European Theme Park Trip

May 18, 2023, 4:12 AM

Hi everyone!

My name is Jonathan and I am going to be going into my 4th year at the University of Florida. Over the next 2.5 weeks, I am going to be solo backpacking through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany and of course I have to make stops at theme parks along the way. I currently have one day planned for Efteling, one for Phantasialand, one and a half for Europa park, and potentially a half day at Plopsaland because I very much want to go on Ride to Happiness. I was wondering if you all had any tips for how to go about these parks or must-do suggestions.


Replies (17)

May 19, 2023, 4:20 AM

I can't really help you out with Belgium or the Netherlands, but I did a European trip that included Germany last year so I should be of some assistance there.

Europa Park is absolutely massive, so it's a smart choice to do a day and a half there. I did two full days and there were still some attractions I missed (though I got on everything of priority), so you'll definitely want to prioritize. Europa Park does offer a large number of roller coasters, and while none of them are world class, most of them are still solid rides. In addition to the big three of Blue Fire (launch coaster), Silver Star (hyper coaster), and Wodan (wooden coaster), I'd recommend making a point to do both Euro Mir (a very strange spinning coaster) and Eurosat (an indoor coaster themed to a whirlwind tour of France). The others are worth checking out if time permits, but aren't as elaborate and can be safely skipped for other attractons.

Beyond coasters, Europa Park has tons and tons of dark rides and/or themed attractions, and may be the only park I've visited with more than the original Disneyland. Among these, the ones I'd name as the best are Arthur (a powered roller coaster themed to the Arthur and the Invisibles films), Ghost Castle (a blatant Haunted Mansion knockoff with some grisly never in America scenes), Pirates of Batavia (arguably the park's best dark ride and on par with Pirates of the Caribbean) and Voletarium (a flying theater that outclasses Soarin'). I'd also recommend prioritizing Madame Freudenreich's Curiosities and Snorri Touren, two of the stranger dark rides at the park, as well as Piccolo Mondo and Snowflake Sleigh Ride, which are themed to Italy and Russia, respectively (each section of the park represents a country of Europe).

Europa Park was among the busiest parks I visited in Europe, with lines of 30+ minutes for most headliners much of the day. My recommendation is to arrive at the park at least a half hour before opening, as Voletarium often opens early and can be ridden quickly in the morning. After that, head all the way out to Iceland (it's at the far end of the park, unfortunately) for Wodan and Blue Fire, then work your way back toward France. On your second day, head to the Minimoys Kingdom first to start your day at Arthur, then bounce around hitting anything you missed on day one. The park offers two monorails and a miniature railroad for transportation, which can be used to efficiently move around the park in the afternoon. Also, note that closing is often extended beyond what is posted online, with signs at attractions going up in the late afternoon with that day's closing time. Lastly, the park does offer a virtual line system for several attractions that allows you to bypass standby queues, but don't rely on it as availability is very limited.

Phantasialand, on the other hand, is a very compact park, but it offers quite a bit to do. This park consists of small, highly themed areas that each only offer a couple rides, but the theming quality is on par with or better than Diagon Alley throughout pretty much the entire park. Attractions here do lean more toward thrill rides, with six different coasters (other than Crazy Bats, all are must do rides), as well as an outstanding flume ride (Chiapas), rapids ride (River Quest), and drop tower (Mystery Castle). The park does have a couple dark rides as well, the best of which is Maus au Chocolat (a shooting dark ride similar to Toy Story Mania), and the fun house (Hotel Tartuff) is one of the best non-haunt walkthroughs anywhere.

For Phantasialand, the park usually opens an hour before the rides do, which gives you plenty of time to enter and make your way toward your first stop. I recommend starting in Klugheim with Taron and River Quest, then making your way over to Rookburgh for F.L.Y. and Maus au Chocolat. From there, you can either head to Africa for Black Mamba or Wuze Town for Winja's, then make your way across the park from there. Expect wait times of 30-45 minutes for headliners, but overall they'll probably be shorter than Europa Park's (and an upcharge skip the line pass is available if needed). Also, note that ride lines will close prior to the park closing time...signs at each attraction will indicate when the queue is cut off for that ride. One day is enough to do everything at Phantasialand, but if you love the park as much as I did, you'll definitely leave wanting to come back (it's my #1 park in the world at present).

