This time of year has me reflecting on lots of things, and one of them was my time in the Netherlands -
It's no doubt my favourite of all the places I've lived over the years; Amsterdam is such a different place from a local's perspective, and the quality of life is superb.
But so many folk only spend some time in Amsterdam and then head off onto their next travel adventure. So let's take a minute and talk about some of my favourite day trips from Amsterdam. Amsterdamse Bos
On sunny day, the only one of our Amsterdam day trips you need is the incredible Amsterdamse Bos. It's a huge park on the outskirts of the city near Schiphol airport. With 137km (85mi) of footpaths, 51km (35mi) of cycle paths and 50 bridges, it is one of the largest parks in all of Europe, although one of few parks that is completely man-made.
There is a goat farm (cheese, beer, animal petting), rowboats, picnic areas, and more. All you need to do is rent a cool bicycle (hopefully you've done that already), ask the provider for a map or directions, and then follow the signs. As far as day trips from Amsterdam go, this is an award winner.Delft
Perhaps one of the cutest day trips from Amsterdam, Delft is just a short hop away on the train and is what I would call a miniature Amsterdam. Day trips here are often to check out the home of Delft pottery (that's that blue and white stuff you see all over town); you can get it here but to be fair it is the same kind of stuff as back in Amsterdam.
There are a few shops that sell tiles pulled right off walls of old homes instead of those mass produced ones.
A walk around Delft is also really nice; you can see the crooked church and be sure to look out for the psychadelic cow. (Yes, psychadelic cow.) A snack in the main square is also a must.The Hague
For an alternative city experience, one of the Amsterdam day trips you'll want to consider is The Hague (Den Haag), instantly recognisable by its unusual skyline. It is the capital of the country so you'll find a lot of buildings related to this, as well as the Peace Palace that holds the International Court of Justice.
Shopping is popular here, as is a trip to Madurodam, a replica of all the attractions in the Netherlands in miniature. I also love the beach boardwalk here in The Hague.Haarlem & Zandfoort
Perhaps not the most exciting of Amsterdam day trips, I did spent one birthday in Haarlem for the day and I did enjoy it – it's almost an Amsterdam suburb, just a short hop on the train west.
It has a beautiful cathedral (pictured) as well as some nice shops and cobblestone streets.
It is also close to Zandvoort, one of the most popular beach towns along the coast.Utrecht
The reason I recommend Utrecht, a university town, as one of my awesome day trips from Amsterdam, it is to see the canals.
Sure, you'll have all the canals you can stand in Amsterdam, but note how they're slightly different here: there are terraces and landings along the water below street level.
It's worth coming here just to have a meal and a beer down along the water. Charming.Kinderdijk
Depending on how cheesy you like your Amsterdam day trips, Kinderdijk might be right up your alley.
It is a windmill farm, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, although it's kind of hard to get to (try taking a train to Rotterdam Lombardijen and then transfer on bus 90 or 190 – tell the driver and he'll make sure you get off at the right stop.)
There is a windmill you can go into, and also a canal cruise perfect for further photo opportunities.Rotterdam
Another quite urban of the day trips from Amsterdam is Rotterdam.
It's home to one of the largest and most important ports in Europe, and walking along the river promenade you can get some great views of the striking Erasmus Bridge.
That's the highlight for me, though many like the shopping lanes in the city centre.Edam
One of the quietest of my Amsterdam day trips recommendation is Edam.
I spent one night here the first time I went to Amsterdam, and just loved it – it's so quiet and peaceful and charming, and home to the famed Edam cheese.
I love the bridges, the old mill, the town hall, and the old tower.
In summer there are some lovely cheese markets as well – come hungry.Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is your alternative to Kinderdijk – it's a lot easier to get to, and I feel it's a more authentic windmill area out of any around Amsterdam.
Day trips here include not just the windmills though – there's a sort of cool clog museum, a cheese museum, and an old Albert Heijn store (this is the big grocery store in the country).
If that wasn't enough, there are also several very tasty bakeries, cafes, and of course plenty of terraces to enjoy a beer or wine.Volendam
Volendam is another one of those day trips from Amsterdam that is like a trip back in time.
It's a very traditional place, similar to its neighbour Edam but with its own unique vibe.
A great day can be spent just relaxing here with a beer and think about what life would have been like centuries ago in the Netherlands.Alkmaar
Last but not least is the cute little down of Alkmaar, a touristy but still enjoyable choice of day trips from Amsterdam.
It's mostly well known for its cheese market, complete with the bright orange rounds of cheese lined up and workers in period costume.
The market is just a show, not real, but it's fun to watch if you happen to be here on a Friday morning.
There is also a cheese museum, beer museum, and of course the village is charming and well worth a stroll around.Have you been on any of these awesome day trips from Amsterdam? Anything I missed?Photo credits: erikhuiberts, Berto Garcia, Pixel Addict, loop_oh, Hetty 51, bslmmrs, Jacqueline ter Haar, alkanchaglar, Bogdan Milgulski, FaceMePLS, FootsVanRorbinAndy Hayes is the managing editor of Sharing Travel Experiences. Featured in CNN, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, and other major publications, he travels for up to seven weeks at a time and spends the other seven right here with you. Follow him on Twitter, @andrewghayes. www.sharingtravelexperiences.com