3 days in Amsterdam with a 3 year old

A few weeks ago Heather found out she needed to go to California for work. She decided to take Ryan on the trip.  With this news, I had to decide if Kevin and I would stick around London or if I should try a little travelling with a 3 1/2 year old.

I decided based on the success of our recent Scotland vacation that Kevin alone shouldn’t be too much trouble as a travel partner. I decided to go somewhere relatively close and that 3 days was probably long enough for our first solo trip.

“We” decided on Amsterdam. To be honest, Amsterdam, Prague, Stockholm, Moscow…they all mean nothing to a 3 1/2 year old. He was just happy to be getting on a plane with his Dad, beyond that he had zero expectations….well he did ask if they had armor or astronaut suits he could try on in Amsterdam. Those were his priorities for the trip!

Getting to Amsterdam is pretty easy from London. The flight itself is 45 minutes from Heathrow. The entire process took us 7 hours; cab ride, train from Paddington to Heathrow, flight, customs, bus ride to town, walk to hotel.  If I had to do it again, I’d take the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then a quick change in Brussels to Amsterdam. It would have been 4 1/2 hours for the same price.

Once checked into our hotel, Kevin and I headed out on the tram to Dam Square and found a giant fair going on. Of course Kevin had to go on a ride and then we found some dinner before calling it an evening on our first day in Amsterdam.

The next day after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, Kevin and I headed out for our first full day of site seeing. I decided in advance that we’d do a few things I’d be interested in and then a few things to keep Kevin interested (science museum, playground, etc..)

We started the day with the Riksmuseum (see below). I had purchased an Amsterdam pass which made it free to enter most attractions in Amsterdam. This made the 20 minute tour of the Riksmuseum a little easier to swallow, otherwise the 12 Euro entry probably would have stopped me.  Kevin enjoyed the armor and the ship replica, but didn’t care much for the paintings.


Next up, something Kevin could enjoy as well; a canal boat tour.  We took the tram into Leidesplein and took a 75 minute cruise around the canals and had a great time. This was probably the highlight of the trip for me for two reasons; it was something both Kevin and I could enjoy and it is a great way to get a sense of the city by travelling through all the canals.


After lunch, we took the tram and then a long walk to get to the NEMO Science Center  (guess whose idea this one was?)  The picture below shows how excited Kevin was about this place. Especially when I told him there might be astronaut or space stuff inside.

The museum had tons of hands-on exhibits for kids, much like the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose.  There were plenty of kids there, so it was a bit of sensory overload for both Kevin and Dad.

We stayed for quite a while, but finally I could tell Kevin was getting very tired so we made the long trek back to our hotel for a nap.


We managed to fit in quite a few things during the remainder of our trip, including the Van Gogh Museum, the floating flower market and the Amsterdam museum of history.  The only place we didn’t get to was the Anne Frank Museum. We actually tried 3 times but every time there was a 1 1/2 hour wait to get in.  For the most part, a 3 1/2 year old has no sense of time. The only exception was standing in line for the Anne Frank Museum; “Why are we waiting in this line so long?” “What are we waiting in line for?” …those were Kevin’s two questions. 

We returned to London the day of the Royal Wedding. We saw it on TV in the Amsterdam airport but that’s as close as our family got to the wedding.

Two weeks after the trip, I asked Kevin what he’d like to tell people about his trip to Amsterdam.  His highlights were two things which I haven’t even mentioned….”tell them about the armor” and “tell them about that cool motorcycle helmet I tried on”.  Here are pictures of both of those Amsterdam memories:

I’ll ask him in 10 years what he remembers about Amsterdam. 🙂

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