May 19, 2023, 10:04 PM

I have 2 coaster enthusiast friends who live in Germany, and they sent me a list of parks to visit …..

Walibi Belgium
Plopsaland de Panne

They recommended at least 2 days at Efteling, Phantasialand and Europapark.

They also said, if I do go to Phantasialand, I have to stay at the Charles Lindbergh ??

I have no idea if I’ll make it over next year, but if I do I’d make sure I visit all the above

Good luck with your trip, and it’ll be interesting to see your reviews if you do go

May 20, 2023, 5:27 PM

@AJ: Thank you so much!! I will definitely use your suggestions. I didn’t know about the things that open early so that is amazing information. I was debating not going to Phantasialand because it is a slight pain to get to however I could only find glowing reviews for the park so I will be checking it out. Would you recommend getting the skip the line pass at either Phantasialand or Europa park?

@Mako: I’ve never heard of Toverland, however I was close to adding Walibi but when I looked at the park I wasn’t really drawn towards the attractions and decided to have a day in Brussels instead. I’m not staying at any resort hotels but I was able to find reasonably priced hotels on a 5 minute walk away from the park entrances for all but plopsaland which I will just take a train from Bruges for. I will be at Efteling tomorrow and then the other 3 parks over the next 2 weeks!

Edited: May 21, 2023, 1:00 AM

Put it this way...of the ten parks I visited on my Europe trip last year, Phantasialand is the only one I would go out of the way to return to without a major new attraction. If you're anywhere in the vicinity of the park, it's definitely worth checking it out. That's not to say that Europa Park is bad (that was my second favorite of the trip), but I didn't leave that park feeling the same desire to return.

As for skip the line passes, while I didn't use it myself, Phantasialand's quick pass is worth considering if you feel the park is busy enough that you need it. The pass is €10 for two line skips (or €20 for plus, which adds access to Black Mamba and/or Taron), but you can purchase multiple passes to skip more lines. Do note that it is not valid on F.L.Y., but it is valid on the other major coasters as well as Chiapas, Maus au Chocolat, and one or two flat rides. If you opt for it, I'd probably buy one of the plus passes and one or two of the regular level.

Europa Park doesn't actually offer a skip the line pass, but instead they have a free VirtualLine option available through the app for select attractions (Blue Fire, Euro-Mir, Pirates in Batavia, Poseidon, Voletarium, and Wodan). This works very similarly to Disney's old Fastpass system. You pick an attraction and are given a return time, at which time you'll go to the attraction, scan your phone at the entrance, and then go up a separate queue directly to the station. You can only have one return time at a time, but you can reserve the next after you have scanned in. Definitely try to use this when you can, but don't be surprised if attractions run out of return times really quickly as availability is limited (IIRC, we only managed to get two each day before everything was out of return times). Also, note that the return windows are very tight (10 minutes) and are strictly enforced, so plan carefully to avoid missing your window.

May 21, 2023, 3:36 AM

Köln is well worth visiting, and the journey on to Phantasialand from there is fairly easy. So I'd agree with the above - well worth adding to your itinerary if you're looking to visit the best parks of this part of the world.

May 21, 2023, 9:53 AM

AJ, great info.

What 10 parks did you visit, and what order of preference to revisit, would you put them in?

Seems like Phantasialand gets the #1 spot??

Edited: May 21, 2023, 5:15 PM

Makorider, my trip was a three week trip with the first week spent in Barcelona (plus an overnight layover in Dublin) and the rest road-tripping around Germany. Here are the parks I visited on my trip ranked from favorite to least favorite (numbers in parentheses indicate ranking on my overall list of ~70 ranked parks):

1. Phantasialand (#1)
2. Europa Park (#3)
3. PortAventura Park (#5)
4. Hansa-Park (#8)
5. Ferrari Land (unranked)
6. Holiday Park (#9)
7. Erlebnispark Tripsdrill (#21)
8. Heide Park Resort (#43)
9. Fort Fun Abenteuerland (unranked)
10. Movie Park Germany (#60)

