Have you heard of The Efteling theme park in Kaatsheuval, South Holland? If not, you need to read on and I’ll tell you why we thought it was brilliant! This isn’t a comparison to Disney Land/World as we’ve not taken the kids there yet, but they do say that Walt Disney visited here and decided that he wanted to build something similar, lo and behold, the Disney theme parks were born!
I was born very near the theme park and my parents went several times when it was just the woods part, and I also went as a child but I had no memories of it and so I was very excited when my Mum and I decided to take the kids to Amsterdam and then on a little trip down memory lane and include the theme park before heading back up to Haarlem for my Oma’s (Grandmother’s) birthday celebrations with the rest of the family.
I’m so glad we did because we all had the best time there and didn’t want to leave! We flew in to Schipol and got the train to Amsterdam where we were spending our first few nights. It was unbelievably hot when we were there and a little uncomfortable to be honest, but we had a lovely day at the incredible Artis Royal Zoo, which we got to by tram.
We then travelled by train from Amsterdam to Breda, it took us approx 2 hours with changes, going through beautiful scenery with windmills and people cycling by dykes everywhere, and then it was a short taxi hop to the theme park. We were staying at the Efteling Bosrijk which comprises of many self catering houses in the woods. It had everything you need and I would liken it a little to centre parcs or similar with cars being allowed in to unpack but then being a car free site. There is a small pool complex with a lazy river. The pool is very deep and non swimmers must wear arm bands. Luckily for us, these were on sale at the pool and only €2.50 which I thought was very reasonable considering we were already in the pool with no means of getting any from anywhere else!
There is also a small shop on site, selling the essentials and a restaurant too. We found the food excellent but if we’d have been driving, we would have done self catering as there was everything we needed in the house for us to make all meals ourselves.
One thing to note is that breakfast in the restaurant is made very fun by the characters wandering around and chatting to you. They were very well acted, spoke excellent English and took plenty of time to chat to each table which made the children’s day. Bonus points to staying onsite is that you get to go in the park on the day you arrive and then the days that you stay too, so we stayed two nights but could have had three full days there. You also get a special entrance to beat the queues and also get to access the park half an hour early, and some of the rides are open for you. Like the Droom Vlucht (Dream Flight) which was hands down the best ride on the planet, we went on twice we loved it so much!
Meeting the characters at breakfast was how we heard about the live show The Ravelijn, which runs several times a day and is free to go to but requires tickets that you can get either from the reception at the Bosrijk or in the theme park itself in the kiosk. It’s a live action show with horses and birds and a five headed dragon and we loved it so much we went twice to that too!! There were many other live shows and events across the park, but that’s the only one we went to.
There is so much to see and do at the park, you can just walk around for hours just looking at things, we wandered around the original part first, which is the Fairytale Forest, and there are lots of things there that your children will know. It’s based on the Brother’s Grimm stories so be aware that it can be a little dark in places, as the original stories were before Disney sugar coated them. I’m still tearful now when I think of the little match girl exhibit! There are moving characters in each house to bring the stories to life and it’s brilliant but I did find myself wondering if someone had slipped some hallucinogenics into my morning cereal at some points!
There are also plenty of rides and they mix up the sections so there is something for everyone in each area. The park is split into different sections and there are toddler play areas, big rides for the groups of teens we saw milling about, water rides, steam powered rides and plenty of places to grab a coffee and chill out. It was very busy both days we were there but because of the size of the park, it never felt claustrophobic.
We had one day of sun and one of rain and it didn’t bother us either way. It was sheltered enough to not mind a bit of rain, (it was warm still though), and we could avoid the very hot sun under the trees. We were there at half term and there were a lot of people there, including many British people, so just be aware that it does get busy at UK holiday times too as so many Brits have discovered how great it is and go there.
We also had very good weather which is always a draw, this meant that there were some rides that we didn’t get to go on as queuing times could be long and we decided to go to things that didn’t have the queue time. The newest ride was closed for a large portion of our visit, which was a bit gutting as it sounded amazing. You can download the Efteling app which gives you live queue times for all the rides so you can plan your day. A huge huge highlight was the end of the day show. It was utterly spectacular. I have a video for you at the bottom. If you are on instagram, you can watch my many short videos from our trip there by clicking here.
In conclusion, we absolutely loved it here, it was such a fantastic few days and we all said that we want to make it an annual tradition to go again and again. I think it might be one of my favourite places I’ve been to with the kids. Word of warning though, the Pirate Ship is hardcore, I won’t be making that mistake again, we all went on and three of us nearly cried! 😀