Located in the approximate geographic center of Holland is Efteling Theme Park Resort a fantasy-themed amusement park and resort claiming bragging rights as the country’s largest entertainment attraction. Celebrating its sixty-sixth birthday on May 31, the park welcomed 5.18 million visitors last year and hopes to break that number in 2018.
Open 365 days a year, the park has grown from a sports park in the quaint countryside of Kaatshuevel—a bucolic Dutch province just over an hour’s drive due south of Amsterdam—to a venue featuring roller coasters, rides, restaurants, entertainment, and several options for overnight lodging.
Incorporating the magic of fairy tales, fables, and folklore, the park offers the modern iron and steel found in modern-day amusement parks but stays true to the Old World European experience. In fact, Efteling is ranked in the top twenty-five theme parks in the world, according to the Tea Theme Index of 2016.
We visited Efteling earlier this year, on a whirlwind spring break adventure through Germany, Brussels, and Holland. In our group was a teenager and two elementary schoolers, all boys and all ready for the adventure and excitement only an amusement park can bring.
To get our bearings, as well as a feel for the lay of the land, we started with a four-minute ride on the Pagode—a Thai-style temple lifting passengers 45 meters off the ground. Looking down, a stream of Gondoletta boats can be seen carrying passengers on a leisurely twenty-minute journey through a central pond and canals. Beyond the boats, the Efteling Steam Train Company carries passengers around the majority of the park’s circumference on a 600 mm (1.9 feet) narrow gauge passenger railway line.
With slightly over half a day to explore the park’s many rides and attractions, we began in the Reizenrijk (Travel Realm) area—splitting our group between the spinning cauldron ride and the children’s maze. Worth noting at this point is that Efteling features ten sit-down venues for lunch and dinner with kiosks for coffee, ice cream, treats, and snacks scattered throughout the property.
Our favorite find was the Gefrituurde aardappelsnack, one long potato peel skewered on a stick and deep-fried to perfection. Patrons choose from one of three options: zout & suur (salt and sour), BBQ, or kaas (cheese). Our group sampled all three, with BBQ winning first prize in the impromptu taste test.
Other popular authentic/regional food items range from fresh fish at De Meermin to traditional Dutch syrup waffles at Stroopwafel-chalet. Something we had never experienced before was hot, cafeteria style vending machine food purchased with coins at De Steenbok. Here we are trying something that can best be described as deep-fried Thanksgiving (potatoes, meat, and breading all rolled into one relatively inexpensive meal item). According to our friends, this food service option is both popular and common across the entire country.
Because our visit was in late March, we missed the spectacular display of the park’s countless blooming tulips and other spring- and summer-themed floral displays. At least one water ride was running, but we opted to stick to the dryer carnival-style games and medium-size rides in the park’s Ruigrijk area. Fear not! Thrill seekers and adventure junkies will find plenty of choices in the Anderrijk area, from the Joris en de Draak double-track wooden roller coaters to the double loops and double corkscrews of the steel roller coaster Python.
Timing our exit with the well-attended Aquanura water show, a twelve-minute water ballet featuring more than two hundred fountains and nine hundred lights, we found the water and mist to calm the kids and prepare them for a last minute stroll through the gift shop. Many entertainment options are scattered across the park property, from stunt horse riding shows to outdoor fairy tale reenactments in the the Fairytale Forest.
And, here’s where I will note that if you truly want to experience everything Efteling Theme Park has to offer, seriously consider an overnight visit in one of the park’s themed resort properties (options range from hotel rooms to holiday houses and apartments). Guests receive park admission for the entire duration of their stay. This makes getting to and from the park, and back to your room after a long day a breeze.
On the subject of saving money on admission or parking, note that discount vouchers may be earned through Albert Heijn grocery stores (a sticker is earned for every ten Euro spent at the store; fill a card with five stickers and redeem the card for discount voucher at the store). Socialdeal.nl (similar to groupon.com) is another place to monitor for coupons and bulk discounts.
You can also download the official park app to your smart phone so you are better prepared to make the most of your day.
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