Attraction Review: Winter Efteling

We'd been going on and on and on about going to Winter Efteling for as long as I can remember. I've seen so many pics every winter and it just looks so magical. This year with the arrival of Symbolica I made it my mission to finally visit, and with some good timing of money and days off we booked our flights to Cologne (we paired this with a trip to Wintertraum, review to follow) and on Boxing Day we were off on this trip very long in the making!

So straight up, the attention to detail is fab from the minute you walk into the park and down towards Symbolica - there are twinkling lights everywhere and even the lampposts have been adorned with tiny icicles to give the illusion that Efteling has been turned into a beautiful winter wonderland!

At this point of the day the park had opened but the rides hadn't quite caught up (park officially opened at 11AM and by the time we were in it was round 10.50AM). Still, we knew we wanted to knock out Symbolica first so we joined the back of the queue that had gathered outside of the closed gates. It looked heaving but we only ended up hanging around for about 10 mins - and besides, there was plenty of entertainment to keep us occupied. A seemingly impromptu winter-themed dance show broke out behind us, and in front some of the Symbolica characters were entertaining the crowd. Fab!

Pretty soon we were making our way into the majestic gates of Symbolica! The main queue was quoting 60 mins, whereas Single Rider was walk-on. No brainer!

Finally, after months of watching construction and all those sneaky peeks posted on social media I was finally inside. And it really is as beautiful as the photos make it out to be. I love that Efteling have chosen to go so classic with this one, yet it makes use of loads of fab modern tech. Like a proper magic trick and illusion. There are some spoilers ahead so proceed with caution! The staircase gag is just wonderful - unfortunately the pre-show does suffer a little with Villa Volta syndrome in that there are long sections all in Dutch. Which I don't mind, obviously, we're in the Netherlands, but Efteling knows what an international audience it has so I figured they might have made more of an effort to cater that way. Also, the way the gate swings to send single riders down the alternate staircase is super clever too, love silly little things like that!

Being single riders, we didn't have an option where we sat. And to our surprise, we were sat together, yay! This happened both times we rode, so if you're in a two I definitely recommend just chancing it with SR considering what happened with us. But yh, annoyingly we never actually got to ride the Treasure Tour, which everyone says is the best one. But then, in this case Best must mean absolutely bloody brilliant because the Music and Hero tour were equally bloody amazing!

The wonderment is colossal from the offset - I squee'd at the locking door animatronic and pretty much didn't stop oohing and aahing the entire way around. I'd seen POVs of this but there's no preparing for the actual detail and splendour of the ride proper. OMG, the initial observatory room is just magical, the greenhouse avec whale is as breathtaking as I hoped it would be, especially as all the different elements of the effect begin to synchronise and come perfectly together and man, the final ballroom scene! Yess! I was in absolute joy and awe the entire way around, just really good mischievous fun with Pardoes with that extra level of Efteling magic.

But I will say this - it is missing something. I don't know what it is, and I've played it over and over in my head a thousand times and I cannot put my finger on it. Rides like Droomvlucht and Fata Morgana leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling, like somebody had taken my childhood imagination and stories and turned it into a dark ride. Symbolica is beautiful, and magical, and wonderful, but there is just something that leaves me feeling ever so slightly empty and I wish I knew what it was! It's still fantastic though and definitely something that Efteling needed.

Next up we decided to head over to 'coaster corner' and knock out a few more of the bigger rides before night fell. Single Rider on Baron 1898 first. I got back row for this one, something I wasn't too impressed with until OMG, a final HUGE pop of airtime! Where the heck did that come from?! It really took me by surprise and left me with the best ride I've ever had on the coaster. Woohoo!

We wandered past a creepily empty lake where the Flying Dutchman can usually be found splashing through and over to Joris en de Draak. Ah. First queue of the day. I reckon we waited about 35 mins and chose fire over ice. I wasn't expecting the best of rides considering the cold but our rampage in front row did not disappoint and we were blinking our eyes through the bitterness as we pulled, victorious, onto the brake run. Yay!

Usually I'd skip Python, but we decided to make time for it on this visit for two reasons: firstly, it's now closed for a massive maintenance session which will see all of its track replaced, and secondly because Efteling have installed a new reserve and ride system similar to the one Thorpe operated a few seasons ago. Ahem, yh, about that. it's pretty pointless. I thought the point was that you wouldn't have to queue due to the timings, however we ended up waiting around 25 mins still for our ride. Kind of don't see the point? The coaster is...well it's an old school Vekoma looper, so of course it's a little bumpy but the new restraints mean that you get all the fun of the roughness with none of the headbashing. I liked it!

