When I travel with my family, I like to balance our vacations between big cities, outdoor adventures, and kid-friendly places. Hopping from museum to museum quickly leads us to travel burnout. Not to mention, Europe’s top museums can get so crowded. So, when planning a spring break trip to the Netherlands, we made a point to get out of the city on day trips from Amsterdam. Our day trips included seeing the tulip fields in the Netherlands, touring windmills, and visiting Efteling Park.
Day Trips from Amsterdam for Families
Our family enjoyed several day trips from Amsterdam. Just a short bus ride outside the city, we took a day to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands. In mid-April, the gardens at Keukenhof were in full bloom and the tulip fields in Lisse were colorful as well. From Lisse, we rented bikes to see the tulip fields in the Netherlands and even rode our bikes to the coast to play on the sandy beach by the North Sea. Further afield, we rented a car to visit the Netherlands windmills at Kinderdijk and the small town of Gouda. After appreciating the beauty of the tulips in the Netherlands and the history of the Netherlands windmills, we enjoyed a visit to Efteling Park.
Looking for itinerary for things to do in Amsterdam with kids? Check out Trekaroo’s One Day in Amsterdam: What to see, do, and eat with kids.
1. Biking Through the Tulip Fields in the Netherlands
The tulip fields in the Netherlands only bloom in the spring, with the peak bloom typically occurring in mid-April. Families visiting the Netherlands for spring break during tulip season will certainly want to take a day trip to see them. If you happen to be visiting at another time of year, you won’t see tulips. However, your family can still enjoy the biking out to the coastal beaches on the North Sea.
There are two ways to see tulips in the Netherlands. Families can either enjoy the tulips at Keukenhof Gardens or tour the Dutch countryside to see the flower fields. The easiest to reach as a day trip from Amsterdam are the tulip fields around Lisse in North Holland. Another option are the tulip fields province of Flevoland which have their own tulip festival.
Biking in Lisse to See the Tulip Fields in the Netherlands
My children have enjoyed biking in Europe ever since we first visited when my son was seven years old. Typically, we take tours making sure to reserve child-sized bikes in advance. On our day trip from Amsterdam to Keukenhof Gardens and the tulip fields in Lisse, we did not take a tour, but I did reserve bikes in advance. Rather than reserving for just a few hours, I reserved our bikes for the entire day so that we had plenty of time to explore at our own pace. To complete our day, we spent a couple of hours exploring the Keukenhof Gardens both before and after biking.
After picking up our bikes from a seasonal location in the Keukenhof Gardens parking lot, we spent around 4 hours biking about 10 miles. We only returned when our legs were getting too tired to continue. We biked past the tulip fields to eat lunch on the shore of a small lake.
Then we continued onto a crushed-shell path through sand dunes to a beach. On the first warm day of spring, the beach was full of Dutch families enjoying the sun with their children. After playing in the sand and rewarding ourselves with ice cream, we continued back through the tulip fields to return our bikes.
Renting Bikes in the Netherlands
Rental bikes are easy to come by in the Netherlands. We rented bikes from Rent-a-Bike Van Dam’s seasonal location at Keukenhof. They also have a permanent location in a nearby town. Bikes can be reserved ahead of time. Bikes come with a locking system so it is easy to park the bike by the beach and take time to relax there.
Helmets are available, but generally not worn by adults in The Netherlands. The Netherlands is ideal for biking because it is so flat. There were some hills by the North Sea Dunes, but they were easy enough for my kids who ride their bikes around our somewhat hilly neighborhood on a regular basis.
Photographing the Tulip Fields in The Netherlands
The tulip fields in the Netherlands are used for growing bulbs that are then sold around the world. Before visiting, I had assumed that it was the flowering tulips that are grown and harvested. However, we saw farm machinery out in the fields cutting off the flowers so that the bulbs could be harvested at a later time. It was a bit sad to see the flowers being cut off and discarded at their prime.