On this list, parks 1-6 are the parks I'd go back to on a future trip if I was in the area, but Phantasialand is the only one that I'd go significantly out of my way to make a return visit. Erlebnispark Tripsdrill was also really good and well worth visiting for the quirky themes and unique attraction offerings (plus it's Germany's oldest theme park), but didn't feel as worthy of another visit as those that placed above it. Heide Park Resort was fine, but it's more of a coaster park and better examples of the ride types can be found elsewhere, plus it's a bit more remote than some others, so it's not one I'd be too likely to prioritize unless they added something particularly impressive. The bottom two on the list were the only parks I didn't really care for, and while I wouldn't say that they're a waste of time, they're definitely omittable unless you're doing a park specific trip.

Also, for reference, the Disneyland Paris parks are the only other European parks I've visited (which was on a family trip over a decade ago), and I'd probably put that in between Erlebnispark Tripsdrill and Heide Park Resort on this list. While worth checking out, there are far better options for theme parks in Europe than a Disney park inferior to those found in the United States.

May 21, 2023, 6:36 PM

Thanks again AJ.
Good to see Tripsdrill on your list, as that was in their, "also, if you get chance" list.
I'm still trying to work out where a lot of these parks are, but none of them seem too far from one another (when compared to the US).

I'd visit Disney Paris, just because, but they've said it's nothing close to the US parks.

A lot of planning ahead, but I'll start being more serious on looking into a trip, in the fall.

This thread has given me some really useful info though.

May 21, 2023, 8:25 PM

Makorider, to give you an idea of scale, all the parks I visited in Germany would fit in the combined area of Florida and Georgia. We went Stuttgart > Rust > Frankfurt > Soltau > Cologne > Dusseldorf, spending two to four nights at each location, and just day-tripped out to parks. For the parks I listed, Europa Park, Holiday Park, and Trisdrill are near-ish to Stuttgart, Hansa-Park and Heide Park are near-ish to Hamburg, and Movie Park and Phantsialand are in suburbs of the Cologne/Dusseldorf region.

Disneyland Paris is very different from the American parks in both good and bad ways. The good is that the castle park is incredibly well landscaped and features some unique versions of classic attractions. The bad is that even over a decade ago the park was wanting for something more modern and the studios park next door is on par with better efforts from Six Flags/Cedar Fair rather than what is typically expected of Disney. I'd put it this way: If your Europe trip includes a stay in Paris, it's worth taking a day or two to go check out Disneyland Paris, but it isn't worth forcing your trip to include Paris just for Disneyland.

I'm going to avoid hijacking this thread further, but once you get serious about trip planning, feel free to let me know if you've got questions or would like input.

May 21, 2023, 9:29 PM

Parc Asterix is also on my radar, hence the Disneyland Paris, maybe visit.

I certainly have zero interest in visiting Paris ... LOL

But for sure, if this trip ever gets further than the planning stage, I'll be posting later in the year for more information

May 22, 2023, 10:48 AM

I haven’t been able to log-in to my account for the past two days because I was not receiving the email code so sorry for the time without my reply. I had to resort to making another account lol.

After visiting Efteling yesterday I think the best way to describe it is a busch gardens type park but instead of focusing on thrill rides it focuses on family-style attractions. I was slightly let down by it, but I think that was because I had built it up in my head prior to visiting it and the review that Matt wrote up during Thanksgiving. There weren’t any attractions I was wowed by but there is a lineup of solid attractions. (Baron 1898 was closed so I did not get to ride it however I am not upset because it appeared to just be a typical dive coaster).

My top 3 rides there would probably be Joris en de Draak, Droomvlucht, and Fata Morgana. Joris en de Draak was an incredible wooden coaster that was way more fun than expected and it’s layout creates airtime and many high-speed turns which made me want to ride it multiple times (ended up with 3 rides, one on the left and two on the right). Dreamfinder was an incredibly designed Peter-pan type ride with more of a coaster spin to it, and Fata Morgana was a very well done Pirates of the Caribbean type ride.

