Once upon a time I thought Efteling Theme Park in Holland was all fairytales and just for younger kids. I had seen lots of photos on Instagram of fairytale magic recreated in the woods. Absolutely spellbinding. But, while I do believe we are never too old for a fairytale, mine would have absolutely loved that 5 years ago and are seeking different tales and thrills these days.
Well, never forget that fairytales have a dark side. I was very, very wrong about Efteling, perhaps I will now be cursed by a wicked witch. However, I like to think Efteling is quite forgiving and the home of fairytale endings and might give me a bedtime story and a nightcap instead.
Efteling was perfect for little kids and perfect for my two – aged 9 and 11 – and their same age friends who joined us, the adventure seeking gang at My Gorgeous Boys. There were also lots of teenagers heading straight for the drop and roller coasters – much to our lot’s delight.
As a grown up I found Efteling hit a magical note in my heart that theme parks often fail to reach…
Yes, when it comes to theme parks my heart is pretty frozen, I don’t vocalise it much for fear of sounding Bah Humbug, but I have always struggled to see what magic people see in theme parks. I make a concession for Universal in Orlando and was pleasantly surprised, the filmic storytelling really won me over. Efteling however, won me over in a completely different way.
It is what I dreamed a theme park was when I was little.
Why did we love Efteling so much?
You need to watch this!
It is so clean, we spent lots of time on public transport in Holland, looking out the window jaws dropping marvelling at how neat, tidy and well looked after everywhere was. Efteling is set in acres of beautiful trees and nature. The fairytale fantasy theme really works, not just in the obvious childhood fairytales, but every ride has really strong back story which is beautifully told.
Having finally just read The Minaturist, and watched the dramatisation at Christmas, I loved how The Flying Dutchman ride sailed out from the mini dimly lit streets of Amsterdam, tall houses with pointy roofs in the ships of the Dutch East India Trading Company. Many of the rides have books to go with them in the shop, they are in Dutch only, but still, I loved the depth of thinking behind them.
While I was there I saw a red squirrel in the wild for the first time. I was sitting in our holiday house in the stunning village Bosrijk, having a morning cuppa and preparing for a morning of Theme Park fun with some tea and child free peace. I had forgotten they had red squirrels in Holland.
Bosrijk Holiday Village
I absolutely loved Bosrijk Holiday village, it’s magical and somewhere I would stay even if if I wasn’t coming to the theme park and possibly to forget that I was staying at a theme park if you know what I mean. Although, at Efteling I didn’t feel that need to escape or forget, I wanted to remember it all.
I suppose the obvious comparison in the UK is Centre Parks, but it is so much more characterful, all the houses are mini Dutch houses and there is a much more playful character to them. They are luxurious and feel more like real homes than holiday homes.
Lovely little touches too, like the nightcaps and bedtime stories.
Eating at Efteling
The buffet breakfast and dinner at Bosrijk was excellent quality. It was a real treat to eat proper food at a theme park resort off pretty china plates. The kids loved the sprinkles to put on their toast, and the choice of novelty egg cups, I loved the Dutch cheeses and fresh breads. You can also have fresh bread or breakfast delivered to your accommodation or buy food in the small, but rather perfect grocery shop.
The setting was beautifully rustic, truly magical and was completely devoid of cheeseiness. I want to say a breather from the sensory stimulation of the theme park, but actually the theme park doesn’t feel like an assault on the senses like other parks can do. Having a child who is particularly prone to sensory overload, I thought Efteling was wonderful from that perspective.
For dinner I enjoyed a lovely chunky homemade tomato soup followed by halloumi and cous cous salad. The kids had spaghetti bol, ribs and a tortellini for my veggie child. The crudite snack platter was brilliant with mini cucumbers and really fresh vegetables. There were some gorgeous enamel pots filled with meat and fish and veggies to share, but being veggie that wasn’t an option, but we did share a huge enamel pan of fries.
Have a little look round our accommodation:
Memory making, merchandising and growing up
Since we got back I have found myself repeatedly sneaking looks at all our photos and video. Such happy memories of fairytale adventures with the My Gorgeous Boys crew, we both messaged each other to say what a special trip it was and how we wish we’d taken more pictures of us mums. We have a head full of memories and pictures though.
Another thing I loved was the lack of merchandise around the park itself and the quality and value of the merchandise. Bah humbug me but I can’t say I have ever fancied anything in a theme park shop before, but I loved the Efteling mugs, the stationery and the cloth purses and bags and they were very reasonably priced. There was only ONE TINY shopping altercation all day with my youngest who wanted a keyring, the only thing I saw for sale until the shop itself. I suggested waiting and choosing in the shop at the end although I was fully prepared to buy it for some peace, but remarkably he agreed.
