A few weeks ago, I ventured to an enchanted place called the Efteling with JP and his entire family (11 of us in total!).
The Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands. The rides and attractions are built around fairy tales, myths and folklore on nearly 500 acres of lush, green forest (nearly twice the size of Disneyland). Spending a day here feels like walking in to a whimsical, romantic but somewhat dark alternate reality. The park could be a stage performance of how my inner 5 year old imagines fairy tales coming to life - but with grown up perks like roller coasters and beer.
To be honest, I'm surprised with how much I enjoyed the experience. Looking back, I attribute it to these factors:
1) The park is meticulously maintained and built to very high standards over a natural forest. In other words, it's done well and the natural setting could not be more perfect or convincing.
2) There is very little commercial attachment. Don't get me wrong - the park couldn't operate if people didn't buy things and there are plenty of gift shops and places to eat. BUT the rides and divisions of the park are not connected to a major studio release and because of this, I found it quite easy to get in the enchanted spirit.
3) You can bring in your own food and beverages. I even saw people toting wagons with coolers.
4) The food is decent and priced fairly. And did I mention wine and beer?
5) There is something for the whole family from roller coasters (like the Python, Bird Rock and George and the Dragon) to attractions (like Fairy Tale Forest, Dreamflight & PandaVision) to fantasy rides (like Fata Morgana, the House of the 5 Senses and the Haunted Castle).
A few words of advice: naturally, the park gets crazy busy around opening and closing times, do yourself a favor and either eat a few hours before closing or leave a little bit early (avoid the exiting rush) to stop for food. At the end of the day, we were tired and hungry and disappointed to find nearly every restaurant closed about an hour before the park. Luckily we found a place near the entrance with fries and traditional Dutch snacks.
In one sentence: The Efteling is a fairly priced (34 Euro!), not-commercialized Mega-Disneyland built on a nature-park that serves alcohol and allows you to picnic in. In other words, a no-brainer if you're visiting the Netherlands.
If I'm visiting your country, which theme park is a "must do"?