Have you ever heard of Efteling? Neither had I before I arrived in Rotterdam. Turns out that they are the third-most visited amusement park in Europe, and they have some pretty incredible rides and attractions.
First of all, Efteling isn’t in Holland. It’s in the country of the Netherlands, within which North Holland and South Holland are regions. The park first opened in 1952 (three years before the first Disneyland) and started with a fantasy forest containing recreations of fairytales from the famous writers Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Charles Perrault. It has since expanded to include numerous roller coasters, shows and other attractions, all with a distinct fairytale theme.
Efteling has been an integral part of Dutch culture since it opened. I didn’t find a single local who hadn’t been to the park as a kid, and they were all excited to hear that I was going to visit as well.
The feeling I got walking around Efteling was completely unique to other amusement parks. Granted, I went on a day when it was a bit rainy (nothing unusual for the Netherlands) and the crowds were nothing like Disneyland or Universal Studios. But it was more about the raw beauty of the park. Rather than a fully fabricated location, Efteling is cleverly integrated into the natural forest and landscape. Raw vegetation sprawls between the attractions and rides, and a large lake in the center of the park is filled with ducks and swans.
Of course, the park is not all rest and relaxation in the fantasy wonderland. There are thirty-three attractions to enjoy, many of which are roller coasters with height-restrictions. Baron 1898, one of the park’s newest rides, is quite the adrenaline rush. You’re brought up to the top of a 123-foot drop and then freefall into a mist-filled pit in the ground…with your stomach still at the top of the ride.
Perhaps the only disadvantage of the park is that there really is just too much to do, not that every other amusement park isn’t the same. Efteling is located in the south of the Netherlands, 70 miles away from Amsterdam. If you want to really get the most out of your day, get to Efteling when they open at 10 a.m. (11 in the off-season) and stay until they close at 6 p.m. Ticket prices for 2018 are only $42 ($44 in July and August), plus another $11.50 for parking. Worth it? Hell yes!