There’s nothing better than getting away with your family, friends and of course your little ones. It was our 3rd time to Center Parcs and it’s becoming a yearly tradition. Every year we go with our old friends from Sheffield. Lucy and I met whilst we were pregnant with our first borns, so it is great opportunity to catch-up with old friends.
Any family who is looking for a mini adventure away or an easy break, Center Parcs should be on your radar. It’s suitable for children of all ages. Each village (there are 5 of them in the UK) is set within 400 acres of natural woodland so there are lots of paths to walk or cycle.
It’s a place where as a parent can relax and unwind as you are so close to nature and wildlife, and for your children they will have best time ever. It’s a place that can be visited all year around, no matter what weather is like.
As we always try to make most of our trip, we make sure to arrive at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest for around 10 o’clock. You are allowed to park in the car park and use the facilities, however the check-in to the lodges is from 3pm. Unless you want to pay for early check in!
Every time, we head straight to the pool first. We have been to Woburn before and as it is one of the newest sites, it has a great selection of water slides and areas for all age groups. However, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise in Sherwood Forest has recently been renovated, which had made picking our favourite park now a tough decision.
Our girls, aged 2 & 3 loved the Venture Bay and Venture Harbour with the pirate and treasure theme. Venture Bay is the area that Bella (2) particularly enjoyed as she is still not so confident with water. It is full of water spouts, slides and splashing pool which was perfect for babies and kids up to 2-3 yrs old. Our older one, Lily enjoyed the Venture Harbour swimming area. It has 3 slides, giant tripping buckets, spray fountains and water guns. My kids could spend hours in the swimming pool with occasional breaks for the snack.
We did venture as well to other areas as Wave Pool and Large/Small Flumes. Obviously I lost my big kid at some point too (sorry I mean my husband) as he had to try the Topical Cyclone and Wild Water Rapids.
After few hours of swimming, we were ready to have some lunch. Each park has a variety of well known restaurants like Bella Italia, The Pancake House, Hucks Bar, etc. Everyone was keen on some pasta and pizza so we went to Bella Italia this time.
After lunch time, we decided to pick our bikes from Cycling Center. I think it’s one of the best decisions you can make while staying in Center Parcs. Our girls totally loved their rides in the trailer. Plus you never know how far your lodge might be from the main attractions, so bikes help significantly to transport your family. Even if we brought the buggy, we didn’t used it even once. After check-in, we just stayed in the lodge as it was very wet afternoon. We had really packed day, so we actually all enjoyed just chilling-out, unpacking and getting sorted in our lodge.
We all got up bright and early as the girls had a Junior Pony Rides booked first thing in the morning. It was their favourite activity. In previous years they did several different sessions which included Mucky Pups, Sensory Play and Toddler Football. We highly recommend booking them in a month in advance as they do get very popular.
The girls totally adored riding on Freddie and Bobbi. They have ridden on a pony once before, but only during a village fair where they do 2 loops around small field. This was completely incomparable experience as they could pat the pony and took a mellow ride through the beautiful forest path. After the pony rides, we decided to hit the pool again for couple of hours and return for the lunch time to our lodge. Another great point and advice if you want to save some money while staying at Center Parcs is self-catering. Your lodge is provided with well equipped kitchen which includes gas hobbs, oven, toaster and kettle, plus all pots, pans, cutlery, bowls, plates, etc. As we always came with our friends we made sure to split the meals between each other and buy all necessary ingredients before coming to Center Parcs (use ice-packs for any fridge items).
In the afternoon, the dads took care of the kids while Lucy and I hit the spa. We had a Spa Experience booked in Aqua Sana Spa. I can definitely assure you that it was the best spa experience I had. No cell phones allowed so unfortunately not much footage from our pampering time to prove it (well apart from the glowing skin & relaxed feeling!) There are six spa zones culminating 25 different spa experiences, from steamy to cool, relaxing to awe-inspiring. I love steam rooms so I was in heaven while trying 3 different ones which included Volcanic, Alpine and Forest Glade. We were even brave enough to try an Ice Cave. Additionally we booked as well a treatment which was a deep tissue massage. I’m pretty sure every mum would enjoy such a lovely afternoon full of pampering.While the mums had the relaxing time, dads took kids to the free Nature Trail. They spotted some birds from the wildlife hide. Then they enjoyed a snack in the Country Club and the kids could run around in the inside play area.
We then headed straight to restaurant for our evening meal at the Hucks Bar. We highly recommend to try a Huck’s Experience. Our kids are pretty good eaters however they have their moments as every child. There is a buffet for children (both girls had double runs) and bottomless soft drinks. While adults can start with sharing a platter before moving onto a selection of Huck’s favourite main meals. The food was delicious and we were full till next day! While we were finishing our mains, the girls could play in the inside soft play area. Always a bonus!
After an amazing meal, we headed to the disco. The girls had most fantastic time dancing around.
After very busy Saturday, we decided to have a chill-out morning (not sure if you can call it proper lie-in with toddlers). The girls had a great fun throwing some food for squirrels and ducks which were coming to our patio every day.
After breakfast, we first headed to playground and to get rid of some energy. Then the girls had a Mini Trek session booked. Positioned just one metre above the ground with the secured harnesses, they navigated their way through the course full of bridges and ropes. They had to collect puzzle pieces along the way to receive a little award. It was great outdoors activity for our girls. We then headed to our lodge for a lunch.
Our last activity of the day was enjoying the swimming pool. This time we had Cabana booked. It is great option if you wish to have some privacy or a moment of relaxation. It was an ideal option for us when the girls needed a chill-out moment or have a snack. They could watch a TV on comfy chairs and enjoy complimentary soft drink. As Starbucks was just outside our Cabana, Ollie and I had a coffee while we put our feet up. Let’s face it you need to be 100% switch-on when your toddlers splash in the water.
Around 5pm we headed back to our lodge. While Ollie packed our car, the girls had their teas before we hit the road.
For some various reasons, we didn’t stay till Monday. However if you plan to stay all 4 days, you will have to check-out by 10am. We highly advice to visit the Subtropical Swimming Paradise or if the weather permits to rent a boat on the lake.
NB: We paid ourselves for the accommodation at the Center Parcs Sherwood Forest. However we were offered the above activities and experiences by Center Parcs. Thanks to Center Parcs for such a wonderful stay.
If you would like to find out more about Center Parcs, check the link: https://www.centerparcs.co.uk/