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Netherlands: Amsterdam, Best Urban Family Adventures with Bikes, Boats, and Cooking Classes. Amsterdam City SignFrom bicycles and boats and street performers to kid-friendly cafes and amazing NEMO, the choices for family fun are many. Amsterdam is an active and engaging city.

Here’s the scoop. Amsterdam is a compact city which makes it easy to share with children including tweens or teens. Because of the numerous canals, quaint bridges and 17th century town houses, the city has a charm all of its own. English is widely spoken and there are plenty of opportunities to also speak French, German or Dutch if need be. I have sorted through my notes to create a short list of the best non-museums family activities.
Navigate the city – bike or boat. 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. Bonus points: Another terrific way to exercise while seeing the city is with a canal bike. The two or four-seat mini boat-bikes require energy but the result is guilt-free eating. The canal bikes are moored at various docks throughout the city so there’s no need to pedal roundtrip. (Weteringschanshans 24, Amsterdam. Tel: 31 20 626 5574 or

Joyride Bicycle Tours - Ride out of town. For high energy families a day out and about of the city makes sense. It is possible to bikes at various locations within the city and to do your own thing with kids. But I think it is more fun to join an organized tour. One company I like is Joyride because they have a countryside tour that involves eating lovely cheese. The route is about 12 miles round-trip and travels through the Vondelpark, and along flat picturesque terrain out to a working windmill – where else but Holland. The mid-point destination is a working farm where participants can watch cheese and clogs being made. Not together of course. Bonus points: It is possible to purchase a pair of clogs and have them monogrammed. And of course the scrumptious cheese is for sale. Need to know: All tours are given in English however private tours may be requested in Dutch, Spanish, Italian and Russian. General tours are best suited for active families with children older than 10. (Joyride Bicycle Tours Behind the Rijksmuseum and in front of the museum shop Amsterdam or

NEMO - Escape to the park. Perhaps the most popular patch of greenery in all of Holland is Vondelpark, about a five-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum.  It is the home of the award- winning Science Center NEMO. The iconic boat-shaped building is home to an energizing science and technology museum. For youngsters and the young-at-heart NEMO is pure fun. The museum’s five floors actively engage all senses making the visit interactive at every turn. Bonus points: During the summer months there is a rooftop splash park, complete with a sandy area and lounge chairs. Entry is free even for non-museum goers and families are welcome to bring their own picnic food. Need to know: Vondelpark is also the home of the Shipping Museum with a Dutch trading ship docked at the front. Science Center NEMO Oosterdok 2 Amsterdam or Amsterdam Canal Bus

Grayline- Cruise the canals. Much like St. Petersburg and Venice, Amsterdam’s canal system holds the city together providing transportation, recreation, and entertainment. These narrow waterways were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Some canal boats (canal buses) provide on-and-off options for passengers making it easy to visit museums or find the perfect café. All are family friendly. Bonus points: For parents who wish to demonstrate to their children multiple languages in use, a canal boat tour will do it. Guides switch between, Dutch, French, Germans, Spanish, English, and sometimes Japanese or Russian. It is so cool to watch the amazement of who struggles with Spanish of French verbs at home. Need to know: It is possible to purchase a 24-hour on/off ticket making it possible to visit 20 different tourist destinations – that is if you do not plan to sleep.  (AmsterdamCityCruises Tramplein 8A Purmerend, Amsterdam or and Amsterdam Grayline Canal Boats ticket shop at Damrak Pier 5, Amsterdam or

KinderKookKafé – A café by kids for kids. Not just the normal eating-out experience, at KinderKookKafé in Vodelpark, the food is prepared, cooked, and served by children. They even clean up and bring the bill with assistance from adult staff nearby. The simple set menu includes a main course and dessert. The ingredients are fresh; food is healthy; prices economical. On Saturdays and Sundays children may cook for their own guests. From 3:30 pm onwards on Saturdays, kids between the ages of six and 12 can prepare dinner; on Sundays children age five or older may prepare and serve an English style high tea. The average cost is EUR10. Need to know: To dine, an advance reservation (30 days) is essential however if you have a child who desires to cook plan ahead because reservations are necessary. (Katenlaantje Vondelpark 6 (path at Overton 333), Amsterdam. Tel: 31 20 625 3257 or

Checkout Circus Elleboog – Entertainment for kids by kids. Throughout the year, talented Amsterdam youth perform at various locations within the city. During the summer months their energizing circus antic may be seen in public parks and green spaces. Because no two seasons are the same, look for details in the monthly tourism publication Uitkraut. (Avenue of Spartan 32, Amsterdam. Tel: 31 20 626 9370 or

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 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

Content by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor FTF and images by Courtney Stephenson. Copyright 2012.

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