Visiting Amsterdam in Family Friendly Fashion: What We Loved and Loathed

When Matt and I told our friends we were heading to Amsterdam, we got loads of comments about a bunch of kid inappropriate activities that Amsterdam is well known for.  Amsterdam gets a bad rap for a lot of things, which may deter families from visiting.  However, there are a number of reasons why we feel families shouldn't cross it off their lists quite yet.  In this post I hope to share things we loved about Amsterdam with kids, and what to avoid.
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What We Loved:
1. Gorgeous old streets and waterways: Amsterdam is known for its quaint European style look and canals.  We were there in May and loved seeing all the fresh flowers (although we missed the tulips) in little baskets along the winding canals and gabled buildings in Amsterdam.
2. Weather: Traveling to Amsterdam in late May was fantastic!  Although I understand the weather is not always this good, we had high 60s, low 70s the entire time we were there and later that week it reached the 80s.  It was the perfect weather to walk and explore.
3.  History: Amsterdam is rich in history dating back to the 1200s, so taking time to explore the old streets and buildings is a must!  We would also recommend the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Art Museum and Rijksmuseum.  We were unable to visit the Anne Frank House because it was completely booked, which I was very disappointed about.  If this something you are interested in doing, make sure you book your tickets at least 1 -2 months in advance.  You can book them online here.   The Van Gogh museum was fascinating and I'm so glad we went!  There was sooo much information that we were able to learn about Van Gogh's life and seeing some of his earlier works and how it evolved to what he became famous for was really interesting.  I would definitely recommend this museum, even if you aren't particularly an art fan (like myself).  Tickets need to be purchased online beforehand, which we did in our hotel the day before.  You can book your tickets for the Van Gogh museum here.  The Rijksmuseum was also amazing and we would highly recommend!  The museum is filled with Dutch Golden Age masterpieces (think Rembrandt) and it is definitely worth a visit!  Tickets are around $20 per person (kids are free) and you can purchase them at the museum's entrance.
If you have any time to read about the history of Amsterdam, it really is sooo interesting!  Did you know that Amsterdam was built up on a bunch of logs over water?  We noticed that a lot of the buildings are slanting because the foundation is so unstable!  Also, you will notice many of the shops and houses along the canals are SUPER small in front, but then open up in the back.  This is because real estate was priced based on frontage, so many shops built tiny little storefronts and then big backs so they could pay less.  I don't know, maybe I'm nerdy, but I thought it was interesting!

