Lovely Efteling is the largest theme park in the Netherlands, and one of the oldest theme parks in the world. Some even contend that Walt Disney himself studied Efteling before opening Disneyland. My good friend Bernice Hobson of Efteling recently penned this wonderful report of the unique park. ~ Keith
When somebody asks me where I’m going on vacation, and I say ‘Efteling’, I am met with a puzzled expression. The sad fact is a lot of people have still never heard of this amazing theme park, even though it is over 60 years old! The park is located in Kaatsheuvel, a little over an hour by car from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
The entrance to Efteling is marked by the House of the Five Senses, and you can’t miss it. If you were thinking ‘that’s a very big roof’, you’d be right, because it is the largest thatched roof in the world! This building is pretty much the symbol of the park, since Efteling does not have a central hub as such; once you’re in, there really isn’t a specific route to take. There are four ‘realms’ to which the park’s attractions are loosely tied: Ruigrijk (the Adventure Realm), Reizenrijk (the Travel Realm), Anderrijk (the Alternative Realm) and Marerijk (the Fairy Realm).
The heart of the park is the Fairy Realm, which is home to the famous Sprookjesbos (Fairy Tale Forest). If you listen carefully, you will hear the Troll King, talking his usual nonsense and casting a spell on visitors. Following the woodland paths, keep an eye out for the witch climbing Rapunzel’s long dangling braid. And be careful of the irritable dragon, as he doesn’t like anyone touching his treasure! Not all fairy tales are happy, as we see the Little Match Girl freeze to death on a city street. The buildings of the forest, and pretty much most of the park, were brought to life from drawings by the wonderful Dutch artist Anton Pieck.
Many other attractions in the park are the brain-child of Ton van de Ven (Efteling’s answer to an Imagineer), including the Laafs. The People of Laaf (picture a cross between a Hobbit and a Gnome) are a race which turned up in Efteling in 1990, after leading a nomadic existence. Of course, Efteling is probably the best spot that anyone could wish to inhabit, and thus the Laaf village came to be. A small monorail runs around above the village so that you can get a good look at all the buildings. Thankfully though, the Laafs don’t seem to mind you peeking into their business!
Another of Anton’s creations is the most popular attraction in the park, Droomvlucht (Dream Flight). The theming is so perfect in there, it even smells good. Thousands of flowers adorn the scenes inside the ride, which are home to countless fairies, trolls, sprites and forest animals. Journey through realms such as The Castle Realm, The Fairy Garden and the Miracle Forest, as your vehicle hangs from the track, moving smoothly through this wonderful world. Make sure to wave to King Oberon as you pass him; he’s the one on a golden throne, and he’s missing a shoe! Dream Flight is one of those rides you could visit over and over again, and you’d see something new every time.
Fancy something a little more hair-raising than a wander around a village or a forest? Then visit the Adventure Realm. There you will find the main white-knuckle rides: The Flying Dutchman, George and the Dragon, and the Half Moon and the Python. George and the Dragon, which opened in 2010, is a dueling wooden roller coaster which was built by Great Coasters International. The music for the ride is probably one of the most uplifting tunes you’ll hear in the park, with a sense of adventure that fits the ride perfectly. The Flying Dutchman is rather unique, as it is a walk-through which leads to a dark ride and eventually turns into a coaster!
One of the best things about Efteling is that they maintain and update what they have, as opposed to bulldozing attractions and making new ones. This keeps the park looking fresh. In the past 60 years, only a very small number of things have been taken away. The majority of the Fairy Tale forest remains unchanged since its opening, although new fairy tales are added every few years.
When you think fairy tales, you may think bright colors, but not here. Each building looks like it has been there for a very long time, making you feel like you are in a real fairy tale. Of course, Efteling is built in a forest, so nature plays a big part. They maintain their flowers and gardens extremely well, and this has earned them the title of ‘Most Beautiful Theme Park’ on several occasions.
Sometimes, when you are asked to describe your love for something, it is hard to put it into words yourself. So I thought, why not ask some other Efteling fans to describe their feelings about the park? And so they did!
Music plays a massive part in Efteling attractions, and probably has the best soundtrack of any theme park in the world. Each piece conveys the mood of an area or ride perfectly, and as new attractions come to be, so does new music, with each piece being as strong and memorable as the last. Each person that e-mailed me their thoughts about Efteling mentioned the music. Our friend Leonard says ‘the soundtrack is gorgeous’ (in reference to Droomvlucht), and Efteling fan Steven said ‘I love the Efteling music and I love how it changes throughout the park, totally matching the atmosphere.’ Kirsty mentioned the Villa Volta attraction, and said that ‘the first thing that hit me was the music…haunting and scary at the same time.’
For its 60th birthday in 2012, Efteling debuted a new water show called Aquanura, which celebrates the park’s music. The show was created by WET, the same company that created the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. Aquanura plays most nights, and the darker it is outside, the prettier the show.
There is much more I could say about Efteling, but if you are planning a visit, make sure you check out the attractions mentioned above. There is also so much more to be discovered!
With special thanks to Kirsty Stewart, Leonard Kinsey,
Dave Jansen and Steven van der Wekken.
~ Bernice Hobson, EftelingUK.com
Be sure to also check out this creepy promotional video which actually gives you a good overview of the park.