A formula for a nice weekend walk for us is to have something for everyone. This means nature for Joel, a cafe for me and a playground/animals/wild flowers or activities for the kids. I’ve listed a few routes and places here in the Netherlands mostly in the Groningen/Drenthe provinces that we as a family enjoyed visiting because these places have something for each of us.
BOOMKROONPAD – East of Assen, one can find the Buitencentrum Boomkroonpad – the starting point for the different forest routes in this area. This is under the Staatsbosbeheer which is commissioned by the Dutch government to manage nature reserves in the Netherlands. From the starting point, you can choose from different distances and follow the marked trails. It’s fun for the kids to lead the way and find the next colored marker on the trail. Along the route there are also outdoor activities for the kids, and even a working water pump! The forest is vast and there’s no shortage of wild plants to spot – you can grab a guide at the start point for hints of what to look for along the trail. And if you would like to see the forest in a different perspective, you can also take the path walk above the tree tops. Finally, there’s a little cafe near the start point. Perfect to cap the long walk with a cup of coffee. Perfect for me! Find more suggested routes from Staatsbosbeheer in this link.
DE ENNEMABORGH – This estate is located in Midwolda, due east of Groningen. This property was built in the 14th century. There used to be a moat surrounding the estate but what’s left now is a pond at the back of the property and further back is the forest. This is currently the home and art gallery of Maya Wildevuur. The Ennemaborgh is among the different monuments and natural sites restored and managed by the Groninger Landschap. We visited the place after a rainy week and the forest walk for the kids turned into a game of slug-skipping to avoid squishing the slugs. There were sheeps along the way and also some farm animals and deers eagerly waiting to be fed with grasses. Next to the estate was a small cafe serving traditional Dutch cuisine – bitterballen for Joel – with mushrooms they grow with the waste coffee grounds and for me, my favorite – the Groningen mustard soup! Here is the link to the Groninger Landschap for other places you can visit.
HORTUS HAREN – We love this place. This is our default ‘go-to’ place when we’re undecided where to go. We have annual passes to Hortus Haren for the second year now and every visit is memorable. One can witness the seasons change in the themed gardens of Hortus Haren. My favorite is the Chinese garden, with its koi pond, tea house and waterfalls – some days it reminds me of Monet’s gardens in Giverny . Joel’s favorite is the wooded area – he likes nature and dense woods; while the kids’ favorites are the Japanese rock garden where they can climb a bit, the animals that they can feed and the bee house where they collect the honey and sell to the visitors (it’s delicious). We also met a nice Filipino lady working at the Chinese tea house. And she’s been working there for a long time – lucky to work in such a beautiful place.
OPENLUCHT MUSEUM – The Openlucht (open air) museum is located in Arnhem about 2 hours drive from Groningen. It is a bit far but I’ve included it in the list as I enjoyed our visit there. It transports you back to the past and tells a story of how ordinary people lived then – how doing laundry has been crudely mechanised, how they manufactured cheese, how they brewed beer, etc. It also showed more recent history – how houses looked in the 60’s, 70’s and our bathroom looked like the one in the museum! Ha! It badly needs renovation. There is also a playground, a maze and a herb garden. There are several places to grab food and we chose the poffertjes (little pancakes) stall. Some practical info about the museum can be found in this link.
HOORNSEMEER – This is in the Groningen-Haren border. On one side of the lake is a sandy area with a playground and on the other side of the lake is an old windmill. In summer, the place is popular with families and the water can be warm enough for swimming. There is a restaurant in the area too with a beach-club vibe (usually its outdoor sitting area is full during summer). In autumn and winters on the other hand, a walk around the lake is a must and you must not head home before the sun sets – that’s the best part! Go to the other side of the lake where the old windmill is located and watch the lovely winter sunset from there and thereafter have dinner at the cosy Scandinavian cabin-restaurant with its big fireplace. The list ends here, but there’s hundreds more suggested walking routes around Holland that we have yet to discover. So, ’till next time!