Amsterdam with Kids

For each racy adult attraction Amsterdam offers, there are several that deserve a PG rating (for "Pure Goodness") to entice the entire family. It's not for nothing that UNICEF identified Dutch children as the happiest in the world. Alongside exceptional infant care and happy dairy cows, the peaceful, open-minded society produces chill parents who tend to raise remarkably well-adjusted little ones. Here are tips on what to do with your own.

Kid-friendly museums

Some cultural catch-alls are exceptionally child-friendly: the Rijksmuseum offers a family activity book for kids ages 8 and up, and the Amsterdam Museum has Het Kleine Weeshuis, a wing re-creating life in a 17th-century orphanage, geared toward 4- to 12-year-olds. But if the olden days bore them, go find NEMO. The Netherlands' biggest science center is sure to entertain (and educate) multiple generations with its five floors of clever exhibits and live demonstrations, and the pitched roof deck has a spectacular view of city and shore. If that view stirs the nascent mariner within, visit the Scheepvartmuseum, which showcases 500 years of Dutch naval history, with everything from sea-battle paintings and old-fashioned sailing compasses to a walk-in whale and a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century Dutch East India Company cargo ship.

Check out the animals

Compared with other metropolitan zoos, Artis is small, but the animal-sensitive surroundings represent the sensibilities of the first country to elect an animal-rights party to Parliament. From apes to zebras, all the major species are present, plus there are regular sea lion shows, butterfly expos, and spectacular (read: slightly gruesome) feeding sessions. Your ticket also grants you entrance next door to the planetarium and the not-to-be-missed aquarium. The wonderfully interactive Micropia, billed as the world's first microbe museum, is also part of Artis. Tickets to the museum are sold separately if you don't feel like splashing out on zoo entrance fees.

Who doesn't want to hold, pet, and feed rabbits, goats, and guinea pigs? Free public petting zoos, or kinderboerderij, are not uncommon in Amsterdam and the iAmsterdam website lists ones around the city. The Kinderboerderij de Pijp (www.kinderboerderijdepijp.nl), in the De Pijp neighborhood, is especially welcoming; it's open weekdays 11–5, weekends 1–5.

Running, biking, and boating

Sometimes it's just a good idea to get the kids out into the fresh air. First choice in Amsterdam is the Vondelpark, where there are playgrounds for the younger ones and pleasant paths for biking with older children. Most kids (and adults, too) jump at the chance for a boat ride, and Amsterdam's canals offer plenty of opportunities.

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