WHAT TO DO AT EFTELING THEME PARK WITH TEENS AND TWEENS
With its unique fairytale atmosphere, natural surroundings and wide range of exciting attractions, Efteling, in southern Holland is now ranked in the top 25 theme parks WORLDWIDE. It has its own series, cartoons for young viewers, dramas for teenagers, game shows and even produced its first feature film in 2012.
When Efteling’s people get in touch to ask if Practically Perfect Mums would like to head to Holland and review the park, we’re thrilled. Theme-park-tester is pretty much as close as you can get to the ideal job for our thrill-seeking tween and teen sons so we all have our fingers crossed that the trip will pan out.
Efteling’s been on my radar since I edited a promotional video about it many years ago. I mainly remember the characters from the fairytale forest (which dates back to 1952) and have always thought of it as a destination for younger kids. I’ve heard that it’s developed a lot over with numerous attractions, restaurants and shops added over the decades so can’t wait to have my preconceptions challenged.
Fortunately we get the green light and fly out from Bristol Airport (hurrah!) early the FOLLOWING MORNING (yikes!!).
WHAT TO DO AT EFTELING
There’s a good range of rides and attractions suitable both for little ones and the whole family. I’ll show you how daredevils are well catered for too farther down the post.
ATTRACTIONS & RIDES FOR ALL THE FAMILY
We walk into the park and start at SYMBOLICA, an indoor family friendly magical fantasy ride which is new for 2017 with a queue to match! It’s a slow start but fortunately we find systems are in place at many rides to minimise the wait. (Read to the end of the post for some queue busting tips). Once on the ride, we sit in a car for six which swivels like a waltzer. With special effects and a magic theme this ride’s pretty mild and suitable for all, unless darkish confined spaces or dizziness are an issue.
We want to cover some ground without too much waiting time so we jump on cute little rides aimed at young kids like THE CLASSIC CAR RIDE (De Oude Tufferbaan). These are a bit of fun and have barely any queue so worth trying out even if they’re really a bit on the young side for our children!
With such a lot to see, the husband and I decide it’ll be a good idea to get our bearings by taking a ride on THE LITTLE TRAIN (Stoomtrein) which takes us on a gentle steam-powered pootle around the park. The impressive station building itself is worth a look. It goes without saying that this is way too tame for our older boys who abandon us and head off together in search of the biggest and baddest roller coasters they can find while we explore with our nine year old.
We’re keen to have a quick wander around the famous FAIRYTALE FOREST, the foundation of Efteling’s success. It’s a walk-through experience on a huge scale, made up of numerous tableaux which delight the youngest visitors: weird and wonderful characters I’ve never heard of like “Long Neck” and “Mother Holle” are displayed alongside scenes from familiar stories like Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. This area is magical for little ones and I’m sure we would have spent a lot of time here if we’d visited when the children were smaller.
We take a relaxing GONDOLETTA ride on the lake and enjoy a peaceful chill out on our self-propelled boat, drifting past windmills and waterfalls, drinking in the sight of lovely natural scenery and wildfowl swimming and diving nearby. I have to remind myself that we’re in a theme park! The sky’s a bit overcast and there’s virtually no queue although I suspect it would be a very different story if the sun was shining! The boat is covered and the roof could offer some handy protection from extremes of weather.
Next we hop onto THE PAGODE and feel like drones for a while as the Thai temple gently elevates us until we have panoramic views over the park. The ride goes so high you can see it from all around the park but it’s gentle and suitable for all the family – unless you’re afraid of heights of course!
That all sounds rather lovely and gentle doesn’t it? So it must be time for me to leave you in the capable hands of a my adrenaline junkie middle son who’s going to run you through some of HIS recommended rides!
EFTELING THEME PARK FROM A 12 YEAR OLD’S PERSPECTIVE
When I went to Efteling there were a lot of attractions that I enjoyed, especially the rollercoasters. One of my personal favourites was The Python which is a fast paced steel roller coaster with many loops and twists. This was one of the most popular attractions in the whole park.
