The one with pancakes
OK, I had to put this in there. It’s not my favourite option on the list but if you’d have asked my kids when they were four years old they probably would have told you it was theirs. Sailing along the River IJ (not the cosy canal views you’ve been dreaming of) this boat involves mountains of help-yourself pancakes and toppings and even a ball pool down below. Yup, if your minis are lovers of 'panenkoeken' then this is the option for you.
The one with pirates
If you fancy one of Amsterdam’s traditional large canal boat cruises then head to the Blue Boat Company for a kids’ pirate cruise. In fact all departures (which take place from the Stadhouderskade opposite Hard Rock) offer the option of a kids’ pirate pack which includes a guide book and binoculars as well as headphones for them to tune into the child-friendly audio (adults can stick with the regular audio guide). Our two absolutely loved this trip, which is super family friendly and includes an on-board toilet and the ability to bring your own snacks aboard. Follow our tip and bring your own headphones if earbuds aren’t going to work for your little ones.
The one that doesn’t go anywhere
Last year we stayed the night on a houseboat and our kids adored the experience. The boats really are floating homes and come incredibly well-equipped. Ours had extensive safety apparatus on the windows and entrances and came complete with a full bath and ‘disco shower’. Watching canal life at dusk and dawn was entrancing for our boys who didn’t want to leave.
The one that’s free
Amsterdammers in the know will tell you that the free ferry that heads from Central Station over to the North side of the River IJ is one of the best kids’ activities around. Scramble aboard alongside bikes and scooters and enjoy the wind in your hair as you make you way over to the NDSM wharf. Stop off at the IJ-kantine for lunch or enjoy the terrace at Pllek before heading back for stunning views of the Eye Filmmuseum and more.
The one where you get your feet wet
OK, so you don’t really get to ‘see’ Amsterdam if your kids are playing in one of the city’s many splash pools, but do you get to see lots of Amsterdammers and on a hot day your kids will love you for it. Check out our favourites –the gorgeous pool in the Beatrix park, the splash pool in the Westerpark, the water feature on the roof of NEMO Science Museum (you won’t need a museum ticket to get up there), or the paddling pools in the Amsterdam Forest. The forest is also the place to go swimming in a lake or rent a canoe. Alternatively, why not consider hanging out at one of the city’s urban beaches or head to the real beach at nearby Zandvoort - just half an hour away on the train.
The best one of all
Nothing compares to a private cruise on the Amsterdam canals tailored especially for your minis. We recently had one of our all-time best Amsterdam experiences with Pure Boats. With kids’ lifejackets onboard; unlimited Chocomel and fruit juice; snacks including stroopwafels; an opportunity to feed the ducks and swans in the Amstel River and toilet stops whenever you need it this is the ultimate in laid-back luxury. The children were treated like royalty as were we, their parents - there was even colouring-in on offer but our youngsters were completely enchanted by the whole experience and far too busy enjoying the view to be distracted. This is the ultimate watery Amsterdam outing and a bucket-list experience you’ll all be talking about for years to come.
So what are you waiting for? Hop aboard shipmates - Amsterdam's waterways are ready to welcome you for a watery day out.
For more inspiration when it comes to kid-friendly or more grown up canal adventures check out our blog: Amsterdam Wonderland