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adventuring in Amsterdam

S has visited the Netherlands several times: first on a full day layover on her way back from study abroad in Ghana; then again for a two-week research project for her college thesis; and finally with her parents for a week-long vacation when she was pregnant with Munchkin. Over the course of our six-and-a-half years in the Foreign Service, Amsterdam has become our transit hub of choice, especially considering the dearth of flight options into East Africa. Instead of simply flying through on her way to and from Tuscany, S decided to tack on a one-day layover in Amsterdam to see a close friend and explore a bit deeper one of her favorite European capitals.

Having visited most of the major tourist sites and museums, S turned to the Foreign Service community for recommendations of places that would be fun for kids and adults alike. Westergasfabriek, once the city’s gasworks, proved to be the standout suggestion. Its dilapidated industrial buildings have been repurposed into a vibrant creative hub that now houses an assortment of trendy bars, restaurants, and entertainment for all ages, including playgrounds, concert venues, an arcade, and even a mini farm.

There was not enough time to see and do everything. S reluctantly passed up the chocolate shop, an espresso bar, and the famous De Bakkerswinkel bakery (which smelled amazing) in favor of an excellent lunch at the Algerian restaurant Rainarai.  Munchkin burned off some energy on two different playgrounds before lunch and then headed to the petting farm to see the Nubian and dwarf goats, Shetland ponies, giant Yorkshire pigs, and a rare red-and-white Lakenvelder cow.

S also heard from another FS mom that the nearby Het Woeste Westen, an outdoor play-land made up of a number of different adventure islands that are naturally separated by water, is a great wild play space. Children apparently have to work together to figure out how to move the rafts through the water so they don’t fall in and there are fire pits for crisping marshmallows and cooking bread. We’re sure to transit Amsterdam again in the not-too-distant future, so it’s good to know our options for keeping the kids and ourselves thoroughly entertained.

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