Top 10+ Activities and Attractions for Kids in Amsterdam
Have you always wanted to go to Amsterdam, but somehow missed visiting before you had kids? Us too. Discover how we managed to navigate a city known for it’s more adult activities with a five year old and still have an amazing time.
Amsterdam has been on our list of cities to visit for a long time now. People continually talk about how beautiful it is and it frequently makes top lists for tourists. Somehow we never got there before kids and we were determined to not let it be another 10 years before we checked out this gem of a city. But, that left us with some planning to do. Amsterdam is known for it’s Red Light District (yep, not taking my daughter there!) and it’s coffee shops, which have less coffee and more Ganga (again, not taking my daughter there either!).
Due to this, many parents wonder, is Amsterdam a good place for a family vacation? We say it can be depending on what you are looking for on your family holiday. After all, there are plenty of families who live in Amsterdam and carry on with their normal lives. There are museums to explore, playgrounds to conquer, a great zoo, boats, bikes, and of course delicious sweets.
For those of you coming from the US, Amsterdam can probably be compared to a mash up of Las Vegas and the East Village in New York. Funky, alluring, and exciting with personality to boot.
If you are looking for a fun family vacation to Amsterdam, here are the top 10 things we recommend to do with kids based on our recent visit.
1. Get the I Amsterdam City Card
There are a couple different card options, but after researching the options, this one fit the best. The recommendation is to purchase a card for each adult and children ages 10 and up. Several museums have free entrance for children so the pass is not a good value for those younger than 10.
Not only will you receive free entrance to 44 top museums and attractions in Amsterdam, you will have unlimited rides on the public transportation and get discounts at a host of restaurants, cafes, and other attractions.
For children younger than 10 that do not need the I Amsterdam City Card, you can purchase 24-hour transportation passes for only 3.5 euros. The time begins from the time stamp of first use, not at midnight, so you can possibly get away with less cards than days you are traveling. For instance if you stamp the card at 11:00 am, it is good until 10:59 am the following day - plenty of time to get out, and use transportation to the first attraction of the day. Then you could stamp the next card at 3:00 pm for example as you headed to the next attraction, which would be valid until 2:59 pm the next day. The cards are not required to end and start immediately!
We loved the flexibility of this pass and highly recommend it! It covered the big attractions we wanted to see and a 1-hour canal cruise.
2. Find the I Amsterdam Sign
The main I Amsterdam sign is located between the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. There is also a small replica inside the Amsterdam Museum (free entrance included with the I Amsterdam City Card). There is a 3rd set of letters at the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. These three are permanent installations. There is a 4th sign that travels around the city. Unfortunately it was between locations when we were there, but you can find the location on iamsterdam.com.
3. The ARTIS Zoo
The zoo was a fun outing we all enjoyed. Now we understand that not all families like or believe in zoos, but we appreciate the zoos that act ethically and work to educate the community about issues affecting animals in the wild. The ARTIS Zoo has been open since 1838 and is the top-rated zoo in the Benelux region and upon entrance you can see why.
As we purchased Eleanor’s ticket (children do require a ticket above age 3, but the adults entrance was included with the I Amsterdam City Card), we had to confirm with the clerk that this was in fact the zoo. The environment blends so nicely together that it looked like we were entering a big park and not a commercial zoo.
The animal habitats felt very natural and often were not separated by bars, but by moats or other natural barriers. There was also a very nice playground next to the cafe where we ate lunch while admiring the giraffes. As for lunch, it was a bit pricey, but it was the healthiest and tastiest lunch we have ever eaten at a zoo.
We received so many recommendations for NEMO once we were on the ground in Amsterdam. Our server the first night at dinner, the clerk who exchanged our I Amsterdam City Card Voucher, and a cab driver all told us we had to make a stop there. So happy we did too. This is Amsterdam’s science museum aimed at kids 6 years and up. While it was a little stimulus overload for the parents, our daughter loved it. We scored a great spot for the Chain Reaction show and Eleanor was able to play with interactive exhibits. We all got to don official white lab coats and participate in a self-led science experiment looking at how sunscreen works.
5. Canal Cruise
If you choose to purchase the I Amsterdam City Card, you will get a free 1 hour canal cruise. We enjoyed the opportunity to slow down for a bit and take a break from walking, but did not find the cruise we chose to be terribly informative. If you are with kids we recommend trying the Kids Cruise by Blue Boat. We are not 100% sure if this is included with the I Amsterdam City Card or not, but the other cruises by Blue Boat before 4:30 pm are included so we have no reason to believe this one would be off limits. Remember that you will need to purchase the child’s ticket though.
This is the Central Park of Amsterdam. It is big and glorious in all of its green space. As with any good park there are a few good playgrounds and there is also a super fun splash pad near it’s center. We spent a good half day here as it was super hot and the reprieve in the water was nice.
Located near the splash pad in Vondelpark is this quaint little place called Kinderkookkafe. It is a cafe where the kids do the cooking and it was by far the place Eleanor talked about the most after we left Amsterdam. The food is basic level for the kids, but the sandwiches were nice for a light lunch. Eleanor loved making pizza and a cupcake while we enjoyed sipping cappuccinos while she played with the toys and on the playground equipment. This would have provided hours of entertainment if we would have had a friend along to play with. Their website also mentions evening activities where the kids fix a full dinner for the parents but this is geared toward ages 8 and older.
While we did not get a chance to visit Amstelpark on our (out of character) short visit, it came highly recommended by friends who visited Amsterdam the year before us with their two boys. The top recommendations were for mini golf and the farmer’s market. If you are near the south side of Amsterdam we think a stop in Amstelpark would be a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
9. Visit the Anne Frank House
This one is recommended for children aged 10 and older. The realities of the Holocaust and what Anne and the Frank family endured might be too much for younger kids to handle. However, this would be an amazing opportunity to bring history to life in the actual house where Anne lived in hiding.
10. Choose Your Museum of Choice
There are so many amazing museums in Amsterdam and most are covered with the I Amsterdam City Card. Choose your top 2 to 3 and make a plan to see them with the family. Rounding out museum time with all of the kid-focused activities makes Amsterdam a nice retreat for all.
Now you can see that while Amsterdam has a reputation for the seedier wants of life, there are plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone happy and entertained. And you didn’t even have to go near the infamous red light district or in any coffee shops.
Have you been to Amsterdam with kids? What did you think? Any other amazing places we missed?
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