Anne Frank House tops Amsterdam's kid-friendly sites

By Felicity Long

AMSTERDAM -- Even kids who approach museums with trepidation usually reserved for brussels sprouts are probably going to enjoy some of this city's cultural venues.

These were my 10-year-old son's favorites, in no particular order.

  • The Anne Frank House. Although some younger children might not understand the significance of the site, which chronicles the life of a 13-year-old girl in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland, this attraction hits home to thousands of young visitors every year.
  • The museum, which is actually the house where Frank and others lived in secret during World War II, was founded in 1960 after Frank's diary became an international bestseller in the previous decade.

    The 1999 expansion of the museum was a huge improvement, offering enough room for visitors to linger over pictures and videos that provide background about the diary.

    Be prepared for children to be moved by Frank's plight and especially drawn to the swinging bookcase hiding the staircase to the annex where Frank was hidden.

    The museum is Amsterdam's most popular attraction; visitors line up around the block at opening time.

    The museum opens daily at 9 a.m.; closing times vary by season. Admission is about $4.

  • Nemo. Formerly the New Metropolis, this revamped science museum is built in the shape of a half-sunken ship and offers such interactive fun as making dams, navigating boats and donning white lab coats and protective glasses to perform experiments.
  • The museum is closed Mondays except during school vacations. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is about $8.

  • VOS Amsterdam. Be sure to arrive at the re-created 18th century ship in time for the noon firing of the cannons accompanied by costumed players acting out a pirate skit.
  • The dialogue is in Dutch, but the element of drama, not to mention the satisfying "booms," are kid-pleasers.

    As children explore the ship, parents can take in the artifacts and nautical instruments.

    The re-enactment is held daily from April through October.

  • The Maritime Museum. Situated adjacent to VOS Amsterdam, this museum could easily take half a day to explore. Kids get a kick out of the ornate royal barge.
  • The museum is closed Mondays except during the summer and on holidays; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Admission, including the VOS Amsterdam, is about $6 for adults and $3.30 for children ages 6 to 18. A family pass, with a maximum of three children, costs about $15.

  • Museum Van Gogh. Young children warm to the bright colors of the artist's work, and older kids might recognize some of his most famous paintings in this manageably sized museum.
  • The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Prices are about $7 for adults; kids 12 and under are admitted free.

  • Rijksmuseum. I put this on my "maybe" list, thinking the Dutch Masters' somber works would strictly be adult fare. However, my son and some other children in our group were enchanted with Rembrandt's "The Night Watch."
  • Be aware that the museum is large and complex, which means a direct route to one or two major works is all that most children will probably be able to handle in one visit.

    The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is about $6.

    Can't face another giant museum? Walk around the back of the Rijksmuseum and take a look at the outdoor statuary.

    Upon closer inspection, kids will realize that the "statues" are mimes, who engage the attention of passers-by and even pose for photos.

    The Amsterdam Culture & Leisure Pass offers 31 vouchers good for discounts or free admission at the principal museums and water transportation. Available citywide at hotels and other tourist-related sites, the pass costs about $20.

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