We take our children to the fairytale-themed Efteling Theme Park Resort in Holland
Efteling Theme Park Resort.
What is it?
This is a huge fairytale-themed family attraction. It’s the biggest theme park in the Netherlands and is open every day of the year.
Where is it?
In the town of Kaatsheuvel in the Brabant region of south central Holland. Just over an hour’s drive from Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
What did we think?
This is a great theme park for all ages – it feels Disney-like and magical as you walk in with music playing around you, but it is much quicker to park and get into than Disney parks.
Navigation around it was made easier as the left-hand side is largely suited to younger children and the right has more for teenagers and older children with more rollercoasters and bigger rides.
*The fairytale forest – you wander through a wooded area, seeing recreations of fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty and some we had not heard of before. The commentary is in Dutch but there are written descriptions in English.
Hansel and Gretel in Fairytale Forest
*There is lots for younger visitors, we saw three carousels alone. There are some lovely gentle rides, plus a little train.
*Comfort – there are lots of shaded areas and it’s big, it didn’t feel cramped at all.
*Carnaval Festival – a nice gentle ride, with music, through different countries.
*Symphonia ride – this had the longest queue, it is a theatrical, dark, indoor ride suitable for the whole family but scary in parts for some young children.
*The Aquanura water show is a great way to finish a day at the park. It is normally on at around 7.15pm and 8.15pm on a lake near the exit. It’s along the theme of the Princess and the Frog. Water shoots out of giant frogs’ mouths and from the middle of the lake while classical music plays.
There are lots of vantage points to get a good view.
Aquanura water show
*Check when the Dutch holidays are, we went at the end of the summer holidays when local children had already returned to school so it wasn’t too busy.
*The best place to start with younger children is the Fairytale Forest. Climb into Sleeping Beauty’s castle and see Rapunzel leaning out of her tower while the witch climbs up. It is a good gentle introduction for younger children to what the park is all about.
*If you’ve got a picnic and don’t want to stop to eat it, you could eat during the lake cruise – you sit on a boat being led around a track for 20 minutes. It’s a good spot for a rest as its also next to a pagoda, which takes you high above the park, giving you a good view of everything.
*A lot of the signs have an English version and staff speak good English. But a lot of the commentary and shows are in Dutch.
*Parking is well-organised. It costs 10/12 euros to park, you pay at the entrance/exit and use your ticket to open the barrier when you leave.
*Use the Efteling app, it is simple and straightforward. It shows you where you are on a map, gives up-to-date ride queue times and basic information about each ride to assess its suitability for your children.
*There are no fast track passes or similar (except for disabled visitors), other than the Python rollercoaster where you can book a ride time.
*Baby switch is available for two adults who have a baby and both want to go on a ride – one queues and the other waits at the exit with the baby and they can then swap with the new adult going in through the exit.
*You can rent wooden pushchairs/strollers for 4 euros.
*All toilets in the park have at least one baby changing cubicle.
*Restaurant staff can warm up water, milk or food for babies.
You can stay overnight in a hotel or holiday home with unlimited access to the park.
Good rides and areas for children aged under six
*Fairytale Forest – walk through recreations of famous fairy tales.
*Stoomcarrousel – a big undercover carousel (there are others in the park too).
*Avonturendoolhof – adventure maze – look out for the bridge where you will get wet!
*Stoomtrein – the train – it does a circuit of the park and there are two stops so you can use it to get from one area to another or stay on for the duration to rest your legs.
*Kleuterhof – the playground.
*De Oude Tufferbaan – classic car ride – children feel like they are driving the cars themselves and even have their own horn.
Older children, teenagers and thrillseekers
There are plenty of bigger, faster rides for those that want them including the Python roller coaster and the Baron 1898 Dive Coaster. There’s a pirate ship, water rides and more.
Efteling Theme Park Resort information
Food: The cost of food is good and there is a wide variety of choice including a Vietnamese food stand, a Dutch pancake house and restaurants.
There are lots of ice cream stands (good value at around €1.50 for an ice cream) including one where you pick a flavour of whipped ice cream and FIVE toppings which get mixed together, yum!
But it was also great to see fresh fruit and vegetable stalls at a fair price – a punnet of strawberries was 3.45 euros.
We ate an evening meal at Octopus restaurant, before watching the water show at the end of the day. Billed as an ‘underwater’ restaurant (it’s not but it is really quirky, dimly lit with moving animals and play areas), fresh pasta and a drink for children was around 6 euros.
There are also nice picnic spots.
Opening hours: Opens at 10am and closes at 6pm during the week and later at the weekends, depending on the season.
Cost: Tickets are 42 euros. Children aged three and under are free. You can buy a parking ticket in advance for 12.50 euros.
Best for: Aged four and above.
Time needed: At least one full day.
Access and restrictions: Accessibility is very good and most rides have wheelchair entrances to get on rides without a long queue. These are available to all with physical or learning disabilities. You must register at guest services where you are given a card to present to ride attendants showing them, then you wait at the disabled entrance.
There are plenty of toilets around the park and this being Holland, the park is mostly flat and easy to get around.
Address: Efteling Park, Europalaan 1 5171 KW Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands.
We review a stay at NH Amsterdam Centre in Holland/The Netherlands
Where is it?
NH Amsterdam Centre is a well-positioned hotel right next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam. It is across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
What is it?
A six-floor hotel featuring cafe and restaurant, gym and sauna.
Is it family friendly?
Fairly – standard rooms don’t accommodate more than two people so you will have to book a suite or superior room.
