Kabouter Hunting: Bosschuur de Meren

Every fall, my families favorite place to play outside puts on a kabouter hunt! Kabouter Hunting: Bosschuur de Meren is a really great way to spend a fall day.

So what is a kabouter?

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Cute, aren’t they? Basically they are what we English speakers call gnomes. They live in little houses in the forest.

The beginning of the hunt you can get in the mood by painting your cheeks a rosy red. Then you follow the path and hunt for the little houses. Will you see a kabouter on the way?

I wrote what I will call the “first draft” of this post a while ago and I really didn’t intend to change it. Its been pretty much the same every year. The kids always love it so we keep going back. They are always changing it around and adding new elements so it never got boring but over the last few years it has been pretty much the same. I was shocked when we went this time! It’s like the little kabouters were whispering in their ear that they needed more color in their life!

These were some of the photos from previous years.

We went yesterday and it was amazing! The little houses were so colorful! They have really outdone themselves.

 

The trail starts at a little table where you can paint your cheeks a rose red. Then you follow the path of mushrooms through the forest and spot the houses along the rout. Every year we go I get to hear squealing children shouting “A HOUSE! THIS WAY!!” This year we went though the trail twice. The kids found new things on the second round.

 

These are some of the pictures from the original post. I am leaving them in because I love them. I was so cold!

Here are some pics from this year. Spot the main difference? ( Besides the upgraded houses. Perhaps the little kabouters won the lottery?)

Man, it was warm!!

 

Totally check it out. Bring a picnic and spend the day. I would recommend a spare change of clothes. Your kids WILL get dirty, embrace it. As you can see my daughter insisted on a brand new dress that her daddy bought for her. She was the best dressed person on the hunt! Luckily she knew enough to wear a tank and shorts under so she could “play properly”  and then put the dress back on. Smart cookie, that one. It helps that we practically live at Bosschuur!

 

 

Some Practical Information:

  • The kabouter houses are only in the forest during fall break.
  • This is their address: Merenweg 2A 5513 AR Wintelre
  • This is Bosschuur de Meren’s website: Bosschuur de Meren
  • For more information about this great place check out my previous blog post: Bosschuur De Meren
  • Dutch Play Forests  This a website that shows all the Speelbossen in The Netherlands (sorry it’s on Dutch)
  • You can’t park on the grounds during the event. Park at a sports center just next to Bosschuur. Look for the blue signs.
  • This year the center will be open during the week during the break!! This is great news because you will have access to a toilette. There is also tea, coffee, hot chocolate and such on offer. Bring some change because there is a small fee (more like a donation really, like 1 Euro a cup)

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My son took this picture of me as we were leaving. Proper bag lady but I love it!

 

 

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Hullie Speelboerderij: Uden

A “speelboerderij” is roughly translated to “play farm”. I am always slightly confused about why this is in the name. It isn’t a farm and although there are chickens in a koop at one corner of the property there are no animals on the premises (to my knowledge and please correct me if I am wrong). Confusion aside, Hullie Speelboerderij: Uden is a great place for the kids to play. There are indoor and outdoor play areas so it is a good option in any weather. Here in the Netherlands there is no shortage of great outdoor spaces but I always struggle to find places for the kids to play when winter comes. This is one reason why Hullie is so great.

Hullie Speelbordoerij is big, VERY BIG. There are 2 main rooms inside and a hallway down the back that leads to smaller rooms that all house different activities, there are also huge amounts of outdoor play spaces.

When you walk in the first thing you see is the desk where you pay. To the left there are tons of tables. If you have older kids that you can just let loose this is a great place to camp. It’s the quietest area and away (as away as you can get) from all the play structures.

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Straight on past the counter you will see a hall that leads to the back rooms (more on that in a moment).

The Big Rooms: 

Immediately to the right you see an opening into one of the great rooms. Inside there is a GIANT multi level soft play with slides and balls and things to climb on. The is a great play structure and is much loved my my son. It is, though to much for my daughter to handle on her own. My son is 4 and just now able to go in by himself and navigate through without difficulty. If my daughter wants to play I (or usually my husband because he actually enjoys climbing through these things with the kids) has to go with.

