The Amsterdamse Bos is more than just a giant wooded park; it is home to numerous child-friendly attractions. Here are 10 great activities to get you started.
In the 1930s, the City of Amsterdam employed more than 20,000 people to create the Amsterdamse Bos, planting each tree by hand. Today, our city kids have a magnificent 1,000 hectares of nature to explore! Here are some great ways to enjoy all that space.
1. Walk a Trail
Adventurous children? Stop in the Boswinkel (visitors' centre) and find out about the trails they are doing.
For children aged 3-6, pick-up a Boskabouters (forest gnomes) kit. This nature hunt takes them in a loop to and from the Boswinkel. Purchase the information sheet (available in Dutch or English) or buy the special bag and pop a pointy red hat on them for the full gnome experience. For children ages 6+, there’s a family trail in Dutch which varies according to the season. They charge for the trail bag, and require a small deposit to ensure that the bag with the items are returned.
The Boswinkel is open Tuesday to Sunday, all year round.
2. Get Wet on Play Island
Play Island, on the Grote Vijver lake, is a great summer activity and is suitable for any child who can swim. Here you will find a wooden raft which children can pull to the island with the help of a rope. To get off the island you can take the rope bridge, swim in the lake or use the swing line to go back to the mainland. There are no lifeguards.
Open during the summer months. Free of charge.
3. Go Camping
Located at the southern tip of the Bos, the campsite is a great opportunity for our city kids to experience a bit of nature. There are power points available and free wifi if you still need a few home comforts. The camping shop sells groceries and other basic necessities. There is also a launderette and a small playground. The shower block has been recently renovated and includes baby changing facilities. Dogs are not allowed. If you don’t have a tent, you can rent a chalet or ecolodge and still enjoy some of the outdoor experience.
The camping season runs from April to October.
4. Take Your Toddler for a Paddle
Want to cool off with your little ones in the summer? When the weather outside is above 20 degrees and dry, then the Bos’ two paddling pools are filled with water. The smaller pool is just south-west of the visitors centre, while the larger one is in the west of the park, between the goat farm and the canoe centre. Each pool has toilets and baby changing facilities, as well as a kiosk selling snacks.
Open from May to September. Free of charge.
5. Rent a Boat
Does your child want to be captain for the day? In the north-west corner of the park, you'll find the Miniport, where you can rent a motorised mini boat and cruise around the Grote Vijver lake. The boats can seat 4 people, and ages 4 and up are allowed onboard. Boat rentals are charged per 15 minutes and the price includes the life vests.
For older children, head to the south-west corner of the Grote Vijver, where you can hire canoes and water bikes at reasonable hourly rates.
Open from mid-March to mid-October.
6. Climb Amongst the Trees
Fun Forest is a tree-high climbing trail for thrill-seekers aged between 4 and 14. There are ten trails, suitable for different ages and abilities. They charge per climber and online reservations are recommended. The trail behind the Fun Forest front desk is for 4-7 year-olds and is free of charge. Children walk on a tightrope from one tree to the next with the help of a parent.
Open from mid-March to November.
7. Visit a Goat Farm
Goatfarm Riddamerhoeve is a petting zoo in the heart of the Bos where you and your family can meet goats, lambs, chickens, pigs, cows and horses. For a small fee, children and adults can feed the little goats a bottle of milk. They offer organic food for lunch, and ice cream made from goat’s milk. When you’ve had enough farm action, follow the path North and explore the maze made of hedges.
Open all year round with every Tuesday closed. From November to February, they are also closed on Mondays. Entrance is free of charge.
8. Explore the Visitors' Centre
The first floor of the Boswinkel, located in the north-east corner of the park, houses an engaging interactive exhibition on wildlife and nature. Interesting for both toddlers and older children, there is plenty to touch, watch, and hear and lots of nice educational content. A great place to dry out on a wet day. The coffee machine downstairs will help warm up Mum and Dad, while the kids draw what they have seen on the little tables nearby.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, all year round.
9. Go for Pancakes
Boerderij Meerzicht is a self-ordering lunch café, with attractive traditional Dutch architecture, which specialises in pancakes, including gluten-free. Located in the north-west corner of the Bos, it offers seating inside and outside. Children of all ages will enjoy playing in the large sandy outdoor playground and seeing the deer and peacocks that roam the farmhouse.
Open March to October from Tuesday to Sunday. From October to mid-February, open from Friday to Sunday.
10. Ride on a Vintage Tram
The 100-year-old trams run every Sunday between the Harlemmermeerstation and Amstelveen. The tram picks up passengers at the main entrance of the Amsterdamse Bos and travels along the North-East edge of the park. There is a little shop where you can buy souvenirs and tram-related paraphernalia. See website for pricing. Mamas ride free on Mother’s Day and Papas on Father’s Day.
Tram season is from April to October, but you can also ride in December if you book a ticket with Amsterdam Mamas for the annual Vintage Santa Tram Ride.
Margaret Smet moved with her family to New York when she was a child. The desire to discover and explore led her to move to the Netherlands at the end of 2000 for a career opportunity. She is a mama and the author of Exploring Amsterdam from A to Z. You can find out more about her on LinkedIn.
Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a freelance journalist who moved to the Netherlands from the UK in 2009. She is the general content manager at Amsterdam Mamas and the founder of Clean Page Copy, a proofreading and copywriting service for non-native speakers of English. See her website to find out more about her work.
photo credits: Header - Wikimedia Commons, Speeleiland - Donna Bardsley, Fun Forest and Visitors' Centre - Deborah Nicholls-Lee