Since leaving Holland I’ve been bursting to start writing this blog post and tell you all about Efteling, a magical theme park located near a little town called Kaatsheuvel. Thirty minutes from Eindhoven, ninety minutes from Amsterdam and a forty-five-minute flight from the UK it’s incredibly easy to get to. It’s charming and it’s authentic in every single way possible. Suitable for tots, teens and thrill-seekers I simply can’t believe more of us Brits don’t seem to know about it and I can’t wait to tell you all about our visit to Efteling in half-term last month.
I’d never heard of Efteling before visiting and it was my Mum who one evening back in September this year sent me a text with a link to the theme park, a local hotel and some flights – she was super keen! Within 24 hours we were all booked up and ready to go. The only slight cause for concern was that our flights were with Ryanair, but with a bargain £62 air fare (including seats, priority and a case) it was difficult to resist! Half-term flight costs are usually so expensive!
When googling Efteling and looking for more information there’s a few keywords that will repeatedly pop-up: Magical, forest-like, enchanting and some say that it’s even better than Disney. It’s also been suggested that Disney even used Efteling as inspiration for their theme parks and, after visiting, I can see why.
With my sister and her two children, Kayden (8) and Kasey (5) and my Mum flying from Manchester, Coby (14) and I flew from London Stanstead which meant we landed within 30 minutes of each other and made our way to Guesthouse Hotel Kaatsheuvel in a taxi.
I’m going to do a full post about our hotel but it’s worth mentioning that the reason we stayed here is because it’s only an eight-minute walk from Efteling and it’s very modern, very family friendly (think wellies in reception for the little ones and child proof sockets etc) and definitely worth checking out if you decide to book a trip.
I’ve been to Disney (Florida and Paris) and whilst there are similarities, I’d say Efteling is leaps ahead with regards to friendliness and children being a priority. The Dutch people are SO happy and enthusiastic, it’s infectious. Kasey is the type of little girl that gets very excited, to the point she can’t even sit down, so you can only imagine how much the people at Efteling loved her. Kayden is more the quiet reserved type of child, but you could still see the excitement in his eyes and the little smile that often escaped when he spotted something he really want to do, or a ride that he really wanted to go on.
Time with my family is something I love. Since relocating down south I’ve always been so worried about my niece and nephew not knowing who we are, so holidays together, as well as weekend visits home to York, are totally necessary. Kasey adores Coby and follows him around everywhere he goes!
The main reason why we loved Efteling is because it’s so much more than a theme park. Many theme parks throw together a bunch of rollercoasters, arcades, haunted houses and rides and offer you a fun-filled day out, which is great. But if you’re not keen on rollercoasters or fast rides you need something else to keep you occupied and that’s where Efteling comes in.
Efteling offers a unique concept of fairy-tale based adventure. The theme park is in a forest-like area, where green space and trees are just as important as the rides. The whole park is divided into regions, but all are connected by a sprinkle of magic and nostalgic charm. From the lamp posts to the benches in the park, all have a little sparkle of Efteling fairy dust.
It really is magical! And to top it all off…adults can reminisce about stories they heard as child whilst eating delicious snacks like these…
October half term in the UK is a week after the Dutch half-term which meant we virtually got on each ride straight away. Efteling is so quiet in the half term breaks, we couldn’t believe it when some rides had virtually nobody waiting! The maximum we waited was 30 minutes for one of Efteling’s most popular rides, Symbolica.
I imagine summer and Christmas time (they have a pop-up ice rink) to be very busy, but Efteling has a really handy app that not only tells you peak times of year, but also gives you wait times for each ride – you can even book a time slot (for free) if there is a queue.
You can’t visit Holland without having pancakes for breakfast, right? Someone told us that a large proportion of restaurants in Efteling open an hour before the official opening time of 10am. So, at 9am, on the dot, we arrived at Polles Keuken, that restaurant known for breaking a Guinness world-record challenge for making the tallest stack of pancakes in the world!
With various types of pancakes spread across the table, with hot coffee’s and teas to help wash them down, we were suitably stuffed and energised for a day of walking around the park. Again, like the rest of the park in half term, there was no wait to get seated and no wait for our pancakes! From sitting down to eating they arrived within 15 minutes meaning we could get out in the park as soon as it opened at 10am.
I don’t think I’ve ever visited a theme park and had so much choice. Usually I’m lucky to get a bag of chips or a dodgy veggie burger, but Efteling had an incredible amount of vegetarian food and I spotted so many dairy-free and gluten-free options too.
It would be impossible to write about everything there is at Efteling so I’m going to try and break it down by the route we walked and the rides we enjoyed. As with most theme parks you’re given a map and we decided to walk anti-clockwise around. Purely because the pancake house is on the left after entry…and everything usually revolves around the food with us! 😉
Symbolica is the first big attraction/ride you’ll see first after entering the park if you turn left through the main gates. We were told to go to this first as it’s sets the scene for the rest of your day and immediately immerses you in all that fairy-tale magic.
We picked our teams, hopped in two carts and travelled through the enchanted castle together occasionally drifting off in different directions, to only meet up again in the main areas.
Took in the views from the Pagoda
And later, at the end of the day once the sun had set, watched the most spectacular water and light show from here too.
The most magical of regions to visit for the younger people in your group is the Fairy-tale Forest. This is where Kasey fully went into Princess mode – there was no stopping her! Crown and wand ready, we explored it all!
You can jump on the steam train here too. It takes you right to the other side of the park.
The People of Laaf, gnome-like creatures that live underground in their little Laaf village also live in Marerijk. A little bit strange looking but also playful, the people of Laaf are nothing like you’ve ever seen before. Walk through their houses, their shops or ride above and look down from the monorail.
Keep an eye out for the bins too… not something I thought I’d ever say! But they shout and cheer when you put rubbish in them! Kaden and Kasey, along with my Mum, were all a little entertained by these… simple things!
Probably my most favourite part of the whole park (after the rollercoasters) is the fairy tale forest, where Efteling first began. You’ll find all the houses and scenes from fairy tales like Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella waiting for you.
Each fairy tale has its own display, varying from a whole castle or palace to gnomes living in tree trunks. Hansel and Gretel’s house even smells like sweets and chocolate as you walk past! Some of the displays have puzzles to solve and Coby particularly loved figuring these out.
Before arriving in Efteling Coby repeatedly told me I HAD to go on the rollercoasters with him and I had no choice about it. I’ve found the older I get, the more scared I get but I had to put my brave face on and ride along with him!
There may have been a moment of panic when we had to sit on the front row of the Baron 1898 and I may have nearly cried when I spotted the Python had four big giant loops…but not nearly as much as my Mum when I persuaded her to come on the Flying Dutchman, where two rollercoasters race each other at once!
At the end of a very long day exploring, with big smiles on our faces and lots of memories made, we grabbed a couple of bags of doughnuts, covered them in way too much sugar and sat in silence, occasionally laughing at Kasey spinning around in her princess dress…
Do I want to visit Efteling again? Absolutely, no doubt about it. Will we stay for longer? Again, a big YES! Have you been? Do you want to go? I hope so…