And fair warning: the red slide on the outside of the play structure is very fast. Little kids shoot through that thing like a rocket. When my son was little I would get a table right at the bottom of the red slide so when he came doen it I would be able to catch him.

There are also tables surrounding the play area. This is the best place to sit if you have littler kids. Despite the madness it is still relatively quiet and the tables aren’t very tightly wedged together.

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This is the red slide. There is also another level of the soft play underground.
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This is the seating area in this room. 

There is also a small play area designed for the under 4 year crowd in this room. I find it very small and not very exciting for children who are beyond crawling. I could never get my kids to stay in there for long. Another problem with this space is that older kids seem to want to play in there and I find that very annoying.

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If you walk through this room you will enter the next big room. This one is WAY bigger than the first and has another giant soft play in it. They also have a big “mountain”(you know, the giant soft plastic thing that this kids climb and slide down. If you know what these are actually called please let me know!)  with a slide. There is also lots more seating.

This is also where the counter is where you order food. Hullie actually as good food for a kids play place. They serve home made pizzas as well as some nice salads and sandwiches along with the standard Dutch snacks. On your table is a card with your table number. When you order at the counter the person will ask you for this number. They will bring you the food when it’s ready. Someone will also come around and collect the plates and such.

Above your head there is a train that kids can ride. When I say ride I mean pedal around the track. This generally ends up being my job so I avoid it. There are stairs at the back that lead up to the trains.

I only sit in this room if there are no other options. It is very loud and very cramped in here. It’s a huge cavernous space full of screaming kids and a train that somehow makes more noise than I can describe. Maybe I have sensory issues, though. It’s possible because no one seems to mind as much as I do.

So, remember that hallway? This is where it gets interesting. 

There are smaller (some small and some not so small) all along the back of the building.

My favourite is an art and craft room. There is a different project being done every day and a staff member is in the room to give guidance. Younger ones will often still need the help of a parent . The projects are very cute.

There is also a room filled with giant building blocks, a room containing 2 bounce houses, a small story room with a little gnome scene (this one confuses me, honestly) and 2 larger rooms with a track for peddle cars.

The outside:

I really like the playgrounds outside although we don’t get to play in them often. Because the inside is so expansive I tend to take my kids here when the weather is bad and thats a shame. There are swings and slides and peddle cars. The last time we went to kids wanted to play outside even though it was raining. That was fine with me because they had their raincoats and I had a covered area with a nice comfy table.

 

Hullie Speelboerderij is a great option for a fun day out because no matter what your child likes he will find something to keep him or her occupied there.

I also really like how it is decorated. The whole building feels very “old world”. Everything is wooden and decorated with these adorable Dutch gnomes (yes, like garden gnomes. The Dutch call them kabouters and they are adorable).

Honestly though. Hullie is not my favourite. I find it very loud and overwhelming and because there are so many different rooms and hallways it is impossible for me to keep up with both of my kids at once. Luckily my son is just old enough to go off on his own ( 4 years old) but I have to shadow my daughter (2 years old). The little kid area is very small compared to other indoor play places and not very exciting so she won’t stay in there for more than 5 minutes. I think this will all change when she is older, though. When my son was little we would go often. With only one child I could follow him around and play and it was never a problem. We have only been twice since my daughter was born because I find it to difficult. The most recent time was much better and I think it will get better as she gets older.

I will say my kids LOVE IT HERE and have an amazing time when we go.

Some General Information:

  • This is a link to their website: Hulie Speelbordoerij
  • This is their address Canadasweg 3a,   5406 TS Uden
  • They are open depending on school schedules so make sure you check the website before you go. I have driven there one day only to find it closed.
  • Adults are free and children are 8 Euros each (as of fall 2016)
  • A year pass is 40 Euros per child. If you love it and plan to go often take your receipt back to the front counter and they will deduct the day entry you already paid from the price of a year pass.
  • You can not bring your own food or drinks into Hullie
  • There is loads of free parking on site
  • They have really fun events depending on the time of year so check their website around a holiday so you can make sure you won’t mis anything.

