Our family is spending a week in the Netherlands in early October. 2 adults and 11 year old boy. We are based in Amsterdam, but we will be doing a few day trips, including one to Rotterdam and one to Enkhuizen to see the Zuiderzeemuseum (recommended by Rick Steves). Question 1: as far as windmill villages, which would be better /more interesting for the kid - Zaanse Schans (outside Amsterdam) or Kinderdijk (outside Rotterdam)? Also, our Benelux passes allow us one more day of train travel in the Netherlands. We were thinking possibly Haarlem & Leiden. However, does anyone else have other recommendations of other towns in the Netherlands that would be a must see for an 11 year old? Lastly my kid is really into science / engineering. Any ideas for a tour or activity that might focus on the engineering challenge of handling water in the Netherlands, or something similar?
@smkinzer - You can take the kid on a day trip to Madurodam. It's a theme park with a mini version of the city of Amsterdam. It's located in The Hague.
Another option can be taking a tour of the many windmills at Kinderdijk.
Last but not least, take a day trip to Utrecht and visit this stunning castle. The kid will enjoy that too.
I have not been there, but the Delta Works are apparently an imposing and more modern model of water control. It is not comparable, but when you visit Kinderdijk, you pass a small but modern single installation of a few screw-pumps for polder de-watering. Water control is everywhere in the coastal Netherlands.
You imply that the family has a huge engineering interest. Don't overlook the many other things to see in the Netherlands, like art museums, royal palaces, canals, two world wars, much older European history, and more. I'll just throw out the excellent Resistance Museum and Stad Schouwberg in Amsterdam, and the early-morning indoor flower auction in Aalsmeer. For engineers, there is the Musical Automata museum in (I think) Leiden.
If you have not already bought railpasses, they may not be saving you money, but they will save you from waiting in line daily to buy tickets.
I would probably choose Kinderdijk over Zaanse Schans if you're only doing one, but this will make for a long day trip from AMS. Rent bikes when there. Definitely plan for half a day at the NEMO science museum in AMS. The rooftop is worth visiting itself (and if the weather is ok, good for parents to sit with a drink while your kid is in the museum) - with a cambered roof and fountains and a view of the entire harbor. Theres a cafe upstairs too. The museum is full of engineering hands-on things to do. My kids all loved that. Someone mentioned the castle outside Utrecht, which is a nice city to stroll, similar to AMS but smaller. A university town with canals. Haarlem and Leiden are also worth visiting. Have you googled the water-engineering tour idea? Cant help with that. There's the Van Gogh/Kroller-Muller museum where you can rent bikes and ride around the park that surrounds it. My kids enjoyed this, but it requires a train and then a bus. The Old Church in the Attic was also a hit with my kids (in central AMS).
Enkhuizen is a great choice. There is a display there of how the canals work and how water is drained.
Zaanse Shanse also has working windmills, but also has the wooden shoe cobbling demonstration as well as a small farmyard and other displays. the cheese tasting would be fun for all.
You might consider Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker. It is off the beaten path of the usual tourist venues but your son would likely enjoy the mechanics and workings of the devices used in the Planetarium.
The Eise Eisinga Planetarium is a wonderful place, but it takes you close to 3 hrs to get there from Amsterdam.
Windmill-wise Kinderdijk is unbeatable. Approach it from Dordrecht, a historical river port city which your son too will appreciate. Take the river ferry Waterbus to Kinderdijk, which leaves from the Merwekade at the north side of the centre. After having visited it, you can continue with the same Waterbus to Rotterdam, where it has its stop at the Erasmusbrug, a 20-min walk to the railway station.
Dordrecht is around 1,5 hrs from Amsterdam with 4 trains per hour (alternatingly direct or with an easy change at Leiden). Use the NS (Dutch Railways) train planner.
You can take the metro (*edited) to Hook of Holland / Hoek van Holland and from there a taxi or rental bike to visit the Maeslant Barrier, part of the Delta Works. It’s a massive movable dam to protect Rotterdam and Southern-Holland against flooding. There are guided tours in English, but at limited times, best is to contact for this the visitor centre there. https://www.keringhuis.nl/english
For seeing and visiting other parts of the Delta Works you will need a car. Driving over the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier is spectacular, however the visitor centre there gets mixed reviews and is a bit expensive but you get an idea how it is constructed. Going to the barrier you can include a visit to nice places like Goedereede, Veere and Zierikzee. https://www.neeltjejans.nl/en/park/
If interest in engineering means interest in classic cars, worth to think about is the Louwman Museum in The Hague. Or for science and medicine the National Museum Boerhaave in Leiden. https://rijksmuseumboerhaave.nl/engels/
*edited: the train is since recently the metro.
For adults as well as the 11 year old the " THIS IS HOLLAND " 5-D show is highly recommended . It's on the north side of Amsterdam and you'll have to take the FREE ferry behind Amsterdam Centraal station to get there . Tall building with " This is Holland " is easy to find.
Daughter-in-law and my 11-year old twin grandkids all loved it . More info on their website. www.thisisholland.com/en
We took our 2 girls in 2017 to de Nederlands—they were 10 and 7. They both loved Zaanse Schans—we rented bikes and toured the town nearby. Windmills were amazing. They simply loved being outdoors. We stayed at the Pulitzer Hotel and simply loved waking the city and the museusms—they really loved a canal cruise. We also spent a day at Haarlem which was wonderful to visit the Catherdral where Mozart played as a 10 year old and see the Frans Haals museum. The highlight was the Ten Boom house where Jews were hidden from the Nazis in WWII.