It's not a proper visit to Efteling unless you stop for some pancakes at the magical Polles Keuken, so that's exactly what we did! The park was beginning to fill up slightly and we ended up waiting about 20 mins for a table (which we didn't mind, we were ready for a little break and the pancakes are worth it!)

After lunch we took a while to wander around and take in some of the special Winter Efteling exclusive bits, like various open fireplaces, pink hot chocolate and Vogel Rok with a Christmas hat on! Seriously, the firepits are just dotted around and everybody gathers around them to warm up in the cold. It's super festive, and random Eftleing bands stop by every now and then for a little sing song. It almost made me a little sad that we didn't make the effort to visit before Christmas as with all the anticipatory Christmas spirit I bet that is festive as fuck!

It was at this point that we realised there was no way we were going to get everything we wanted to do done. Which was a shame, there was just so much going on and we started to feel that time was a little against us sadly. Shame. To distract us from our sadness, we headed into the queue for Vogel Rok, which actually filled the entire cattlepen and was spilling out of the main entrance. Yep, it was damn busy at this point. Luckily the queue is incredibly fast moving and we waited about 15 mins. Damn, I always forget how good this coaster is! The OBA! The little bursts of theming! The forces! So fab, wish we'd had time to reride.

We stuck our heads in the tent to check out the ice skating and damn - everything is just so wonderful looking! And again, really busy! Inside the tent was a huge ice-skating area that lead to the outside section too, a snow tubing ramp, a giant bouncy castle and a bar. The scale of it was just massive, but also, the cost. It was just €4 to have a go at the ice skating, can you imagine that price over here? You'd be looking at at least £15, if not more. Madness.

If there was one thing I wanted to do at Winter Efteling it was the cross-country skiing. Purely for the madness of it. For part of the event, the park turn this area of the park, which is usually a little kiddie car ride, into a cross country ski attraction! I wanted to try it purely for the novelty and OMG it was hilarious (oh, and completely free of charge might I add!) I can't believe I didn't stack it, it definitely secured my consensus that I would fucking HATE to go on a skiing holiday. I suck.

The sun had well and truly set by now The place truly comes alive after dark, twinkling lights and the smell of bonfires and the distant jingle of Christmas bells. And pang, a jolt of sadness because WE DEFINITELY DO NOT HAVE TIME TO ENJOY ALL OF THIS BOOOO! Also, an extra pang of sadness because my camera died so no high quality fab Christmassy night time pics. Rubbish.

I tried to supress my angst and make the most of the magic by heading to the fairytale forest, Sprookjesbos. This is always an Efteling highlight for me and I'd got it into my head that this would be even more wonderful during the winter and after dark. Well yh, that was a bad call on our part. I expected lots of Christmas lights and such, and that just wasn't a thing. The dioramas are lit, and there is some cute Christmas decorations, but I felt a little gutted that this probably would have been best enjoyed in the daytime. Oh, and we got lost so I didn't even get to the fabulous courtyard or Water Lillies.

I was sad now...there was just too much Christmassy goodness and I felt like it was slipping through my fingers as the hours melted away. There was still so much I wanted to do! The projection mapping on Villa Volta...Droomvlucht...Fata Morgana! Well turns out we're just really bloody good at timing as within the final hour of our visit we managed to crack out all three of those pretty efficiently. Yay! I started to feel like I hadn't missed out on so much now and was really enjoying just wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere as the firepits died down and the day came to a close.

We even got a chance to catch some of Aquanura as we munched down on some Oliebollen to bring our day to a close. Definitely ended on a high note!

So...Winter Efteling. Firstly, it's not what I thought it would be. I was expecting Christmas decorations on an epic scale and wall-to-wall bonfires and such, but being the large park it is things are just ever so slightly too far spread out, meaning there's quite a lot of empty feeling sections. But then, weirdly, there's too much to do! We definitely should have done two days as there was way too much for us to comfortably take in and it left a little bit of a sour note on our visit. Not that it was bad in any way, quite the opposite, it was just not the cosy magical time I imagined it would be.

Have you visited Winter Efteling? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment and we'll have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,