Does it look busy in my pictures? Thats because it was super busy. Line waiting to get in the front door busy. If you get there at opening time there is generally not a problem getting a table but wait till early afternoon and you will probably end up standing in a corner holding coats. Unless it’s nice and people can sit outside, that helps.

Put Hullies Speelboerderij: Uden on your list of places to check out. It may become your new favourite!

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Looking for other places to take the kids? Check out some of our other favourite places

Science Center Nemo, Amsterdam: A Grand Family Day Out

Nederlands Water Museum

Het Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum)

 

Toverland Amusement Park

I love amusement parks. Growing up my family had season passes to a really big one called Six Flags Over Texas. I could never sleep the night before we went because I was always so excited. I get the same feeling when I am planning to take my kids to Toverland Amusement Park. I actually think that Toverland is better for younger kids than Six Flags, it is very accessible to all age groups. I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old and there is plenty to keep them both entertained and some much bigger rides my 4 year old is very much looking forward to.

The inside of Toverland is worth the trip all by itself. There are 2 giant rooms inside.

Room #1: 

When you first go in you will walk directly into a giant room filled with things for the kids to do. There are 2 HUGE play areas. One is a wooden playground that is meant for the under 4 crowd. Directly behind that there is a huge soft play with tubes going to different levels (I have no clue whats inside because I sit on a bench and let my kids explore the inside). There is a tea cup ride, a twirling swing ride, cars that go on a track (for the little kids), a caterpillar ride (also for the little kids), a “magic house” where kids point wands at sensors and things move (my kids are obsessed with this house and go in it at least 3 times when we visit) and a giant slide. Above your head there is a really cool roller coaster train!

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In the center of the room there is a seating area with a nice peaceful fountain and in one corner there is a cafe with tons of seating.

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I think this room is planned out very well. The different play areas are enclosed with fences and there is only one or two entrances/exits so its pretty easy to keep track of the kids as they play.  In an ideal world, someone would take this room all by itself and put it within walking distance of my house. We would be there every day after school.

At the back there is the entrance to the second big room. You walk through a really sweet little tunnel set to look like a magic cave of some kind. I don’t have any pictures because its not very big and the lighting is very purple.

Room #2:

This room is centred around a giant food court. There are different “cafes” where you can buy different foods (pizza and pasta, hamburgers and fries, coffee and ice cream, sandwiches, …). These are all set around the  inside of a circle surrounded by tables.

Around the eating area are more rides to the right and climbing structures (and some rides) to the left. There is a good mix of rides here for different age groups but I believe all of them require that a parent go on with the little kids (under 120 cm). There is a really sweet carousel that my daughter rides several times at every visit. The climbing stricture is a network of towers joined by tubes and nets. There are slides throughout.

This room is my sons favourite because he is a little monkey. I struggle with it, though. The rides are great but my daughter (2 years old) is just to small to keep up with him. I also have a little trouble keeping up with my son (4 years old) through all those tubes. I have a rule with my son that as long as he stays in that room he can play on his own while I keep track of my daughter. It’s not that big of a space so I can generally find him if I need to. He enjoys it enough that he doesn’t really wander to far away.

There are 2 entrances to the outdoor area in this room, one in the back and one on the right side. I always like to know where all the exits are. Better safe than sorry!

Outside:

Epic all on its own.

The outdoor area wraps around two sides of the building. Straight out the back there is a water play area with a nice fountain show several times a day. It’s a fun set up. There are ropes and bridges over a very shallow pond and kids can climb and jump while trying to stay out of the water.

There is also a nice little cafe here. I think its the prettiest in the park.

Behind this there are a few big roller coasters, a few small rides and a really great playground.

And around the side there is even more to do.

Trampolines, slides, a maze, and a huge water play area. There are fountains to run through, and teeter totters (wip wap) to play on and lots of things to climb on. Luckily this area is pretty open so it’s rather easy to find a bench and let the kids play while keeping an eye on them.

At the back there are the really big rides. I haven’t ridden any of them because I always have my kids to look after but they look really fun. Every time we go my husband and I joke that we need to go one day without the kids. It seems unlikely, but it would be a lot of fun!

And finally:

Looking for somewhere a little more peaceful? Or some pretty spots to take pictures? There is a nice path with waterfalls and ponds. This path has two entrances/exits and it joins the two sides of the outdoor place. You don’t have to go though it to get from one spot to another but its really nice.

