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Happy Summer! I thought I’d take this day to show some pictures of one of my favorite day trips we’ve taken, to the magical theme park of Efteling. Back when our friend Kerry was visiting we took a train and bus ride down south for a roller-coaster-and-cotton-candy-filled day.

Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in the world: it opened in 1952 (before Disneyland!). Walt Disney toured Europe’s parks before opening his own, and many people claim he took a lot of inspiration from Efteling. The connections are pretty clear: Efteling has different ‘worlds,’ each with a different theme and plenty of corresponding rides. It’s also overrun with screaming children, long lines, lots of junk food, and a few dioramas.

The Efteling lake with the “Flying Pagoda”

The park isn’t huge, and we felt like we did it justice in one day, even getting multiple rides in. Our favorite ride, by far, was Joris en de Draak (Joris and the Dragon), a double wooden roller coaster. The two tracks run parallel almost the whole way, meaning you get to race your fellow riders. We rode it three times, and won every. single. time. Clearly we’re amazing.

Waiting in line for Joris en de Draak

Other fun rides included the Flying Dutchman (of course!) due to a section of terrifying complete darkness followed by an immediate drop, and the fast metal Python. Besides the rides, my favorite part was the cotton candy! It’s called suikerspin in Dutch, which means ‘sugar-spin.’ Figuring there were three of us we ordered the supersuikerspin and were awarded with the biggest cotton candy stick I’ve ever seen! Which we promptly devoured in five minutes flat.

We also took a short stroll through the Fairytale Forest, or Sprookjesbos, where we saw Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Mother Hubbard in her shoe, and more. One display including a gentlemen with a very long neck, who’s story I’m still unclear on. Must be a Dutch one? Has anyone heard that one in English?

His neck ‘grew’ while we watched!

Efteling was designed almost entirely by the famous Dutch illustrator Anton Pieck, popular for his nostalgic, romantic, fairy-tale drawings. They did such a good job bringing the illustrations and characters to life that stepping into the park is almost like entering one his drawings. It was an exhausting, fun day that was totally worth it! If you have an extra day in the Netherlands, with or without kids, I highly recommend Efteling.