A few weekends ago we woke up before the sun and made a bee-line to the train station. It was our first experience going on the train with kids in Europe, so we wanted to test the waters (tracks?) with a day trip to Amsterdam.
Spending just one day in Amsterdam was all part of our longer plan—we know we can go back there easily, so this adventure was to just get the lay of the land—a recon mission, if you will.
I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple times, but I was in my 20s, and my priorities were VERY different back then. The last time(s) I was there I didn’t have kids or a husband for that matter, and I was there with friends while on a break from school.
To be honest, the only things I remember are squeezing in a trip in to Anne Frank’s house in between snacking on some “brownies.”
I also remember almost getting run over by bikes, picking up a Hard Rock Cafe shot glass, and listening to a group of guys talk to us from Scotland (and not understanding a word of it; although I can’t be certain if that was because of their accents…or the brownies.)
My point is that I had no idea what to actually do with just one day Amsterdam, but since it’s close enough to go again, we decided to not pack things in and just see what there is to see.
This first trip to Amsterdam was nice, but I’m already eager to explore more and do a bit more next time.
Things to do in Amsterdam
The next time we visit Amsterdam will either be for an overnight trip or another day trip—it’s so close for us (2hrs), that we can thankfully save money on a hotel and just go for the day.
Here’s what’s on my list for the next time we visit the city:
- This all-in-one museum card looks fantastic
- NEMO Science Museum with kids
- Take the kids to Zimmer Hoeve (a neighborhood petting zoo in the city)
- Clog and cheese factory (outside of the city, but totally worth it)
- Rent a paddle boat for an hour
- Check out the LEGO store
- Picnic and play at Vondelpark
- Rent a clog bike for the kids
- A Heineken tour (kids can go on it)
- Experience Anne Frank’s House
- The Amsterdam Ice Bar (if we go without the kids)
- Go on an all-you-can-eat Dutch Pancake Cruise
- Go on a pizza cruise
- Just take all the pictures of canals 🙂
Cruise Around Town
When in Amsterdam, skip the car and see the city on two wheels. Amsterdam is much bigger than I expected or remembered. Our train arrived at 9:30am and by 10am we were all cruising around on bikes to see the city.
Our three-hour bike tour guided us up and over dozens of canals, around tons of corners, down cobblestone streets, and we even had a brief info here and there about different neighborhoods. I was thankful we had a guide, because there is no possible way I would’ve been able to navigate those streets while also on a bike.
If you have more than one day in Amsterdam (or you’re certain you can return again), I highly recommend going on a tour like that. It was so helpful to get the lay of the land.
PRO TIP: if you only have one day in Amsterdam, a three-hour bike guided tour will certainly eat up a lot of your precious time, so maybe opt for renting a bike for a few hours to get to and from your must-see spots.
So Many People
We were in Amsterdam on a Saturday in August, and I was utterly amazed at the throngs of people who appeared around lunchtime. No pictures of the crowds, because we were busy holding onto our kids to make sure they didn’t get lost and/or to keep them from touching all the things.
If you’re not used being around unmasked people/crowds, then visiting Amsterdam during the week might work better.
It was so delightful in the morning, when the streets were empty, but take note that places may not open until around 10 am or so.
Thankfully, it was easy to somewhat avoid the crowds by turning onto less busy streets.
Take a Boat Ride
I’m usually a meticulous planner, but I honestly didn’t plan well for this particular day trip. I figured we could just “wing it.” Unfortunately, sometimes winging it means settling, and we totally settled for a not great boat ride.
Frankly, the boat tour we went on, sucked. We went on a random one we found on Damrak Avenue. The one we spontaneously picked did not have a live tour guide (something that makes all the difference), and we were stuck in the back next to the toilet which blocked at least 50% off our view.
Don’t let these pictures fool you; I was annoyed the entire time, and the kids got super restless.
Next time we go we’ll go on one of these tours (or the pizza/pancake one listed below):
Coffee Shops vs. Cafes
Amsterdam is known for its recreational weed everywhere, and while you can’t smell it through these pics, trust me: it was alive and well everywhere. The scent wafted through the air, and I’m shocked my kids never mentioned “that funny smell.”
On that note: You won’t find any coffee in a coffee shop—head to a cafe if you want coffee, and a coffee shop if you want to partake in some herbs. (It’s been a hot minute—like way more than a decade—since I’ve been in one, so I can’t give you more info than that right now.
One Day in Amsterdam
Have you spent one day in Amsterdam with a family before? How did you spend that time—there’s so much to do, that it’s hard to cram it all in, so I’d love to hear what you loved.
I will most certainly have more posts in the future with some of the things mentioned from above. We’re eager to see more of Amsterdam (next time probably during the week or on the off season to avoid the crowds).