 

Phew! I’m a little tired from just writing about all that there is to do there! We did not do or see everything in one day, it’s just to big. The nice thing is that we really didn’t have to. The first time we went it was hot outside so the kids spent a lot of time in the water play areas and the other outdoor play spaces. The second time it had gotten colder so those areas were bypassed almost completely and the kids spent most of the time indoors. Whatever the weather and the kids will have a great time.

I really like Toverland. It all feels really manageable with a family and doesn’t get to overwhelming for me. I don’t feel like I spend the entire day walking from attraction to attraction because there is stuff to do everywhere. It’s also a very pretty park!

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Some Practical Information:

  • Here is their website: Toverland
  • This is the address:   Toverlaan 2,  5975 MR Sevenum
  • There are places to buy food everywhere but you can also bring your own. There are tables all over the park where you can eat but you aren’t permitted to sit a table by one of the indoor cafes with your own food. You will have no trouble finding a place to sit and eat.
  • The opening times vary throughout the year. During the summer Toverland is generally open from 10:00 – 6:00. Mid November they close the outdoor area for all but a short time when they hold their Toverland Winter celebrations. Make sure you check the website before you plan to go. This is a link to the opening times section on their page: Opening Times
  • Toverland entry prices depend on height. I really like this because smaller kids can ride fewer rides so it’s only natural they they should cost less. A standard entry price is 27 Euros for adults, 17.50 for kids between 90 cm – 120cm and is free for kids under 90 cm.
  • Discounts: You get a discount of you buy your tickets online. I have also seen coupon vouchers available and Kroutvat and I have gotten random coupons from ANWB and and some other places. Keep an eye out for coupons like this. It is not cheap for a family to go and any discount helps.
  • There is loads of parking, costing 8 Euros per car.
  • Year passes: We are a big fan of year passes in this house. All of the money that kids get for Christmas and birthdays go towards them. After our most recent trip to Toverland we decided to invest in year passes (it helped that we went for my daughters birthday and we had some birthday money to spend). If you go 3 times in a year you have covered the cost of the pass. An annual pass to Toverland costs 75 Euros for adults, 49 Euros for kids between 90 – 120 cm, and you can get a yearly parking pass for 32 Euros. (All these prices were correct at the end of 2016 BTW but I can’t promise they won’t change)

 

I really recommend Toverland Amusement Park. Check it out, you won’t regret it!

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Looking for other places to spend a grand day out with the kids?

Het Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum)

Science Center Nemo, Amsterdam: A Grand Family Day Out

Nederlands Water Museum

Zoo Veldhoven

It took me forever to take the kids to the Zoo Veldhoven. We have always had year passes to Dierenrijk in Nuenen and I kinda felt frivolous paying to get into another zoo. We finally decided to check it out and I’m really glad we did. It’s completely different from Dierenrijk so I don’t really feel like they are in competition with each other.  It used to be a parrot sanctuary so it mostly has birds. Lots and lots of birds. There are also some other animals here and there but pretty much you are there for the birds.

 

You can feed the birds as well. I really didn’t like this idea at first because my babies have tiny little fingers and I know how powerful those beaks can be, but the zoo has a perfect and simple solution to the problem.

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You just stick the seeds in the slot and you can feed the birds while keeping your fingers intact. Cool Right!?!

My daughter had to warm up to the idea but my son jumped right in. It was great!

 

There are other animals to see besides the birds

 

There are 2 main playgrounds. One is outdoor and one is indoor.

The outside playground is at the entrance just before you enter the zoo. It’s a really nice one for older kids. My 2 year old was able to enjoy it with the help of her older brother but I’m not sure she would have managed on her own.

The inside play area is just inside the zoo. It is a very pretty play area set to look and feel like a safari park. There is a huge area with tables inside overlooking the play area that would be an excellent place to enjoy a picnic lunch. The day we visited the zoo it was really hot so we didn’t stay in the indoor playground very long. It was like a sauna in there so I had to drag my kids out after about 10 minutes. I plan to revisit the zoo when its not so hot and the kids can enjoy the play area more.

