New York to Amsterdam = 7 1/2 hours
If any city is preceded by its reputation, it’s this one: Study-abroaders spilling out of coffee shops and stumbling through the red-light district is a yarn as old as time. What’s not so well spun is just how family-friendly this capital of gingerbread houses and picturesque canals really is. Where accommodations are concerned, connecting hotel rooms make sense, but an apartment gives kids space to play (and grown-ups room to breathe); StayAmsterdam.com lists 170-plus properties, more than half of which can fit a family of four. The Amsterdam Tulip Museum (families $20; Prinsengracht 116; 3102-0421-0095) opens in its new digs April 25, right up the road from the Anne Frank House (kids under 10 free, 10 to 17 $6, adults $12; Prinsengracht 267; 3102-0556-7105), where children can explore firsthand the secret annex that hid Anne and her family. Progeny will delight in learning about electric cars and space showers in the Renzo Piano–designed Science Center NEMO ($18; Oosterdok 2; 3102-0531-3233); biking through lush Vondelpark, which hosts free children’s shows in its band shell every Saturday from May to September; and dipping perfectly crisped fries in curry, mayo, and peanut saté from the Vleminckx Sausmeesters stand ($4; Voetboogstraat 31-33; 3102-0624-6075). After patiently perusing the oeuvre at the Van Gogh Museum (adults $18, kids under 17 free; Paulus Potterstraat 7; 3102-0570-5200), little ones can work off excess energy on the I AMSTERDAM sign nearby. The letters are over six feet tall and 77 feet long and great fun to scale.