Amsterdam With Kids: Not Just The Red Light District

by farrah on February 25, 2013 · 14 comments

We spent last weekend in Amsterdam celebrating B’s 4th birthday. I realize that that seems pretty extravagant- but in all honesty it killed several birds with one stone. First, Amsterdam is only an hour and a half away by car. Second, we were meeting an uncle there at the airport from the states and third we had to drop off Pops at the airport since he was leaving for a business trip to Japan. And shoot. How many people can say they spent their 4th birthday in one of the most impressive cities in Europe?!

To give you the gist- it was a pretty awesome time and filled with some crazy stuff. To begin, I just want to give a (non sponsored) shout out to the Hotel Zandbergen for having such a perfect set up for all of us. We reserved the apartment for the weekend and I can’t say enough how wonderful of a place it was for us to stay. Private entrance, main room with fireplace, sitting area, bedroom area- gorgeous floor to ceiling windows and chandeliers. There was a second bedroom with twin beds for the twins to sleep as well as a small bathroom. Downstairs (yes, a downstairs) was the master suite with bathroom (shower/bathtub AND a second shower stall) two sinks and a sitting area. There was an additional bedroom for B and another bathroom AND a kitchen. Clean, friendly, breakfast on site- and room for all of us and Grandma, what’s not to love? It’s outside of the main area of downtown Amsterdam- which is great since we didn’t want to be in the middle of late night bars, noise, etc. Needless to say- we WILL be staying here the next time we come to town.


Additionally, the hotel was just steps away from a tram stop which is the easiest way to travel- even with a double stroller and a single kid + 3 adults. Sure the times where it’s crowded can make things difficult- but for the most part we could get on with ease and hang out in the pram/wheelchair designated area inside the tram. They’re warm and clean in Amsterdam which is an additional plus.

What we did:

Friday we arrived a little after 4pm so simply scouted out for a restaurant. As many of you are painfully aware- dining with small children isn’t always a treat. We passed by many delightful looking places simply because they obviously were not kid-friendly. We ended up finding a snack shop (fried foods, burgers, kebabs, etc) and just settled for that. We did some window shopping and before we knew it, it was bedtime.

Left to right: Hunter boots galore, sights of the city, and Bert & Ernie riding the tram.


Tip: Sleeping in a hotel with your kids is no big deal as long as you can simulate the home environment. We don’t go anywhere without our blankies, night-light and white noise machine for the twins. The boys were so exhausted that after an hour or so sitting around the fireplace they were ready to call it a night.

Saturday we were up early and planned our day over breakfast. By 10 am we were out the door and on the tram headed down to the center station in Amsterdam. First stop of the day was the NEMO Science Museum.


After Nemo we decided that the guys were still in good shape so hiked over to the Van Gogh Museum– which is currently holding its exhibits at The Hermatige.

Linc slept through the entire Van Gogh experience- so we decided to just push on and hope that Chase would follow suit. He did- great news for us, no need to go back to the hotel for a nap! My heart was set on hearing  De Oude Kerk bells at 4pm, so we set off in that direction. It wasn’t until we were in the middle of the Red Light district that we realized where we were.

My husband and I went through that area when we came to visit in June (I mean, who doesn’t go to Amsterdam and at least see what all the fuss is about?) so I should have known better as to our location. It wasn’t until we turned into a crowded and narrow alley that I looked around and saw the lovely ladies of the night promoting their goods in the windows that I turned to my husband and gave him the evil eye.

Did I mention that his mother was also with us?

So we ran. Literally. I grabbed B’s hand as he asked me what were those women doing and told him just to look at me. My husband lowered the stroller cover and we just ran as fast as we could through the alley(s). Of course we had more than one alley to go through to get to the freaking church! Gah! Oh well. At least now I can tell my boys they never need to see the Red Light since they already experienced it once. Hubs told me later he received several evil eyes- but it was also 3 in the afternoon. Give me a break. We obviously were just trying to get from point A to point B.

Once at Oude Kerk I was again in awe of the history and age of Europe. The church we visited was finished in the 13th century and was a large and cavernous building with old stained glass windows and the floor made of stone crypts. My boys were al little less than quiet (since the building provided such a great echo) so we left rather quickly. We saw the crypt of Rembrandt’s wife- Saksia, who is entombed here.


