The Netherlands is a treasure-trove destination for couples and families alike full of wonderful discoveries. The country is incredibly travel-friendly and easy to navigate which makes it a great destination whether it’s your first trip abroad or the 20th. This charming country that borders the North Sea has deep history to learn from, delicious food, cheese and wine to indulge in and plenty of activities to keep the whole family happy. We especially love the Netherlands for a family vacation because of the huge emphasis on healthy family life which leads to some great attractions for every age. Did we mention the cheese and wine (adults only beverage) to indulge in?
Add these seven activities to your trip to make sure you have the best family vacation in the Netherlands.
1. Cruise the canals
The Netherlands is well known for its picturesque canals. Strolling alongside the waterways either on foot or on two wheels (or four if you’re sporting some training wheels) is a wonderful activity. But even more exciting is to explore the canals in your own private boat.
Sloepdelen offers boat rentals in Amsterdam, Leiden, Haarlem, and Utrecht for your cruising pleasure. The boats are simple to operate and electric so there’s almost no noise. Plus, you don’t need any sort of boating license to cruise the canals! The boats seat up to 12 passengers so this is the perfect family outing. Reserving the boat online is a cinch and you can even add snacks and drinks to your order which will be waiting on your boat when you arrive.
Our favorite boat tour is through the charming town of Leiden. Calmer than the Amsterdam canals, Leiden is a beautiful traditional Dutch city. Here your family can relax and take in the sights from your private boat through over 17 miles of canal and under 88 bridges. The company’s website also provides maps to guide you on a two or three-hour tour pointing out all the historic sights you’ll be spotting, so you’re sure to not get lost or miss something incredible along the journey. This is a great adventure for adults and kids of all ages because the joy of your own private boat through idyllic canals has no age limit.
2. Turn a history lesson into real life at the Anne Frank House
Regardless of whether you’re in the Netherlands on a family vacation or a honeymoon, a tour of the house Anne Frank and her family used as a hideout during the Nazi occupation of Holland is certainly not to be missed. Although the subject matter is intense and hard to digest, it’s a fantastic way to turn a history lesson we all went through into a tangible experience.
If your children are old enough for the content, reading “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” will bring a new meaning to touring her house. The walls in Anne’s room have pictures and postcards glued up, something she added to brighten up the time she had to spend there. You’ll pass through the bookcase that was on a hinge to allow access into the Secret Annex. On one wall, you’ll see the height markers tracking Anne’s growth as well as her sisters. In the two years Anne spent in the Secret Annex, she grew five inches. These small details in her house are truly special to be a part of – something adults and kids alike will never forget.
The museum is popular so it’s best to buy tickets in advance online. You can purchase tickets online two months before your visit. If your desired day is sold out, 20% of the day’s allotted tickets are put on sale at 9 a.m. on that day on the website.
3. Stop to smell the roses and the 7 million other flowers in Keukenhof
If you find your family in the Netherlands during the spring tulip season (usually the end of March until the middle of May) you’ll need to spend half a day touring the Disneyland of flower gardens – Keukenhof in Lisse. The gardens are well known for their tulip displays but other noteworthy flowerings are irises, cherry blossoms, daffodils, roses, orchids, and carnations only to name a few and leave out so many more. The park has a lot to brag about with 800 varieties of tulips, a Netherlands special. Each year, the garden plants over 7 million bulbs.
The whole family will enjoy strolling these spectacularly impressive grounds. Especially for the kids is a treasure hunt, petting zoo, maze, and playground. Of course you’ll find refreshments along your way in the park – ice cream for the kids and adult beverages for those of age.
4. Add a science lesson to family vacation at the Science Center Nemo
Your hometown probably has a science museum, so why waste precious vacation time at a science center, you ask? Because this is a stunning and ridiculously cool science museum. As you walk up to Nemo you won’t be able to help but immediately post some pictures of the building. The structure itself it worth the short walk there from Amsterdam Central station.
The museum spans five floors with the motto, “Please do touch,” and there’s plenty of that to keep every child happily exploring. Put on a chemist coat and do experiments, learn why you have blue eyes and your brother has brown, or fully encase yourself in a giant soapy bubble – all at Nemo Science Center.
Be sure to swing by the roof terrace cafe for some extra energy. It has great views of Amsterdam.
