Irrland, Kevelaer, Germany: Europe’s biggest “Farm-Adventure Oasis”

Today we drove a bit over one hour from our home in the Netherlands to visit Europe’s biggest “farm adventure oasis” park called Irrland in Kevelaer, Germany.

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I first found this place online and knew it was a great place for us to visit at least once.  A few people I spoke with, who visited before, told me we’d love it and, they were right, it was a great day for the kids!   However, after being there once, I must say that it would have been better if we were, like the other 99%, with a huge BBQ set up!  Anyway, when you are not prepared, you make the most of it, and we did just that.

What sets this park apart from others is three things:

  1.  PRICE
  2.  ITEMS ALLOWED TO BRING INTO THE PARK
  3.  OPEN EVERY HOLIDAY!!

The park is open in summer from 9 am to 7 pm so you can really go ALL day if you wanted!  But do check online the dates/times when you go and don’t trust my information as we all know things are subject to change.  Judging by the full car parks when we came in, people were there very early – I suspect to get their preferred spots.

I can spend hours talking about what we saw, what you can do, what we did, etc.  Instead, I’ll keep it simple and encourage you to look online (or if close enough, go and visit the park yourself).

Essentially, it’s a large outdoor park (but not one with big electric action rides like Effteling or Duinrell but more of a farm slash adventure playground type park) spread out over more than 8,000 square meters and split into three areas – North, South & West.   You park where there is space – first come first serve – but no worries, you can rent little carts for 3.00 (with €10. deposit) to get your stuff from the entrance to your bbq spot.  Of course, from your car to the cart you are on your own.  

In total, there are apparently more than 80 different games & learning attractions to enjoy.

We didn’t do or see them all, but here are some of the highlights:

  • indoor climbing park
  • inflatables all over the park
  • water slides
  • VERY, VERY high dry slides – which were unmanned & scared the crap out of me!! 
  • water park area / paddling area
  • floating water logs which our kids LOVED!!
  • indoor playground with corn
  • bamboo mazes
  • various go-karts – according to Nils, the largest track in Europe!
  • exotic & farmyard animals

Here are a few photos from today…

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PRICE =  A CHEAP DAY OUT FOR THE FAMILY!

Day entry is 7.50 pp.  Online purchase allows you to save .50 pp . of if you go with a group of 20 and you can pay 5.50 pp.   A season ticket is only 25.00 per person so if you live nearby, and judging by the cars in the lots, MANY DO, this is the place where families go for a good time and a budget price.   Oh and parking is FREE!

We got there fairly early (10 am) but not as early as so many other families who were already there and even had their bbq started at 10 am?!  A bit early in my mind but okay!  We wanted to find an area with both shade and sun with an umbrella near the water park area so we set out over towards the North/South area though our car was parked on the West – so it was a bit of a hike.   We found an umbrella in a great location, but no table because those who were already there took the tables and benches so Nils found some from other areas around the corner.  It is very common to take bbq pits from empty areas, so arrive early or you’ll find yourself with no tables, no benches or no BBQs.  We found some families with THREE BBQs, loads of tables and beaches.  The photo below is what the free bbq areas look like – you could go with several families and get a group in a row but again if you wanted to ensure you had more privacy or a specific area or set number together, you should rent a private villa.

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Anyway, we set up our towels and a blanket I brought and set off to explore the park a bit with the kids to get them acquainted before we headed back to our area.  We also wanted to get a bite to eat as we didn’t bring a bbq – unlike 99% of the park.  Then when we got to the kiosk nearest out area and it was closed so we had no choice but to go to the other side of the park.  We ended up having french fries (very reasonably priced at €1.50 per portion) but there were not many other food options again as 99% of the park brings their own food.  Bummer for us, but it makes sense.   The kids played in the water for a bit before we headed off.

WHAT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BRING INTO THE PARK

Again, we didn’t BBQ but what we saw was that nearly all families brought their own supplies, tablecloths, charcoal, meats, drinks, salads, EVERYTHING!!  I did read online that they offer the ability to purchase meats and charcoal, fire starters online and pick it up when you arrive.  Much like you were camping, you need to bring all your utensils, etc – but it seemed like everyone who was doing it was very prepared.  Many even had quite the spread including beer & wine in glass containers which might be a problem in the future if accidents. Some tables looked so good, we wanted to join them! I am a huge fan of middle eastern food so the salads were especially delicious looking!!

OPEN EVERY HOLIDAY

One plus about this park was that they are open for all holidays so for those not celebrating the particular holidays, they had a place to visit for that day.    We visited on Easter Sunday!

