Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel in the Netherlands. The attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore.
The park was opened in 1952. It has since evolved from a nature park with a playground and a Fairy Tale Forest into a full-sized theme park. It now caters to both children and adults with its cultural, romantic, and nostalgic themes, in addition to its wide array of amusement rides.
It is the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest theme parks in the world. It is twice as large as the original Disneyland park in California and predates it by three years. Annually, the park has more than 4 million visitors. Over the years, it has received over 100 million visitors.
The success of Efteling has been attributed largely to its high-quality ride designs and architecture, in addition to its pleasant greenery and gardening. The park, under the aegis of its creative directors, has always had high standards. When Anton Pieck was asked to design the initial fairy tales for the Efteling, he made sure the park would live up to his personal high standards. There would be no use of cheap building materials, plastic or concrete. Pieck's illustration style, somewhat grim and dark but yet also romantic and nostalgic, was the thematic base on which most future expansions were built.
Pieck worked for Efteling until the mid-1970s, when his position as chief designer was passed on to the younger Ton van de Ven. Van de Ven had already been working for Efteling for several years and Pieck was very pleased with his work. The Haunted Castle (het Spookslot), which opened in 1978 as the park's first new large attraction, was Efteling's first to be designed entirely by Van de Ven (although he used some ideas from joint brainstorming sessions with Pieck). Later, he designed several more rides and new fairy tales, leading him to be considered by some as the world's best 'imagineer' after Disney.
Van de Ven continued his work until 2002, when he retired. A new team of imagineers is currently working on new Efteling attractions.
The Dutch climate and the integral role of natural greenery in the park's appearance and theme once prevented it from remaining open year-round. Efteling's operating season was once limited to April - October, but the park's management, in order to make the park more profitable, began experimenting with 'Winter Efteling' in 1999. The seasonal event, which features holiday displays and Christmas lights, has grown increasingly popular in the 2000s and draws thousands of visitors annually.