Breakfast was of a high standard but is adult-orientated – eg cereal options were cornflakes or six different types of muesli. But our children were welcomed with activity book and crayons.
The televisions in the rooms have a good choice of English language channels including some children’s programmes.
Tasteful and modern decor with a light wooden floor, the rooms are welcoming. We thought the beds were very comfortable and a good size.
Bathrooms vary, we tried a superior room with a bath and overhead shower and then a suite (which was a great size), which just had a large shower.
There were good size flat screen televisions (two in the suite)! Plus tea and coffee facilities and a small fridge/mini-bar.
The suite had two televisions
Food and drink
Breakfast has a high-quality selection of food. As noted above, it isn’t geared particularly towards children but the food was excellent with eggs made to order, fruit, cooked options and pastries.
For lunch and dinner, the Copper Pot restaurant does not offer a separate children’s menu but they happily catered for our two.
The restaurant is at the front of the hotel, with modern decor looking out onto the road, park and canal opposite.
We all really enjoyed our dinner there and it was nice to finish the day close to bed for our children after a busy day exploring Amsterdam.
The location is great. Next to the busy Leidseplein, it is walking distance from three major attractions – Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
There is a tram stop across the road with a frequent service into the heart of Amsterdam (Centraal Station is about a 15-minute ride on the tram). In addition, you can take lovely canal strolls just outside the door and catch several canal cruises (we took the Blue Boat company family cruise from just down the road from the hotel, see our review here). There are also plenty of places to eat around Leidseplein.
Location – far enough into the city to be near major attractions but well away from the seedier side of Amsterdam. The hotel is in a great spot for exploring.
Breakfast – a high quality selection of food in a nice dining area. The scrambled eggs were particularly good. The pastries were fresh and there was lots of choice – plus the colouring packs kept the children entertained.
Beds – comfortable and clean in bright and modern rooms.
Value – when we booked it was a great price for peak season, for the standard of hotel.
Address: NH Amsterdam Centre, Stadhouderskade, 7, Amsterdam, 1054ES, Netherlands.
We go glamping in style with our children at Holidaypark Duinhoeve in the Netherlands
What is it?
Holidaypark Duinhoeve (Recreatiepark Duinhoeve) is a relaxing and peaceful holiday park with chalets, lodges, holiday homes, glamping lodges, tents and camping options.
It has playgrounds/play areas, swimming pools and a café. There is children’s entertainment at peak times.
Watch our video of Duinhoeve here and read our full review and tips below.
Where is it?
It is in the middle of Holland, an hour south of Amsterdam, in north Brabant near Udenhout, a short walk from Loonse en Drunese Dunes and a 10-minute drive to Efteling Theme Park Resort.
Is it family-friendly?
Yes, this is a good holiday park for families with younger children especially.
We stayed in a seven-person glamping lodge. It was fabulous – crafted with beautiful wooden frames and interior, all covered with canvas.
Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve
A big 48 square metres, it has an open-plan kitchen-diner and lounge area with an L-shaped sofa and tv. The kitchen has a hob, microwave combi oven, fridge, freezer, kettle and coffee maker, along with plates, bowls, cutlery and utensils.
The first bedroom has a double bed, the second has bunk beds and a single bed. Then there is a bedstead – a separate space up a ladder, filled with a double mattress.
There is one bathroom with a big double shower (no bath).
The children were really happy with the lodge – there is even an extra little space which little ones can use as a small den or play room, with a little doorway – or it would make a fabulous storage area.
And there is a large undercover decking/veranda area outside at the front with a big picnic bench and separate garden furniture sofas.
We loved staying in this glamping lodge, it felt almost new and very clean.
Food and drink
We bought supplies from a local supermarket, plus a few bits from home and mainly ate at the accommodation or made picnics.
But there is a restaurant on site with outdoor and indoor seating area.
Plus there is a restaurant called Landgoed Bosch en Duin, with a play area, a five-minute walk away where we stopped off one day for Dutch specialities poffertjes (small round Dutch pancakes) and apple pie.
*It is a five-minute walk from the site through woodland to stunning sand dunes – our children felt like we were in a desert.
Dunes of Loon
In fact, the Dunes of Loon in Drunen National Park, which formed 10,000 years ago, is sometimes called the Dutch Desert or Brabant Sahara. It is the largest sand drift area in western Europe.
*It is a 10-minute drive to Efteling – Holland’s biggest theme park, read our review of it here and watch our video below.
*The medieval city of Den Bosch is 25 minutes away.
It has a cathedral, museums, lots of shops and cafes, we sampled the city’s speciality – Bossche Bollen – a Danish pastry reminiscent of a huge round chocolate éclair or profiterole but much nicer.
Bosche Bollen, yum
*Beekse Bergen Safari Park is half an hour away by car.
*This holiday park has three play areas including a nice playground near to our glamping lodge and one next to the swimming pools, with a giant bouncing pillow trampoline.
*The swimming pools
The main pool is solar heated and 1.4m deep throughout. It is on the small side but we all enjoyed it – it was a great temperature, not too cold and we were all glad of it as temperatures reached 33 degrees during our stay.
The small children’s pool is shallow and has a pirate ship with two slides – perfect for toddlers and little ones.
*The surrounding area
Being next to the Dunes of Doon desert was a great bonus plus there are some good walks and cycle routes.
The fabulous glamping lodge we stayed in felt roomy and fresh and the children loved it.
*Dogs are allowed if you are camping, they are not allowed in any of the rental accommodation options apart from rental tents upon request.