Open every year from late March to late May, Keukenhof is a great way to enjoy the bulb season. It is also, as Katie Nowicki found out, a brilliant family day out.
Spring at Last!
Winters in the Netherlands can be long, dark, and rainy. It can be quite a shock for someone like me who has not lived here my whole life.
But the long, dark winter means that I can really, truly appreciate spring. And wow, does the Netherlands know how to do spring! From the moment I see the snowdrops and crocuses poke up from the ground, I know spring is around the corner. In the Netherlands, the first signs of spring are also a promise of something spectacular yet to come - tulips. Millions and millions of tulips.
Keukenhof is a wonderful place to go if you want to experience these flowers in bloom. Each year, they plant millions of bulbs, arranged in gorgeous designs based on the year’s theme. They have hundreds of varieties of tulips, as well as many other spring-flowering bulbs.
In the Netherlands, the first signs of spring are also a promise of something spectacular yet to come - tulips. Millions and millions of tulips.
We took our two sons, ages four and six, to Keukenhof last April, and we had a fun and memorable family day. If you haven’t experienced the splendor of these gardens, I highly recommend it as a lovely day trip for your family. And do not forget to bring your camera!
Getting To Keukenhof
Keukenhof is in Lisse, approximately 20 kilometers from Schiphol airport. It is very accessible by bus or train from locations in and around Amsterdam (as well as other surrounding towns). They even have some routes designated as Keukenhof Express routes. Because it is a popular destination, there are also possibilities for guided bus tours to take you to the gardens. The Keukenhof website has a page dedicated to all of the ways to get there, ensuring you are able to pick the mode of travel that works best for your family.
We travelled to Keukenhof by car from Amstelveen. It was an easy drive, and depending on when you go, it may be possible to see the surrounding tulip fields in bloom. Though it was a crowded weekend day, we found it easy to park in the Keukenhof lot for a fee.
Of course, for the more adventurous, it is possible to ride your bike to Keukenhof. You can even rent bicycles at the Keukenhof entrance to explore the areas around Keukenhof.
What to Do When You are There
Entrance into Keukenhof requires a ticket, and as we hadn’t bought them online in advance, we purchased them at the front gate. We also picked up a map of the grounds and purchased a park guide, a very pretty book that helped explain the gardens.
Upon entering, we were surrounded by winding paths and fairytale-like gardens full of color. My children wanted to run from garden to garden, discovering each new type of flower and design. I, of course, wanted to take a million pictures, and the scenery did not disappoint. I was even able to convince my family to pose for a number of pictures - not always an easy feat for this mama! You can easily spend your whole visit walking around and exploring the outdoor flower displays.
Though the weather was mostly nice on the day of our trip, it is the Netherlands, and it was springtime, and therefore we did have to manage some short afternoon rain showers. Fortunately, Keukenhof has a number of indoor pavilions. Each pavilion houses flower shows and demonstrations. Some pavilions showcase cut flowers, while others have potted plants. Some of the shows change weekly, while others stay throughout the whole season. You might find lilies, orchids, roses, or daffodils in these pavilions. There was also an indoor pavilion dedicated to the story of the tulips. Here, we learned a little about the history of the tulip bulb, how they are cultivated, and why they grow so well in the Netherlands. Dates and descriptions of the various showcases can be found on their website.
We did not try it on our last trip, but if you are looking for a different way to see flowers without as much walking, they have whisper boat tours of the tulip fields around Keukenhof. This is a separate fee, and weather-permitting.
My children wanted to run from garden to garden, discovering each new type of flower and design.
For the Kids
My children enjoyed our day at Keukenhof. They were mesmerized by the number of flowers, the different designs, and the seemingly endless gardens through which we walked. We had fun trying to choose our favorite flowers:“This is my favorite! No, wait, THIS is my favorite!” They ran along the paths and explored the many colors and designs. We found small streams and stepping stones and bridges to jump and walk on. It was just so nice to be spending the day outside together.
When they wanted a break from looking at flowers, there were other activities as well. A giant playground, petting farm, and maze turned the day into an adventure for them. It was a great way to burn off some mid-afternoon energy!
Keukenhof has restaurants and food stands with both indoor and outdoor seating. They also have a picnic area. It was nice to take a lunch break inside while we waited for a passing rain shower. We even managed to find a cart that sold ice cream, which was a nice treat for all of us at the end of a long day.
When the day was over, we were happy and tired. We had taken hundreds of pictures, and I was ready to go home and fill my house with tulips and other flowers. My sons were sad to leave, and they made us promise to bring them back another time. Our visit to Keukenhof will always be a wonderful memory of our time in the Netherlands.
Visit the Keukenhof website for opening times, entrance fees, and more information about the family-friendly events that take place throughout the season.
Katie moved from Chicago to Amstelveen with her husband and two young sons in July 2015. A former teacher, she now spends her days playing with her children, exploring Amsterdam, and sharing stories of her expat experience in her blog.
Photo credit: Katie Nowicki