Netherlands: Amsterdam, Family Vacations with Art and Culture.
Holland is one of the most family-friendly places in Europe, and Amsterdam offers oodles of ways to share family vacation fun. From bicycles and boats and street performers to cafes, museums and shopping the choices are many.Here’s the scoop.
Amsterdam, while definitely a large urban hub, is a compact city making it easy to enjoy with just a little help from a pocket guidebook, tourist office tips, and friendly locals. English is widely spoken and there are plenty of opportunities to also speak French or German if need be. I have sorted through my notes to create a short list of the best museums to share with children.
First off, remember all trams must lead to Leidensplein – a popular spot day or night. That’s a good thing because it is only a short walk from Leidensplein to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. The city is saturated with art but these two museums provide the main course for art lovers of all ages. Browse the Rijksmuseum.
In the same category as the Louvre, Prado, and Hermitage the Rijksmuseum is a timeless. It is inspiring, thought provoking, and can exhausting but never-the-less remains on the short list of museums not-to-be-missed. For parents accompanied by young children the museum has an audio tour featuring tidbits about food and drink during the 17th century – the Golden Age of Holland. Available for purchase is an interactive museum viewing guide created for ages 6 to 9 to enable parents and children to search for five of the Rijksmuseum's masterpieces. Need to know:
It makes sense to purchase tickets online because lines can be long. To avoid long lines and congestion from April to June plan to visit after 4 p.m. any day of the week. Bonus points:
If you miss the city location it is still possible to enjoy a bit of art once at the airport. The Rijksmuseum Schiphol is located in the area behind passport control between the E and F Pier. The museum is open every day and admission is free. (Rijksmuseum Jan Luijkenstraat 1, 1071 CJ Amsterdam or www.rijksmuseum.nl
)Go for van Gogh.
I think the earlier children discover art in museums the more fun you will be able to share with them as young adults. So, if you have Montessori children, young artists, or dancers in your family the Van Gogh Museum will definitely be a rewarding experience. For parents of young children, the museum offers an interactive treasure hunt (viewing guide) to encourage young eyes to look for clues in the paintings and claim a prize at the end. And the audio tours scripted with children in mind make the museum more interesting for kids of all ages including teens. Bonus points:
The tours created specifically for children held throughpout the year and end with a hands-on themed to the current exhibition. Need to know:
Between the museums there is the option for a snack from one of several fresh food vendors. Look for the stroopwaffels – I am just saying. (Van Gogh Museum Paulus Potterstraat 7, Amsterdam or www.vangoghmuseum.nl
Tropenmuseum Junior – View cultures of the world.
Located off city centre in East Amsterdam (Amsterdam Oost), near the "Oosterpark" and Artis, this museum created for six to 13-years, provides exceptional interactive experiences. Children are invited to open their minds to stories from around the world and imagine the daily lives of others from the rainforest in Latin America to urban areas in China and from villages in the Middle East to habitats in Indonesia and India. The museum’s immersive experiences encourage children to be curious and open to cultural differences, helping them to be tolerant, respectful world citizens. Parking is limited. Bonus points:
Free entry with Amsterdam City Card. (Linnaeusstraat 2, 1092 CK Amsterdam. Tel: 31 20 568 8200 or http://tropenmuseum.nl/
Share the story before you go.
Anne Frank House Museum is popular with visitors of all ages but it is not a spot to visit with young children. In fact I think it is best to save this for children older than 10, and even then it is useful to review the story in advance so everyone is prepared for what will be an educational yet sobering time. Ticket holders are invited to climb the secret stairway to the attic and to view original clippings Anne placed on the walls of her room when she and her family were in hiding from Nazi's during the Holocaust. Audio and video elements provide tools enabling visitors to imagine the actual experience. Bonus points:
Make sure to use the interactive "cast your vote" video created to educate about discrimination and how it is still prevalent. Need to know:
There will always be long lines so to avoid the wait book tickets online in advance. If that is not possible get there before 9 a.m. or arrive after 6 p.m. and take your chances. Hours vary by season but I think the lines remain a variable to be considered.( Anne Frank House Prinsengracht 263-267, Amsterdam or www.annefrank.org
) Board a boathouse.
On a less somber note, nearby Anne Frank House Museum is a small bit of domestic charm. No need to explain in advance, the Houseboat Museum provides visitors a chance to step onboard and imagine for a bit what it must be like to live on a houseboat with no electric dishwasher and certainly no lawn to mow. (Amsterdam Houseboat Museum Prinsengracht 296, 1016 HW, Amsterdam or www.houseboatmuseum.nl
) Navigate the city.
My favorite method is by foot because the city is compact and dare I say picturesque even with children as companions. When walking but be sure to look both ways for bikes, buses, electric trams, scooters, or the occasional auto. The most popular means of transportation for locals and some visitors – is a bicycle and there are several rental spots for anyone wanting to procure wheels. Pathways for riding are well- marked and weave throughout the city. Colorful trams are follow popular routes; purchase a ticket at boarding and ask for bus transfers if needed.Location on the planet.
The primary airport is Schiphol – modern, efficient, and family friendly. A cab to the vicinity of Ledenplein runs from 35 to 40 euro. Trains connect the airport with the city center with tickets running about three euro each. Bonus points:
Make note that the shopping opportunities are plentiful, meaning is always possible to make purchases at the end of your trip. If it is sold elsewhere in Holland it is also sold at Schiphol. There will be a shop to suit your needs and the prices look competitive for most items. Make it happen.
Depending on your family’s adventure quotient, it is feasible and affordable to rent a short-stay flat, canal boat, or apartment and discover the city at your leisure. The best bet is to browse the city’s website for up to date information on events, exhibits, and discount passes. Go to www.iamsterdam.comContent by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor FTF and images by Courtney Stephenson. Copyright 2012.