It is no secret that we are fans of the Brabant region in the Netherlands, we’ve proved it here and here. Since I knew the journey here to be quick and easy I also brought my little son with me on our last trip and was curious to see if Brabant would deliver when it comes to traveling with small children. I did already know, from countless personal experiences, that the Dutch are really good with children so I was optimistic that my junior would have a good time. The Brabant tourism board also helped me in creating an itinerary that would not only be suitable for my 3-year old but enjoyable for the grown-ups, also.
We started off our trip in the small but incredibly charming and rich town of ‘s Hertogenbosch (yes, that is really how it’s spelled), where we stayed at a beautiful little apartment hotel called Uylenhof which conveniently doubled as a hair salon. Quick blow-dry during nap time? You know it. Thanks to its super central location in a pedestrian zone that is also the heart of town we were able to explore everything on foot. Very often we could even leave the stroller at the hotel, since the distances were so easy to navigate.
I cannot stress the importance of a central hotel room enough, since with kids you want to be flexible with things you might have left at the hotel or that short nap you need to come home to if your toddler won’t nap on the go, like mine.
‘S Hertogenbosch felt like a great weekend trip for the entire family for a host of reasons, beyond the lack of cars and the short distances. There was a lot to do and see here which we all wanted to do. That boat ride along the canals where parents can catch up on the city’s history while little ones will delight at the many stone carved figures in the tunnels and bends along the canals.
We did a fair bit of strolling around this beautiful little town which delights visitors with quaint shops and unexpected discoveries. The latter also applies to children, where else would one walk into a an industrial looking area just to find an old seesaw and massive rubber legos?
Another great thing about ‘s Hertogenbosch are the many interesting villages in the immediate neighborhood which can be reached via a 30-50 minute bike or a short bus ride. Notably, we visited the village of Heusden which looks like nothing short of an outdoor museum with its original houses, the narrow cobbled streets and and the 2 large windmills. The serenity of the quiet river here that many boats coming along is enough to make anyone take a brush and start painting. It is no surprise that Van Gogh, one of the most acclaimed artists of all time, was born and raised in this very region.
Safaripark Beekse Bergen is the largest wildlife zoo of the Benelux region and provides a home to over 1200 animals from over 150 species. Visitors get to go on a veritable safari in the middle of Europe, all they have to do is to get in their car or hop on a free bus and drive into the park to see the big 5 from up close, no fences included. It’s not quite Tanzania, but it is the next best thing.
And it doesn’t stop at safari in the classic sense. You can go also go on a canoe safari, a boat safari or even a SUP safari! Guaranteed fun for the entire family. As of April 2018 guests will even be able to stay inside the safari park, meaning they can sleep with giraffes as their direct neighbors.
Possibly even more fun for my little guy was the next door Speelland (translates to play land) which is exactly what the name holds: a place for kids to enjoy endless hours of play and fun. Anything from bouncy castles, go-karts, huge slides and distorting mirrors are here. My 3-year old had the most fun with the trampoline area where 16 large trampolines invite kids of all ages to get a full body work out, all while having the fun of their lives.
The last and final part of the Beekse Bergen experience is the Holiday Park, essentially a fancy version of a camping park with numerous huts and luxury tents, all grouped around a beautiful lake. Rent a bike, throw on the BBQ and take a dive from your front porch into the cool wet of the lake. Bliss.
Move over Disneyland, the place to be here is called Efteling. This almost magical theme park is not just older than its American competitor, it also couldn’t be more different. Efteling is all about old fashioned fairy-tales and children will delight at the lovingly crafted displays of a sleeping beauty in her castle, complete with all her snoozing staff, and other well-known fairytale figures. They will also run into some lesser known ones like the larger than life Long Neck, a character whose head is attached to a neck that just keeps growing and growing. 4 months on my son still talks about wanting to return to see Long Neck.
Bigger kids will probably love the many amusement rides such as the wooden roller coaster, the river rapids ride, the haunted house, the steam train and many other unusual and fantastical rides, all of which have at least one thing in common: they are a bag of fun!
One of the wonders of visiting Efteling are the different accommodation options you can choose from when staying over night. We opted for Bosrijk, a type of old-fashioned village with gorgeous double floor houses which really lend an excellent home away from home vibe. There is forest all around and kids can explore parts of it while parents can watch and relax from the terrace. Special perk: at breakfast a pretty princess comes around and gives the kids a little pep talk, takes pictures and spreads more enchantment. After all, is there a better way to start the day then with a chat to princess?
We had a wonderful time in Brabant and are already planning our next trip here.
For those of you who have kids, what do you look for when traveling with the family? Let us know in the comments.
*This post was created in partnership with Visit Brabant