Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmassy Day out in the Netherlands

As a quick follow up to my last post, and with Christmas just 1 month away...

If you are looking for a Christmassy day out with the kids in the Netherlands, the closest thing I've found to visiting Santa's grotto, is a trip to Intratuin (Garden centre).  They have a really great, big and beautiful Kerstmarkt (Christmas market), with a Christmas village my kids loved!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Days out with kids in the Netherlands

There are just a few days out in the Netherlands which stick in my mind as really, truly, memorable.  With the kids in tow, you need to find somewhere where there's enough to keep them entertained all day with activities for kids, there's good facilities and catering to keep them fed and clean, and as an adult you're not bored out of your mind.

There are several such places I could list, but just a few which had that little extra touch of magic.  Here's a list of my top five best days out in the Netherlands, with kids.

(Warning: none of these places are cheap and most have a cut off point of 3 years old before they start charging child (or even adult) entry prices!)


1. Dolfinarium - Harderwijk

I had it in my mind that is was a sort of Dolphin rescue centre, something to do with the Dutch sea defences.  I was very wrong. It turns out, that this place is a mini SeaWorld, based around fun and exciting shows, activities, interactions and experiences.  We spent a whole day there this summer, my 3-year old absolutely loved it and as adults we were also glued to the amazing shows starring Dolphins, Sealions, mini-Whale type creatures and pirates! All four adults in our group left the park with reusable coffee mugs (stainless steel mugs with a cartoon dolphin on the side) - fantastic!

A huge expanse of Africa, which can be experienced by car, bus, boat or foot (although we didn't go near the buses as there was always a big queue). This place has all five of the "big five game" and many other exciting animals from around the world.  We started out the day with the car safari, the highlight of which was a Giraffe eating the autumn leaves out of our windscreen gutter.  We then took the river boat, through the centre of the park, along the quite realistic attempt at recreating the Zambezi, and then we walked back through the park to the exit.  It took us around five hours.  While eating our lunch at a large picnic spot, we also had another treat.  One of the lionesses, who had been lying lazily on the other side of a wide moat from where we sat, suddenly smelt the whiff of a small dog, on our side of the moat.  It must have been 20 metres away, but that Lioness would not take her eyes off that little dog for the next 10 minutes.  It was hilarious!

3. Thomas weekend at the railway museum - Utrecht

This weekend event happens only once a year, this year it was in May.  Thomas the tank engine and friends travel all the way over from Sodor to spend the weekend at the Nederlandse Spoorweg Museum (Dutch railway museum) in Utrecht.  Of course Thomas is the star and he makes a grand entrance into the museum every 20 minutes or so, but there's also lots of other fun activities for kids, including face painting, train-based lunch boxes, a miniature train, a giant train play mat and a Thomas shop.  According to the website, the 2014 Thomas weekend is 29th May - 1st June.

4. Speelpark Oude Valkeveen

This is a theme park, with rides, for small children.  It's also a full day out.  It's located on the banks of the Gooimeer and so it has a beach and large playgrounds in the sand.  But it also has lots of other kids activities, such as bumper cars, a beautiful carousel, a mini-rollercoaster (warning: this was too scarey for my 3-year old daughter), an "old-timers" vintage car ride and a huge inflatable climbing wall cum-slide construction.  We had pancakes for lunch, in the pannenkoekenhuis right outside and there's free parking at the entrance (the only one of these 5 'best places' which does have free parking).

5.  Amersfoort Zoo - Amersfoort

I love this place because it's local to us, it's not too big or too small, and it has a miniature train running around and though it, which the kids absolutely love.  We've been a few times, but the all time highlight was 5 minutes watching a baby elephant trying to push over his mother, and failing quite miserably.

These are my top 5 place to visit in the Netherlands with children.  I'd love to hear from other parents on their favourite attractions for kids.