Efteling. Sep. 13, 14 2016

Europe. Finally.

My bucket list items include a trip to Europe in hopes of sampling a few of the fabulous theme parks along the way. The opportunity presented itself when my partner scheduled a business trip with a group to the Netherlands and Germany. I'm a total tag-along on this trip and after a couple of days in one of the world's most exciting cities, Amsterdam, I said goodbye to the group and took off on a road trip.
My first of three planned stops was Efteling, one of the world's most enchanting theme parks. The drive from the city took about 1 1/2 hours and was mostly highway, so it was easy. (I'm a big guy in a Fiat hybrid with a dashboard that doesn't speak my language, and I think I'm doing ok so far. I've only gotten cussed out once and beeped off twice.)

Efteling first opened in 1952 as a leisure park and featured Fairy Tale Forest which carried the design force of famous Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck. Peter Reijnders, a film maker, applied set, lighting, and mechanics to Pieck's drawings to create one of the most enchanting attractions on earth. It's evolved into a full fledged theme park, gardens, a resort hotel, Dutch cottage homes, a theatre, a golf course, and I don't know what else. Today, Efteling is open year round and sees over 5 million visitors a year.

I arrived about 11:00 and was delighted to see a light crowd. I was also glad to get free parking, there was no toll or entrance to the lot. The lot was paved in brick with trees between the rows. With the enormous Dutch entrance looming, I locked up and scurried to the gate.

I was told Efteling was expensive, but I didn't think so. I got the over-60 discount and my entry cost around €40. Which, btw, included 10 for PARKING! Damn! They got me anyway. Their system is to collect a ticket on the way out of the parking lot, so hang on to that! Pre-paid ticket holders visit a kiosk on their way out to spend €10 for a ticket. Nobody leaves without one. Strange.

Efteling is not a thrill park. There are some thrill rides, though. It's not strictly a children's park, but there's a heavy emphasis. What it is, mainly, is Drop. Dead. Gorgeous. And I appreciate that, maybe more than most. It's (so far) the most exquisitely, perfectly themed environment I've ever seen. The landscaping is perfect and so creative. Buildings are fabulous and no backstage area or show building is visible anywhere. The attention to the smallest hidden detail is astounding. I thought a lot about our BGW (also a beautiful park) while I was there. Also WDW, and the Herschends, and I think this place takes it. Some of the Dutch I spoke with are rather ho-hum about it, but they clearly don't know what they have!

Here's what they have:

Baron 1898, a B&M dive coaster, new for 2016. I was glad to ride this small-ish diver, to see if the forces were changed somehow. The trains are three rows, with only 6 across, and to me it seemed ideal. The elements were snappy for a change and transitioned swiftly, something I think divers in the US could benefit from. It's short and sweet, but tons of fun. The station has a factory or plant look and the vibe is steam-punky. The indoor platform is so detailed one could stand there for an hour to see all of it. The load is weird, there's a pre-show. (Which can be a thing at Efteling, beware marathon riders) The lift is highly decorated with mechanical parts and it dives into a steam filled hole in the ground. I liked it a lot.

Bob, an Intamin Swiss Bobs, and one of the best I've been on. It's in the middle of the park but so surrounded in a forest of trees you can't see it. The layout is unique.

Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon) is a GCI dueling coaster not unlike Hershey's Lightning Racer, and I think it's a blast. The station is beautiful and banners drop down over the winning train when it returns. I rode front and back of both sides several times over two days. Sometimes I was a winner, sometimes a loser.

De Vliegender Hollander, (The Flying Dutchman) is a Mack (I think) splash boat/coaster. It's got a dark ride section, some indoor coaster dips, and a lift to the outdoor coaster section. It features building fly-throughs and a final splash which thankfully wasn't a soaker. I liked this ride, but the one at SWO is better, I think.

Python is a Vekoma looper from 1981 that is helped by vest restraints. It also has a non-cloned layout so that made it interesting. I rode once.

Vogel Rok (Bird Rok) is another Vekoma (I think) coaster, this time non-looping, but in the dark. It was fast, air conditioned (a rarity for the Dutch) and was probably my favorite coaster ride of the visit. It was mostly dark, with lots of helixes, and when the special effects popped up it was surprising. It was far from the most thrilling ride there, but I still liked it and rode many times. The station, once again, was so stylish and fun to be in.

So that's it for the coasters. Not the most stellar line up, but the park itself made it worthwhile to me.

Other highlights were their fantastic dark rides. Droomvlucht (Dream Flight) is a suspended flight through huge rooms filled with fairies, flowers, and sweet scents. The ride ends with the two four-seater cars moving from the top of the building to the bottom in a downward, inward facing spiral. It was rather fast and surprising fun after a dreamy ride. The load/unload was out in the open in a space that included a shop and a small cafe. Which is another good example of how this park is unique. Carnival Festival is a "small-world" type of ride for families and Fata Morgana is a "Pirates" tow-through with an Arab theme. They, in spite of the near-ripoff-Disney thing were well done, too.

Villa Volta, a Vekoma Mad Room, was one of my absolute favorite attractions at the park. We don't have many of those left in the US, and it's a shame. The haunted swing illusion of flipping is awesome every time, and in this version the theming of the room was perfect. It was just like a drawing room in a fancy mansion. The two (count em) pre-shows were long and narrative. And in Dutch. So whatever back story that held the Nederlanders in rapt attention was lost on me... But it was a fantastic experience. Several dizzying times.

Other attractions of note include Half Moon, an Intamin Bounty exactly like Kings Island's. Only this one swings really high, is in a picture perfect setting, and has a long cycle, which is how it should be. There's an antique car ride that takes you on a delightful countryside trip. They have Pagode, an Intamin Flying Island that looks like a pagoda. It's rare, there's only one in the US, and it provides a view of the park and the countryside from the air. Awesome. There's a boat ride through canals and over a huge lake. There's a steam train. There's also an authentic steam carousel from 1895. It has the real European look, in an elaborate building with tables and chairs inside surrounding it and several bars. Enchanting. (Hic...)

There's so much more to tell, (the food was great), but I'll leave you for now. I have to get up and drive to Phantasialand tomorrow. (aaawwwwww....)

Efteling was all I had hoped for and more, it's my kind if place. I wish I had a few of you along to experience this with me.

Thanks for reading, I'll be in touch again, and goeden avond from the Netherlands.

P.S. The Dutch people are awesome, btw, so friendly and helpful if you need it. And tall? Wow.
I'll save the Amsterdam stories for private visits, k?

Last edited by RCMAC,

Cool, Efteling intrigues me. And while coffee shops and the red light district is definitely part of the experience, I personally found Amsterdam's reputation as a city of vices or whatever to be overstated. It's a beautiful place - great airport, charming everything, incredible food and an enchanting vibe. I could wander those streets for weeks popping into book shops and chatting with locals. One of my favorite European cities.

Nice trip report. Sounds like a nice park. Need to add that to the list. My wife and I were just talking about a trip to Amsterdam and other cities.

Yeah, about Amsterdam. It's a "city of vices" only to those who don't live there. The Dutch don't bat an eye at any of it. It's all legal, so away goes the crime.

Amsterdam is lovely in every way. It's the most dense city in Europe, and people there have always lived in the smallest places possible. We saw a two story house that was literally as wide as the door, someone built it in the space between two others. Hallways are narrow and stairways are small of tread. My size 13s had a tough time climbing and descending, that's for sure.
Everyone bikes- you see thousands and thousands of bikes chained up everywhere you look. We have nothing like it anywhere.
We took a canal boat ride and it was a great introduction to what the place is like. Then we walked for miles on a guided tour. Then we had time on our own to explore further. I loved it there, and all I could think of was how great it would be to live there if it weren't for all those damn tourists.

Nice TR!

The Flying Dutchman is an odd creation from Kumbak. The park asked for impossible things (things like a seamless transition from a steep drop to a chain lift with no abrupt motion! Also, they did not want to touch the lake and boats got stuck in the post big drop floating section) and the ride was delayed a year while Intamin came in and modified the ride to what you got to experience.

Python is a Vekoma built near clone of Carolina Cyclone. They built it on license from Arrow and it ran Arrow trains until 1997 when the first Vekoma second gen Looping Coaster trains made their debut on it. Then, Kumbak (composed of ex Vekoma engineers that left after the Vekoma bankrupcy in 2001) installed their pretty trains on it in the mid 2000's. Recently, they changed trains again for the Vekoma vest restraints and it is scheduled to soon get retracked by Vekoma.

The Intamin Swiss Bob got new comfortable trains in 2003 along with fin brakes. It can now run in bad weather unlike its two US cousins.

Vogel Rok is a great example of the Vekoma non looping coaster. It has a great layout and as you noted, the effects are awesome.

Droomvlucht amazingly use a Vekoma ride system. Vekoma also built a modern Caterpillar for the park back in the 1980's.

The park has always been a trend setter in Europe. First Rapids ride, first 4 loop coaster, etc. Now, they are building a 35 million euros (40 million US dollars) EMV dark ride called Symbolica and it should open in 2017.

Ah, thank you for clearing up my misconception about Flying Dutchman's origin. I rode it on both days and I had a few questions about it that I couldn't figure out. It does indeed transfer seamlessly from water to coaster to water again, and the water sections are not gravity powered, but are towed through instead. After the final splash you can hear it engage somehow onto the cable (or chain) and there's no jolt whatsoever, so... yay, Intamin?
I walked the little natural path that winds under and through the outdoor portion to get to it, and it was awesome. Visible and hidden at the same time. It's a very popular ride for all ages.

The caterpillar is still there and I wondered who built it, so thanks again. Vekoma is a Dutch company, right? so it makes sense. It's odd in that it's not a spoked wheel, but is powered along the track by the occasional motor. The tubs are fish and they have a rolling motion in addition to the hills, and guests enter them from the inside which is unusual. The ride is extremely family friendly and could've gone faster for my taste, but it was fun the once.

Symbolica is well under way. The show building is huge, is centrally located, and will be visible and accessible from all sides. It looks stunning, like a beautiful palace. I understand it will be yet another fantasy dark ride with a trackless system. I wish I could try it.

Last edited by RCMAC,

RCMAC said:

I loved it there, and all I could think of was how great it would be to live there if it weren't for all those damn tourists.

Ha! That's what Scandinavia is for. ;-)

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