Please sign in to post.

Must-do things with pre-teens in Brussels/Bruges/Amsterdam?

Heading to all three places next week with my twin sons (12). Have some ideas from Rick's guidebooks, but does anyone have any recommendations from experience? They LOVE parks, running around and playgrounds, etc. (believe it or not). Got those earmarked, but what's "cool" over there?

Posted by
8975 posts

The Maritime Museum in Amsterdam has just reopened after being closed for several years for renovation. I was there a couple of weeks ago, and the "new" museum is amazing. The kids will get a kick out of the exhibits and and the 17th century warship docked outside which can be toured. Also nearby is the science museum and the excellent zoo. It's a bit pricey but your kids will enjoy Madame Taussaus Wax Museum on Dam Square. For something a bit more serious, the WWII resistance museum might peek their interest; it's across the street from the zoo.

Posted by
12040 posts

I'm struggling to think of something that would appeal to 12 year olds in Brugge... sorry, still can't think of anything. In Brussels, MiniEurope is very kid-friendly. And there's plenty of nearby parkland for them to run off some steam. The Musical Instrument Museum is also pretty interactive, so they might like that. If you have extra time while in Amsterdam, consider a daytrip to Utrecht. I can't imagine a kid not liking the Dutch Railroad Museum.

Posted by
45 posts

These are great, and different than the things we had already planned. Thank you! I think biking is the way to do Bruges--much less crowded/intimidating than Amsterdam (or so I'm imagining), so that may bring another dimension to that town for them. I'll try to remember to report back afterward for the benefit of others.

Posted by
249 posts

Pink Bear Bicycle tour from Bruges to Damme was excellent-fun, informative, and I think, something your twins would like. RS writes of it-read also about it on TripAdvisor

Posted by
77 posts

Don't forget to stop at the Pancake Bakery in Amsterdam for lunch! A little on the touristy side, but cheap and delicious!! I am sure it'll be in your guide book. :)

Posted by
77 posts

I have a VERY STRICT no restaurant repeats rule when on vacation, and we broke it for this place.

Posted by
1353 posts

My son absolutely loved Madurodam in den Haag when he was 11 y/o. We did it as a day trip from Amsterdam. It looks like it opens April 7th so don't know if it will work for you. http://www.madurodam.nl/en/ Also definitely go up the bell tower in Brugge. It's a great view and fascinating!

Posted by
77 posts

Keukenhof might be a nice trip if the timing is right (if it's open when you are there), although I am not sure it will hold young children's interest .... depends on the kids of course! Harleem is nice, but I have to say I am not as in love with it as Rick is!! The church organ was amazing mind you...

Posted by
8975 posts

"...perhaps best of all, was the 17th century Dutch East Indies replica ship parked just outside the NEMO. You can walk on and poke your head into every corner. I thought it was wonderful...." This is the same ship I mentioned as part of the nearby Maritime Museum. When the museum was under renovation they moved the ship to the Nemo science museum. Now that the Maritime Museum has reopened, it's been moved back to its original home.

Posted by
45 posts

Funny, we were planning on Madurodam, and it opens the day we arrive in Amsterdam! Sounds like we have plenty of options!

Posted by
20 posts

We went to Bruges (about 2 years ago) for a day trip with our two sons, who were 13 and 10 at the time. We had a great day! We arrived by train - the station is in a beautiful area and I believe we were able to walk easily to the Belfort (Bell tower) where we had some terrific "frites" (french fries) and enjoyed the sights. We would have climbed the Belfort, but it was under repairs when we were there. We did a canal cruise http://www.in-bruges.co.uk/canal-boat-tour-in-bruges/canal-boat-tour-in-bruges.html and then wandered over to the "Choco Story Museum" http://www.choco-story.be/ENG/ We did some shopping, and found a great square with a terrific chocolate shop (sorry - can't remember the name) where we sat and enjoyed some Belgian waffles (and Belgian beer for my DH) before heading back to the train station. Bruges was one of our trip highlights and our sons really enjoyed it. I hope you do too!

Posted by
8975 posts

My last visit to Bruges was May 2011 and during my three days the city as practically overrun by school groups aged around 12-13. They seemed to be having a blast with everything the city has to offer.

Posted by
11450 posts

James way to be a jerk. Do you share your beer with your young children? Stay on topic of keep off the thread. Bill , boys are 12,, have you considered a Bike or Segeway tour in Amsterdam? It would be alot of fun for them , and probaly for you too! I know this may not be "cool" but it would be memorable, but I would take boys to Anne Franks house, I visited there first time when i was 12 , and I have never forgotten it.