PRIVATE VILLA RENTAL 

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If we ever returned, we would definitely get a private villa rental – while they have no power, no water, no fridge nor bathrooms,  you do have your OWN area.  Some more private with buildings others are just with roofs – all are scattered around the park.  I’d personally love to return with say the football team families and rent a bigger one or with our extended family and a smaller one. Of course, do a big pot luck meal over a few BBQs. You can reserve and book online one of the 76 villas based on the number in your party (some hold up to 200 people) and you can pick based on where you want to be in the park.  For us near the water was perfect, for others, perhaps near the giant slide would be cool – so many choices.

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Check out their website for a 3D tour – and if you are lucky, like us,  to live reasonably close by, go for the day, and enjoy all it has to offer!  You won’t break the bank and your kids (under 12) will love it!   Over that they’ll probably only like the giant slides, water rafts, and the go-karts but you never know – being the first time there, they might enjoy other parts too.

Irrland is somewhere I would definitely recommend visiting if you have kids under 12. Due to some troubles with groups of kids in the past, if you have kids with you over 13, be sure you bring IDs for them… and see the important info on their site under IMPORTANT NOTES.

While it was only a bit over an hour to drive home, we decided to stay overnight at nearby Schloss Wissen to make a weekend away out of it, which I’ll post about our time in the town on Kevelaer and my post about our stay at Schloss Wissen.

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Bossche Broek Nature Reserve Den Bosch

We are so lucky to have the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve on our doorstep.  Of course, many urban cities have large man-made parks but this nature reserve just south of Den Bosch, across the Dommel river laced with hiking and cycling is truly special though in the historical days it was just a swamp yet valuable for the defence of the city.   You can take historical boat tours in the canals under the city and part of the tour comes out the city walls and down the Dommel.  We took the tour twice and it was great and highly recommend the tour to anyone visiting Den Bosch.

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A bit of history:  s-Hertogenbosch owes a lot to the Bossche Broek. Enemy medieval armies could not get close to the city because the Dutch let this swamp run fill up with water. Hence the legendary nickname Swamp Dragon. The city lies on a sand hill surrounded by grasslands. These ‘pants’ remained wet due to the seepage water from the rivers Dommel and the Aa. And every year the Dommel also flooded again. Nevertheless, in 1629 Frederik Hendrik succeeded – after six attempts – to take ‘s-Hertogenbosch. He built a dike around the city and thus also dried the Bossche Broek.

On nice days like today, it’s full of people out for a walk.  In fact, in all weather you’ll find people walking their dogs, out for a jog, riding their bikes and one day, I saw a man on horseback.

Today the kids were on their bikes and N & I were on foot.   The bike bath which runs near our house to the entrance of the Bossche Broek runs along the street and as we were not on bikes, we had the kids ride on the sidewalk.  You risk a fine when you cycle on the footpath or on any pavements designated for pedestrians but it was a risk we were willing to take – after all it was the kids riding not us.   As N doesn’t yet own a bike, I felt like I couldn’t join the kids and leave him to walk.  I know he’d prefer an e-bike due to his knee (don’t we all) but for short trips like this, a regular bike is fine and required!

They could go far ahead and then stop for a bit and wait.  They are still learning the paths and M is still getting familiar with riding her bike with other people on the path like dog walkers, cyclists, etc.  She fell once but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

We set off to see what the Zuiderplas Swimming beach area was like, how long it took to get there, etc.  Clearly we are thinking when is this cold weather going to be gone – we are ready for Spring & Summer!    Well, we found the beach area and the Zuiderplas Beach Bar – while closed, I’m sure it will be great when it’s warm.   You can park near the shell gas station off the Pettelarseweg, but going by bike is extra fun for the kids and good exercise.

To get an idea of what it’s like in the summer, here is a photo from their facebook page, compared to today:

The beach area was large.   Near the bar is a volleyball area, swings, play structures.  In the water is a a slide in the summer.  Anyway, it looks perfect for after school and warm days.   It would be really amazing if they built a few pools to be like Staalbergven in Oisterwijk, one of our favorite places to go in the summer.

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There are some deer and rabbits which live in the park, but we didn’t see them today.  Due to the special grasslands there a lot of special birds which reside in the reserve.  We did see a lot of ducks, a bird of pray (falcon?) and a few egrets but I’ve seen photos of kingfishers – if we were only so lucky.  I’ve never seen one in person in the wild. 

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Here are a some photos of a walk we did in the Bossche Broek with some friends  – this time we took the little passenger only bridge back.


