Family-Friendly Maastricht and South Limburg

March 19, 2013 By Leslie Sherriff 1 Comments

Are you ready to visit Maastricht? Whether you’re visiting for a day, a weekend, or perhaps even longer, you will not lack for things to see and do as a family

I never cease to be amazed at the variety of activities available to families in Maastricht and more broadly in the South Limburg area. Here’s a not-so-short list of my recommendations for activities in family-friendly Maastricht and South Limburg.

Tour Maastricht!

Maastricht is a beautiful town and, believe it or not, it can be toured with kids relatively easily.  There’s a great deal to see and do that is kid-friendly.

City walking tours (in several languages) lasting about an hour can be booked through the local tourist office. There are also occasional bus/tram tours through the town, which might be easier for families with smaller kids. Tired of walking? Try a boat trip on the Maas and through some of the canals nearby. We recently took an hour-long tour and had a great time. Ian, my 4-year-old, loved seeing how a locks system really works and passing under a small drawbridge that was raised by hand. Some of the canals are so narrow you feel as if you can touch the houseboats lining both sides.

The city walls are great for climbing when kids are bored of seeing the sights (or shopping) and bring along some old bread to feed the ducks and geese at the Stadspark.

If the weather turns rainy, learn all about Maastricht’s very own dinosaur at the Maastricht Natural History Museum.  I took Ian recently and he was fascinated. The museum is large enough to be interesting to everyone, but not so large as to be overwhelming for the younger ones.

If you’re hungry, most of the cafes in Maastricht are family-friendly, especially on nice days when you can sit outside. Our favorite is in one of Maastricht’s prettiest squares, Onze Lieve Vrouweplein. Try the Café Charlemagne, which has a children’s menu.

Zoo and Animal Parks

If your kids are obsessed with animals, South Limburg can definitely accommodate. The options range from a proper zoo to a simple dierenpark (animal park) with some sheep and goats and a café and/or picnic tables. Here are some ideas for visiting our four-legged friends:

The GaiaZoo in Kerkerade is definitely worth a day trip. There are tons of animals to see and the kids can also play in the Dino Dome, an indoor play park perfect for the climber in all of us. Be prepared to pay, however, as entry prices are quite high. On a smaller scale, Kasteelpark Born is a favorite. It’s not a traditional zoo, but more than a simple animal park with some sheep and rabbits. Visitors can wander through tree-lined paths to say hello to all sorts of animals and buy little bags of food to feed those who greet you as you pass. The paths will lead you to a café and playground, a nice stopping point. Picnics are welcome!

Finally, if you fancy a trip into Belgium, nearby Lanaken (about a 15-minute drive from Maastricht) has a wonderful Kinderboerderij in the Domein Pietersheim. While there, you can visit with the animals as well as play in the wonderful playground. The café also serves delicious food.

Swimming Pools and Playgrounds

If you’re tired and hot and need a day off to simply have fun, you might try some of the area’s swimming pools and playgrounds. Several of these are worth an entire day given the many activities available.

We have a family pass to Fun Valley Maastricht. This is an amazing facility just south of Maastricht along the Maas. On warm days, families can spread out a blanket along the beach, bring the picnic basket, and enjoy the warm waters of the Maas. Our son loves the sandy beach, which also includes lots of play equipment. Paddleboats and canoes are available for hire and there are usually a couple of inflatable slides or climbing structures for the older kids. Fun Valley also has a huge indoor play facility complete with slides, rope climbing, ball pits, etc. There is often staff on hand to paint faces or organize arts and crafts activities. Fun Valley is definitely worth the entry price.

Steinerbos is the same sort of concept as Fun Valley, minus the indoor play area. It’s a very large park complete with a lake (with boats to hire), a small “train”, indoor and outdoor pools, and loads of play areas.

The Merregelhoof Speeltuin is a gorgeous place to spend an afternoon. Just outside the Sint Pieter neighborhood of Maastricht, the park has loads to do for toddlers. There is a very small, unheated pool, which is particularly fun on hot days. There is also plenty of shade and a good café. Picnics are welcome. This is a favorite for us after school and on weekends when we don’t have anything else planned.

Off the Beaten Path

For those looking for something a bit off the beaten path, try taking a steam train ride or going for a barefoot walk. I can honestly say that these are some of our favorite afternoon excursions.

The local steam train leaves from a small town called Simpleveld and visits several other places, including the GaiaZoo and the Continuum Discovery Center. You can combine a steam train ride with a visit to either of these attractions for a fun day out.

The barefoot path, in the Lieteberg national park in Belgium, is a fantastic afternoon trip. We visited on one of the first nice spring days last year and are still talking about it. The park features a 2-km barefoot walk over a variety of surfaces. Visitors climb logs, walk over rocks, wade through mud and puddles and generally get very messy. The park also has a butterfly enclosure and a bee farm for those insect-inclined. Entry costs are very reasonable and well worth the visit.

Valkenburg

If you’d like to spend a day touring another South Limburg town, you might try a visit to Valkenburg, just a few kilometers north of Maastricht. I find most of the shops and restaurants in Valkenburg rather “touristy,” but there is so much family friendly stuff to see and do there that I couldn’t leave it off the list.

What to do: Take a quick tour through the Valkenburg caves.  You can either walk or take the “tram.” Unfortunately, tours are only in Dutch, but even if you don’t understand the language, it’s still worth the experience – especially to cool off on a hot day! If you like theme parks, you might try The Valkenier. There are outdoor rides and play structures and the website also shows an indoor play area. Our favorite pool in the area is in Valkenburg. The Polfermolen is a fun, very warm pool with a small paddling pool and a bigger pool with a covered slide and lazy river.

For lunch, skip the restaurants in the center of town and head for t’ Koetshoes, a café and park on the edge of town. The food is good and reasonably priced and there is a great playground for the kids.

Day Trip

And finally, if you’re using Maastricht as a base to see the area, Bokrijk is a fantastic outdoor living museum of the area’s history. About a 40-minute drive from Maastricht in Belgium, the park is huge and filled with houses, schools, barns, town squares, an old windmill and people dressed to fit the times and doing appropriate activities. Outside the museum area, there is one of the largest playgrounds I have ever seen with eye-popping slides and play equipment.

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