(After a little cajoling, Mummy is also persuaded to go on the python and I’m proud of myself for quite enjoying the experience! Although it only opened in March 2018, PYTHON queues are well managed with the boarding pass, a pre-booking system you can access either at the attraction or via the Efteling app which limits waiting times to fifteen minutes. The boys also make full use of the single rider queues which cut down the queues dramatically at the expense of forgoing eachother’s company.)
A ride which i also really liked was the pirańa. This ride includes a few bumps along the way and water, a lot of water! If you are feeling very hot and want to cool off this is the perfect ride for you. It isn’t a fast ride so it is also good for younger kids. I think this water rapids ride is definitely one to try out.
(He’s right, we all enjoy this one – apart from Dad who doesn’t see the point of getting wet on a ride. I KNOW, where’s the fun in that?!!)
If you’re a real daredevil you should go on Joris en de draak which translates to Battle against The Dragon. This one is another fast roller coaster but this one is made of wood. As you go speeding through the trees on search for this fire breathing dragon it is also a race against the other carts to see who will have the honour of slaying this terrible beast.
MORE RIDES FOR TEENS, TWEENS AND OTHER DAREDEVILS!
We all climb aboard an innocent-looking SWINGING SHIP (halve Maen) but don’t be fooled, it’s the largest swinging ship attraction in the world, tipping it’s passengers from vertical to horizontal like a giant pendulum. This one’s not for the faint hearted. It turns my stomach so much that I can’t wait to get off!
In a similar vein, THE MADHOUSE (Villa Volta), turns you and your surroundings around in different directions, Before long we completely lose our bearings and can’t work out which way up we are. It’s strange and disorienting but not scary.
All three boys also go on BOB, THE BOBSLEIGH RIDE, which is apparently accessible to all the family despite slamming you round over half a kilometre of twists and turns at 60 km/hour! The nine year old enjoys this along with his older brothers and he’s not into super-scary rides.
THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (De Vliegende Hollander) water rollercoaster really needs to go on your list if you’re a daredevil! Once is enough for me!
Our twelve and fourteen year old repeatedly brave THE BARON 1898, a big industrial style scary rollercoaster which holds its victims high up in mid-air before appearing to plunge them down vertically into a steamy abyss in the earth at speeds of 90km/h. To spectators below, the baron looks pretty terrifying and the pause followed by regular blood-curdling screams only serve to reinforce our opinion!
GETTING TO EFTELING
The Bristol – Amsterdam flight is less than 90 minutes so it’s an easy journey for us. Schiphol Airport is connected to the railway station so after we touch down in Holland, it’s just a short walk to the station counter to buy our train tickets to Tilburg. (One way tickets cost €19.25 each for four of us and just €2.50 for our nine year old!) When we arrive at the station, we take a taxi to Efteling’s in Kaatsheuvel which costs just over €41 for the five of us.
WHERE TO STAY AT EFTELING
At check in we have our first sight of the beautiful Efteling Bosrijk Holiday Village: a picture perfect scene of pretty lodges overlooking a tranquil lake with many more homes dotted around within sixteen hectares of varied landscape featuring dunes, dense woodland and open spaces. The Dutch do this so well, don’t they? Think Center Parcs but with way more character than I remember from our past visits. Apart from the little shop which sells the usual pricey souvenirs, the complex doesn’t feel commercialised and there’s virtually no evidence that you’re just a short walk from Holland’s biggest theme park.
We stay in a three bedroom Woodland Lodge at the holiday park’s Efteling Bosrijk Holiday Village, which is in the middle of the woods of Brabant, within walking distance of the parc’s main entrance along a pleasant tree-lined path. The cosy self-catering accommodation is spread out over two stories with a hallway, downstairs loo and kitchen/lounge/diner on the ground floor. The bedrooms and family bathroom are upstairs. Doors from the lounge open onto a natural garden complete with table and chairs and leading out to woodland.
The lodge is a great layout for a family and felt like a home from home. I particularly like the comfy lounge furniture, decent sized bath, garden area and having the bedrooms upstairs away from the main living areas below.
Have a look at my video below for a Woodland Lodge tour.
WHERE TO EAT AT EFTELING
There’s a selection of tasty deli items, breads and drinks at Bosrijk’s little on-site shop if you fancy making a picnic plus there are plenty of reasonably priced fast food and drink options at the park itself. We enjoy kebabs at the park for lunch one day and sample some dutch specialities the next.
