What comes to mind when you first think of Amsterdam?
Windmills. Weed. Stroop Waffles. Tulips. Weed.
That’s what I thought. And so did my kid.
The last time we went to Amsterdam, he told me it was pretty boring. He said that Amsterdam is only fun for adults because kids can’t do “adult things” and Amsterdam only has “adult things”. He actually did the air quotes.
But he’s not completely wrong.
In all honesty, The Netherlands wasn’t really on our bucket list and we only went there as part of a see-how-many-countries-we-can-get-to-on-a-budget kind of thing when we found a really cheap flight from Addis to Brussels. We had never been to Amsterdam before so we figured we’d give it a shot.
That time, we saw the Anne Frank House, went on a boat on the canals, did a scavenger hunt type thing to see the city that tested our love for one another. It was just okay. We didn’t even really get into the food scene that time either.
When we decided to go back to Amsterdam for our holiday break, I wanted to dive more into the city and see what this Dutch wonderland had to offer.
Of course there are loads of children’s museums and parks that you can visit to entertain small ones, but teenagers are a whole nother feat. So when my kid said that Amsterdam was only for adults – because kids can’t smoke weed (his words, not mine) I exhausted all my resources to entertain this kid at all costs.
I Googled. I crowd-sourced through social media. I Googled some more. But I think I found a way to entertain this kid in Amsterdam (and also myself).
So, here’s a list of things we did in Amsterdam that are approved by the teenaged boy.
Have you ever wondered about microbes? Specifically, the microbes that live on your eyelashes or inside your gut? Well, what if I told you that there is an ENTIRE museum dedicated to learning about the hundreds of thousands of microbes that are living on and inside you and in your immediate environment. Amazing, right?!?
ARTIS Micropia is a space where you can learn about not only microbes, but also bacteria and viruses that help us and sometimes wreak havoc on our digestive systems. Too much?
Anyway, I’ve always been curious about these things and the boy and I had a good time getting grossed out discovering all the many microbes that live on our bodies.
There is a place where you can stand and it will show you the types of microbes living on your body, you can look through microscopes and discover different species of bacteria, and a place where you can see the decomposition of different foods.
It was awesome. And disgusting. But also awesome.
The boy loves science, so whenever we travel we try to make it to the local science museum. While the museum is more for smaller children, with it’s chemistry laboratory where your tots can discover the reaction of baking soda and vinegar and the construction area where they can…build things, they had other things that we both enjoyed.
There was a chain reaction sequence that goes off about once every hour and it can captivate even the coolest of teens. When we arrived, they were preparing for the next showing. While the explanation was given in Dutch, when the countdown started, we were both waiting in anticipation to find out what the finale would be.
There is a rooftop exploration into energy and wind where you can use the forces of nature to control a kite or discover how a sundial works. (um…magic?!?) The rooftop is also a cool place to hang out and let your kids just run around and tire themselves out. While it was still raining, we only went up there to peek and see what the fuss was about. I can imagine it’s pretty awesome to play around up there on a sunny day.
There is also a new exhibition called Humania, where you can learn a lot about the human body and the ways we are all connected. There are brain teasers and physical challenges that help you discover how your body and brain work. There is a hug machine that looks sort of like one of the obstacles on Nickelodeon’s Double Dare that simulates the feeling of being hugged and even an exhibit that explores French kissing. I kid you not!
It was a cool exhibition that occupied most of our attention while we visited the NEMO Science Museum on that cold and dreary day. It’s the perfect place to visit when it’s raining and there is lots to get lost in.
While we were in Amsterdam, the Body Worlds exhibit was showing. They had an installment at this time called the Happiness Project and explored the things that bring us happiness and ways in which it affects our physical bodies and systems.
We had already seen another Body Worlds exhibit before and hoped it would be another interesting installment, but it was really some of the same as before.
Fun fact: I was pregnant with the boy when I saw the first Body Worlds exhibit, but I didn’t know it yet. I took the test about a week later.
Worry not, no pregnancy test was taken on this trip!
In true Dutch fashion, this exhibit goes through 7 floors and loads of stairs. The good news is you take the elevator up and walk down. I was happy about that!