5. Vondelpark: This park was amazing and totally reminded us of Central Park in NYC.  I love a city that has nature in midst of all the hustle and bustle!
6. Bikes everywhere: Matt especially appreciated seeing everyone riding their bikes since he rides his bike to work every day (rain or shine) in Buffalo!  Note: we saw two helmets the entire time and they were on kids around Dylan's age (3 years) but all the other kids and adults rode helmet free. (yikes!)
7. Our Hotel: We LOVED our hotel!  We stayed at NH Collection Amsterdam Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky.  It was so centrally located and sooo accommodating!  Amsterdam's central point is Dam Square, and this hotel is right on it! This is the top selling point, and it made for a perfect launch pad for our stay in Amsterdam. Beyond the location, the hotel is staffed with lovely and helpful people that went out of their way to help us out... they even cleaned my dress after Dylan spilled a raspberry smoothie all over it!
The rooms are updated, clean and stocked with a coffee machine. It's in the middle of the city, so the rooms are a bit small. For the price we paid, it would have been nice to have a bit more space. We had a courtyard view; I would have loved to upgrade to a view of the square, but it was a lot more money and I don't think it would have been worth it.
Breakfast wasn't included in our rate, but we paid for it one of the days, and it was definitely worth it. They had a huge spread; make to order eggs, fresh made smoothies, champagne, etc!
You sacrifice room size for location with this one, so if you aren't interested in a bigger room, this is a great choice for Amsterdam!
What We Loathed:
1. Hotels are very expensive: Finding reasonably priced accommodations was very difficult in Amsterdam, which is one of the reasons we only spent a couple of nights there.  It was rare to find any hotel under $200 and most 4-5 star hotels cost between $400 - $500. 
2.  Marijuana is legal.  Not fun smelling marijuana all over the street when you are pushing your one and three year old in a stroller.  Also, certain "coffee shops" allowed marijuana to be smoked inside... definitely places you would want to avoid in your family travel.  Fortunately, my kids never made mention of new smells and we were able to walk away if we smelled it.
3.  Red light district.  This is the last place on earth that I would want my children to be exposed to.  I completely disagree with prostitution and it makes me so sad that this area exists anywhere in the world.  I know I normally don't express my opinion on this blog, but there are some things I can't leave unsaid.  Obviously our boys were too young to understand anything, but if your kids are older, don't forget that once they put something into their minds, they can never erase it.  Avoid the district with your older kids.  It is not worth them seeing something they will never be able to delete from their mind.  I say this to Dylan all the time when he asks me why he can't watch a TV show we don't allow: "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things and the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:8.  Fortunately, the area can be easily avoided, even though is is very close to Amsterdam's main square.... take the time to walk a couple blocks around it if you need to head in that direction.
4. Water danger: If you have small kids like mine who still can't swim, water is a huge fear of mine.  One of the most beautiful features of Amsterdam is the gorgeous canals along quaint streets... however, nothing is blocked off.  Even sitting on a patio at a restaurant hardly had the canal drop off blocked off.  We really had to be diligent to not let our kids wander off anywhere and many times we were very close to water and there was no fence or anything along the side of the street to keep you from falling in the canal!  It was definitely a worry of mine the whole trip!  If you have a "runner" I would definitely recommend a child harness or using a stroller in Amsterdam.
5. Rowdy Crowds:  We saw sooo many bachelor parties and groups of people dressed up making scenes around Amsterdam.  I definitely wouldn't have minded this at all if we were there adults only, but with my kids, it sort of bothered me.  Not that it was horrible or anything, but something I would be remiss not sharing.

Overall, I have to say, I'm glad we went to Amsterdam.  It was definitely something we've wanted to see and experience!  Hopefully this blog post will help family travelers plan out their trip and take advantage of all the wonderful, positive, aspects Amsterdam offers. 

Comments

  1. What a nice place I want to go there someday ( crossfingers!) Nice picture I like it!

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  2. What a fabulous guide to a historic and modern city! Your recommendations seem really useful for to families with older kids! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Amsterdam look really pretty and beautiful. u just made this destination my bucketlist. thank you for all the tips and love the photography and your son is adorable.

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    1. Thanks so much! It was definitely easy to photograph... it's sooo beautiful!!

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  4. Oh my I would have never thought of visiting this place

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  5. Amsterdam is on my bucket list!

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  6. I've always wanted to visit Amsterdam. It's so beautiful there!

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  7. Seems you enjoyed a lot there. The pics are just amazing.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, we really did enjoy our time! <3

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  8. loving all the pictures. Look like an awesome day!

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  9. ive been hearing a lot of nice things to do in amsterdam, i wish i can go there with my family on May.

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    1. Oh I hope you can! Try to get there in time for the tulips!

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  10. I would love to see Amsterdam, but I don't think I'd want to take small children. I agree with your views~

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    1. It is definitely doable.. I would just be aware of the things I said before you go!

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  11. Oh wow! Your photos are absolutely beautiful!

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  12. Amsterdam does get a bad rap. It is one of the most beautiful cities I've seen.

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    1. The canal ways and quaint old buildings certainly are beautiful!!

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  13. Amsterdam is on my list to visit with my husband.

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    1. That's awesome Allison! I hope you can go soon!

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  14. Amsterdam seems a lovely place to travel with family and kids. Looks like a family friendly city.

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    1. As long as you know the things I mentioned ahead of time you will be fine to travel there with your kids!!

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  15. I'd just like to point out that in Amsterdam a coffee shop, by definition, is a place to buy and take legal drugs - that's all coffee shops, not certain coffee shops. They are also only for over 18's. If you want a coffee with your family you need to look for a cafe (or a bar).

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