Thank you Efteling!!
LET Them Go!
Our trip was a rite of passage too, Mister G’s first loop the loop rollercoaster! Anyone else get anxious about letting them go? I remember begging my Mum not to let my little brother go on rides – I refused til I was 17. But Mr G loved it, water off a duck’s back and he was begging for more. You can see me and louise anxiously watching them on the Python in the video! By the end they did the Bob Sleigh 3 times and the indoor rollercoaster in the dark 4 times.
Efteling was the perfect place to catch our tweens making the leap from kids to teenagers and to let them enjoy both those worlds. It really is perfect for all ages.
Our Top tips for Efteling
Getting the most out of Efteling
Do download the Efteling app, it is really well designed and easy to use and really helps with ride wait times, navigating the park, finding toilets quickly etc. You can favourite the rides beforehand to help highlight the must do activities for your family.
Symbolica ride is a good place to start for everyone, then we headed for Baron drop coaster, the Bob Sleigh, the rapids, Flying Dutchman water coaster, Python loop the loop, water rides and looped back thru the fairytale bit on route to the VogelRok indoor coaster which they went on 4 times. We managed to nail the big rides in a day, but it would have been good to have a second day to explore at leisure and revisit favourite rides.
Everyone should wander through the fairytale forest, our lot indulged us, they were ‘too cool’ for parts of it, but there were joyful moments of seeing them just playing once more too and some genuine wonder too which made me ache to have little ones again, just for a day. You lucky people with little ones could probably spend a morning there, we managed 20 minutes on route to a coaster!
Efteling accommodation guests can get into the park early, although that’s probably easier with littler kids who haven’t arrived at 10pm the night before after an exciting journey! The park was really quiet by 4pm so getting up late with tweens and teens wasn’t such a big issue.
We travelled in May half term holiday, Dutch kids weren’t on holiday so it seemed like an ideal time to go, the car parks were pretty empty and the longest queue was 20 minutes. Judging by the amount of car park I imagine it is a different place in the height of summer. We got amazing weather too in May, it was much hotter than the UK.
Join the Blue team if you ride the wooden coaster – the photos come out brighter and well, you will see!
Hotel guests get a discount on ride photos, which came in handy – it was all about the photos with our lot. We had to ride again on a few rides to get the best photo a few times!
The water and light show was a stunning finish.
Make the most of the Accommodation
The choice is brilliant, from the hotel, where the theming is stronger yet still lacks any whiff of cheese, to stunning rustic and luxury holiday homes nestled in woodland, by lakes and in (man made but still pretty) sand dunes. SO pretty, an experience all on it’s own.
We stayed at Bosrijk, our tips:
The grocery shop is small but has excellent produce! We made up a lovely picnic for our journey home in the deli here with baguettes, cheeses, hams and dips. It closes at 9pm so stock up if arriving late.
The accommodation has tea, coffee, tiny packets of powdered milk. There are towels and washing up kits but no shampoo or food.
Bring insect repellent as the wooded, lakeside area can attract mosquitoes. Everyone else was fine, they just love to bite me.
Bring your swimsuit, the swimming area is brilliant.
Planning your holiday around Efteling
You have so many options and Efteling combines so well with some great family travel itineraries.
We flew into Amsterdam, but the Eurostar is also an option, or the ferry to Rotterdam perhaps – we travelled through Rotterdam train station. Efleting can be part of so many wonderful Dutch holiday experiences.
You could spend a few days exploring Amsterdam and a few days at Efteling – taking the train or hiring a car.
Or spend some time exploring Holland and the coast and dip into Efteling as part of a longer holiday. Perhaps enjoy some cycling as a family too – it is so flat of course!
I was so struck by the stunning Dutch countryside and how beautifully the Dutch do things, it’s just such a lovely country to holiday in.
This website is brilliant for getting you from Schipol to Efteling by public transport. It was about an hour on the train and then 20-30 minutes on the bus, but nailing a good connection makes a real difference. Dutch transport is incredibly clean, spacious and efficient. Our lot loved the double decker trains with wifi.
The train goes from Schipol airport where there are lots of self service ticket machines – these machines, and nearly everyone speaks English. We were on a train within 30 minutes of landing. We did find buying tickets for our children confusing via the machines and wrongly assumed under 12s were free.
Do pop over and read Louise’s post over at My Gorgeous Boys
Disclosure: our stay at Eftleing was gifted, views remain my own