Posted by
8975 posts

I didn't make the connection before, but James makes a good point. Bill I hope you're not considering sneaking out of your B&B after your kids fall asleep and try the wares at a coffeeshop. The stuff is very potent and some people have bad reactions to it. It's one thing to do that if you're single and carefree, but with kids in the equation....no way!

Posted by
809 posts

Gimme a break! My boy has been to Amsterdam, we snuck out to a coffee shop now and then and it was fine. Dad takes him for Happy Meal while mom goes for a toke - then switch. Its vacation - I assume nobody is smoking who has never smoked before and I didn't think pot there was much different There than pot anywhere else. In Amsterdam kid really enjoyed the "hidden chapel" - google it. The zoo, the resistance museum, and Anne Frank House too. If you can, stop in Ghent - really love that city and it has a nice castle in town. Brussels has great waffles (and beer).

Posted by
8975 posts

...and on the flip side I personally know a couple who visited a coffeehouse took a a few puffs each, as they left the husband walked right into a glass door, breaking his nose and the door in the process. Pot effects everyone differently.

Posted by
11450 posts

I see ,, so some of you ( who undoubtably have never smoked pot and have all your knowledge from the great classic movie "Reefer Madness" ) actually see a huge difference between the posts I see here for "can I take my children into a BEER HALL " in Germany , or a pub in UK. Both substances can alter your behaviour and judgement,, its all about responsible consumption. Bill has said nothing about taking his kids to a coffee house, or exposing them in anyway.. When someone asks about taking kids to beerhall or pub I never assume they plan on getting gooned with kids in tow,, but some of you assume that pot smokers would ? I wonder,, does anyone think Rick Steves got gooned with his kids around,,, lol or do you some of you prefer to think of pot smokers as all irresponsible punks,, lol

Posted by
45 posts

Wow, thanks everybody for coming to my defense. I know the others were just trying to be helpful, but yeah, I've gotten my kids to age 12 without incident, so I think I can handle a few days in Amsterdam. My wife and I are covering for each other IF we even decide to do anything along those lines. How did asking about things to do with my boys turn into an assault on parental judgment? Seriously, thanks to everyone for the tips--lots of stuff I hadn't considered. Are they old enough for a Segway tour? I know in the U.S., you have to be 15 or 18 or something. My boys have been all over Ireland, Quebec, England and Scotland and have gotten a good look at the "world" for their age, and they do appreciate things that other kids might find boring--I've even taught them 10 Dutch phrases to use while we're there (even though everyone speaks English). BTW, we're watching Anne Frank on PBS right now, and have every intention of visiting her house.

Posted by
8975 posts

So for those keeping score, it's poor form to let ones kids use an Ipad when in Europe, but okay for mommy and daddy to sneak out smoke some dope while they are asleep:) A couple years ago here in New York a mother took her son & daughter, and two young nephews camping not far from where I live: http://tinyurl.com/ctd95sa At the campground she consumed alcohol and marijuana, and next morning drove the kids back home in her mini-van, went into some sort of psychosis, drove at high-speed the wrong direction down a parkway, crashed head on with another vehicle, killing the three occupants of that car, herself, her daughter, and the two nephews. Obviously this is an extreme example, and there is a good chance the OP won't be driving in this part of Europe, but when one is looking after children they need to be at the top of their game, not take substances that can alter decision making....and be adults.

Posted by
45 posts

Like I said, thanks to everyone for answering the questions I asked.

Posted by
11450 posts

Micheal,, by that logic no one should not drink on vacation either, duh, its all about RESPONSIBLE consumption no matter WHAT substance is used. Impairment is impairment.. I assume that most posters here would never get in their rental car and tackle the autobahn with their kids in the back seat after a few beers at lunch,, so we do not need to assume a person who occaisonally imbibes the LEGAL substance of pot in Amsterdam would make a bad judgement either. You found cited one case where alcohol and pot were used, with tragic results, but you do realize alcohol causes more traffic fatalities then any other substance, mostly because nice middle class people think that a glass or two of wine or beer is civilized and will get into their cars after a lunch with friends or an after work drink without thinking of themselves as "one of those druggies" .
Alcohol is a drug too.

Posted by
7 posts

My 13 year old daughter and I were in Paris/Belgium last summer. She really got a kick out of the Atonium. Mini-Europe is next door but we skipped that. We were also at the Musee Herge (author of the original Tin Tin series) and she enjoyed that. If your sons have seen the Tin Tin movie it might be a fun stop for you. Very modern museum with a neat gift shop. She also enjoyed every minute of Brugge and the Bell Tower. The Grand Palace area of Brussels was fun sightseeing as well.