Originally Efteling catered towards children with a fairy tale theme, nowadays Efteling appeals to young and old with its cultural, romantic and nostalgic theme and its variety of amusement rides. In over fifty years, Efteling has evolved from a general nature park with playground and unique Fairy Tale Forest, into a full-size theme park along the lines of Disneyland.
Efteling is famous for its great attention to detail, the green atmosphere and excellent dark rides. With four million visitors annually, it's in the top of European theme parks right after the Disney parks in France and Europa Park in Germany.
The base for the park as it is now was created in 1950. Artist Anton Pieck and inventor Peter Reijnders set out to create a quality fairy tale forest. Pieck's remarkable, nostalgic style combined with Reijnders' ingenuity and the use of "real" materials created an enchanting forest that immediately profiled Efteling as a national attraction upon its opening in 1952. The style set by Pieck has been the base for many developments after that, setting the park apart.
The most important milestones in its development :
1933: A catholic complex of sporting facilities is founded.
1952: The park opens its Fairy Tale Forest, which instantly becomes a tourist hit; this is considered the start of the current Efteling.
1978: The Haunted Castle is the first "large scale" attraction.
1980: Efteling starts to build thrill-rides (rollercoasters and the like) to appeal to a larger audience.
1987: Efteling returns to its roots with building large attractions but always themed around the (broad) fairy tales and myths theme; continues until today.
1999: Start of Winter Efteling. The goal is to be open year round.
2004: Efteling actively works on expansion with more lodging and facilities, a theatre with musical productions and a golf course.
2010: The Efteling gets opened year-round from April 1 and onwards. The park is from now opened everyday in November-March.
The park is open 365 days a year. Opening and closing times change on a yearly basis. The park opens at 10 am (March-Oktober) or 11 am (Oktober-March). General closing time is 18:00. In July and August the park closes at 20:00 with the exception of Saturdays when it closes at 24:00. During holiday periods in Oktober and November closing time is 19:00 with exceptions in the Christmas Holiday: 20:00. There's also a Winter Efteling that opens between November and February. See the Efteling website for exact details.
Efteling is reachable in the following ways:
By car: the park is easily accessible by car. The park is well marked along the nearby highways A59 (north) & A58 (south). Despite good infrastructure rush-hour and high-season traffic jams are possible although a new highway in 2014 should relieve the problem. The park has good parking space for a measly €10 per day.
By public transport: the nearest railway stations are 's Hertogenbosch and Tilburg. Both stations have information points stacked with helpful people. Special buses and regular buses depart and return from these stations at least every half hour. Tickets for trains can be bought on-site. Tickets for buses can be bought from the bus driver. Comprehensive public transport information and planning can be found at 9292.
By bike: Efteling provides a guarded bicycle parking for €1 per day. The surroundings are nice green routes, a bike ride to Efteling is recommended if you're staying in the neighborhood.
The entrance fee is €34,50 off-season and €36,50 high-season. Discounts at €2,50 p.p. are available for tickets bought through their website or at resellers like all Albert Heijn supermarkets at €10 p.p. Such prepaid tickets can save you a queue at the entrance on busy days. Children 0-3 are free of charge. You have an option for special tickets "extra" which includes among food & drinks 30 minutes earlier admission to the park and "luxe" which also adds a diner.
Once inside, all attractions and shows are free (except for the Game Gallery).
Dogs other then guide dogs are not allowed in but there's a free kennel service at the entrance building.
Once inside the park, everything can be done on foot. Mind you, It's huge: about 65 ha big, that's around 20% larger than Disneyland Paris. Although it (hopefully) doesn't require major physical preparation to visit the Efteling you should be aware of the distance you'll be walking inside the park. And those high heels look great but are probably not the best choice of footwear.
The park is divided into four realms, each with their own theme: Marerijk (Fairy Realm), Reizenrijk (Travel Realm), Ruigrijk (Rough Realm) and Anderrijk (Alternative Realm). Best place to start your journey is the center of the park called Efteling Brink. Each realm is accessible from here although the individual realms are also interlinked.
In case your feet fail you there's a (real) steam train that services one station in Marerijk and one in Ruigrijk and provides a scenic tour around the park.
Wheelchairs are available for free (requires reservation), and pushchairs to take kids around can be rented for €3.
A division between see and do is not entirely clear for a theme park, but attractions will be considered under do.
The park itself is set in a real forest, and that shows: there's a lot of green to see, and the small army of gardeners bring in large quantities of flowers each season. In fact, after entering the park you'll be hard pressed to find any attraction at first glance. There's also a collection of tame animals like peacocks, ducks, geese and other birds. Fair enough, this won't be the main reason to visit the Efteling but it does contribute to the unique, relaxed and authentic vibe.
Also to see are the shows and wandering entertainment. Raveleijn is the major free parkshow extravaganza and requires reservation which can be obtained through ticket machines in front of the theater. During the summer there's a free show at the open-air theater in the fairytale forest multiple times a day. Besides that, the park features smaller shows which change by the season, and wandering theatrical entertainment. For an up-to-date list, be sure to catch the information leaflet when entering.
A remarkable figure around the park is Holle Bolle Gijs (see image below), a sturdy character similar to Humpty Dumpty, that is unsatisfiable in his hunger for paper. He keeps on asking "Paper Here", and thanks visitors that feed him their waste.
When the park has reduced opening in the winter time, a yearly changing large-scale musical production is set in the Efteling Theater.
This is where it all started with the fairy tale forest and playground. This is also the place where the style of founder Anton Pieck can best be observed.
