Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands holds a theme park that not only offers visitors the thrill of a lifetime but also manages to teleport them into a new world. That theme park is Efteling – a world of wonders, beauty, nostalgia, and magic that effectively manages to encapsulate guests.
When the park initially opened on May 31, 1952, it began with a Fairytale Forest. As the years went on, the park added more exhibits, attractions, shows, and rides. In 1966, the media described the park as “a larger than life walk-in show-box that shuts out the outside world. Visitors arrive in a new world, with lush vegetation, a splashing waterfall, stirring music and wondrous water lilies in which nymphs dance…”.
With the goal in mind of becoming an international multi-day destination, Efteling has also opened an onsite hotel, a 16-hectare holiday village (containing vacation homes), a 116-acre golf park, one of the largest theatres in the Netherlands, and conference rooms for business meetings and events.
Thanks to the generosity of Efteling, BHDT Magazine was given the opportunity to visit the park. And as the journalist assigned, I’m being completely honest when I say it far surpassed my expectations. Walking toward the entrance, I felt like I was entering a kingdom given the three peaks of the building and the mystical music that greets visitors and follows them through the entirety of the park. It quickly becomes clear that every single inch of the property, every nook and cranny, was specially designed to match the theme, whether it is the landscape, the signs, the garbage cans and, believe it or not, even the ATM machines. Everything magnificently carries the fairytale and kingdom-like theme.
Being the third largest theme park in Europe, it’s imperative to plan and map out time in order to cover as much ground as possible. For my one-day experience, I first started off in the Fairytale Forest, which is filled with various paths to the many displays.
Each exhibit contains a scene from a particular story with the voice of a character telling the story and a display board that summarizes the story in three different languages. Unfortunately, the audio of the characters is in Dutch so I was unable to understand it. However, the display board features an English section that allowed me to enjoy the site nonetheless.
Many, if not all of these displays use animatronics or holographic images to truly bring the story to life and create the feeling of living inside the fairytale. The exhibits meander through caves, homes, and miniature castles while having lifelike characters, like the Big Bad Wolf and Cinderella, standing up close to visitors. There are 29 fairytales to discover throughout the forest, including Rapunzel, The Sleeping Giant, Pinocchio and The Little Match Girl.
As for the ‘ride’ portion of the park, I fully expected to board a ride, experience it, and then jump off and move to the next. However, this was not the case. Every single ride is an experience in and of itself, with the line-up areas designed to match the theme of each ride and create a feeling of entering yet another kingdom or fairytale world.
Like most theme parks, there is a convenient mix of rides, starting with a children’s playground area to classics suited for the whole family, including monorails as well as train and boat rides, and driveable old-timer automobiles. And, of course, there are thrill rides for teens and adults, including outdoor and indoor (Vogelrok) roller coasters, water rides, and bobsleds. There is also a new attraction called Symbolica, which is a dark and enchanting palace full of secret hallways and mystical rooms.
Every sight, attraction and ride left me in awe with my jaw to the ground. The sheer amount of work and fine detail that has gone into creating this magical world is nothing less than magnificent and mind-blowing. I am extremely grateful to have had this experience at Efteling. Undoubtedly, this is a theme park worth visiting for people of all ages.
For more information about the park, click HERE.
Review and Photos by Alessia Dall’Agnese
(Lead Photo of Eftling Theatre via Press Photos)