Exploring the Kid-Friendly Side of Amsterdam (Yes, It Exists)

Famous for its epic nightlife and legendary tolerance, the term “kid-friendly” doesn’t exactly spring to mind when planning a trip to Amsterdam, typically considered a playground for adults.

Yet the Dutch capital’s sometimes seedy reputation is totally unwarranted— Amsterdam is well-organized and clean. Even more appealing, practically everyone speaks English, which makes it easy for families to get around.

Plus, as one of the most striking and historic cities in Europe, Amsterdam offers plenty of kidcentric activities, like interactive museums, kids’ cruises on the canals and even goat feeding (yup, you read that right).

Maybe that’s why Dutch kids are considered the happiest in the world, according to a recent UNICEF report. So round up the kids and get ready for some good, clean fun in Amsterdam.

Splash around on the Roof of NEMO Science Museum

what to do in Amsterdam with kids
Visit the museum or simply head to its roof to cool off. (Photo: Getty Images)

Housed inside a sloping, green copper building designed by architect Renzo Piano, NEMO has five floors of interactive science and technology exhibits, films and workshops. All activities, like the chemistry lab where everyone dons a genuine lab coat, are hands-on and specifically geared toward kids.

Head to the rooftop terrace (it’s open to the general public), even if you don’t have time for the museum. It offers an unrivaled view of Amsterdam, an outdoor café, a splash pad and an open-air exhibition on clean energy.

Feed the Goats in the Amsterdam Bos

what to do in Amsterdam with kids
Few things are more adorable than feeding a wee goat. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s easy to hit the great outdoors — the sprawling Amsterdam Bos (meaning “forest” in Dutch), located just southwest of the city center, is one of the largest parks in Europe. It’s three-times the size of Central Park and dotted with trees, gardens, streams and ponds for swimming, boating and rowing.

The kids will get a kick out of feeding the baby goats from a bottle at the park’s Goat Farm and then trying some ice cream made with the mothers’ milk.

To get there, take tram 170 or 172, or on Sundays, April through October, hop on the vintage Museum Tram at Haarlemmermeer station and head straight to the park.

Become a Certified Freshwater Pirate on a Canal Cruise

what to do in Amsterdam with kids
Make like a pirate and say, “Argh!” (Photo: Getty Images)

With more than 60 miles of waterways to explore, almost any canal cruise is sure to keep both kids and adults entertained. Blue Boat, however, goes above and beyond to cater to the city’s youngest visitors.

Their Kid’s Cruise incorporates an interactive story with a special audio tour and corresponding booklet full of games. Kids are even given a set of “pirate” binoculars. By the end of the tour, all kids become “certified Freshwater Pirates.”

Go for a Bike Ride in Vondelpark

Amsterdam is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, and the ratio of bikes to cars is at least three to one. Yet cycling there can still be a bit intimidating for little ones because of all those trams, cars and pedestrians.

Families with small children will prefer cycling around the 120-acre Vondelpark, a far more peaceful ride, making stops at the park’s playgrounds. Parents with older kids should plan to bike into the countryside and glide by windmills and tulips and even visit a traditional Dutch village.

Grab a Bite at the FoodHallen

Everyone — big and small — is going to need a bite to eat after all that activity, and your gang is guaranteed to find something tasty to eat at the busy Foodhallen. This indoor food market inside a former tram barn has more than 20 food stands offering up grub.

Kids can rely on familiar items like hot dogs and tacos, while adults can indulge in oysters on the half-shell, steak or even a beer or cocktail.