An Open Letter to Groningen

OK Groningen, we need to talk. I know ya’ll are trying, I really do. I just think that, in the realm of “kids activities” ya’ll could use some help. And please, don’t think of me as a pesky foreigner coming in and telling ya’ll what’s wrong. And don’t think of me as an annoying Southerner thinking I’m better than the Northerners. In reality, I’m neither. Having lived here for over ten years I consider myself pretty assimilated (after all I have been known to enjoy a vegan bitterballen as of late) so I’m not really foreign but since I wasn’t brought up Dutch, the culture isn’t ingrained yet. Just think of me as a friendly little Mommy blogger who has some thoughts on how to make parenting a bit easier and a lot more fun for us parents up North.

We are in Groningen pretty often lately, with and without kids. We now have family there and it makes for a convenient vacation. It’s nice to spend time with family and explore new places to play. The first time we came with the kids last year we had a blast. We were only here for a few days so it was no problem finding ways to entertain the kids. After all, there is a Ballorig here! What more could you want?

But things got a bit weird. The Ballorig in Groningen DOESN’T SELL WINE OR BEER.

I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.

One of the reasons I love Ballorig so much is because my kids can run amuck while I sit on a comfy white couch and have a glass of wine. Perhaps I read, perhaps I have a chat with some other moms, perhaps I will write posts for my little mommy blog in the hopes that someone will find them entertaining and useful. The point is: I want to make my kids happy while I am enjoying myself. Take away the glass of wine (and there were only like three couches in the whole damn place) and it’s just a horrible building full of shrieking kids and me in the big middle of it grumpy as hell and drinking Fanta like a child. I’m an adult, damn it! Give me a beverage that matched my status as such! I spoke to the staff and they said they said that the company wouldn’t let them but that’s about all they had to say. Honestly after the next day I had forgotten about it and the rest of the vacation passed uneventfully.

This most recent trip was a bit more frustrating.

It’s a difficult thing and perhaps if I haven’t been living in North Brabant for so long I would have noticed so much. I think I may be a bit spoiled. I was also told that because the North is Protestant and the South is Catholic there are striking differences in the culture. I was raised Catholic and I thought we were as conservative as it gets but I realize I was dead wrong. At least we have Carnival to look forward to.

You see, everything is super nice in Groningen. The playgrounds (that I have found) are acceptable, we found an amazing kinderboerderij (this translates to “children’s farm” and it’s basically a petting zoo) and we have discovered some really fun indoor play places and such. Unfortunately everything so far has been just short of awesome.

I’ll explain.

BTW: I plan to write individual blog posts about the places we visit in the (hopefully) near future and I will link them in this text when I do.

Grumpy face after being told there is no beer.

First we visited Stadspark in Groningen. The GPS pissed me off a bit because it literally said “you have arrived” while we were still on the highway with no exit in site but we manages to find it. It is the city park and it seems really big. We went straight to the play areas because , although we walked for about 5 minutes from the parking lot to the park my daughter was already crying that her legs were tired and that she was bored. Four year olds, am I right? The park itself was pretty basic. It was great for the little one but my seven year old was bored. The petting zoo was tops, though. We loved it. Then came the time for us to sit in the sun and the kids have an ice cream and the adults have a beer. The look of shock and horror on the face of the woman running the kiosk when I asked for a beer was amazing. If she had been wearing pearls she would have grasped them in absolute horror. Then she started laughing. The man who was working with her made a snarky comment like “it’s not even 5:00 yet” or something (but in Dutch. Not even real Dutch. Northern Dutch where it’s all R’s and an entire sentence is mashed up into one word somehow). Insert “Sorry, not Sorry” for offending an entire region. I was pissed. Again, I am a fucking adult. I carried that little monkey running around for 9 months without alcohol. Then I breast fed for a year, also without alcohol (mostly, I was able to pump a bit for the occasional night out), and I did it twice!!!! And it’s not like I’m asking to shoot tequila out of the belly button of a stripper. I wanted to sit in the sun and enjoy an adult beverage whilst the kids play. But no. No beer for me.