While a lot of the exhibition was a repeat of our muscular and skeletal systems, there were other things that explored how our moods change and ways physical exercise can improve the way we feel. There was even a part where they explored how our diets are different around the world. (Of course the American diet was full of Pepsi and Pizza Hut)
If you happen to go, see if it’s still around. Looking at the website, I can’t really tell if there is an end to this particular installment, but its worth a shot to try and catch it.
Banksy and Warhol and Basquiat, oh my!
This museum showed us the artwork of Bansky and other pop artists through their free guided tour. You just log into their wifi, go to their website and tap on each piece of artwork to get some pretty amazing background information on each piece, the artists, and some really great anecdotes about why some of the pieces were created.
Of the four museums we saw that day (I know, right?) the boy said this one wasn’t “totally boring”.
If you know anything about us, you know food was going to make this list somewhere.
On one of our days in Amsterdam, we visited Foodhallen. This place is basically a swap meet of every culinary delights and confectionary dreams. You can get burgers and dim sum and fries and tacos al pastor and delicious apple caramel tarts that will make you think you were high while eating it.
You can pretty much get anything you want to drink there also. Milkshakes and beer and Moscow mules. There is definitely something for everyone there and you and your kids can leave happy and with a full belly.
Make sure to split up and find a space to squat first. Walking around with a tray full of food and nowhere to sit can be more awkward than being the new kid in high school trying to figure out what table is okay to sit at. You’ll just end up standing in a corner trying to balance your beer and taco and not look weird.
But then again, when the food is that good, you probably won’t care. But your kids might, so find a seat to avoid the potential whining and complaining.
If you and your kid are adrenaline junkies, I would suggest the A’Dam Lookout Swing. It’s basically a really high point where you can see Amsterdam, take some nice photos, but then go to the top and swing over the side for about 60 seconds.
It wasn’t really scary until you actually get in the swing and realize you’re going to be going over the side, but you’re also thankful that it’s not hanging completely over.
It’s fun. It’s quick. And it’s only $5!
The Cuypmarkt is sort of like Foodhallen where you can get just about anything you want in terms of food. There we are lumpia and I drank Turkish coffee (which is thick as mud, so you know) and we ate some freshly made stroopwaffles.
Getting a freshly made stroopwaffle is actually something I would recommend. They are warm and gooey and you can get them with Nutella on them or just eat them plain. Goes well with the mud coffee nicely.
The market is in the De Pijp area of Amsterdam so after you’re done you can pop over to the Rijksmuseum or see some Van Gogh or just find a cute place to sit and drink your coffee or eat your stroopwaffle.
This market not only has food, but this is where everyone goes to buy their meats and cheeses and flowers and cheaply made handbags. We saw people selling toiletries and even hotel bath robes. If you’re looking for it, you can probably find it there if you’re patient.
The boy and I did some shopping and sampled food from about half a dozen places before finding a DOPE burger place to escape the cold in.
This place is great for everyone because there’s literally something for every member of your family there. Even the tiny humans in the group.
Honorable Mention: Drag Queen Bingo
On Christmas Eve, we went to the Queen’s Head Bar and played bingo with a bunch of drunk people while a drag queen called out the numbers and entertained the sober folks. I’m actually not sure if she was actually a drag queen or just a woman dressed as one, but it was entertaining to say the least.
As she called out the numbers and made some inappropriate jokes about dildos and made the people who called out a false bingo call their girlfriends and tell them they were never coming home.
We went with my friend and her daughter and it wasn’t until the second game that anyone noticed we were there with a couple of teenagers. Once the hostess noticed, this is when things got interesting. Once she noticed the kids were there, she began to “edit” herself and even made the kids drink “vodka” shots.
The boy said it was fun until she noticed they were there and began “targeting” them. It was a bit awkward and we ended up leaving after the second game because we didn’t win and not winning is no fun.
The boy said that this could be fun, but the place is really small and because it was Christmas eve, it was really crowded and it got a bit uncomfortable. I would suggest only bringing teens here, as it’s advertised as “fun for people of all ages”, but if you don’t like small places or a bunch of drunk people, then avoid this one.
Bingo happens every Tuesday night and it would be helpful to reserve a table. But if you show up late, they will give your table away.