Exploring the Netherlands with kids
Editors note: Whether you’re in the Netherlands on vacation, or you are living here on a more permanent basis, there’s plenty for you to do in the Netherlands with kids. Kristen has almost 5 years experience living in the Netherlands with her 2 kids, so you could say she’s an expert. Today she’s sharing some of her favourite things to do with kids in/around/accessible to Rotterdam.
A little country with so much to offer!
The thing that I really love about the Netherlands, is that there is always something to do and you never have to travel far to get there. Particularly in Spring and Summer, you will find multiple events scheduled for every weekend. It takes about three hours to drive from the north to the most southern point of the Netherlands, and a little over two hours to get from the beaches on the West coast to the Eastern border shared with Germany. So, coming from Australia, in my mind everything is this country is close and accessible.
From where we live, driving for just one hour can take you into Belgium, two hours and you can be in Germany, or two and a half and you are in France! But for now, I am going to talk about a variety of our family’s favourite activities in the Netherlands, all low cost or cost free!
The following activities are very affordable!
Sprookjeswonderland – Fairy Tale Attraction Park
Everyone has heard of Efteling, the Fairy Tale Attraction Park in the Netherlands; however, not everyone has heard of Sprookjeswonderland. Situated in Enkhuizen, Sprookjeswonderland is basically an Efteling for toddlers! There is a fairy tale forest, plenty of exciting rides (all suitable for toddlers), a huge playground and much more. Everything here is based on fairy tales. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Efteling, however, for children under 6 Sprookjeswonderland is more suitable (and affordable). They also offer a Sprookjes Winterland in the winter months.
Sprookjeswonderland is open from the end of March until the end of October.
Cost: 9.95 euros per person. www.sprookjeswonderland.nl
A hop skip and jump from the Sprookjeswonderland is the Zuiderzeemuseum. Set on fifteen acres in Enkhuizen, at the edge of the IJsselmeer, this museum depicts a typical dutch fishing village from the beginning of the previous century. You will see old authentic little houses, churches, fish/eel smoking shed, windmill, school, cheese warehouse, and traditional shops, all historically accurate. There are plenty of demonstrations going on throughout the village like rope and basket making and smoking herring. Children can take part in old Dutch activities like old games and building clog boats.
This museum presents an exciting opportunity to go back in time and see the Netherlands the way it used to be. It is best to visit the museum between late March to late October, when both the indoor and outdoor museums are open. For an extra treat, take the museum ferry from the Museum’s car park (or railway station) across the IJsselmeer to the museum – these sail to and from the museum every 20 minutes.
Cost: 10-16 euros per person. www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl/en/10/home
AviFauna Bird Park
There are many great zoos in the Netherlands that your children will enjoy. AviFauna Bird Park however, is one of my favourites. It’s small, hands on and much more affordable than other zoos in the area. You can also find an amazing play area for all ages, including a gaming arcade and some enormous slides for those who dare.
Cost: 7 euros per person. www.avifauna.nl/home
De Haar Castle
There are many beautiful castles in the Netherlands. De Haar Castle is my absolute favourite. It’s surrounded by stunning gardens and a beautiful forest.
The great thing about De Haar Castle is that you can take a picnic lunch and eat in the gardens enjoying the view. This wonderful day out will cost you almost nothing. This is what we did the first few times as I was hesitant to take the kids inside the castle. Then I discovered that they offer kid’s tours! This was a god send; The tour guide kept their interest, so they weren’t running wild, it was educational for them and best of all, I was finally able to see the inside of this magnificent castle. Suffice to say, it did not disappoint.
Cost: 3-4 euros p.p to enter the park, or 9-14 euros p.p for entry to the park plus a castle tour. www.kasteeldehaar.nl
A Day on the Water
One of our favourite things to do in our free time is to go out on our sloep (canal boat) and see this beautiful country from another perspective.
From the water, the Netherlands is at it’s finest. You can get pretty much anywhere you want to go in Holland via the waterways. If you don’t own a boat, there’s no need to despair; renting one is possible in many locations throughout the country. If you don’t have a boat licence, no worries – you do not need a boat license to drive a boat under 15m.
One of the many great places to start is Schipluiden, a beautiful little historical town. Here you can find two cafe restaurants. They make an amazing lunch and… you guessed it, hire out boats! From Schuipluiden you can easily discover Maasland, the yacht house and the Foppenplas. If you would like to be more adventurous, then hire a sloep or fluisterboat and take a full day trip through het Westland and into the beautiful city of Delft.
In the future, we are hoping to discover Giethorn and the Biesbosch via the water.
