There are quite some amusement parks in the Netherlands, but they vary greatly in size and style. Here is a description of the kinds of parks you might find.
The history of amusement parks
The first amusement park in the Netherlands was created in 1933. Many Dutch amusement parks started out as recreational areas where visitors could stroll and enjoy nature. The Efteling, for instance, was a sports park with walking trails and rowing ponds.
The parks were generally located near a castle or a city, and were called lusthoven, or pleasure courts. Then, attractions started to make their appearance. The idea arose to combine pleasure courts and carnivals, fence them off and charge a set general entry fee instead of a small fee for each separate ride.
Where can you find them?
Because the Netherlands is a small and densely populated country, most larger amusement parks are located in rather remote areas, away from major Dutch cities. Although that means that these locations require a bit of a drive to reach, there is more room for expansions.
When travelling with public transport, many of the more distant parks have arranged special bus services to transport visitors to and from the train station, which is often free for people with an entry ticket.
Different kinds of amusement parks in the Netherlands
Amusement parks can be divided up into those with a theme, those that are aimed to thrill with their attractions and those that are mainly aimed at families with young children. That is excluding zoos and animal parks.
Theme parks mainly exist for their atmosphere. They revolve around a specific theme that lets you experience another world, like a fairy tale or another era.
In 1952, former sports park the Efteling in Kaatsheuvel extended with a fairy tale forest, featuring 10 classic children’s stories, and became a fantasy theme park. Every year since then, new elements and attractions have been added until it became, arguably, the most iconic theme park in the Netherlands and the biggest theme park in the Benelux area.
The fairy tale forest was designed by the famous artist of nostalgic and romantic scenes, Anton Pieck. Pieck’s trademark characters include renditions of famous fairy tale characters like the Big Bad Wolf, Holle Bolle Gijs and Snow White, as well as his playful citizens, the Laven, who have their own village in the Efteling.
In 1981, the park opened one of the first steel roller coasters in Europe, called the Python.
Madurodam in The Hague is a park with 1:25 scale model replicas of famous Dutch monuments and landmarks. Not just the buildings, but also the tulip fields, windmills, dykes and much more are presented here, with tiny people cycling through the streets and visiting the miniature locations.
The park is highly informative and interactive, and visitors can learn all about the sites in fun ways with interactive installations. The park is divided into three themes: "Water, as a friend and an enemy", "Historical cities" and "The Netherlands as an inspiration for the world".
Archeon in Alphen aan den Rijn is a historical theme park that brings visitors on a tour through Dutch prehistory, 8800 BC, the Roman Period and the Middle Ages in 15th century AD.
A mix of education and entertainment, actors explain old customs while seemingly living the life they describe for real, in historically accurate huts and buildings. They demonstrate old lifestyles and trades such as weapon-making and basket weaving, with authentic tools. Archeon presents authentic reconstructions of 43 building and multiple monuments. The park describes itself as a combination between a theme park and a museum.
Aviodrome in Lelystad is an aviation theme park featuring over 100 airplanes. Visitors can see the flying wonders up close and learn about the professions of Dutch flight. The machines on display include a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, which can be admired up close and even entered. Special attractions introduce visitors to morse code in a radio room, present play areas and offer mock pilot and steward exams.
The Veenpark in Barger-Compascuum, near Emmen, is a representation of the important role that the raw material peat played in the history of the Netherlands. Visitors drive and sail through historic villages and natural local moorlands. A real peat cutter, as well as representatives of other trades such as a baker, a grocer and a clog maker can be seen working as they did in olden times.
Roller coaster parks
These parks are mainly visited for their rides, like roller coasters, water attractions and other things that give you a thrill.
Walibi Holland in Biddinghuizen has had many previous identities under various names, such as Six Flags Holland and Walibi World. After a number of extensions, mainly involving new rollercoasters such the Goliath, it received its current name. Walibi Holland consists of many thrill rides, as well as special themed events during times like Halloween and Christmas.
Duinrell in Wassenaar is a small park, mainly known for its famous swimming pool the Tikibad. This pool has many kinds of water slides, such as Splash, Supersplash and the Falcon. There is even a large funnel that swimmers can spiral down in at top speed, right before plunging into the pool. The rest of the park has a number of roller coasters and attractions, both family friendly ones and more hardcore ones.
Attraction park Slagharen used to be a pony park, but today it is mainly aimed at attractions. It was the first European amusement park that charged for general entry instead of letting customers pay per ride. Many of the rides have been around for quite a while and have developed a nostalgic status. Quite a few were designed by famous builder Schwarzkopf.
Adventure Park Hellendoorn in Overijssel is relatively small. It caters to thrill seekers, as well as families with small children. Rollercoasters include the Tornado and the "Sewer Rat", and some of the rides are water based. What Hellendoorn is most known for is its water slide park called Aquaventura, which requires a separate entry fee. This 5.000m2 outdoor attraction has 11 slides, and a separate area for the youngest visitors.
Parks mainly aimed at children
These parks aim for families with young children, mainly catering to the experience of the little ones.
Drievliet is located in The Hague, making it easier to reach than most other parks, along with Madurodam. It has a few thrill rides, but most attractions are aimed at families with younger children. Mirror funhouses, haunted houses and shows are presented alongside the standard rides.
The Linnaeushof in Bennebroek is the largest playground in Europe. Although an entry ticket is required, there are no or few standard automated rides. Rather, it is filled with all kinds of large playground attractions. The attractions, counting up to more than 350, include a super slide, a mini-golf court, a water area, obstacle courses, crawling tubes, large, interactive constructions and much more.
Amusement park Tivoli in Nijmegen has a few rides, like a children’s roller coaster, bumper cars and a water slide, but it mainly consists of various play areas where children can play in sand pits, jump on trampolines, play mini-golf and see sights.
De Valkenier in Valkenburg prides itself as the oldest amusement park in the Netherlands, and aims to offer the lowest prices in Europe. Their attractions include a petting zoo, an indoor play paradise, a haunted castle, paddle boats, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, a waterslide, puppet shows and a playground for disabled children.
Attraction park Toverland in Sevenum sets itself apart because it is largely indoors. This makes it a lot less dependent on the weather than other amusement parks. It also has an outside area that’s still expanding with rollercoasters and other larger rides. The park is relatively new, having first been opened in 2001.
Other amusement parks
Here are some smaller parks you can find in the Netherlands. Most of these are family parks, with mainly attractions for children:
- Oud Valkeveen, Naarden - North Holland
- Plaswijckpark, Rotterdam - South Holland
- Ponypark City, Collendoorn - Overijssel
- De Waarbeek, Hengelo - Overijssel
- Sybrandys Speelpark, Oudemirdum - Friesland
- Drouwenerzand, Drouwen - Drenthe
- Sprookjeshof Zuidlaren, - Drenthe
- Plopsa Indoor, Coevorden - Drenthe
- Speelpark Hoge Boekel, Enschede - Overijssel
- Kinderparadijs Malkenschoten, Apeldoorn - Gelderland
- Het Arsenaal, Vlissingen - Zeeland
- Recreatiepark Hemelrijk, Volkel - North Brabant
- Speelpark de Splinter, Eindhoven - North Brabant
- Dippiedoe, Best - North Brabant
- Wereldtuinen Mondo Verde, Landgraaf - Limburg
- Sprookjesbos, Valkenburg aan de Geul - Limburg
- Kinderstad Heerlen - Limburg
Videos about amusement parks in the Netherlands