Because of this harvesting process, it is important that tourists do not walk into the field area when visiting the bulb region. The only time we approached the bulb fields was when there was a farmer actively inviting the people biking past to park their bikes and come into the tulip fields for a photo op and to buy cut flowers.
2. Visit Keukenhof Gardens – Open Mid-March through May
While biking the Dutch countryside to see the tulips is a fun family activity that can certainly take all day, do make sure to leave time to see all the flowering tulips at Keukenhof Gardens. Keukenhof Gardens in Noord Holland is one of the most spectacular gardens in the world. There are lots of activities for families, including a large playground and hedge maze.
We visited as early in the day as we could. Then we left the gardens around 11AM when the they became more crowded. On a sunny mid-week day during peak tulip bloom, there were lots of crowds. However, the gardens are so large that only the most popular areas by the entrance really became overcrowded. We returned to the gardens after biking to reward ourselves with a fresh fruit smoothie. The gardens were still buzzing with crowds around 5PM, but we easily found a few secluded spots to sit and enjoy our snacks.
Could a Family Spend All Day Just at Keukenhof Gardens?
Yes, a family could definitely spend all day visiting Keukenhof Gardens. There is an indoor pavilion, dozens of places to purchase meals and snacks, boat rides, a petting zoo, a store to buy tulip bulbs, a playground with a zip-line and more. My kids would have been happy playing at the playground and eating ice cream all day long.
Since Keukenhof is such a popular destination, it is best to plan your day in advance. Be sure to check the garden’s website for information on arriving at Keukenhof. There are several locations where families on day trips from Amsterdam can catch buses to the gardens.
3. See the Netherlands Windmills at Kinderdijk
Many families traveling to Amsterdam plan to visit windmills in Holland. There are two main options for families visiting the Netherlands: Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk. The Zaanse Schans windmills are located less than an hour away from Amsterdam and are the easiest to reach for most families.
At Zaanse Schans, the 17th and 18th centuries are brought to life with operational windmills. There are other fun cultural attractions like a warehouse where wooden clogs are made and a cheese factory. If you’re looking for a full day of Dutch experiences close to Amsterdam Zaanse Schans is a good choice.
Our family was interested in visiting windmills in The Netherlands as part of a longer trip outside the city of Amsterdam. We decided to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Kinderdijk where there are 19 windmills. Two of the windmills at Kinderdijk are currently open to visitors as part of an open-air museum. However, the remaining 17 windmills are still operational. In fact, families live in them and manage them as they have for centuries.
Take an Audio Tour of the Kinderdijk Windmills
Our family arrived at Kinderdijk within an hour of opening at 9AM and immediately took the first boat ride out to the end of the walking path. We saw many large tour groups walking, and there were also many families biking through the area.
While walking back towards the visitor center, we listened to a family audio tour that I had downloaded onto my phone prior to our visit. As we walked, the audio guide explained the role that windmills have played in water management in The Netherlands. At one of the museum windmills, we saw how the blades of the windmill were prepared to catch the wind and the turbines moved pumping the water uphill.
Kinderdijk is located about a half hour from Rotterdam or one hour from Amsterdam by car. There is parking available for those that arrive at the site early, and it is also possible to reach the site by public transportation. It is advisable to check the Kinderdijk website in advance to purchase tickets and find the best transportation option for your family to these windmills in The Netherlands.
Day Trips from Amsterdam to Dutch Cities and Small Towns in The Netherlands
Amsterdam is well connected to many city centers across the region. Den Haag is about 50 minutes from Amsterdam by train, and Rotterdam is about one hour by train from Amsterdam Central Station. Brussels and Antwerp can also be reached in less than two hours.
4. Exploring the Town of Gouda
The train is an efficient way to travel in The Netherlands, but when planning a trip, you must look at the best way for your family to travel. Instead of traveling by train, we opted for flexibility and rented a car from Sixt Rent a Car at the Amsterdam Central Station. (Sixt is the only option for renting a car at Amsterdam Central Station.)
