From the very earliest promise of spring to the dying days of autumn, The Netherlands comes alive with an extraordinary array of plants and flowers that are celebrated the world over. This small country is the world’s number one exporter of flowers, trees and bulbs and an astonishing 77% of all flower bulbs traded worldwide come from Dutch fields.
So, with a national symbol of the humble tulip it’s no surprise that locals and visitors alike relish the chance to introduce children to the wonders of nature by getting out and about and enjoying the natural bounty that this beautiful country has to offer.
Nurture your little nature-lover’s natural curiosity with a tour of the Amsterdam Area that includes stops in the following flowering fields.
Any reference to the flora of the Netherlands has to start with the extraordinary Keukenhof. Open for just two months each year from late March to late May this incredible spring garden is a brilliant place to introduce kids to the magnificence of nature. A flower fairy tale, the winding paths are perfect for either little legs or buggies and children delight in hopping across streams on stepping stones or running over little bridges and marvelling at the rainbow displays. With a playground, whisper boats, a petting farm, a chance to design your own bulb mosaic, take part in a treasure hunt or explore a maze, this is the perfect introduction to The Netherlands’ most outstanding blooming riches for little flower-lovers.
For those looking for less organised adventures, head to the Bollenstreek or flower strip. Stretching 32 kilometres from Haarlem to Leiden, the fields put on a superlative display starting with crocuses before blooming into daffodils and hyacinths and then, of course, the magical strips of tulips for which this area is so famed. Late summer sees gladioli, dahlias and asters which bring a wilder array of colour. The broad fields can even be seen when flying into the country, but for a closer view, hop on a bike and cycle through the splendour. Bikes can be rented at the entrance to the Keukenhof which includes cycle routes (ranging from short to long) or bring a bike from Amsterdam on the train to Leiden and follow the well-signposted route.
FAM Flower Farm
Those exploring the tulip fields are limited to staying strictly on the path and not venturing into the fields themselves but for an incredibly special experience, book one of the few opportunities to wander right into a working flower farm. The gorgeous Fam Flower Farm is a total delight. As a working flower farm, they sell their stunning bulbs the world over, but open up the gates for a couple of days in spring and summer when a lucky few get to experience the sensational flower fields up close. Marlies and Linda welcome small groups (no more than 12) and offer coffee and cake whilst explaining how the flowering process works. Visitors then get an hour to take stunning pictures with their own bunches of flowers as well as props like baskets and watering cans and, as a bonus, you get to take your beautiful bouquets home with you afterwards
The annual flower parade or Bloemencorso is a magical experience with 20 floats and dozens of cars covered in millions of flowers all decorated by volunteers. Thousands of visitors come to see this scent-sational celebration but given it takes 12 hours or more to process the 42 kilometres from Noordwijk to Haarlem (passing the flower fields of Lisse and the Keukenhof) there are plenty of spots where younger flower fans can still get a good view.
If you want your minis to enjoy the wonders of plants all year round, take them to the historic Hortus Botanicus in De Plantage (literally ‘plantation’) district of Amsterdam. Open for nearly 400 years, Hortus is the oldest botanical garden in the world. Packed with trees and plants both inside and out (the three hothouses offer tropical warmth on cold or rainy days), it also delights kids with the Butterfly Greenhouse, an enchanting oasis aflutter with colourful wings to marvel at.
Our kids loved their visit to Olmenhorst estate where apples and pears groan on the branches of fruit-laden trees in the orchard whilst the delightful buildings offer a gorgeous organic café and shop. There are lots of seasonal activities for little ones including craft events at Easter, a huge Easter lunch in the barn and dozens of workshops throughout the year. In addition to the the delights of the cafe, children can also enjoy a legendary Olmenhorst picnic. There are goodies for grown-ups (including optional wine or prosecco), but the real draw is for little ones who are given their own backpack with soft rolls filled with peanut butter or chocolate spread, a muffin, fruit and, of course, Olmenhorst apple juice. In September and October it’s time to pick the apples, which is a truly wonderful activity for little scrumpers. You can even adopt your own apple tree, which will be adorned with its own nameplate for children to discover on their visit. Not only can they follow its development from bud to bloom, but in autumn they’ll be able to gather the fruits to take home and perhaps make their very own organic apple pie.This is a birthday gift that will keep on giving.
Fruittuin van West
If you’re looking for a place to ‘pick your own’ a little closer to town, why not visit the delightful Fruittuin van West. This gorgeous little farm packs a real punch. As well as the orchard with apples and pears your littles will enjoy seasonal opportunities to pick a huge range of soft fruit including: blackcurrants, redcurrants, blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, grapes, loganberries, tayberries, cherries, cranberries, nectarines, plums and of course strawberries! As if that’s not enough you can harvest chicory and shitake mushrooms year-round. Maybe best of all the free-range chickens roam freely so kids can collect eggs to add to their bounty.
Zomerbloemen Pluktuin/Anniekes Pluktuin
If you’re forever telling your youngsters not to pick the flowers, how about an opportunity to set them free and let them do exactly that for once! Picking gardens are a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon and there are two great options in the wider Amsterdam area. At Zomerbloemen Pluktuin, south of the suburb of Amstelveen, children can pick their own daffodils early in the year or wait until tulip season when they pull them up with the bulbs offering a double whammy of gorgeous flowers this year and something to plant for next. There’s also a climbing frame and workshops and often cakes, pancakes and hotdogs on offer. Over in the bollenstreek, you’ll find Annemiekes Pluktuin another fabulous picking garden with tulip fields in spring and a huge variety of cutting flowers in Summer. Annemieke herself describes the chance to pick your own bouquet as being like a child in a sweetshop and your kids might come away thinking it’s even better than that!
So if you want share the richness of Dutch soil and its unparalleled array of flora with your mini plant and flower lovers, get stuck in and make the most all that this stunning country has to offer.
For more ideas of days out and things to do with kids check out Amsterdam Wonderland which is packed with inspiration for year-round adventures.