My husband and I will be staying in Amsterdam Mid September for 5 days. I am looking for 2-3 day trips - What are your recommendations that should be high on my list. My husband and I are pretty flexible. We love walking, biking, museums, eating, architecture, theater, etc. Also if you have some must do's in Amsterdam I would appreciate those recommendations too.
Some ideas of places to visit: Haarlem, Zaanse Schans, Beth Haim, Utrecht.
Bike hire: http://www.rentabike.nl/
Amsterdam in itself is worth about 3 or 4 days in and of itself. I have been once before (5 years ago) and will be returning this Fall to kick off a 6 week backpacking tour of The Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. I stayed 4 days last time and wish I had stayed a few days longer. I got an (I AMSTERDAM) city pass and it was well worth it. I recommend that you MUST see The Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and take a boat/canal tour. My favorite thing to do was to ride a bike and to just explore the city. Go into (no need to partake) a coffee-shop, walk the red light district at dusk, go to a brown café for a night cap. Seriously, "quirky" is Amsterdam. You never know what you will find around any corner in the canal district. Crooked buildings, funny art shops, random street performers all wrapped around a tolerant city full of intrigue.
I am returning to The Netherlands to see what I missed before and to do the side trips that you mentioned. I suggest that you go Hoorn and Enkhuizen which are very much worth a visit. You can easily combine the two. Delft is also recommended. They are both extremely Dutch and have amazing old world charm. Delft has a beautiful and charming city center. There is also the ability to map out a bike tour route for a day of biking right outside of Amsterdam. If you follow the right paths you can be in windmill country within an hour of biking out of Amsterdam. Have fun!
You should get Rick Steves Amsterdam, Brussels and Bruges as soon as possible. He not only has lots of things to see and do in Amsterdam, but has lots of daytrips, including full descriptions (cities, small towns, rural areas) and all the logistical details of how to get there from Amsterdam.
I agree that with only 5 days, you would take 1-2 daytrips at most; Amsterdam has lots to see.
Architecture: If Modernism is of interest you can visit the Unesco listed Rietveld-Schröderhuis in Utrecht and Van Nellefabriek in Rotterdam. The latter is usually not open for a visit I think, but anyway coming 13 and 14 September it is open during Open Monument Day with guided tours. Or not so far from the Rijksmuseum, the Open Air School in Amsterdam (still in use), is a very nice example of early Modernism, as well as Betondorp (literally Concrete Village) further away from the city centre.
Rotterdam becomes more and more the place of modern architecture, but is of more recent date like the Cube Houses.
We spent a nice day riding the bus with a 10 Euro Waterland bus ticket. The schedules are extensive and convenient, you can visit as many towns as you like. We easily visited Marken, Volendam, and Edam in one day. We purchased our tickets behind Centraal Station. It was enjoyable, and an opportunity to see a more rural side after Amsterdam.