And a few more photos from the past few months.

I’ll  update this post as we go back into the Bossche Broek and take more photos – especially when warm weather.

UPDATE: We go so often to the BB and I never remember to take photos – but the swimming lake is a favorite place for the kids to swim in the warm weather and we walk/bike the paths often. So lucky to live so close by this park.

Maisdoolhof Udenhout

=Yesterday was nice fall weather and I wanted to find an outdoor farm-type place for the kids to run around outdoors.  While it is no Davis Farmland, I found a place about 20 minutes from Den Bosch so thought it would be perfect for the afternoon.   I read on their facebook page that it was the last day before the corn field maze would be cut down and the corn feed to the cows.  It opens in July so peak time to go is the mid-summer I guess.

So after Soren’s football game, we headed over to Maisdoolhof Udenhout which is just on the edge of the National Park Loonse en Drunense Duinen.  It’s the place where we’ve rented bikes for Maebh’s birthday two years in a row – year one, year two.

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As you can see the corn was very dry and you could see through so not the most ideal time for this type place, but still it was open and so we did it.     I thought it would be more like the North Norfolk Wizard Maze which was a lot of fun too.

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You first get a photo card (one of the photos listed was not present) and a clue sheet which you must read the questions (all in Dutch) and fill in the answers to spell out a phrase.  A few I didn’t have a clue, but once you fill in most questions, you can guess the phrase.  After you turn in the papers to the shop, you get a prize – popcorn – zuur or zout.

Inside the maze there was a few activities including a plank and some fake cheese wheels – based on their skills with these fake ones, they’d never be suited to work at a cheese market :). Speaking of which, I’m really interested in visiting Alkmaar or Gouda one of these times to see the real cheese markets in action.

We knew it’s not the same New England farm, Fall Foliage experience you’d get back home, but it was still fun.  I’m hoping that next year we can spend our Herfstvakantie in New Hampshire in 2019 – fingers cross next year.   We’ll never be there for Halloween due to school vacation, but we could be there for 10 days during the leaf peeping season!!

This place also has kids birthday parties and other themed parties so might be fun to return next season. You can find more information on their facebook page or their website here

 

 

 

Speelland @ Beekse Bergen

As we have season pass for the Beekse Bergen Safari Park and the play park, we set out to check out what Speelland park was all about. The weather was a but nippy but dry and as the park just opened for the season we thought we would visit. The kids enjoyed it and will be back on a warmer day!

When you walk in the first thing you get is this water pistol thing – which on the way out our kids soaked each other so making the drive home a wet one!

They had some giant balls filled with air which were covered by a rope. Fun for about 5 minutes – I thought it would hold them longer.

A few rides on areas.

A big playground on sand with lots of water.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a water area without a floating bridge which requires the kids to pull themselves across.

A bar of course.  If Nils was with us, we’d surely be there.

A set of ride on go carts for smaller kids – €1 a ride.

A smaller kids ride for little kids.

And proper go carts at €2 a turn. These petrol fueled carts are for older kids of a certain height (1.40-1.70 I think) which our 10 year old LOVED.

 

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The kids also liked a ride over the water.

 

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Trampoline park which one minute it’s packed then next minute it’s empty.

 

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There was also a larger water slide which was closed – but same deal without the diploma no going on it.

We did have lunch at the cafe – sandwich, smoothies and fries but you can bring your own stuff.

Overall it was nice day out but definitely a place where it is better in warmer weather where the kids can cool off in the water.  Our kids at 8 and 10 are a bit too old for a lot of this park. I’d say 4-6 is the ideal age.

We have a season pass this year so we will visit for the water area but not sure we’ll renew next year.

Speelbos de Kemmer – Kids Play Forest

I read about a free kids trail walk in the woods nearby Oirschot, called Speelbos de Kemmer. As it was really nice weather and as Bobbi was going for a nap, we took the walk.  Scatter throughout the woods are animals carved into wood which as you wander you will spot them.

First Soren scoped out the trail, as once you go on the trail, you have no idea which way to go as there are no signs posted.

Turns out we found all but two the ‘wart hog and kabouters’.  After we realised we missed a turn in the end… but not that important to go back in for the last two.

Next door is a tennis club with a few swings, slide, etc.  The other direction a camping area and an indoor/outdoor pool. Would be a great place to stay with kids.

My only one warning is for those with small children who run off or don’t really listen well (I know plenty!) Or for those who let their dogs run off lead, I would avoid the path which runs parallel to the major highway as there is NO fence.