Droomvlucht (Dream Flight) is the most popular in the park and a must-do. You embark on a flying journey through the wonderful world of fairies, pixies and trolls in a beautiful surrounding. A real feel-good attraction.
Fairy Tale Forest: A must-do. Take your time for a two-hour walk through this part of the forest, and be surprised at the next scene around every corner, such as the castle of the Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, the Flying Fakir and the Girl with the Matchsticks.
Raveleijn: an arena where a few times during the day a show is performed with actors, horses, birds and special effects.
Land van Laaf: a funny village where the Laafs originate.
Anton Pieck square: a nostalgic Dutch square, with classic merry-go-rounds, and the Efteling museum.
Villa Volta: in this so-called mad house, you join goat rider Hugo in his house. Suddenly, what you thought was up is now down. Can be scary.
Carousselpaleis: discover a 100 year old steam caroussel, a train diorama and a water organ.
Steam Train: this real steam train takes you around the park.
Python: the first and still biggest roller coaster in Efteling, with four loops. Once the largest roller coaster on the European mainland it's not the white-knuckle ride in today's extreme coaster era. A fairly popular attraction and queues gather shortly after park opening.
Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon): not to miss, a wooden (racing) coaster where 2 different trains race to defeat the dragon using either Water or Fire. The tracks are partly different so check out both. The queue takes you through a proper swamp and the dragon itself is a nice animatronic that also interacts with the coaster. One of the most popular rides so expect queues despite high capacity.
De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman): not to miss, a unique and highly themed combination of walk-through, dark ride, coaster and water splash. It doesn't excel at any point, other than the walk-through which is utterly beautiful. However being more than the sum of its parts it leaves a lasting impression. Being among the most popular rides and notoriously buggy (although reality isn't as harsh), at the first sign it's actually open queues start to form.
Halve Maen: the largest pirate ship in the world. Not to be confused with similar rides all over the world this one isn't tame by anyone's standards. A little note of caution: on quieter days operators have a tendency of elongating the duration of the ride to the extreme replacing screams of joy into screams of pure terror.
D’Oude Tuffer: old T-Fords on a guided track which requires some minor steering. Although not the must see, can't miss ride it's a big favorite for anyone below 6 - including accompanying dads and has a huge visual appeal. Because of the extremely low capacity queues are frequent and long.
Polka Marina: typical merry-go-round found at any local fair.
Station de Oost: steam train station. Worth checking out because it's a beautiful themed station. The train arrives every 20 minutes and is an ideal way to spend your lunch-time. The carriages provide some cover for poor weather. The train provides a scenic route around the Efteling and offers a stop at Marerijk.
Game Gallery: one of the few attractions not included in your admission. Fun but nothing you should spend loads of time on if you're on a tight schedule.
Most attractions in the Adventure Realm are closed during Winter Efteling.
A diverse or mismatched Realm (depending on who you ask), not all fairytale themed. Does include some of the best attractions Efteling has to offer.
Fata Morgana: not to miss, travel through an Arabic world like in the stories of 1001 nights. From a busy market to the pasha on his throne. A lot of details, excellent audio-animatronics. In the end you die but at least you'll be smiling. High capacity ride so queues are short on all but the most crowded days.
Piraña: not to miss - at least according to the Efteling, a surprising river rapids ride in Inca theme. Queues depend largely on the weather.
Spookslot (Haunted Castle): not really scary anymore – even if its atmosphere arouses a sweet uneasy feeling... Still beautifully made, every ten minutes the visitor can see a large gothic scene come to "life" at the hour of midnight using the moving sounds of the Dance Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. The waiting hall is a dimly-lit room with several spooky effects easily missed. Waiting times are short.
Pandadroom (Pandavision): a 4D cinema reminding us to care for mother Earth in association with WWF. Hardly spectacular still fun with some nice effects. Does require sitting through a slightly aggravating pre-show a.k.a. WWF commercial.
Aquanura: not to miss, a choreographed watershow with performances set to light, fire and catchy Efteling music. Visible from numerous vantage points round the lake. If you can, see it after dusk. There are multiple shows per day, but arrive slightly early unless you prefer watching someones back.
Bobbaan: bobsled ride in Swiss theme, fun ride too. Horrible capacity so prepare mentally before entering.
All in all there's more than enough for at least an entire day of fun.
Spread around the park are merchandising stores which sell items related to the attractions as well as general convenience items.
At the Anton Pieck square, there's also three historic vending machines: a chicken, a goose and a little blacksmith. When a coin is inserted, they shortly come to life and produce some kind of small toy – it's a surprise what it will be.
Holle Bolle Gijs on the lookout for more paper to eat
Unfortunately, exquisite food is not Efteling's strong point. The park excels in snack food though, with lots of places to buy fries or pizza. Try the typical Dutch fries with Mayonaise at the Smulpaap in Marerijk. Also available are the Dutch "snack wall" vending machines that give you a warm snack when money is inserted.
Apart from snacks, there's two self-service restaurants: Witte Paard (white horse) in Marerijk and De Ballonvaarder in Reizenrijk. Next to the latter is also a waited restaurant Welkom, and one in the theatre near the entrance. There serve relatively simple dishes and special children's menus.
Recommended is Het Poffertje across the Caroussel palace. Here you can eat authentic Dutch poffertjes -- very small pancakes served with butter and sugar.
In contrast to many other theme parks, bringing your own food is perfectly allowed. Although smoking is allowed in open air, tobacco is not sold inside the park.
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