Max & Moritz was an underdog and in my opinion should be the standard for the slightly more than a kiddie coaster. What makes this ride standout is the layout (there is no hill to climb) and you go through the ride twice. The second time through is faster than the first and the music plays at double time which adds to the thrill.

The fairytale walkthrough was fantastic - I loved all the different animatronics and designs of the different fairytales. It was also much longer than I had anticipated and I spent about an hour walking through it.

Symbolica and De Vliegende Hollander were slight let downs. Although Symbolica was cool, there was not much to differentiate it from the trackless rides currently in the US - it felt as though it was missing a “wow” factor. Not being able to understand what was being said did not help. There is also more interactivity for those in the front row that I missed out on. De Vliegende is very well themed but it is just a short ride. Was very cool that I did not get wet during the water part even though I was in the corner seat in the second row though.

The remaining attractions in the park were fairly average. Overall it was a solid park to spend a day and I was able to be done with every attraction within 6.5 hours. Granted, I was able to go single rider on a few of them however it saved me maybe an hour. This isn’t a park I feel a desire to return to unless they were to add new attractions, and it is definitely a one day park.

@AJ - I am extremely excited for Phantasialand after reading your thoughts. Also do not feel like you are hijacking the thread I am absolutely loving your reviews and would love to hear more about the parks you’ve visited!

Edited: May 22, 2023, 11:11 AM

Considering you visited Efteling on a Sunday, it would seem the wait times weren't too bad??

Great review, but for me I like to explore every nook and cranny, so I think I'd give myself a day and a half. Although I would try and get to Efteling in midweek as the kids are still in school this time of year, so that might help.

May 22, 2023, 11:19 AM

Wait times weren’t bad at all, the max wait that I had was 30 minutes. I would recommend going to Python first because they only run one coaster and was fairly slow loading (I saw it got up to 60 minutes later in the day). I found to be helpful and looked at it the night before to see what got busy and make a plan of attack. I would imagine during the week it is not busy at all.

Hoping for the same luck at Plopsaland (Wednesday) and Phantasialand (Friday)! They were offering discounted tickets for Phantasialand on Friday so I am hoping it won’t be bad.

Edited: May 23, 2023, 4:16 PM

@Makorider Jonathan is also a completist, so I’m sure he will be able to give you any small detail you’d like on any of the parks he visits. To provide some context we (I’m his father) spent 8 days in Paris 5 years ago - 4 of them at the Disneyland Paris parks from open to close, not how your typical tourist would choose to visit. I’m interested to find out how these parks compare and living vicariously through his travels.

May 24, 2023, 2:40 PM

Went to Plopsaland De Penne today - it is a very small park. It opened at 10am however Ride to Happiness and Anubis didn’t open till noon, but they have discount tickets on Wednesday's for $29 (if you buy online). There’s also no security checks and the employees barely speak English.

Ride to Happiness is in my top 3 coasters all-time with Iron Gwazi and Velocicoaster. I rode it 7 times (the park wasn’t busy) in practically every row and the coaster is so much fun no matter where you ride it. The slow roll right out the as well as getting lucky enough to be facing backwards on the downward falls are the highlights of the ride, however the entire thing is just plain fun. Im surprised that Robert has not written an article on it yet - not sure how Plopsaland got so lucky to get that ride.

Anubis is alright but can be pretty jerky, and the woodie is a hidden gem. The rest of the park is mainly kiddie coasters or small flat rides, but it was well worth the admission ticket in my opinion. I wouldn’t make the trip over here again unless I for some reason find myself in Bruges another time, or they add a lot more to the park.

I am so excited for Phantasialand on Friday!

Edited: June 26, 2023, 4:27 AM

Efteling has some magical experiences, and Phantasialand offers thrilling coasters. Europa Park is massive, so plan your time wisely and don't miss out on their amazing shows. As for Plopsaland, Ride to Happiness is a great choice! Also, remember to explore the local cuisines and soak in the culture of each country you visit. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in Chicago after your trip, I highly recommend checking out the beautiful Chicago boat tours they offer. Enjoy your backpacking journey, and have a fantastic time at the theme parks! Safe travels, my friend!

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