Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

Ms. Toody Goo Shoes

I want to go everywhere I haven't been, and back to everywhere I have been.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Traveling With Kids To Amsterdam

Windmills, Pancakes and Bicycles

Although it's not always easy traveling with children, we decided that having a child wasn't going to keep us from packing our bags and setting out to see the world.  We started shlepping "Junior" Goo Shoes here and there at a very young age.  True, it's a lot easier to travel with just one kid, but if you plan your trip wisely, and set realistic expectations, traveling with your kids may be more do-able than you think. 

We decided to go to Amsterdam when JGS was 11 years old. Granted, Amsterdam doesn't always conjur up the most family-friendly images, with, ahem…the famed Red Light District, legalized pot-smoking, and the like.  But we found it to be one of the most family-friendly cities we've ever been to in Europe.  

Here are 10 family-friendly things to do in Amsterdam:

1. Take a boat tour of the city. On our first day, we wanted to do something easy, since we were so jet-lagged. We took a sightseeing tour through the canals on a long, glass-enclosed boat, where you sit back, relax, and enjoy the sights. It's a great way to get oriented to the city, and your kids will think these boats are really cool. Think of it as Amsterdam's version of a gondola ride.

2. Rent a pedal boat and "bike" through the canals.  As long as your kids' legs are long enough, they can do the driving. You probably want an adult in the front seat, just to help with the steering, if necessary. We enjoyed this so much...we did it twice. Just remember to keep right and let the big boats pass!

3. Go to see the windmills.  Yes, it is all very touristy, but this is the Netherlands, and you are a tourist, after all. Think of the great pictures you'll have for your holiday cards! You can arrange tours through your hotel. Be sure to ask if your tour covers the additional entrance fee to the windmills. Ours didn't, and that really annoyed us, considering how much it cost to begin with.   

4. Rent bicycles and pedal around Amsterdam with the locals. Remember, though, that this is how the locals commute, so they mean business when they're cycling.  On most streets, there are no cars, and it is pretty safe, but there are some streets with cars, buses and trolleys, so you need to be VERY careful there. Your kids will think it is awesome  that they don't have to wear a bike helmet -- It seems that no one does in Amsterdam. You can always bring one from home, but I promise you will hear…"No one else is wearing one, Mom!" 

5. Eat lots of pancakes and chocolate. The food in Amsterdam couldn't be more kid-friendly. There are excellent restaurants of every cuisine, but what the kids will be talking about long after they get home are the pancakes and the chocolate. 

We loved Pancakes! Amsterdamwhere they had a big selection. It's a teeny little place, so you'll want to get there a few minutes before they open. 

Poffertjes are little mini pancakes, served with powdered sugar. Just the right size for kids. They are so delish, right out of the oven. Mmmmmm…I wish I has some right now. We had ours at Keukenhof Gardens.

The chocolate shops in Amsterdam are to die for. We went to several, but two that stood out were Unlimited Delicious, and Jordino (pictured below). Amazing. Outstanding. Your kids will beg you to go back for more…and you will say yes!

6. Visit the Anne Frank House If your kids are at least 10 years old this is a must. They can be told a simple version of how Anne and her family hid in the attic of her father's office building for two years, until they were found by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. The museum's website has an excellent page on tips for visiting the museum with children. At 11 years old, my son found it interesting. We did prepare him in advance by explaining the story.  For adults, I would highly recommend that you read Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl, just before you go, even if you've already read it. Having her words fresh in your mind makes this emotional experience even more powerful. Purchase tickets online, in advance of your trip, to avoid long lines. 

7. Grab a seat on the canal, and watch the boats go by. Buy the kids an ice cream cone, and yourself a glass of wine or beer, and tell the kids to count the houseboats. Then count the boats with dogs on them. Then count the long tour boats. You get the idea. Keep them entertained long enough for you rest your tootsies and finish your drink. 

8. Go to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, and introduce the kids to some of the world's greatest painters. Your kids will be less cranky if you don't go to both on the same day. Get an early start, and plan something fun for afterwards (see # 9). Both museums offer great ways to engage kids.  In the Rijksmuseum, for example, JGS had a headset that sent him on a treasure hunt.  Check the museum websites, because schedules and offerings may change. Order your tickets online before your trip, to avoid long entrance lines.

9. Climb the I Amsterdam sign.  It's right behind the Rijksmuseum. You can watch from a bench, while your kids have a blast climbing across every letter. It's a great photo op. Don't say I didn't warn you that it is not easy to tear them away from this.

10. Take a trip to Keukenhof Gardens, where, if you time it right,  you will see 7 million tulips in bloom. I thought JGS would be bored out of his mind, but he loved it! Give your kids a camera and tell them to take pictures of as many different flowers as they can. There is a playground and a petting zoo. Make it a game to look for the several pairs of enormous wooden shoes throughout the park that your kids (and you!) will want to try on. Make sure to have the cameras ready. Check the website's page for children for more info. 

hope this inspires you to pack up your kiddos and see one of the world's most beautiful cities!  


  1. I've only transited through the airport but would really love to explore the city with my kids some day. I didn't realize there was a big "i amsterdam" sign in the city, but I do remember a small version in the airport gift shop. I guess that explains why the souvenir exists. This does look very family friendly. I was indeed a little worried that it may be a little to risque for the youngsters and that I'd have to be constantly getting them to look the other way.

  2. We really hope to return to Amsterdam one day. Those pedal boats were not there when we were previously and I am definitely doing that. They would provide a unique perspective of the city. Poffertjes are sold at our local market in Townsville, Australia. They are made and served identically :) I knew they were from Europe but I was thinking Belgium - and now I know!

  3. Hi,
    This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great! Thanks, Have a nice day. For more info please visit Amsterdam city guide

  4. Hi,
    This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work. Thanks, have a nice day. For more info please visit Amsterdam Tour

  5. That sounds like a wonderful trip! We don't let kids slow us down too much; it makes it a bit trickier to afford and occasionally find lodging with 3 in tow but I really do love the memories we make.

  6. What lucky children to go to such a wonderful place!

  7. Sounds like such a great trip! I think it is so important to introduce kids to travel...what a fabulous list of things to do. You are giving your son such wonderful memories! Thanks for linking up to Take Me Away!


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