5. Play golf with a clog and some cows
Golf is almost always considered a “fancy” sport. It costs some serious pennies for a good tee time, good clubs, good shoes, the right outfit – especially on vacation. It’s not a cheap sport. None of this holds true with the Dutch version of farm golf: Boerengolf. It started with some non-pretentious farmers who attached a clog to the end of a stick and grabbed a soccer ball (football if you’re not from the United States). Then the farmers split into teams – with each team having one clog club and one ball to run the course. The same golf objective applies with the goal being to get the ball into the hole with the lowest number of hits. Except this time some playful cows might join in on the fun and offer your team some encouragement. One game typically takes 90 minutes to complete.
Head to the cute neighborhood of Haarlem for this farm game. Stay for the other farm games on the property like throwing pitchforks into the hay bale bullseye or take part in a clog race in the field. Check out the whole list of activities on the farm’s website. (The website is in Dutch but a simple “Google Translate” will work to get all the details you’ll need)
6. Explore one of Europe’s best theme parks with luxury accommodations
Efteling in Kaatsheuvel is one of the world’s oldest theme parks. It’s twice as big as the original Disneyland in California and is three years older. Efteling is such a staple in the theme park world that Disneyland Paris consulted with the park to make sure they were adapting to a European style park correctly.
Each year over 5 million visitors enjoy the park and you and your family should absolutely be in those number on your vacation to the Netherlands. Efteling has 35 attractions with six of those being roller coasters, so it’s fun for all ages here.
Theme Park Insider, a comprehensive theme park review site covering the globe, ranked Efteling the best theme park in the world in 2017 and again in 2018. The park has seven realms to explore with fantastic wooded areas and gardens to wander through between each realm. The most well-known realm is the Fairytale Forest.
The best way to adventure in Efteling is to stay on the property in one of the lakeside woodland houses. The houses sleep six with a picturesque deck over the lake. Each house also features a small sauna on the deck. From the house, the theme park is a 10 minute walk away. Included in the accommodation fee is admission to the theme park with come and go privileges. This means the older kids will have the freedom to go explore on their own while anyone who is theme-parked-out can hang out in the luxury accommodations while still feeling like they’re experiencing the Netherlands. This is the perfect accommodation if you’re not one for tradition hotels.
7. Eat your heart out in Gouda
We’re all familiar with the Dutch cheese Gouda, but most are less familiar with the town it originated in: Gouda! We’re also less familiar with the correct pronunciation which is more similar to HOW-da. Now that our daily Dutch lesson is done, plan for a trip to the wonderful city to visit the Gouda cheese market which takes place every Thursday morning from April through August: the kaasmarkt. The first kaasmarkt in Gouda took place in 1395. Still today, the cheese wheels are delivered to the market by farmers on horse and cart. They’re sold in front of Gouda’s City Hall, the oldest Gothic city hall in all of the Netherlands.
Gouda and the surrounding area produce about 60% of all cheese from the Netherlands, earning it the affectionate title of Cheese Valley.
If cheese isn’t a popular menu item for everyone in your family, not to worry. Gouda also has many shops that cater to other palates. Syrup waffles, stroopwafels in Dutch, are an amazing treat of two thin waffles sandwiched together with gooey caramel in the center. Take a tour of a factory perfecting this delicious sweet since 1810 at the Gouda Kamphuisen Siroopwafles.
Gouda surely has something for everyone in your family to enjoy.
Some extra tips about your best family vacation in the Netherlands
Get some great shoes worn-in a few weeks before your departure
As is the case with almost all of Europe, you’re going to be walking a lot. Thankfully athletic shoes aren’t what they used to be. These days, tennis shoes can be a great accessory to a travel-worthy outfit. Our favorites right now are the Adidas NMD. Of course, try to get your shoe selection settled a few weeks before the vacation to make sure they’ll be comfortable.
Get the museum card if your family is interested in visiting a handful of museums
The Museumkaart can be a great money saver if your family is planning to visit several museums while on vacation in the Netherlands. The card offers access to over 400 museums and typically pays for itself by visiting three museums. The card also offers a fun way of planning your trip: browsing the museums included in the card, choosing a handful, and setting off to explore the museum’s neighborhood after your visit. (Again the website is in Dutch, but “translate” will allow you to get the necessary details).
Where is your next family vacation?
We’d love to hear your plans! Whether you’re taking your family to Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico or anywhere else in the world, we want to know where your travels are taking you! Perhaps you’re checking on flights to Amsterdam after reading this article! We’re family travel experts and would love to help you plan the perfect adventure your whole family is sure to love. Summer break is right around the corner, so let’s get planning!
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