The seating area inside is really fun.

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I really wish there was another outdoor play area toward the back of the zoo. There are open fields that would be the perfect place for a playground and picnic tables. I think my kids would have been able to focus on the animals more if they would have had a little break halfway through.

There is a place to buy drinks and snacks at the entrance. There are picnic tables and on the day we were there there was a bouncy castle. I think they are missing an opportunity for a playground here as well.

Some helpful information: 

  • This is their website Zoo Veldhoven
  • This is the address: Wintelresedijk 51,   5507 PP Veldhoven
  • You can get there easily by bus from  Eindhoven Station. Take the 18 to the stop Zittardsestraat. The ride takes around 45 minutes. Check 9292 for bus schedules (it’s in English!)
  • You can take your own food
  • I underestimated the size of the place and didn’t bring a stroller. I really regret that decision because I ended up carrying my daughter a lot of the time.
  • The Veldhoven Zoo costs 15 Euros for adults (over the age of 12) and 12.50 Euros for kids (aged between 3 -12). You can get a discount if you buy your tickets online. There is also often a Social Deal for Veldhoven Zoo as well. We found a Social Deal and bought tickets for half off and we each got a bag of seeds.
  • It isn’t open all year so make sure you check the website before heading out

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I’m very glad we went. The kids had a really great day and it was fun to do something different. The outdoor play area was a huge hit. As I was writing this my son saw the picture and said “Oh the crocodile slide! Can we go back there?”

Are you looking for other things to do in Veldhoven? Check these out:

Witven Lake and Beach: Veldhoven

Kinderboerderij De Hazewinkel

Speeltuin Kabouterdorp

Another zoo perhaps?

Dierenrijk: Nuenen

In Mourning for the Summer Break

Today is the last day of the summer break. Tomorrow my son starts school and next week my daughter starts preschool. The internet seems to be overjoyed that the kids are back in school. Picture after picture, video after video shows happy moms celebrating the first day of school. I honestly don’t get it. I am in mourning for the summer break.

I get part of it. I will have more time. My kids will be entertained for most of the day and that relieves a lot of pressure from me.

But what am I really gaining?

  • school lunches and snacks packed and ready to go 5 days a week
  • speech therapy
  • Dutch class
  • study days
  • play dates
  • teacher conferences
  • countless emails
  • 8:25 first bell
  • school trips
  •  half days
  • class projects
  • schedules, schedules, schedules

And what am I giving up?

  • playing in the sandbox until dark
  • days at the park
  • watching Mickey Mouse in the morning
  • completely negotiable bed time
  • an ice cream a day
  • pj days
  • sibling giggles
  • the freedom to plan the day based on the weather
  • no obligations

It will only get worse as they get older sports, scouts, friends…..

So what am I missing?

Am I alone in this feeling of impending stress over a hundred different things that now require my attention. Am I alone when I say that things are harder when the kids are in school?

I can’t be alone.

 

Speeltuin de Kievit: Nuenen

Speeltuin de Kievit is a really great little park in Nuenen. Speeltiun translates to “play garden” and is a generic term for any outdoor play area and this is one of our favorites. Kievit has things to do for every age group and it’s nice and compact so you don’t have to worry to much about loosing track of your kids. There is plenty for my 2 year old and my 4 year old to do and I can generally sit back and relax a little without worrying about them. Kievit is a gated park so there is a small charge to get in but I think it’s really worth it.

There is a nice little wading pool for the kids to play in on hot days.Make sure you bring swim costumes and a towel!

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There are also a toddler swings and other equipment for the little kids

Trampolines, a slide, and other climbing structures

My sons favorite spot is the water play area.

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There is a small cafe with plenty of seating. They sell drinks, ice cream, and other snacks.

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We got there just after opening and were among the first people in the gate. That’s why my pictures are so empty. In my experience these parks are best for little kids early because the bigger kids generally don’t come till after lunch.

