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Efteling Park

eftelingA 160-acre "fun park" near Amsterdam offers an “old-fashioned, less commercial experience," reports Gisela Williams in The Wall Street Journal (1/30/14). Launched in 1952, it is called Efteling, and is filled with “old trees, fire-breathing mechanical dragons, whimsical mushroom sculptures and interactive fairy-tale displays." The park reveals "itself at a leisurely pace," like a stroll "through a meticulously landscaped European park from the past," even including picnic grounds.

Efteling does include "many contemporary features, such as water rides and roller coasters," but 90 percent of the experience "is given over to gardens, forests and sand dunes." At the heart of this is "the Fairytale Forest … a 12-acre maze of beautifully detailed dioramas." The entry gate is "set in an almost impenetrable wall of greenery," and then "a narrow shaded path lined with knee-high polka-dotted mushrooms piping out a Bach minuet." The park depicts a total of 28 fairy tales, mostly Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, as low-tech, high-charm displays.

Sleeping Beauty, for instance, can be found in "a stone castle the size of a two-story house covered in ferns and climbing vines." Visitors sneak "past a life-size, snoozing mechanical guard" to find "the princess dreaming on a bed behind a window." The park is dotted with "more than two dozen restaurants," including at least one where lunch for a family of four can "cost less than $20." Accommodations at the Efteling Hotel are similarly quaint, albeit pricey (starting at $540 per night), with options including "22 fairytale themed suites."