Amsterdam with Teens: A Perfect Family Day

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Amsterdam with Teens: A Family Vacation

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With fun food, Euro-hip shopping and captivating historical sites to keep you busy, Amsterdam, Netherlands offers families with teens easy ways to enjoy a safe and fascinating city.

Looking for the perfect blend of visitor safety, interesting attractions and fun food to satisfy American teenagers? Spend a day in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. It's a walking city, so be sure your teens have the best shoes for an all-day trek, and be prepared for a day of history, shopping and relaxation.


Morning


If accommodations have you stumped, check out the Canal House, located at Keizergracht 148. This has always been our favorite bed & breakfast for two reasons: its close proximity to several main attractions, and its plentiful breakfast. The breakfast room looks out on a small private garden, which makes for a quiet start to a busy day. Currently undergoing refurbishment, the Canal House will reopen in October 2010, according to managers, and they assure us the garden view from the dining room will remain. Watch for news at http://www.canalhouse.nl/.

When your brood is ready to go, walk just two-and-a-half blocks from the Canal House to the Anne Frank House at Prinsengracht 267, the location where Frank, her family and a friend hid from the Nazis for two years. By the age of 13 most teens have been introduced in school to Anne Frank via her diary, other books about her or films chronicling her years in hiding. This visit will bring her story to life in a way that reading or film viewing cannot.

Photographs, personal objects and even writing on the walls of Frank's room will transport you and your teens to an earlier time and spark questions about the Holocaust and its toll. Spend at least an hour here; allow your teens to wander the rooms on their own. With window shades imprinted with views of how the streets would have appeared in the 1940s, your family will be fully immersed in the world this hidden family knew. Accounting for fluctuations in the exchange between the Euro and U.S. dollar, admission fees currently run roughly $11.50 for adults, $5.50 for teens. Consult the website http://www.annefrank.org/ for hours of operation.

As you leave the Anne Frank House, veer immediately to the left. A few houses down at the canal's edge you'll find the Boathouse Amsterdam. This is a good time to lighten the mood and hop aboard a tour boat to cruise Amsterdam's canals, as a guide explains the city's rich history. The beauty of these tours is the hop-on, hop-off nature of the tour, which allows you to stop and explore at various points, and your tickets can be used for 24 hours. During our last multi-day stay in Amsterdam, we held our tickets and went back the next day to use the canal boat as a taxi to our second day's attractions. Booking info can be found at http://www.canalcruisesamsterdam.com/tours/3; passengers over the age of 12 pay approximately $15.



Afternoon


After your floating history lesson, walk from your Boathouse starting point over to the Amsterdam Historical Museum for lunch at the Museum Cafe Mokum. It's just a ten-minute walk, and you can enter the museum grounds from either Kalverstraat 92. The cafe can be found looking out on the courtyard.

Here you'll find an affordable array of lunch options to satisfy everyone in the family. On our last visit, our group sampled a cold plate of hardboiled eggs and Dutch lunch meats with tomato, plus a classic Dutch soup of potato and leek. Note that pancakes feature prominently on the menu, but skip them here as you'll be headed for a specialty pancake restaurant for dinner. Consult http://en.ahm.nl/nl/home-ahm-en/museum-visit/museum-cafe for the most current menu and pricing.

When you're ready, step into the museum itself and begin your journey back in time. The museum traces Amsterdam's development from its humble beginnings as a trade outpost on the Amstel River through its golden age in the 17th century to its modern-day history as a cosmopolitan European city. Permanent exhibits examining the life of everyday Amsterdamers include views of how children lived, particularly in the early 20th century.

This is the perfect museum to let your teens explore as their interests take them. While the non-permanent exhibits change frequently, some things, including an old Amsterdam bicycle outfitted with a screen that takes you through 1940s city streets, are perennial favorites for us. Visit http://en.ahm.nl/nl/home-ahm-en for updates on the newest attractions. Current admission prices are approximately $12.50 for adults and $7 for teens.

Spend at least 90 minutes at the historical museum, then head for the heart of the city, Dam Square, which is roughly a seven-minute walk away. Here you'll find endless rows of parked bicycles – as bicycling is the preferred mode of transport for most Amsterdamers – and shopping. The primary store, an imposing structure called de Bijenkorf, might remind you of Macy's; you'll find a variety of departments with high-end merchandise, including familiar names offered in styles you might not see in the United States. On our last visit we found ourselves in the jewelry section reviewing Fossil watch styles unfamiliar to our U.S. department stores.

Let your teens peruse the variety of Euro-hip youth clothing here in Netherlands, Amsterdam; they're likely to uncover styles and accessories they typically would not find back home. Racks are placed close together, so your teens might need time to sort through the clothing, but that will leave you time for a sweet snack and a coffee at the lovely cafe on the second floor of the store. To find information on current de Bijenkorf sales in English, enter the store name into Google and choose the "Translate this page" option. Or, if you're a reader of Dutch, consult http://www.debijenkorf.nl/.



Evening


After a short afternoon rest, it'll be time to look for dinner. Head for the Pancake Bakery at Prinsengracht 191. Here picky teens get to choose from a variety of sweet and savory pancakes made the Dutch way, and you come out with an affordable tab for a family dinner.

The Dutch pancake is flatter than the U.S version, spills over the edges of the plate, and is far more than breakfast fare. While you can choose from a variety of sweet pancake fillings, including fruit, chocolate and caramel sauces, and whipped cream, try your hand at a few savory dishes, too, like the ham and cheese pancake or an international version with chicken and vegetables. The pancakes are large, but it's worth ordering a few savory and a few sweet for everyone at the table to sample. The current menu can be viewed at http://www.pancake.nl/indexeng.php.
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