Family day trip ideas in the Amsterdam Area
As wonderful as Amsterdam is, there are times when our kids are itching to get out of the city and explore some of the wonders beyond. The Netherlands is a small country and hugely accessible by public transport, car or even bike – so why not take the plunge and check out our favourite day trips a little further afield.
A short(ish) cycle ride from Amsterdam’s Central Station is the beautiful medieval castle at Muiderslot. Surrounded by a moat and with battlements to explore, ‘secret’ passageways to discover and a courtyard straight out of Beauty and the Beast, Muiderslot tops our list for a quick getaway when the city is feeling jammed. With the chance to become a knight or noble lady, take part in jousting and archery or scrabble up the 83 steps to the turret and discover the long-drop toilets, adventures are guaranteed.
Zaanse Schans, Zaandam
It’s touristy. You’ll probably come home with plastic tulips and furry clogs. But our kids still love this version of the Dutch idyll just half an hour from Amsterdam. With a line of Instagram-ready windmills, Dutch treats like stroopwafels, cheese and licorice to taste, it may suffer from coach trip overload but don’t rule it out. Our top tip is the museum at the visitor centre with the recreated chocolate and biscuit factory and the chance to design your own chocolate wrapper (and take it home wrapped around a bar of the local stuff).
Volendam and Edam
Due to their proximity to Amsterdam, both Volendam and Edam can be packed with tourists, and have their fair share of touristy vendors selling souvenir kitsch (particularly in Volendam). But both these towns have lots to offer and make for a fun day out. On Wednesdays, the pretty little town of Edam sees farmers bring cheeses by boat and horse to the town centre ready to be weighed and traded, and whilst this is laid on for tourists, it’s still fun to see. At Volendam’s harbour the speciality is fish, and there’s literally nowhere better in the Netherlands to get a fresh herring, straight off the boat – assuming of course that you aren’t in town to grab a picture of yourself dressed in traditional local costume.
When the sun comes out (indeed even when it doesn’t) our boys love to head to the beach. Within just half an hour of Amsterdam, the beaches of Noordwijk, Zandvoort and even Scheveningen a little further afield provide hours of fun and fresh air along with some fabulous food at the many pavilions (often huddled around a fire pit with a hot Chocomel when the weather turns).
In spring, the Keukenhof, the world’s largest flower garden, is worth a family trip. The magnificent display reaches its pinnacle over just a few weeks each year and if the hoards of visitors are too much, why not hire a bike and cycle through the surrounding tulip fields of Lisse for a bucket-list kind of experience. Once seen, never ever forgotten.
Just north of Leiden lies the wonderful Olmenhorst Orchard – a lovely family day out. In autumn, there are, of course, apples and pears to pick, but the rest of the year, you’ll often find unique activities and meals featuring organic products from the surrounding countryside. A delightful place to explore and run around, it is also home to a gorgeous farm shop packed with edible goodies as well as wooden children’s toys and gifts.
Based North of Amsterdam at Lelystad Airport, this vast aerospace museum draws us back time and time again. It’s packed with planes to clamber aboard, both inside and out, where young pilots, stewards and stewardesses can complete a series of activities and earn their flying stripes.
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel
Not packed with attractions but a huge favourite of our children when the weather is nice, Ouderkerk offers a slice of Dutch country living just 20 minutes from the city. Whether you reach it by bike, boat or car you’ll be rewarded with riverside views of the Amstel, windmills and village life and some of our favourite terraces for a bite to eat or a chilled drink.
Finally, if you have a team of little football lovers, a day out to visit one of the Netherlands' football clubs can prove a thrilling adventure. Even without a match on, many of the premium venues offer stadium tours and of course a shop with local souvenirs. So whether it’s Rotterdam to see Feyenoord, Eindhoven for a trip to PSV, or our favourite - a visit to the Johan Cruijff Arena on the outskirts of Amsterdam to see the mighty Ajax, the Dutch know a thing or three about Total Football and yours might too by the time you leave.
Europe’s biggest playground is the headline – who could ask for more? Everything here is child-powered. For toddlers there is a large area that includes a ‘traffic village’ for tricycles – effectively a road complete with signals, crossings, a police station and a fast-food outlet. Older children get to enjoy the lake with pedalos, rope bridges, mini-golf, slides, go-karts, a train ride, a pedalled monorail, a waterpark and hundreds of other activities. So, whether your kids love balancing, pedalling, bouncing, hanging, swinging or cycling, this makes for the ultimate fresh-air getaway.