Royal Artis Zoo- Amsterdam, Netherlands

Originally, Landon and I were slated to meet up with Austin’s co-worker and go to the zoo in Amsterdam. That did not end up happening, but I had already promised Landon a zoo trip, and I wanted to check out Amsterdam, so we found ourselves in Amsterdam on a cold, windy day. It was about an hour train ride over from Amsterdam, and then a 5 minute tram ride on a tram we caught right outside the station. Dutch public transport is really a breeze to navigate- I’m so grateful!
 The Royal Artis zoo is a relatively small zoo that prides itself on ecological, animal-friendly enclosures. This was evident in the first exhibit we came to in the zoo- a giant enclosure with camels and oxen in it, just wandering around grazing. 
Fancy gate at the zoo

In addition to the zoo animals, there was a small butterfly pavilion, planetarium, and aquarium. Even though it was cold, we were able to see most of the outdoor animals interspersed with the indoor exhibits and had a good day there!

I’m pretty sure these monkeys live in the snow, and they were cold!
This giant bird exhibit was interesting- as was seeing these big birds up close eating breakfast!

Going with Landon to the zoo is a whole different experience now. For one thing, he can walk most of the way himself, so he sets the pace and decides which on which exhibits or animals he wants to linger. It always surprises me what he is intrigued by, and we watched these little tiny lizards eat bugs for about 10 minutes. He was so fascinated that the lizards were fast enough to catch the flies!

This was a really creepy looking snake whose name has escaped me

It was getting later on in the morning, and we had yet to find a potty since we left our hotel in Rotterdam. So, we went to the nearest potty which happened to be in the aquarium. The aquarium was on the small side, but had a wide variety of interesting salt and fresh water fish. Landon especially liked the tanks that were lower so that he could see all of the colorful fish swimming around. The aquarium was housed in this stately older building with columns and elaborate decorations. It was an interesting juxtaposition with the more modern styling I have seen at aquariums in the U.S. Again, this zoo is much older than most in the U.S. as well.

Fancy, old aquarium
Landon and the fish
Aquarium columns

In one particular tank, I saw two eels just swimming around with the other fish. In my other aquarium experiences, I feel that I was lucky to see an eel peeking out from its hole in the rock. That was neat. There were also sharks and we stayed at that tank for a good long time admiring how fast the small sharks were zooming around the tank. I was only able to lure Landon away from the tank with offers of lunch outside.

Eel out of its hole
Landon and the dinosaur

Once outside, we ate our sandwiches near this stegosaurus sculpture. Landon loved it and wanted to dig in the sand all morning, but I cajoled him into looking for the giraffes. The sand was too cold and wet anyway. You see, I did not want to buy a map of the zoo, so we were following the posted signs all around searching for the giraffes for most of the morning. By the time we found them, Landon had lost interest. Such is life.

My main challenge for our big day-long excursions is getting our traveling done early enough so Landon can enjoy the whole attraction before he becomes surly and has to go down for his nap. As soon as nap time happens, I rush to do something I want to do- art museum, porcelain factory tour, big old church- all the stuff that isn’t appropriate for an awake 2-year-old, but is appropriate for the general edification of the mom of a sleeping 2-year-old.

Big daddy on his stump

When I asked Landon’s favorite part of the zoo later, he replied it was the daddy gorilla sitting on the log like a king of the castle. He borrowed that phrase from me, but it was a cool moment to walk around the corner to the gorilla exhibit and see the gigantic daddy gorilla just sitting there high above it all. There was an adolescent male gorilla that was jumping around and beating his chest and (at least in my opinion) generally annoying the big daddy male. Eventually, the big daddy male left the stump to do something else, and the little adolescent gorilla hopped up on the log and started jumping up and down and beating his chest like he was the new king of the castle. It was all very exciting to watch.

Adolescent male beating his chest (with glare…)

The giraffe slide, Landon’s 2nd favorite thing
at the zoo

About this time, we were getting cold again so we wandered our way over the butterfly pavilion, admiring the sea lions playing in the water along the way. The butterfly pavilion was heated up to be like a tropical rainforest, which felt wonderful after the cold temperatures outside. Landon chased a blue peacock-looking bird, and we saw many lots of butterflies that were all very beautiful. After that, we were off on our quest to find the giraffes. All of a sudden, Landon took off running opposite of the direction of the actual giraffes. I looked over to see what he wanted so badly and turns out there was a giraffe slide! It was actually kind of a tricky piece of equipment with a steep ladder and fast slide. Landon loved it. He slid up and down it at least five times until I pulled him away to go find the actual giraffes. Generally, I like Landon to be able to dwell on whatever he likes to dwell on for however long he likes, but time was getting short before his nap, and it was so cold and windy outside that it was not fun to stand there and watch him slide. There were also some big kids that came up right at the end and were shoving him out of the way and I was slightly afraid for his safety.

So happy to go down the slide!

Good news! We finally found the giraffes. There were about six of them, and they were all doing different things which made them fun to watch. As we made our way to the planetarium for a show about astronauts, a big vulture took flight in the exhibit next to us, and landed on netting right above our heads! Up close, the wingspan of this bird in flight was awe-inspiring.

Giant vulture

We arrived at the planetarium with plenty of time to spare, and it was not open yet, so we went through the small mammal and forest indoor exhibit. This was different from anything I have ever seen in that the monkeys were not behind cages of any kind. There were vines and trees for them to climb on and bridges for them to cross the path where we walked, but no separation of any kind between us and the monkeys. Landon liked getting right up close, but I made sure he did not get too close- they were eating their lunches! They had the smallest species of monkey in the world there, and they were hard to spot- they were smaller than squirrels! It was cool to see them using such an open concept with the monkeys, I felt less sorry for them as long as people don’t mess with them. They had zoo staff there at all times to ensure everyone’s safety as well.

No big deal, just a monkey hanging out RIGHT OVER US!

Our last stop was to the planetarium for a show about astronauts and how they get ready for space. The show was originally in English, but was dubbed over in Dutch, so I just enjoyed the video. Landon was entranced by the whole ceiling being a projector, but fell asleep about halfway through because it was nap time and completely dark in the theater. If traveling with children, I think this is a good child-appeasing attraction. If traveling without kids, I would skip the zoo. There are so many more amazing and interesting attractions in Amsterdam that the zoo would not be on my list if not for my animal-loving 2-year-old. Overall, I think is was a cold, but successful and fun trip to the zoo!

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