Some practical information:

  • This is a link to their website Speeltuin de Kievit
  • Their street address is Kerkstraat 10, Nuenen
  • There is free on street parking up and down the street. This is the only option
  • There are toilets but they don’t have and tp in them, you have to ask for it at the cafe. Be warned!
  • Because this is a gated park they have opening hours. These change depending on the time of year and day so make sure you check the website before you go.
  • When I was last there the entry cost was 2 Euros per person (August 2016). They accept pin for entry so don’t worry if you don’t have cash
  • You can bring in your own food and drinks
  • The entrance is easy to miss. There is a big church across the street.
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This is what the entrance looks like from the street

We are really spoiled with all the parks in this area! I really recommend checking Speeltuin de Kievit out, it may become your new favorite.

Looking for other places in Nuenen?

Blueberry Picking: Blouwe Bessenculture Van Grotel, Nuenen

Dierenrijk: Nuenen

Trying to decide on the right park for your kids? Here are some other options.

Speelpark de Splinter: Eindhoven

Kinderboerderij De Hazewinkel

Speeltuin Kabouterdorp

Speelpark de Splinter: Eindhoven

There are many reasons I love living in The Netherlands. At the top of this list is the parks.  The Dutch are very good at parks! Speelpark de Splinter in Eondhoven, North Brabant is one of the biggest and has the most diverse assortment of play equipment of any park I have ever been to. The scale of Splinter Park isn’t something that can really be seen in pictures. It’s like having 7 really awesome playgrounds inside one fence.

#1 The Pool. There are 3 depths but all are really shallow

#2 Pirate Cove – this area is really for older kids. I would hate to fall in that water!

#3 The Ship

#4 The Castle

#5 Climbing Structure and Slide

#6 The Petting Zoo (kinderboerderij)

#7 Little Kids area

Slides, swings and even giant blocks are scattered randomly throughout the park.

 

There is a big shady area in the middle of the park with lots of picnic tables. There is also a small shop that sells ice creams and drinks. It isn’t open all the time, only in the afternoons on pretty days when the park will be busy.

 

 

Too good to be true, right?

There are certainly drawbacks to this park. I find it really big and difficult to manage with my kids. My 4 year old can handle most of the play structures on his own but isn’t big enough for me to sit and let him roam completely free. This means that I am constantly walking around. If you are a “get in there and have a play with your kids” type of person this is a great park for you. If you want to sit and have a chat while the kids explore on their own I would recommend choosing a different park. At least till the kids are older.

I also don’t really like this park for little kids. My daughter is almost 2 and she is a very good climber but the slide at the little kids play area is still a little much for her.

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This is the “little kid” play structure. To get up to the slide you have to either climb a ladder or the ropes. I don’t think this is really great for little kids.

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Random Tube

It can also be difficult to keep track of more adventurous little ones.

This is a random tube that goes under the castle. If my daughter goes through this tube and ends up on the other side it will take me some time to get to her. This isn’t a problem with my 4 year old but it can be for my 2 year old. She could wander off and I would have trouble finding her.

 

I love this park for its diversity. I love the fact that it is fenced in with only one exit. I really love the wading pools on a hot summer day.

It’s just not a great fit for my family at this time. I will go back when my kids are older and can enjoy it on their own more.

Some Practical Information:

  • This is a link to their website: Speelpark de Splinter
  • Splinter is currently (summer 2016) open Mon – Fri 9:00 – 6:00, Sat 10:00 – 6:000, Sun. 12:00 – 6:00.
  • Entry is free Mon – Sat and Sunday costs 1.50 Euros per person (unless you are a school group or organization. Check the website for more details about that)
  • There are toilets at the main entrance
  • This is their address: Rode Kruislaan 2  5628 GM Eindhoven
  • On street parking is free and your only option
  • Wear a skirt or shorts so you can get into the pool with your kids, especially if they are little. The deepest water doesn’t even go up to my knees (and I am super short) . Sorry, I don’t have exact depths.
  • There is a nice green area with a fountain next to the park. This is also a nice place to visit
  • This park is very easy to get to by public transportation. There are many buses that will get you to the area and a short walk from the stops. Use OV 9292  to check bus schedules (It’s in English!)
  • It’s easy to miss. The entrance isn’t directly on the road.
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This is what you see from the road. The entrance is just down the path on the right.

 

I really encourage everyone to check this park out, it may be your new absolute favorite!