The largest of Amsterdam's parks covers almost a thousand acres and is located a few miles south of the city in the suburb of Amstelveen. It incorporates 137 km (85 mi) of footpaths and 51 km (32 mi) of bicycle paths traversed by 50 bridges—many designed in the early-20th-century Amsterdam School style with characteristic red brick and sculpted-stone detailing. The area was planted and constructed from 1934 onward, as a job creation scheme under the motto "five years'
work for a thousand men" and it ended up providing jobs for 20,000 people during the Depression. There are wide recreational fields, a boating lake, the impressive Olympic Bosbaan rowing course (overlooked by the terraces of grand café De Bosbaan), and numerous playgrounds and water play areas for toddlers. A popular family attraction is an organic goat farm with a playground and lunchroom, a sunny terrace, and lots of chickens hopping about between the goats. Your kids can feed other kids—the four-legged kind—milk from a bottle, and cuddle bleating babies in the barn. The soft ice cream is made entirely of goat's milk (which does not contain lactose), and home-made goat cheese is on sale. It takes about 30 minutes by bike from the Vondelpark.
Coming out of the southern exit of the park, take a left onto the Amstelveenseweg and follow this busy road under the highway on the bicycle path until you reach the Bezoekerscentrum (visitor center) for the park on the right. Public transport to the Amsterdamse Bos is plentiful. For example, Buses 170 and 172 run from Leidseplein to Van Nijenrodeweg, opposite the visitor center. The museum tram (www.museumtramlijn.nl) passes through on Sundays from Easter through October between 11 and 5:30; get on at Haarlemmermeer Station. There's a nice 15-minute boat trip (www.rederij-oeverloos.nl) that leaves from the pancake house Boerderij Meerzicht to beaches on the other side of the Nieuw Meer. You can (of course) also explore by bike; rent one at the entrance of the Amsterdamse Bos from April through September (020/644–5473). Maps, suggested routes, and signposting are plentiful throughout the park. For example, follow the signs to the Grote Vijver (Big Lake) to hire kayaks, pedal boats and electric boats from April through October (020/645–7831).
Bezoekerscentrum (Visitor Center). Visit the Bezoekerscentrum (Visitor Center) to learn about natural history and the management of the woods, open Tues.–Sun. noon–5. Bosbaanweg 5, Amstelveen, 1182 DA. 020/545–6100. www.amsterdamsebos.nl.
Boerderij Meerzicht. If you didn't pack your own lunch, Boerderij Meerzicht is a traditional Dutch pancake house, with a petting zoo and playground for the kids. Koenenkade 56, Amstelveen. 020/679–2744. www.boerderijmeerzicht.nl.
Geitenboerderij "De Ridammerhoeve". For the goat farm, follow the blue signs past Boerderij Meerzicht to Geitenboerderij "De Ridammerhoeve". Nieuwe Meerlaan 4, Amstelveen. 020/645–5034. www.geitenboerderij.nl.
Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands