A visit to the Dutch theme park Efteling is always a good idea, especially in winter. Although you have to live without the water rides Piraña and Vliegende Hollander, the Winter Efteling is one of the best winter events in an European theme park. No wonder that I have visited the park by now more often in winter than in summer. With Symbolica and the other dark rides, Efteling is a rather special place in winter.
As the airfares from England to Hamburg were a bit too expensive for me for the Christmas season, I found a trip to the amusement park a practical way to get home. At that time there were no offers, so I decided to buy a Ticket Luxe. This includes the entrance fee, a short ERT on selected rides (which is only worthwhile, when being at the park way before its opening), 25% discount on souvenirs, a snack, coffee & cake, as well as a dinner in one of the park’s service restaurants and the parking ticket. The latter alone costs 10€, which is why the surcharge on the normal ticket price only costs a total of 20€ for a person travelling alone. This is quite a fair deal; for each additional person in the same car, however, the surcharge is 30€, as they do not need the parking ticket – especially for families with children, this option might not be a good idea. It is an all-round carefree package, very similar to the all-inclusive package of the Danish amusement park Tivoli Gardens, except that the amusement park here is much bigger and you can easily lose yourself in the absence of planning.
This has happened to me at least; such a ticket is kind of stressful. After spending my time with the park’s attractions, I was the last visitor in the Panorama restaurant nearby Vogel Rok. After its closure, I even got served an espresso when all the other guests had already left the restaurant. That was very exemplary – and I was very happy to be able to redeem the last voucher of the Ticket Luxe. The food offered here was good, I had salmon with a glass of white wine and the already mentioned espresso – at the end, the ticket option was quite useful. For this reason, I recommend this ticket option to anyone who can manage comfortably with all-round carefree packages and knows in advance that they are going to eat in the park at regular intervals.
In addition to this all-inclusive premiere, another novelty had to be tested: Symbolica. The journey through the Palace of Fantasy is Efteling’s newest dark ride, where you can explore three different paths: the Heroes Tour, the Treasure Tour and the Music Tour. The special feature of Symbolica is the ride system used, as it does not need rails and the gondolas seem to move randomly along the route.
The general ride sequence of Symbolica is the same for all three tours up to a certain point. On our way to the audience with King Pardulfus we are guided through numerous beautifully designed halls and corridors by the court magician Pardoes. The scene in the Botanicum is especially memorable, where a whale suddenly appears on the spell of Pardoes, the surrounding glass roof gets a jump and water penetrates the castle. This moment is Efteling in perfection and thus you can’t get out of your amazement. In the following corridor you can shake your car back and forth – as the car is also fitted with touch panels and invites visitors to interact.
All three gondolas then disappear into a small room where, in addition to the obligatory ride photo, a kind of mini-game awaits the passengers in the front row. The back row has to be a little patient, as this section unfortunately takes some time. Thereafter, each gondola is released into the fantasy depot, whereupon all gondolas enter a special room according to their tour. Especially the hero tour is recommended as it allows to fight against each other with two knight animatronics or to leave it as it is; depending on which decision you choose in this scene or depending on which decision the first row takes in this scene, the grand finale of Symbolica changes accordingly. Arriving in the ballroom you can watch a very happy party or chaos at work. Thanks to the different ends (only two of them are mentioned here, which I attended myself) this ride has a lot of potential for repetitions, however, you need a few rides before you finally understand the influence of the Symbolica’s touch screens. The room with the mirror unfortunately looks uninspired, the rest is just great; although the ride would have been even better if the interaction had been solved differently. Unfortunately, this leaves a bland aftertaste that doesn’t really do justice to this dark ride.
I spent the rest of the day hoping that the Bob roller coaster would eventually open – which unfortunately didn’t happen – and with numerous rides on the roller coasters and dark rides of the theme park. I was also able to do one last lap on the original Python roller coaster before it was rebuilt by replacing the rails and supports. In Efteling nothing disappears so quickly, especially not the family fun.
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