This became a trend. Apparently it isn’t common to serve beer and wine at play places. I am amazed. I almost launched into the “where I come from” speech a few times during the trip but managed to hold it in until we were in private. Why can’t I enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer while my kids play? I am an adult, after all. It’s bad enough that I have to come to these places why not attempt to make it slightly better by rewarding me for my effort with a tasty adult beverage? Let’s be honest, I only take the kids out because they enjoy it and therefor my life is made easier. I will judge a place on how much I am able to enjoy myself as well.

Another thing I have found is there is a lack of restaurants with decent play areas. I’m not going to start comparing Groningen to Eindhoven but, wait.. I am going to compare them. I can start listing nice places to eat with play areas around Eindhoven at the drop of a hat. The place is silly with them. Pancake houses on every corner, play areas everywhere, some with child minders in the play areas to care for the kids! I thought it was normal, nope.

Fine Dining? No. Please put something decent on the menu!

Groningen. Listen. Parents want decent food. We want to be able to go out for a meal as a family but we don’t because who wants to take the kids to a normal restaurant? Then what do we have to look forward to? A crying child who wont sit still and us shelling out a small fortune to keep our kid entertained and not actually enjoy the food we are paying for. PUT IN A PLAY AREA!! And I’m not talking about coloring. Ya’ll know what I’m talking about. If you want some ideas have a look at my blog. Inspiration everywhere! Look and learn because we parents just want our children entertained while we have a decent meal and we are willing to pay for it.

And on the subject of food. The play places all had one major flaw, either they didn’t serve booze or the menu was complete crap and sometimes (in the case of the local Ballorig) both. This was also a trend. We find a nice play place but there is literally nothing on the menu but deep fried snack and absolutely nothing vegan but the french fries. We found an amazing indoor play place. It was huge, served wine, looking good, but then the menu…. Nothing. Literally, I ate a CHEESE TOSTI. I was desperate. Seriously folks, Parents need to eat just like the kids and most of us don’t want a freaking tosti. I’m not asking for fine dining here but a gezond sandwich would be nice (for heavens sake I never thought I would be begging for a freaking gezond without the ham), I’ve never been anywhere that didn’t at least have a handful of sandwiches on the menu. Until I went to Groningen. I will say it again, I am amazed.

So I see a trend in Groningen. No one is even trying to make the parents happy. The play places, although amazing for kids, are pains in the ass for the parents. It’s like everywhere we visited forgot that no matter how much the kids love going to a place, it’s the parents that have to bring them and the parents who are ultimately spending the money.

We will continue to vacation in Groningen because we really do love it there. I’m excited to explore more during the summer because there seems to be loads to do outside.

But, if there is one thing to take away from this post it’s this. Make parents happy because it is us spending the money and I promise we will spend more if we aren’t miserable.

Do I have any readers from Groningen? I would love to hear from parents in the area. Am I missing something? Are there cool places I haven’t found yet? I would love to hear from you!!!!

This was a random bit of the park we found. Pretty, right?!?

7 Comments on “An Open Letter to Groningen

  1. Hi,

    Have you tried Doe Museum?



    On Sun, 05 May 2019 at 15:14, Mommy on a Mission wrote:

    > melissabirdwell posted: ” OK Groningen, we need to talk. I know ya’ll are > trying, I really do. I just think that, in the realm of “kids activities” > ya’ll could use some help. And please, don’t think of me as a pesky > foreigner coming in and telling ya’ll what’s wrong. And don’t t” >


  2. Pingback: The Groningen Redemption – Mommy on a Mission

  3. Where were you a few years ago when I was taking my kids to play areas in and around Eindhoven? We could have enjoyed a beer together.

    I never realized you could buy alcohol at them. I may then have shared you passion for visiting them too.


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