We could have taken a train to Gouda; it is under an hour train ride from Amsterdam. However, it is also simple to reach by car. We easily found a parking garage about a 5-minute walk from the historic city centre. Gouda proved to be a great day trip destination.
A few hours in Gouda gave us plenty of time to tour the Kamphuisen Syrup Waffle Factory, walk around the gothic Sint-Janskerk church, and eat lunch in the charming town square. I wish that we had been able to time our visit to see the weekly Gouda cheese market. However, there are plenty of things to do in Gouda without even tasting a bite of cheese.
Kid-Friendly Syrup Waffle Factory Tour in Gouda
Syrup waffles are a wonderfully sweet and quintessentially Dutch treat. The Kamphuisen Syrup Waffle Factory offers a one hour tour. It is best to book in advance to secure tickets. Our tour was in Dutch, with some English translation. I think that if I had requested an English tour ahead of time, they might have been able offer more of the tour in English, especially if I had been flexible with our tour time. Even if the entire tour is in Dutch, English speaking children will find the tour fascinating. It is a very family-friendly tour.
The tour begins with a multimedia telling of the story of the Kamphuisen company. Then the tour group is brought into the factory. Inside the factory, guests taste-test six types of syrup to try to guess which is the original recipe. Finally, visitors can see how the cookies are made with a brief narrated tour of the factory.
There are two levels to the factory. The exit from the top level is a fast metal tube slide down into the store. Yes, there is even a mat at the bottom so adults don’t crash and hurt themselves! In the store, each member of the tour receives a sample syrup waffle cookie and has the opportunity to purchase more syrup waffles – which we happily did.
More Things to Do in Gouda with Kids
After our factory tour, our family visited the Sint-Janskerk church. We purchased admission for the adults in our family and were given an audio guide for each person, including the children, who were admitted for free. While this is not the most spectacular church that I have visited in Europe, our family enjoyed spending about 20 minutes listening to part of the 45-minute audio guide and learning the history of the church’s intricate stained glass windows.
There are several cafés around the edge of the town square. We picked one with an empty table for lunch. There are a couple of good options for ice cream and gelato on the town square as well. My children were thrilled to order ice cream with chunks of fresh syrup waffle.
5. Visit Efteling Park
Americans traveling to Europe are unlikely to have heard about Efteling Park. However, a day at the theme park is a great way to let the kids have a true vacation. Efteling has roller coasters as well as several kid-friendly “dark” rides just like Disneyland.
Instead of featuring familiar characters like the Little Mermaid, these “dark” rides feature fairies, elves, and other mythical creatures. Just like Disney they have character meet and greets with their signature elf character. Our family especially enjoyed a short roller coaster ride with a pirate theme. The ride began inside like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and exited to an outdoor lagoon through a thick fog of mist. There are plenty of rides at Efteling to keep the entire family from tots to teens happy for an entire day.
If you are looking to visit Efteling Park as a day trip from Amsterdam, the best way to do that is to rent a car. The drive is about one hour. It is also possible to reach Efteling via public transportation.
Efteling vs Other European Theme Parks
When planning our trip, I weighed the pros and cons of visiting Disneyland Paris vs Efteling. I am so glad that I chose Efteling! Tickets to Efteling are less than $50 per person. That’s less than half the price of a Disneyland Paris ticket! Eftleing tickets for the entire family are included in the price of a stay at one of Efteling’s hotel properties. Efteling opens early for families staying on property. While it is open year-round and typically closes at 6PM, it does extend its hours during Dutch school holidays.
Staying Overnight at Efteling Park
Ultimately, we decided to stay at Efelting 2 nights to take advantage of this deal rather than visiting Efteling as a day trip from Amsterdam. Our family stayed in a cabin at the Holiday Village Loonsche Land. Just steps from our cabin door were sand dunes and a nature playground on a pond where my 9 and 10-year-olds happily played for hours. In fact, we came back to our cabin in the crowded heat of the day to let the kids play.