When temperatures soar, Dutch sun-seekers make for the
beach, and visiting families should, too. Thanks to a direct
train from Amsterdam Central Station, Zandvoort aan
Zee is an easy 30-minute ride. Beach clubs complete with
playgrounds dot wide stretches of sand, which are ideal
for swimming, sandcastle building and collecting shells.
The beach is also a top pick for kite surfers; as they fly
atop the waves, their gymnastic-like moves will impress
kids and parents.
A former fishing village, Zandvoort aan Zee is a fun
spot to wander, boasting a number of shops and restaurants that sell everything from souvenirs to swimsuits.
Spots to grab vacation favorites such as French fries and
ice cream are plentiful. For kids who might be less than
thrilled to leave the beach, a ride on the seaside carousel
may soften the blow.
Giethoorn, about 75 miles outside Amsterdam, has all the
makings of a quintessential Dutch village: colorful homes
with thatched roofs, an inviting maze of canals and more
than 180 high-arched pedestrian bridges. Cementing its
charm is the lack of roads in the old part of town. And no
roads means no cars, so transportation is limited to bikes,
wheelbarrows and anything that floats.
There are organized boat tours, but it’s more fun to
hire a small electric whisper boat and putter around on
your own. Located in the center of Giethoorn along the
main canal, Mol/Groenewegen is a good place to launch
a family boating adventure. Owner Gerrit Mol will walk
parents through everything they need to know about
becoming sailors for the day and the best route to explore.
It takes a couple minutes to get used to the steering,
but after a few gentle bumps (and most likely a lot of
laughing), it’ll be smooth sailing.
Narrow waterways wind under arching pedestrian
bridges, which were purposely built tall enough for
standing cows to float under with head room to spare.
There will be donkeys and ducks along canals, sprinkled
in between guesthouses, restaurants and shops. The
trip from Amsterdam to Giethoorn takes a couple hours
by train and bus, and about 90 minutes by car. Vehicles
can be left in parking lots within walking distance of
WINDMILLS ARE A MUST
Windmills and the Netherlands go hand in hand, but
there’s something especially exciting about that first sight
of the twirling structures at Kinderdijk. Arguably one of
Holland’s best-known Dutch tourist spots, the UNESCO
World Heritage Site is just a 40-minute train ride from
Amsterdam and a 20-minute waterbus ride from
Rotterdam. Visitors are often surprised to learn that
the windmills of Kinderdijk — which make up the largest
concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands —
are actually homes. Fifteen of the 19 windmills are
inhabited by millers, those tasked with operating a
windmill to pump water and prevent the below
sea-level scenery from becoming submerged.
Two windmills are open to the public. The steep
stairs at Museum Windmill Nederwaard are worth the
climb: By providing the history of a local miller, his wife
and 13 children, every floor helps create a better picture
of what living in a windmill was (and is) like. Be sure to
climb to the top and look out the window to watch and
listen as the sails spin round and round.
In addition to getting another look inside a mill at
Museum Windmill Blokweer, visitors can try on a pair of
traditional wooden Dutch clogs. Along with providing a
great photo op, having kids don a pair is also perfect for
a parent looking to slow down; after all, it’s doubtful any
child can run in wooden clogs. l
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