Hearty breakfasts and dinners at the restaurant at Bosrijk are included in our stay there.
We choose from a hot selection of bacon and boiled or scrambled eggs plus a temptingly tasty chilled range including cumin cheese, Brie, cold meats, smoked salmon and fruit salad. My favourite is the yummy Serrano ham.
A special low level station dedicated to children includes the sort of treats we wouldn’t dream of letting our children eat for breakfast at home, such as doughnuts, raisin buns and egg cakes (cookies). To be fair to our children, they all tuck into kiwis from the fresh fruit section alongside the unhealthy stuff!
There’s also a wide range of drinks including really good fresh orange juice plus the usual teas, coffees and some delicious fancy smoothies. The big breakfast buffet is varied and great quality, tempting us to linger rather than racing through it to get to the park!
For starters, the tomato soup with its rich garlic and herb flavours is very popular. I love the rich dark brown seeded bread which comes with my lobster soup starter. The 14 year old bravely orders carpaccio with parmesan which he enjoys so much it’s disappeared before I even get to try it!
For mains, ribs are voted to be the best choice (14 year old) – or is it the steak?? (12 year old)
We manage to find a little room to sample some puddings. My favourites are apple crumble and pineapple art tatin. The crumble has a strong cinnamon flavour with the apple cooked al dente. I’d normally cook the fruit more but really like it like this. The pineapple tart tatin is delicious with a good contrast between a sugary, crunchy pastry and sharp pineapple.
Again there’s something special for the children when it comes to desserts. Our nine year old chooses the hourglass shaped ice cream bowl which is served up along with a story about lazy chefs leaving the kids to make their own puddings look nice. A selection of chocolate sticks, sweets, sprinkles and sauces are laid out for them on a low level table so that they can create the perfect pud. On the second night our older boys couldn’t resist joining in with the fun. Chef’s hats recommended to add that finishing touch!
We like eating our meals in the pleasant old fashioned fairytale themed restaurant atmosphere and appreciate the friendly service.
EFTELING HANDY INFO & TIPS
- To cut down on waiting times, especially for popular attractions keep your eye out for single rider queues, the boarding pass (currently trialling on Python) and baby switch.
- If you’re staying on site, take advantage of early parc entry.
- Download the Efteling app for routes to attractions and waiting times.
- Efteling is open all year round, 365 days a year so consider an off-peak break. In winter Efteling transforms into a winter world of twinkling lights, bonfires and snow-covered pine trees. We’ve found that visiting theme parks outside of the summer holidays or when a spot of drizzle is forecast can be a wise option as it tends to make for shorter queue times and a more relaxed experience.
- For more useful information about rides, accessibility and much more, visit Efteling’s website.
We loved our time at Efteling. If I could change anything, I’d have a longer visit next time. We had a couple of hours the day we arrived at the park plus one full day and a couple of hours the day we left which sounds quite a lot but because of the queues, (our protracted breakfast sessions) and because there’s so much there, we just couldn’t fit in everything we would have liked.
What’s special about Efteling is the way they present fabulous attractions and exciting rides within a pretty, natural and clean environment. Whilst moving between rides we admire the views across the lake and pause to watch a duck rounding up her ducklings. The paper gobblers (The Holle Bolle Gÿs) are an inspired way of keeping the park clean, with their constant demands for litter, “Papier hier!”. Kids love feeding them rubbish and being rewarded with a thank you after they’ve sucked it in.
I’m impressed by how Efteling has identified the need to cater for older children as well as little ones. All our children would happily go back as there are rides and attractions to appeal to all their ages and there’s still plenty that we haven’t seen. It’s also a pleasant and safe-feeling environment. We have no qualms letting our older boys go off and do their own thing while we stay with our younger son.
And finally, I second the twelve year old’s words:-
I definitely recommend Efteling theme park to other families!
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DISCLOSURE: WE WERE HOSTED BY EFTELING THEME PARK IN HOLLAND FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN AND I CONTAIN FULL EDITORIAL CONTROL. ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS.