January 20, 2024, 5:27 PM ·

Let’s not forget to look beyond the United States for travel inspiration this year. Efteling in The Netherlands ought to be on any Disney fans’s wish list for places to visit. It’s a charming park that offers some of the world’s best dark rides and themed experiences outside the Disney parks.

Here are six of the many reasons to consider a visit to Efteling in 2024.Fairytale ForestThe heart of Efteling is its Fairytale Forest. A walk-through installation depicting 30 fairy tales, “Sprookjesbos” is Efteling’s original attraction, with many of the fairy tale scenes designed by park co-founder Anton Pieck. You can enjoy these attractions at your own pace, but each fairy tale offers details that will reward those who take their time to look closely. Some fairy tales include special effects and event ride elements, too. Like the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, Efteling’s Fairytale Forest is a unique, foundational experience at its park. I cannot imagine a visit to Efteling without seeing at least part of it, and as a theme park fan, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to walk through it. It’s worth flying overseas to experience.It’s got the best castle attractionDisney’s castles look amazing, but few offer attractions inside to match their spectacle. The Palace of Fantasy stands in the middle of Efteling, and offers the best in-castle ride outside of Hogwarts – Symbolica. It’s a trackless dark ride with strong Mystic Manor vibes. And if you like the trick in the pre-show of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, there’s an even better moment here.Sometimes, you’re not the heroTheme parks love to create dark rides where guests play the hero. Just climb aboard and by the end of the ride, the baddies will be defeated and you will have helped save the day! But on some of the best theme park attractions, you don’t win in the end. On the original Pirates of the Caribbean, you got blown to bits. On Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, you died and went to hell. Efteling’s Fata Morgana completes this dark trio with an “Arabian Night”-themed adventure. Sure, there’s riches and pleasures along the way, but in the end… well, you saw the end of The Sopranos?Team Saint-Saëns representsLong-time Theme Park Insider readers might know that I’m a huge fan of EPCOT’s Impressions de France movie. I think it’s the perfect theme park travelogue, elevated by one of the best classical music soundtracks I’ve ever heard. And the highlight of that soundtrack is Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 (Organ), which punctuates the final scenes at the Eiffel Tower. This year, the music of Camille Saint-Saëns will inspire another theme park attraction, at it’s at Efteling. Danse Macabre will feature a first-of-its-kind new ride system from Intamin that places riders atop spinning, tilting turntables, inside a haunted house where they will hear on-board music from the French composer.The coasters are good, tooIn addition to its great dark rides, shows, and other attractions, Efteling delivers a solid line-up of roller coasters, as well. This isn’t a park for record-setting thrill machines, but it does offer some great transitional coasters. Start with Max + Moritz, twin Mack Rides powered family coasters, the step up to The Flying Dutchman [De Vliegende Hollander], a combination dark ride and water coaster. George and the Dragon [Joris en de Draak] is a great GCI racing coaster, and Baron 1898 might be the best-themed Bolliger & Mabillard dive coaster anywhere. Two Vekoma creations, the outdoor Python double loop corkscrew coaster and indoor Vogel Rok, complete Efteling’s line-up. Don’t worry about language issuesYes, even the most elementary use of Dutch will be appreciated by the workers and local visitors at Efteling. But if you are an American new to European travel, The Netherlands has Europe’s highest percentage of English fluency outside of the UK itself. Heck, I felt like a higher percentage of people spoke English in The Netherlands than back in my hometown of Los Angeles. Theme park visits offer a great way to ease yourself into international travel, and Efteling provides a delightful place to start.

Efteling is not located in one of The Netherlands’ major cities, but it is easily accessible from them using the country’s extensive public transportation system. You can find directions to the park, plus our reader rankings of its attractions, on our Visitors Guide to Efteling page.If it’s not already clear, I love Efteling, and wish that every theme park fan could have the chance to come experience it at some point during their lives. Heck, I want to go again ASAP and get on everything I missed on my latest visit to this two-time winner of our Theme Park Insider Award for World’s Best Theme Park.For tickets to the park, please visit our partner’s Efteling tickets page.* * *
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