For as long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Center Parcs, but it has always been out of our budget. So when my sister in law asked if we would be interested in going as a group and splitting the cost we jumped at the chance!
We decided to go to Elveden Forest as it is only an hour away and meant that we wouldn’t spend most of the weekend travelling. Unfortunately due to the children being at school we couldn’t travel until Friday afternoon and had to leave on Sunday night, but the rest of our group had a full weekend break.
We had a Woodland Lodge. It had three bedrooms – one double and two twin bed rooms – a bathroom with shower over the bath and an extra toilet room. The kitchen was fitted with a dishwasher, oven and microwave. The lounge/diner had a table for six, a large sofa, an armchair, a log burner, a small flat screen tv and a dvd player. Outside we had a small patio with table and chairs and a bbq (although it was way too cold to use any of it, but I can imagine it is lovely to sit out there in the warmer weather.)
As this was our first trip we packed a lot in to our weekend. At times some of our group split up to do different activities as not everything is suitable for all ages (we had age ranges from a baby to grandparents).
Here’s what we did;
- High ropes (there are two levels, the higher one finishes with a zip wire over the lake)
- Crazy Golf
- Soft Play
- Aqua Sana Spa
The high ropes were both exhilarating and terrifying! I have a terrible fear of heights so was only going to do the lower course, but once I had conquered that I decided to push myself and try the high course (I had to pay a little extra for this). Oh my goodness, the high course is a lot higher and there were a couple of occasions where I was terrified, I’m not going to lie I did cry at one point! To reach the zip wire (the only way down unless you ask to be rescued, which involves them getting ladders to you), you have to climb up a rope ladder that is enclosed by ropes on each side. This part is incredibly high and watching Abby climb ahead of me was as terrifying for me as a mother as it was doing it myself! The zip wire across the lake was fantastic, I absolutely loved that part and I really surprised myself as I wasn’t at all scared to jump off!
To give the ladies of the group a little bit of time off from being mums we all booked into the Aqua Sana Spa for a treatment. I had the Hot Lava Shells massage, it was sublime! The shells are heated to a comfortable temperature and are then used to massage your back and neck. It felt so good and my twenty minute massage was over far too soon! The Spa was lovely and it would have been nice to have spent more time in there, but as we were there for a family break it wouldn’t have been fair on everyone else, so we only booked for treatments rather than for day access.
I think the one thing that everyone associates Center Parcs with is the swimming pool. I was really looking forward to seeing what the Subtropical Swimming Paradise had to offer and it didn’t disappoint. We love water parks and have spent many a fun day at one of the Disney water parks so it was hard not to compare them but it was fantastic! There is a large swimming pool with wave machine (the waves are gentle enough for even the youngest swimmers to enjoy them), a lazy river, several water slides, a separate splash area with small slides for young children, hot tubs, an outdoor pool and rapids. There are cabanas available for rent and a Starbucks in the centre! We could have happily spent all of our weekend in the pools and not done any of the other activities. The rapids were most definitely our favourite part, although you do get bashed about a bit so be prepared for that. The Cyclone slide was brilliant too – it has a 45 degree drop, so not for the faint hearted!
We only ate out on the Saturday night at Hucks and I couldn’t fault it. The food was delicious and so were the cocktails! For the younger members of our group there was a great indoor play area and games consoles that kept Harry entertained while he was waiting for his meal. The boys spent a few hours in the Sports Bar to watch the football on Saturday afternoon and they all said that they enjoyed it in there.To save money (and time) we had breakfast and lunch in our separate lodges and on the Friday night we all had dinner together in one of our lodges.
Take two lots of towels and swimwear. You will want to swim again and again so use fresh towels while the others are drying.
Use the coat hooks in the hallway for drying towels. There is a heated towel rail in the bathroom but when there are six of you showering and swimming that is a lot of towels to get dry. When we went out we hooked the towels over the empty coat hooks in the hall as there was a radiator underneath them. They all dried really well there and it meant we didn’t have load of wet towels draped everywhere.
Take groceries with you. There is a lovely onsite shop but it is a little pricey compared with buying it elsewhere, plus you have to carry everything back to your lodge as no cars allowed on the park during your stay (unless you have special permission).
If possible take your own bikes. There are plenty of bikes available to hire, but it’s quite expensive so if you can take your own it will save you some money.
Book your activities in advance. There is so much to do at Center Parcs but pretty much everything was fully booked or almost fully booked while we were there. We booked the majority of our activities approximately three months before we visited, this meant we were guaranteed to do the things we really wanted to do and it also meant that we could spread the cost, rather than paying for everything in one weekend.
Not sure what to pack for a weekend at Center Parcs? Read our tips here