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Magical theme park Efteling and city adventures make Amsterdam a top weekender

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ASK an Amsterdam local to name their favourite childhood haunt and, odds are, they’ll say fairy-tale theme park Efteling, just over an hour from the city.

With playgrounds dotted throughout, quaint pedal trains and bins that burp their gratitude for rubbish, the littlest ones are far from an afterthought here.

Efteling

Ask an Amsterdam local to name their favourite childhood haunt and, odds are, they’ll say fairy-tale theme park Efteling[/caption]

Max & Moritz, two rollercoasters that race each other, are the perfect starter coasters for those over 1m tall

In fact, it’s more perfect for them than anyone else.

And if you pack layers, winter here is magical, with its pop-up ice rink, live gigs and moreish lemon, apple and star anise glühwein for the grown-ups. 

Much-loved Max & Moritz, two rollercoasters that race each other, are the perfect starter coasters for those over 1m tall, but it’s amazing how many rides babies can enjoy – Sirocco’s entrancing spinning ships included.

Meanwhile, the ingenious Baby Switch means partners get entry to daredevil rides like Oblivion-esque Baron 1898 and corkscrew coaster Python as soon as one of you has ridden and taken back the baby from the waiting rider.

Never have nap times been so exciting…

PILE UP THE PANCAKES

At Polles Keuken kids can happily decorate their heart-shaped pancakes

To encourage said nap, feast on huge pancakes at Polles Keuken.

Tuck into the goat’s cheese, apple, pecan and honey creation, £13, with a Stroopwafel-topped coffee, £4.95, while the pans and crockery dance into life in the middle of the restaurant and the kids are happily decorating their heart-shaped pancakes, £5.60.

Then take a stroll through The Fairytale Forest to spy model mice dancing in Geppetto’s house and Pinocchio appearing in a huge fish’s mouth. 

One of our fave rides was Symbolica.

Each carriage can choose the theme of their adventure – music, hero or treasures, with interactive challenges to match – but you all join the magical banquet hall at the end, where flamboyantly dressed characters waltz around you.

Meanwhile, over at the ornate 100-year-old Stoomcarrousel, you can hop on a pig instead of a horse if you fancy.

Later, slide down a polar bear in Fabula – another perfect rainy-afternoon hideout.

Days at Efteling come to a close with the music, light and fire show around the lake.

From there it’s a 15-minute wander to the Loonsche Land Hotel.

Here, kids can borrow an owl teddy for a sleepover and write in its diary.

Come morning, breakfast is a cute spread with ceramic flowerpots to fill up with granola and yoghurt, plus a wooden toy corner.

HIT THE ’DAM

Go to Amsterdam and take a fab family cruises on the canals

As you’re just over an hour from Amsterdam, a stop in the city is a must-do.

Grabbing a cargo bike makes it a doddle to get around with smaller kids and is especially fun if you bag one with a massive yellow clog they can sit in, £26 a day (Macbike.nl).

Just 15 minutes’ walk from Amsterdam Centraal train station, there’s Artis Zoo (Artis.nl), or in the other direction Nemo Science Museum – a hands-on dream.

If science lessons in my day had had half the stuff this place does, maybe I’d have chosen a different career!

Step inside huge bubbles, play at dam building and watch massive chain reactions – we had hours of fun (Nemosciencemuseum.nl).

There are fab family cruises on the canals (Blueboat.nl), but the biggest winner with kids is that the city is home to Tony’s Chocolonely.

At its superstore (which is actually quite small, so expect to queue) you can pull giant levers for your fave flavours and customise your own bar for £4.75, (Tonyschocolonely.com).

It’s the choc that promises to do good – just as this two-in-one weekender will do for you.  

FYI

B&B stays for four at Loonsche Land Hotel, including park entry, cost from £224 per night. Plan your trip at Efteling.com.

An I Amsterdam card, from £51, offers savings on city sightseeing (Iamsterdam.com).

Fly from the UK to Amsterdam Schiphol from £72 return.

Trains from Schiphol to ’s-Hertogenbosch, the nearest train station to Efteling, cost £18 return.

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