It was time for dinner and we ate at a perfect cafe across from shopping at De Bijenkorf. It’s not every day I see a Lois Vuitton shop across the aisle from Fendi and Ferragamo- so that was fun.

Hotel and bed. We were all beat.

Sunday morning after breakfast we boarded the tram and split up. Gram and her brother went to explore the Anne Frank house and take a canal ride. My husband and I decided it would be a nice birthday treat to see the Artis Royal Zoo & Aquarium since the boys are such nuts for animals. What a great idea this was! We didn’t really know what to expect, but the zoo itself was created in the 1800s and has a wide variety of animals- from elephants to giraffes and lions that seemed a little close for comfort. The score of the trip though was hitting up the aquarium that had gorgeous displays of a variety of fish- with the highlight easily being a gigantic Sei whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. For those of you that are familiar with Brody’s whale obsessed tendencies- this was like meeting the President.


After that it was time to leave Amsterdam. We said goodbye to Pops and drove the hour or so back home with another trip under our belt. I have to say I cannot wait to go back to the Artis Zoo in the summertime. I can only imagine how lovely it must be.

Left to right: Entrance, the Aquarium, and at the entrance to the elephant exhibit there’s a huge photo of an elephant in utero.


All in all it was a jam-packed and busy weekend. I am amazed at how well the boys did with all of the travelling around and lack of meltdowns! Seriously this gives me so much hope for future adventures.

Come to Amsterdam! It’s not just for college kids 🙂

Tell me, have you ever been here? What did you think?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrea m February 25, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Love the post :). When the boys a t up do you tend to yell things at them like “you do nt know how good you have it?!”


2 farrah February 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

No kidding. It’s like at the zoo- he runs around saying ‘I want to see more animals, MORE!’ and I’m just sitting there like- are you serious? This is a baby freaking elephant in the Royal Zoo! So yeah. They have no idea. And here my ‘big’ vacations as a kid were to Mac Island.


3 Amy Baserman February 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Awesome, Farrah!!!!


4 farrah February 25, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Thanks Amy… I cannot get over how cooperative they were- that made the trip!


5 When I Blink February 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Loved this! Brought back memories of my eldest turning 4 while we were living abroad… I’m making note of the place you stayed in case we ever go – that looks fabulous. What fun!


6 farrah February 26, 2013 at 9:22 am

Oh they really were great places- and we found them by dumb luck. I can’t say enough about the hotel. That really was a perfect set up for all of us!


7 Lisa February 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I want to visit Amsterdam very badly so I’m glad to know that it’s not just for college kids! 🙂 I naively thought that the red-light district was only active after dark – didn’t realize that it would have to be avoided in the middle of the day too!

I’m curious – when you say that your big vacations as a kid were to Mac Island – are you referring to Mackinac Island? That was our big vacation as kids too – I grew up on the Canadian side of the border just outside Sault Ste. Marie.


8 farrah February 26, 2013 at 9:25 am

Me neither! At first I thought- ‘Oh shoot- we’re in the RL, but at least maybe they aren’t working yet.’ Ah nope. The ladies were in the windows doing their thing. The good news though about being there in the daytime was it wasn’t a drunken, bawdy crowd. Sidenote- they were filming a reality series (not sure what country) of guys going through it which I thought was funny.

And yep! My husband and I are both from Michigan- so spent many summers at the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mac Island. I think we went pretty much every summer 🙂


9 KerryB February 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

no but looks awesome! I love how bundled the boys are- cracks me uP!


10 farrah February 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

It was COOOOOOLLLD. In fact, so cold that B has a really raw bottom lip. I guess he was sucking on it and between the wind and the cold it chapped it super bad. I’m just happy that this time I was prepared with hats and gloves. My last trip to Amsterdam was in June and I was FREEZING in 60s with only a sweater!


11 Danielle February 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Wow! What a trip! The hotel sounds amazing and one day when they are all gtown up you’ll have a very funny story to tell ye boys about the Red Lights 🙂


12 farrah February 27, 2013 at 12:07 pm

No kidding! I think I’m more mortified that grandma was with us though than anything the boys could see- ha!


13 Greta February 28, 2013 at 4:22 am

Wow! That sounds like an amazing, and exhausting, weekend. How fun!


14 Erica March 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Ok so maybe we don’t get to see the tulips this spring, but perhaps a trip to the zoo if we can make it your way in the summer? Sounds like you had a great trip!


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