Where To Go
The must-see museum in Amsterdam for families with older children is the Anne Frank House. Because the rooms where the Frank family hid from the Nazis have been left largely untouched, it is an enormously moving experience. My daughter was nine-years-old when we visited and had just read the book; visiting the Frank House helped us bond over the family's story. While younger children might not get as much out of the experience, the museum tour is relatively quick and easy, plus kids under nine are free.
The enormous and imposing Rijksmuseum is the centerpiece of Amsterdam's art museum complex, mostly centered on the Museum Square. While older children may enjoy the dollhouses and airplanes in the Rijksmuseum, the Rembrandts and Vermeers in the austere setting may prove a bit somber.
Better with kids is the Van Gogh Museum, a short stroll across the park, where the paintings are livelier and the exhibit tells a vivid story about the artist's life. Depending on your child's age and sensitivity, you may want to soft-pedal the part about cutting off his ear -- or play it up.
If your children are too young to appreciate art or have simply had their fill of Old Masters, Museum Square offers an adventure playground and a wide range of cafes selling everything from "American hamburgers" to soft-serve ice cream. And it's a perfect place for kids and even adults to simply run off all that culture.
Other museums in Amsterdam that offer "kids-corners" with special exhibits and activities include the Houseboat Museum, the Nemo Science Center, and the Hermitage Museum, an outpost of the great Russian museum, where there's a Hermitage for Children program.
One museum NOT to visit: Amsterdam's Torture Museum. Yes, really.
A must-see highlight of the city is Artis, the city's amazing zoo, which includes an aquarium, a planetarium, and a petting zoo.
Amsterdam's Royal Palace might be another highlight of a trip to the city, especially given that the new King Willem-Alexander has three young princesses of his own, including Catharina-Amalia, 9, who will inherit the throne. Palace tours include ones aimed at younger and older kids.
Pamela Redmond Satran is the cocreator of the baby name website Nameberry and the author of the novel The Possibility of You.