Cost: 6-35 euros per hour, depending on the type of boat you hire.
A family favourite park for families located in and around the city of Rotterdam. No matter, the season, Plaswijkpark will never fail to entertain.
Plaswijckpark is great all year ’round, but it’s a particular favourite destination for us in the Summer because its fun waterpark area.
If you plan to visit more than a couple of times during the year, you may want to consider the annual abonnement. (here’s a hot tip – if you have a Rotterdampas, you can get 50% off!)
Cost: 11.70 per person. www.plaswijckpark.nl
Zeehondencreche – Seal Day Care
This little hidden gem right at the top of the country is a seal orphanage. When young pups are found either injured, motherless or both, the zeehondcreche will nurse them and and look after them until they are ready to be released back into the Wadden Sea. In addition, they also look after some sick or debilitated adult seals. If you are in the area of Groningen, designate an hour or two for this. The whole family can learn what we can all do to help save the seals.
Cost: 3-5 euros per person www.zeehondencreche.nl
The following activities are FREE!
Meijendel Nature Reserve
Meijendel is a magnificent dune forest, situated along the beach at Wassenaar, just up from Scheveningen (near Den Haag). There are so many marked walking tracks to choose from and several play areas for kids, including a forest adventure area where the kids can enjoy nature at it’s best.
The Zaanse Schans is a cute little village, shown as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, just outside of Amsterdam. Here you can see many old wooden windmills, houses, barns and shops built in the old wooden dutch style. You can also watch cheese and clog making demonstrations!
Gouda Cheese Markets
Set in the beautiful heart of Gouda, in the shadow of the historic town hall, the cheese markets are a spectacular scene. Held every Thursday morning from April to August, you can watch farmers, dressed in traditional clothing, negotiate over the price of the cheese with the traders. They barter by slapping each other on the back of the hands and then the deal is sealed with a handshake, as it has been for centuries. During the school holidays, there are also activities set up for kids, including clog throwing, the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and other games.
Varend Corso Westland – Flower Boat Parade
Every summer since 1998, the annual Flower Boat parade has been held (usually in the first weekend in August) which attracts hundreds of thousand of spectators.
Boats are meticulously decorated with locally grown plants, flowers and vegetables from het Westland. They then sail through the canals of Westland, Midden-Delfland, Delft, Rijswijk, The Hague, Vlaardingen and Maassluis. The total route is 70 km long and is covered over three days (Friday to Sunday).
Attending this event has become a much loved annual family tradition of ours. We take our fold-up chairs and sit beside the canal with our picnic, waiting patiently for the first boat to come into view, it’s great!
Parkpop is the largest free festival in the Netherlands, and has been held in Den Haag since 1981. Ok, I can literally hear you thinking that festivals are not the place to take kids, but this one is quite family friendly!
There are multiple stages set up with music of all types, quite a large festival market, and plenty of green grass to lay on and soak up the sun (strangely enough it always seems to be sunny for this event). Every year I see families sitting further towards the back, enjoying the atmosphere! As hundreds of thousands of people attend, I wouldn’t be taking my two kids who are 5 and 7 unless they were leashed, but once they get a few years older I may just reconsider!
Take a picnic rug and some snacks, and a great day will surely be in store for the whole family.
Hoek van Holland Beach
There are many beaches in the Netherlands, but this particular one is like a second home to us. It’s where the entrance to the busy Rotterdam harbour begins, so there are constantly ships going in and out.
We love to climb the dunes, fly a kite, walk along the long pier, play in the waves, watch the ships go by and the wind surfers doing their thing – all whilst getting some fresh ocean air. Whether it is warm enough to swim, so cold the sand is frozen, or even gale force ten, you can often find me here with my family.
For lunch, I can recommend the Vispaleis (Fish Palace) on the boulevard (a great place for ship spotting). Their fish is fresh and high quality and the kid’s meals are great value at just 2.95 euros!
Tulip Fields, Lisse
From March until May each year, the little country of the Netherlands is bursting with colour! The tulips are in bloom and merely the sight of them will make the whole family happy.
Keukenhof gardens in Lisse is truly incredible to see, but can also be quite expensive. What you may not know is that you don’t need to go into the gardens to enjoy all of the magnificent tulip fields. Along the roads between Haarlem and Leiden you will discover amazing flower fields. Take a drive, stopping at the best ones for a walk to enjoy the view. Alternatively, if you are up for the exercise, follow the tulip biking route!
I hope that this has given you a few good ideas and some inspiration for your next family outing. I hope you enjoy your next day out with your family!