METRO PLUS

Children will love it

PLENTY OF EXCITEMENT HERE At the miniature city Madurodam

PLENTY OF EXCITEMENT HERE At the miniature city Madurodam  

You don't have to be an adult to have fun in this wonderful place. Children will surely freak out with so many parks and woods

Of course, everybody knows Holland is beautiful, with its lovely canals, windmills and countryside. Except that given its capital Amsterdam's unfortunate reputation as a city teeming with crowded, smoky bars and sleazy vice-dens it's considered highly unsuitable for children, considering their "impressionable minds." Naturally, it never quite tops the list as a "kid-friendly" European destination, and even those enterprising few who do drag their children along, seldom venture beyond the "tame" attractions canals and museums. Ha! As if six-year-olds really care for post-Impressionist painters and their masterly brush-strokes! Typically, children have a different definition of holiday than adults do; while a snotty spa or a shopping-spree might "make" an adult's day, children are happier merely mucking around. And Holland, we can assure you, is full of places where children can do just that, while parents can (as the terribly clichéd saying goes) indulge the child within. Here, we suggest some child-friendly places in and around Amsterdam; while the list is by no means comprehensive, it might still give you a few ideas, so that you may, if you wish, weave it into your itinerary.

Parks and woods

If your child is neither the arty sort, nor blessed with an exceptionally long attention span, you would do well to visit the city's many parks and woods. Amsterdamse Bos is perhaps the best bet. Nestled between the city and Amstelveen (a suburb), these sprawling, man-made woods are really outstanding. You can take a stroll, rent a bike and cycle around in the well-laid out paths, plunge into the paddling pool (in summer) and best of all, feed baby (and big) goats out of a teeny-weeny bottle. During the summer months, you can also hop into the Museum Tram from here (old-fashioned trams, which once were in use in Holland and other parts of Europe) for a lovely ride to the leafy, picturesque suburbs, south of the city.

Summer destination

Amstel Park, where Dutch families head to during the summer months, is yet another open space that's often overlooked by tourists. Children can go around the big park atop the cute little toy-train, play with goats in the pet-farm, ride a fat pony and top it all off with ice-lollies. Animal lovers can always head to the Artis Zoo; and interestingly, you can buy a combined canal-ride and entrance ticket from the cruise-companies near the Central Station, and jazz up the visit a bit.Close to the centre stands another remarkable building the Nemo Science Museum; and unlike most educational centres, it definitely doesn't bore children to tears. In fact, children have often shown great reluctance to leave the magical premises, where they are actively encouraged to "explore, experiment and experience"; in summer, the sun lounge on the roof affords panoramic views of the city. The other must-visit museum for children is the Anne Frank Huis a sobering visit, yes, but it is sure to sensitise children to the atrocities committed in the past. Holland, as the jokes go, is such a small place, that if you drive for a couple of hours, you're in the next country! Nevertheless, we list here only the attractions close to Amsterdam, so that you don't spend too much time travelling. Windmills, so typical of the Dutch countryside, is something that appeals to both the young and the old; and to see a row of working windmills, head straight to Zaanse Schans, a mere half-hour by train from Amsterdam. Besides the windmills, there are many interesting museums and ferry rides to enthral kids.The Zuiderzee museum at Enkhuizen, again, not far from Amsterdam, is a must on your itinerary. In this museum-village, 130 buildings have been carefully reconstructed to give one an idea of how the area looked in the past; children are sure to love the dressing up room, where they can don the traditional costumes of Dutch fisher-folk, and the classroom from the early 1900s replete with inkpot and old-fashioned nib-pens! There is also a store where you can buy hard-boiled sweets in a little twist of paper.The miniature city Madurodam, close to The Hague, is also popular with children, who squeal with delight when they see buildings much smaller than themselves. Little trains chugging along tiny tracks, a bird's eye view of the famous Schipol airport and an ice sculpture pavilion in winter all make it a hot favourite. Close-by, the Scheveningen is a beautiful beach that you can visit, just as long as it isn't a cold, windy day. Finally, if you do have a few hours to spare, do visit the fantastic Dolphinarium, located in the little seaside town, Harderwizk. The main dolphin and sea-lion shows are simply spectacular. Adults and kids alike clap till their hands hurt; besides, there are many other marine-animal acts and a beautiful beach to keep you busy for several hours.

* * * What to do Ask the tourist office for route-maps and local transport information.If your child is a roller-coaster freak, you don't have to go all the way to Euro-Disney. Holland has its share of amusement parks (Efteling, Walibi World)For some dramatically different boarding options, you could consider caravans and castles.Amsterdam also has huge indoor play areas (Tun-fun, Chimpie-Champ); so if the weather is bad, let your children expend energy on the trampoline.APARNA KARTHIKEYAN

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