through its lovely waterways or head off just a hop, skip and a jump away to see the 11 Schermerhorn windmills.
If you have a car, make your way to Geofort, a seriously impressive museum dedicated to maps and navigation and somewhat surprisingly given the theme, it’s rather in the middle of nowhere. Its worth the trip though for mazes, bunkers, hidden islands and things to explore and discover as well as a fabulous outdoor playground that engages the brain as well as the proprioceptive senses.
One of The Netherlands’ best kept secrets is the country’s wonderful beaches many of which are within just half an hour of the city centre. Lined with glorious pavilions offering fabulous food, shelter from sun, wind and even a drop of Summer rain we find a trip to Zandvoort, Noordwijk or Schevening one of the very best days out from the city. Snuggle up on a deckbed or round a firepit and grab a fresh herring or crispy fried mussels from the fish cart that pulls up on the beach – our kids find that a heading here in Winter is almost as much fun for hot chocomel and a chilled but super cozy vibe.
When Spring finally appears after the long Winter, The Netherlands literally bursts into life. There’s nothing more Dutch than enjoying the tulips and for many it means a pilgrimage to the magnificent Keukenhof Gardens which open up for just 8 weeks a year. Whilst there is lots for younger flower fans to enjoy, if you want to avoid the million other visitors doing the same why not pay a visit to a private bulb field like FAM Flower Farm for an experience truly like no other. Alternatively, rent bikes (with kids’ seats if required) and cycle around the tulip route to enjoy one of the world’s natural wonders at your leisure.
Later in the year, flowers change to fruits and the orchards groan with apples and pears. Olmenhorst makes for a gorgeous family day out. There are often special activities for kids and events at Easter and other times of the year. The farm shop with wooden toys and gifts is another great incentive to get outdoors and make the most of The Netherlands’ rural idyll.
When I was a child growing up in the UK, we went on a holiday to Belgium and The Netherlands. Despite visiting Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges and Delft I have only one memory of the trip – Madurodam model village near The Hague. I was absolutely captivated by this vast miniature wonderland, one of the largest model villages in the world, and our boys are exactly the same. Despite visiting dozens of times this is still their absolute favourite day trip from Amsterdam bar none. With moving cars, trains, boats and a recreation of Schipol airport with planes that taxi down the runway, even the very youngest toddler or most jaded of teenagers won’t be able to help falling a little bit in love with this hugely special place.
If you’re headed to the beach at Scheveningen; spending a morning at nearby model world Madurodam, or even if you’re just looking for something different to do, why not pay a visit to the Netherlands’ best aquarium. Sea Life with its mysterious sea creatures, intriguing aquatic adventures and fishy goings on along with tanks of piranhas rays and sharks is a sure fire winner. With much loved habitats for otters and penguins to boot, your little ones will be sure to make firm friends with Nemo, Dory and their pals.
Den Haag’s modestly-sized but hugely charming book children’s museum is worth exploring if you’re in the area. With hands on exhibitions featuring beloved characters such as the Hungry Caterpillar as well as some less familiar but no less charming protagonists your little readers will be captivated to see the world of books come to life.
Dick Bruna is a Dutch institution and his most loved and enduring character Miffy (or Nijntje if you’re Dutch) has inspired one of the most perfect museums for younger kids. The museum was restored only a few years ago and is full of hands-on adventures for little ones. Sleep in Miffy’s bed, hang out her washing, explore the little houses and ride on the little bikes. The beautiful town of Utrecht is the perfect location for this little rabbit paradise.
The Netherlands has one standout theme park and you can’t go wrong with a day (or weekend) spent in its lovely grounds. Far lower key than the likes of Disney, the queues are shorter, the fairytale forest more charming and when it comes to food, think pancakes rather than burgers. With scented fairy rides like Droomvlucht (Dreamflight), an Arabian Nights adventure and the Dutch version of It’s A Small World, your big kids and little ones will be absolutely captivated by the rides – to say nothing of the talking dustbins!
Being mum to some serious train lovers, a visit to the National Train Museum in Utrecht is a pretty regular occurrence. This huge site houses full size trains, model trains, train rides and dozens of seasonal events. It is one of the Netherlands’ most popular museums and it’s no surprise when you see the astonishing attractions. Put this high on your list for a full day outing.
If your kids are somewhere between toddler and tween make tracks for the gorgeous fairytale them park in Enkhuizen. Utterly enchanting and blissfully absent of thrill rides, everything here is aimed at younger adventurers. Perfectly sized for little explorers – as well as cute as a button little rides there’s also a chance to discover the magical fairytale forest. Incredibly Dutch and deliciously charming, your littles will sleep like angels on your return, dreaming of storybook adventures.
A firm favourite with our two this huge aerospace museum based at Lelystad Airport is the gift that keeps on giving. As well as an astonishing number of planes in the hangar-sized museum there’s a full sized one outside to explore as well as hands-on activities galore. So whether you’re the parent of a prospective pilot or a mama or papa to some cabin crew, the Aviodrome is an awesome outing to have on your list.
This recently renovated institute of biodiversity is a short train ride from Amsterdam and one that’s well worth it. With Earth galleries, hands-on science and a full sized T-Rex your eco warriors will learn about the earliest life on Earth from the Ice Age to today.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but for two football crazy young Dutchies, days out to visit some of the Netherland’s football clubs has become a beloved weekend treat. If you’re keen to see European stalwarts then head to Eindhoeven for PSV or Rotterdam for Feyenoord but perhaps just as much fun are the minnows like Go Ahead Eagles in Deventer or Heracles in Almelo. Don’t worry if its not match day, a stadium tour is definitely worth putting on your list, or if you ask the mini-Wonderlanders they’d tell you that a tour of the shop and training ground is often just as much fun. Whilst Marc will tell you there’s nothing quite like Ajax in Amsterdam for the ultimate Total Football adventure, our Dutch geography has definitely been on the up since our more random stadium adventures.