As you may have seen in an earlier post, I was chosen to be a Center Parcs Family Blogger for 2014. This was such a privilege as we LOVE Center Parcs! Earlier this month, we visited Center Parcs and were asked to review our holiday. Firstly, here is a quick 2 minute video of our top tips!
The children did not know that we were going until the day we were leaving. We picked them up from school and told them that we were on our way to Longleat. The excitement was pretty full on, I lost track of how many times we heard “are we there yet?”
Finally we arrived and were given a very warm welcome at check-in. We were directed to our gorgeous 3 bedroom woodland villa. It was way out on the edge of the park which we loved. On a previous visit we stayed much closer to the plaza which is great BUT we saw very little wildlife. This time we saw lots and lots! We also got to make good use of our bikes which the children loved. You feel as if you could be anywhere, with the Giant Redwoods and Conifers towering over you. It all feels very Scandinavian.
Our villa was just perfect, very spacious and it had everything we could possibly need. We also received a complimentary grocery pack which was great. It meant that we didn’t need to pack tonnes of food as all the essentials were already there. The children loved the huge blackboard on the wall and spent lots of time recording our daily activities and our wildlife spots!
One of the things we love most about Center Parcs is the ability to let your children run free. You don’t need to worry about cars and there is so much space! When we were not in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise the children explored the area, climbed many ancient, twisted trees and tackled the numerous adventure playgrounds that can be found all over the park. They were basically in heaven! We loved cycling around from place to place and spent most of our time on our bikes (although there is a land train which runs very regularly). We were a little worried that our five-year old may not be able to cope with cycling the quite long distance from our villa to the plaza but he did really well. The cycle routes are really well thought out so that they are mainly flat and easy to navigate. There are some fairly steep hills on site so you might want to check this out when booking your accommodation.
As part of our family blogger experience, we were able to choose a complimentary activity from one of the numerous ones available on site. It was very difficult to choose as there really is something for everyone. We decided to choose the ‘outing with owls’ as I just LOVE them. Their huge big eyes and heart-shaped faces just fascinate me and I think my love for them has rubbed off on the children.
I am so glad we chose this activity, it was amazing! We all got to fly two different types of owls and the lovely Clare was so knowledgeable about them. She obviously genuinely loves them and is so enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge with others. I would definitely recommend this activity and I’d even consider doing it again if we were to go back. The look on the children’s faces when they got so close to these amazing birds was just priceless.
It is very tempting to eat out every day at Center Parcs. There is just so much choice and everywhere is child friendly. It is not particularly cheap though so I would recommend making the most of your lovely villa to self cater if you are on a budget. If you do decide to eat out I would highly recommend Hucks. This has a play area at the back of the restaurant which is made to look like a pirate ship. It is all designed quite cleverly so that you don’t really notice it is there when you are eating. There is a buffet option for the children with all the usual foods that they love. Adult portions are huge! There is a good selection of cocktails and we just had to sample a few of these! My only negative point about Hucks is that since our last visit, they have installed computers for the children to play on at the back of the restaurant. I imagine most families go to Center Parcs to escape the pull of games consoles and to re-connect as a family. Having computer games in a family restaurant kind of detracts from that ethos.
If you visit the Pancake House, I’m sure most children would love the chance to ‘decorate their own pancake’. They have the option of gluten-free pancakes, which for me was a huge bonus! The food was lovely, good-sized portions and I think, one of the cheaper options for eating out at Center Parcs.
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is just amazing! We love everything about it and our children would happily stay there all day until they are little shriveled up prunes. I do wish they could extend the outside pool area a little though, it can feel a bit of a squash and a squeeze at busy times.
If you are holidaying at Center Parcs try to make the most of your time there. You may not be able to check into your villa until 3pm but you are welcome to leave your car and luggage in the car park and enjoy all the facilities until your villa is ready. Likewise, on the day you check out, you can depart your villa and take your car to the car park but stay until the end of the day.
Would we recommend Center Parcs? Most definitely yes! If you can visit outside of peak times then the prices are pretty reasonable and you will have an amazing time. If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a trip to Center Parcs then head over to their challenge page to find out how.
Have you visited Center Parcs? What would be your top tip for getting the most out of your visit?