Where to have the best windmill experience and possible bike ride? Pros or cons of each. Thanks!!
The two sites have very different atmospheres. Kinderdijk is in a more wild, natural setting. It has more windmills than at Zaanse Schans, and if my memory is correct, they also have more different types of mills. You can enter a preserved mill at either place and go up inside. At Kinderdijk, the focus is on windmills, and only windmills. Zaanse Schans, however, is more like a small village, with a collection of typical buildings and homes, as well as a selection of windmills. Additionally, at Zaanse Schans, you can see cheese being made, wooden shoes being carved, etc. .... Kind of a Williamsburg feel (but smaller). Both are interesting - it just depends on your preference. There is ample opportunity for biking at either one - and either one, or both would work.
I have not been to both attractions. But at Kinderdijk, I noticed that visitors arriving on the national bike trail network were not directed to the Visitor Center and were kind of "lost" in terms of buying tickets to enter the one open windmill or see the multi-screen video in the viewing building. It did look like most of the exterior visit for them was "free" rather than "stolen", but I'm not sure about that. There was a nice-enough restaurant (and gift shop!) just off the Kinderdijk property, so you might check on facilities available at Zaanse Schan.
While I agree with the previous reply description of Kinderdijk, the site itself is not in the middle of nowhere. There is a very interesting modern screw-lift polder dewatering facility, for example. We saw a local bus stop, presumably from Rotterdam, but we had a rental car. Did not see bike rental, but were not looking for it.
I don't remember Zaanse Schans as being a place to bike. We enjoyed walking around, especially on the nearby nature trails. (I haven't been to Kinderdijk--next time!) I guess you could bike to/from it, or around the nearby neighborhood, but we took the train there and back from Amsterdam.
Thank you all for your help and insight. I have always wanted to see windmills and think I may opt for the more natural setting.
Kinderdijk windmills are on their original positions, whereas Zaanse Schans windmills were relocated there.
You don't need a ticket to visit the external area of the windmills, it is an open space.
I'd make a decision based on weather. If continuous rain is predicted, I'd go for Zaanse Schans, there are more indoor activities there, including and adjacent museum. Several windmills have workshop demonstrations as well.
We chose a visit to ZS because it was closer and involved less time. One negative thing to consider is the windmills will not be up and running if there is insufficient wind. That was the case for us when we were there. We were able to see the interior of the wood cutting mill and there was a film explaining the process but no blades running. The small museum within was interesting though and cut wood was being loaded onto boats just outside the mill. And there were people biking but have no idea how extensive the bike path was--maybe just within the ZS village.
We were there 2 weeks ago. We chose to go to ZS on recommendation of a friend who lives in Den Haag. It was fascinating. We went early before the big crowds. My father in law is a big wood worker and he was excited that he saw a windmill working saw mill and have an in-depth discussion with the manager. The paths thru the "village" were cute. The museum was under construction and not worth the price of admission. It got VERY busy in the afternoon as the tour buses arrived. Very worthwhile.
Thank you everyone for your insight!!