Looking to take some fun day-trips to help entertain your little one over the summer holiday but don't want to venture too far outside the city? Ellen Duckenfield shares some of her favorite spots around Haarlem.
Three years ago, pregnant with my second child and living in a one room apartment, my partner and I found ourselves faced with a dilemma. Should we sacrifice space and any chance at a garden and stay in Amsterdam, or risk the provinces, gaining space but potentially sacrificing our image of ourselves as the worldly-wise urbanites we obviously thought we were?
When you live in the city, being outside of it is a scary prospect. We were prejudiced, afraid of turning into small-minded village hicks.
What we actually found was more outdoor space and the welcoming town of Haarlem. There even turned out to be other foreigners on our street! Not so provincial after all. We may have lost some of the hustle and bustle of the city but we've discovered a new found love of the country.
Now that the holidays are here and your local paddling-pool is bursting to the brim, here is a quick round up of my top 5 family day trips in my 'adopted' neck of the woods.
't Wed: A natural lake in the dunes, a friend of mine describes 't Wed as Ibiza for children (without the commercialism, banana-jet-skis or drug fuelled full moon parties that is!) Being such a kids paradise, be warned it is always busy in the summer.
The lake is perfect for swimming, surrounded by sand, and the kids can dig to their hearts content with no tide to destroy their tunnels and fortresses. Walk along to the furthest end for a quieter spot. I find it easier and safer to negotiate with small children than the sea.
There are beautiful walks through the dunes nearby and you can run back down from the highest spot skidding down through the sand into the water.
Bezoekerscentrum Kennemerduinen: A new building just next to 't Wed is finished, complete with a roof full of solar panels, and open Tues-Sun. It's a favourite spot for children on a rainy day too. There is a child friendly cafe, interactive exhibitions and information about local wildlife and a play corner with colouring and books. And the best part is, it's free!
Address: (car park) De Koevlak. Zeeweg 12, Overveen, towards Bloemendaal aan zee.
If you want a change from Zandvort and Bloemendaal, take the exit just before you see Bloemendaal looming ahead of you towards Pernassia. The beach feels a bit wilder, more rustic and less crowded. You can escape a bit of the commercialism of Zandvort and you notice the presence of nature with the kennemer national park encircling the beach. The huge Pernassia Pavillion (PaZ) serves decent organic pancakes and general beach food and in the evening you can eat around a cosy open fireplace, or sit at one of the giant windows for a view of the dunes. In front of the pavillion there's also a small but appealing wooden play structure.
Address: Zeeweg, Overveen
Elswout forest is a 85 hector estate on the edge of Overveen. It's free to visit. There are deer in the centre of the park and some really pictureque walks through the forest. Rambling paths up and over wooden bridges, plenty of birds and other wildlife. If you go at the right time you might see spawning toads hop across the path into the water. Here and there you'll find random wooden huts that look like 'kabouter' houses. In the car park there is also a puppet theatre. The details of shows and timetable can be found on their website.
Address: Elswoutlaan 12a, Overveen
Groenendaal is a brilliantly well kept and rural petting zoo in Heemstede. There are the usual cows, pigs, goats, ducks, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs etc, but it's worth the trip because of it's woodland location. The kids can explore the forest paths on the 'kabouter' walk. Buy a booklet in the visitor's centre and follow the route (in Dutch). I haven't tested it myself but apparently there's a pancake house along route. There is also a playground just along from the kinderboerderij, but it is paid entrance and in my opinion wasn't worth the money when there was plenty of free fun to be had at the farm.
Address: Burgemeester van Rappardlaan 1, Heemstede
This one feels like a cheat because I haven't even been myself yet! I'm waiting for the day my youngest gives up the daytime nap, as it's the only one of my tips you have to pay for. Still it comes highly recommended and as I understand it you'd want to make a day of it. Linnaeushof is an enormous playground complex with everything you could wish for to entertain children big and small. Water slides, islands, bridges, helter-skelter, roundabouts, trampolines, train rides, the works. Check the website for pictures. Entrance is €11.50
Address: Linneaushof, Heemstede
♦ Honourable Mention: Best Day Out (indoors) for Families, Amsterdam Mamas Recommends Awards 2016 ♦
Ellen Duckenfield is an expat mama and blogger. You can read more about her daily life over at Run of the Windmill.
photo credit: Header - Wikimedia Commons. All other pics -Ellen Duckenfield