We know you all like coasters, but from time to time themeparks impress us with other types of rides. Efteling for example is know for it’s unique dark rides. This year, in light of their 65th birthday, a new palace has risen from the grounds with a new major one: Symbolica.
Rumors of this ride started already a few years ago. Back then it was called ‘Hartenhof’ where it would be introducing the park mascot in a ride. The Pandora’s Box concept of Vekoma was one of the rumors but in the end, everything changed. Now, we can experience an ETF ride systems dark ride known for its work on for example Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris. The grand opening held at the beginning of the summer season made clear that this is a ride you have to experience as a theme park fan or even as a regular guest, so of course we quickly planned our visit.
As you enter Efteling, you walk near the theater and the pond, which holds the nighttime spectacular Aquanura, to enter the park. You then go on the ‘Pardoes Promenade’, once again named after the park mascot. As you continue, you will arrive at the new heart of the park: the palace of Symbolica. Pick between single riders or the regular queue and prepare yourself for the queue!
At the entrance you might get a little disc which is in fact a translator of the symbolic language used at the ride. All over the queue there are riddles in different languages (Dutch, French, English and German) where the answer is written in the Symbolic language. Another way to ease the waiting are spoken notices by the court secretary O.J. Punctuel (his initials can be translated in Dutch as oh dear…). From time to time, you will hear him interact with the crowd by saying to clean your clothes, warn you that it is prohibited to take the “silly pictures” called selfies with the king and compliment some of the more refined guests.
Our wait unfortunately took longer than expected. Going on the ride first thing in the morning is a no go, as that’s about everyone’s plan. After one hour when we were there, the ride broke down for an unknown period of time. They did not evacuate the queue but they informed everyone that they probably better picked a different ride. This left eventually about ten people in front of the palace gates, including us. As fans, we wanted to experience it and leaving the queue could have been a double wait in the end. That gave me plenty of time to make pictures of the gate area. After three hours in total, the gates opened and the king was ready to see us. Lucky us!
From now on, spoilers will occur about the ride itself so if you don’t want to read on, skip this until the final part and scroll quickly down to avoid the pictures.
Here we were in the preshow, O.J. Punctuel reading that we were almost going to the formal display of the king. But then Pardoes appears on top of the stairs saying that the secretary is pretty boring with his list of rules. That’s why he will show us the private tour instead and with a flick of his wand, the stairs magically open to go down.
You go down old stairs as the dust is laying all over the chandelier. Yet, the stairs feel a bit weird and not entirely convincing but that’s just a bit complaining about details. At the bottom of the stairs, you are invited to choose between three tours: ‘Heldentoer’ (Heroes), ‘Schattentoer’ (Treasures) or ‘Muziektoer’ (Music). We started with the music tour as we adore music. The vehicules, called ‘Fantasievaarders’, are very well done and in front, there is are two interactive screens. Our opinion on this is that the added value is pretty low, but children will certainly enjoy it.
The tour starts in the Observatory which is a beautifully themed room. Planets are spinning on top of your head and Pardoes returns to cast a spell on you as well. You continue to another gem of the ride: the Panorama Salon. The main theme here are butterflies and your vehicule moves in front of the salon to show you the beautiful Symbolica. If you have done Droomvlucht at the park, you will definitely recognize a touch of it.
Next is another major scene: Botanicum. Here the plants and aquarium of the palace wait for your arrival. You go in front of the aquarium to see a whale coming down! An excellent animatronic but his tail squashes on the windows making the water pour out! Luckily, Pardoes calls you back and you can safely go to one of your three tours.
For all tours, you enter a special room in the corresponding color. Inside there is a mirror which takes your picture and let’s the people in front play with colored chests. As soon as all the magic is in, you continue the tour in the Hidden Fantasy Depot which holds the three different scenes.
In the Music tour, you go towards a type of organ where the people in front can play with the instruments. The Treasure tour takes you to a mirrored room where a beautiful diamond is on display and you can change the color. The Heroes tour takes you to two armors that are ready for battle as you can see below. You can then click on their movements to declare a winner.
We were lucky enough to experience all three and my personal favorite is the Treasure tour. The opinions about this one are very diverse as some call it the least interactive. Yet, here you feel like you are immersed in a seperate room because of the mirrors. See all the tours in these videos of Efteling, if you want to of course.
That ends the difference between the tours as now you go to the finale via the Champagne Supplies that pop as you pass by. The Royal Hall is where you meet the king who has a Cornucopia full of food. This is truly an amazing, I mean really really amazing scene. The royal table has several animatronics that you can almost touch as you pass by. Then, as you turn away from the table, you dance on the dancefloor with some of the other animatronics. In front, you can choose in which way you spin (but it only works if you both press the same direction). Still, looking around this hall is mindblowing!
That brings you to the end of the tour and in the portrait gallery you should be able to see your picture. Unfortunately, it’s not really on point yet as the three times we rode it, we never saw ours. At the exit, our three hour wait was rewarded by letting us have another ride (hence the second of the three rides that day, with our final ride with a 40 minute wait one hour before closing). By doing this, we passed by the seperate ‘Fantasievaarder’ for disabled people which works with a reservation system. Good to know, if you are allowed to stay for another round, you automatically end up in a different tour.
When you exit, you can pretty much choose any way to go as you are in the center of the park. But hang on, isn’t the show building pretty ugly then and hard to hide? Especially since the panorama tower, Pagode, is right next to it? Well Efteling did realize that too so they themed pretty much every side. Plus, the roof is a beautiful garden with solar panels, combining theming with green energy. An excellent choice!
So I guess you can predict our verdict, Symbolica is a wonderful addition for the park and a ride for all ages. A dark ride, in my opinion, better than Ratatouille at Disneyland Paris, as it combines the classic with the new. The three tours are not as different as expected, but that doesn’t change the fact that being able to choose between them is awesome.
By the way, another reason why the Treasure tour is the better one is that it always takes you to the center of each scene. So it also gives you the best view! What they need to work on is the interactivity as it is not always very clear what to do. By ignoring that option however, the ride experience is perfectly fine. This theme park is one of those in Europe to watch cause as it continues to grow, it proves itself worthy as being one of the best theme parks in the world.
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