Here a list of events and activities is presented which might entertain children. Also some information is given on special days for Dutch children.
Animals and Nature
Features: All the parks have handicap access and playgrounds for children. All have special activities such as ‘behind the scenes’ tours, special demonstrations or times to watch the animals being fed by the zookeepers. This there is also an opportunity for visitors to ask the staff questions about the animals. You can also expect them to have an English-language guide.
Apenheul - Monkey Zoo
Apenheul is the largest monkey and ape zoo in the world with thirty spieces of apes, monkeys and prosimians, some of which are allowed to roam freely. Also the world’s largest group of captive gorillas lives in Apenheul, living peacefully with other animals such as macaws, capybaras, otters, tortoises, and many others.
Apen-natuurpark Apenheul, J.C. Wilslaan 21-31 (Park Berg en Bos), P.O. Box 97, 7300 AB Apeldoorn, tel.: +31(0)55 357 57 57 .Apenheul is open from April 1 - Oct.31 www.apenheul.nl
Artis zoo was founded 160 years ago and retians a 19th century atmosphere with winding paths, majestic trees and historical buildings. There over 8,000 animals and two museums, the Zoological Museum and the Geological Museum, plus a very sophisticated Planetarium and a magnificent Aquarium.
Plantage Kerklaan 38-40, 1018 CZ Amsterdam, tel.: +31(0)20 523 34 00 .
Avifauna is one of the largest bird parks in the world. There are more than 450 species of birds in beautiful settings, which are wall kept. Avifauna is actively involved with endangered species breeding programs and bird protection activities.
Alphen aan den Rijn, +31(0)172 48 75 75 .
At this zoo in Rotterdam, you can walk from continent to continent meeting the animals that belong in each, housed in an environment created as their natural habitat. Two new additions are Gorilla Island, which is part of the African continent, and the new owl enclosure . There is also a bat cave, nocturnal house, and the Rivièrahal complex which boats a wide range of fresh and saltwater fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and tropical plants.
Van Aerssenlaan 49, Rotterdam, tel.: +31(0)10 443 14 95 (you will get a Dutch “selection menu”, but if you hang on, an operator will come on the line who can help you in English). www.blijdorp.nl
Burgers’ Zoo is a modern jungle! You will find it near Arnhem and covering more than 45 hectares full of 3000+ animals it's hard to miss. Aside from the spectacular tropical rain forest there is also a living desert, the first Lion Park of continental Europe and a large Underwater world, in which you feel like you are walking miles under the water’s surface.
Schelmseweg 85, Arnhem, tel.: +31(0)26 442 45 34 .
Think you have to go somewhere tropical to hang out with dolphins? We have a nice surprise for you. But wait - that's not all. The Lagoon (a new biotope with dolphins, fish, seals and sea lions all living together), the stingrays at the Ray Reef, the Seal Wetlands and Fort Heerewich (a modern rescue and research center for sick or injured dolphins) offer so much more. Other attractions are the walrus and seal shows, a humorous 3D-pirate film and a breathtaking submarine trip on the S.O.S. Barracuda, as well as the Super Playground.
Strandboulevard Oost 1, Harderwijk, tel.: +31(0)341 46 74 67 .
Emmen Zoo (Noorder dierenpark)
Similar to Rotterdam zoo, this park’s habitats reflect the continents of the world, allowing the animals to behave as naturally as possible. There's a butterfly and hummingbird garden, AmeriCasa, the rat’s sewer, and the exciting exhibitions in the natural history museum, Biochron. Not to be forgotten are the beautiful aviaries and a garden section called the Hof van Heden that are wonderful to walk through.
Hoofdstraat 18, Emmen, tel: +31(0)591 61 88 00 .
Natural History and High-Tech Multi-Media
At Naturalis nature is exhibited in all its colors and diversity. This museum is a combination of natural history and high-tech multi-media in a modern, artistic and technologically advanced setting. The dinosaurs are children's favorite! Exhibition rooms have seven permanent displays arranged by theme: nature and culture, Old Egypt, Taoism, Islam, and the Enlightenment. Naturalis also displays temporary exhibitions.
National Museum of Natural History, Leiden, tel.: +31(0)71 568 76 00 .
De Efteling is an amusement park with a fairy tale theme. An unmissable place to take children, it has been charming both kids and adults alike with its enchanted forest, haunted castle, roller coasters and ‘white-water’ boat rides, since the 1950s. There’s also a charming hotel on the grounds.
Address: Europalaan 1, Kaatsheuvel (near Tilburg), tel.: 0416 273 35 35
Don't try to pronounce it, just take out word for it. This popular beach front resort may have a casino, but this is one beachfrint made for all day amusement! While those who prefer a quiet day in the sun will moan and groan about it, Scheveningen has plenty to entertain the family. An architecturally unique, indoor pier, it houses shops, a restaurant, rocking chairs along the windowed walkway to enjoy the great views, and even bungee jumping (!) available off the high end tower. Lining the boardwalk are various restaurants and bar/lounges, along with regular fair-type food stands and all sorts of diversions from huge kites for rental to gigantic trampolines! The kids will think they've gone to heaven.
We suggest you also check out our general tourism page, "Places to See, Things to Do", as there are more kid-friendly places mentioned.
Each city has a local VVV (Tourist Information) Office, which is always an excellent source of things to do. There is no standardized VVV web address nation wide. If you put "VVV" plus the name of the city you are searching for, you are sure to find the local website. Many of them even have a specified "kids" page, and they're always available in English.
Kids’ birthdays are a big deal for the Dutch. On the day of the birthday, the birthday boy or girl gets to trakteren at school. This means that he or she hands out little items of food to his or her classmates. Some parents put a lot of effort into making these packages fun: arranged cheese, pickles or carrots may turn into they make dogs, boats or dolls.
Dutch children love to give birthday parties as well. They invite a few of their best friends. What's more, sometimes kids have two birthday parties: the one for friends with games and food treats, and one for the extended family (including their kids). What you organize for the former (more official) party is up to your indiidual time, budget and imagination.
If your child is the one invited to a Dutch birthday party, the invitation will state when and where it is taking place and what to bring. For example, maybe the children need costumes to go along with a fun theme. Never fear about cost - the Dutch are not into big expensive gifts. Something between 5-15 Euros is appropriate. The parties are expected to start on time so don't be late!
Sinterklaas is a Dutch version of Santa Claus (or, to be technically accurate, the vice-versa is true). Starting in November, he and his helpers (all are named Black Pete) begin to show up in schools, stores, hospitals...everywhere, inclding Saturday morning town parades. The actual day he sneaks into homes and leaves gifts is December 5th.
Until then, children leave a shoe underneath the chimney every night with a little something for Sinterklaas, Zwarte Piet or even his horse. They sing a little song to encourage Sinterklaas to leave them a gift, which he will leave in their shoes for them to find in the morning. These are minor gifts: candy, chocolate, fruit, etc. On the final night (December 5), the family gets together in happy anticipation of a visit from the great man himself. At some point, there comes a knock at the window (usually a neighbour or family friend) and a sack gifts left by the front door. The children are thrilled that it seems Sinterklaas has left a sack of goodies!
Once the entire family has outgrown this, a 'secret Sinterklaas" may be played whereby, by means of a ‘lottery’, each member of the family draws another's name to whom a surprise gift (pronounced sirpreezuh) will be presented and - the favorite part of many - a poem is composed for them. These are often very personal, home-made gifts and best of all the poems usually contain a loving element of teasing.