There are certain holidays that you remember as a child. For me my most memorable holidays were going to Pembrokeshire to stay with my grandparents. I used to love the long drives down to Wales in the car, listening to Dire Straits, and then the excitement of arriving. This would be followed by a couple of days spent on the beach or going for coastal walks. We would visit a couple of times a year, and it is one of the holidays that I remember really well throughout my childhood. Holidays are a wonderful time for all children, where they can gain new experiences, enjoy new cultures and have the time of their lives. I am trying to recreate this for my daughter by taking her on a yearly long weekend to Center Parcs.
A couple of weeks ago we spent four days at Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest. This was our fourth visit, and our second visit as a family of three. We visit every year with my husband’s family, and their friends, staying in the same villas and going on the same weekend at the start of the Christmas season. Some people might say that we are Center Parcs veterans!
We stayed in an Executive Lodge villa which was so cosy and welcoming, it was warm and had everything we needed including ensuite bathrooms, a sauna, patio with BBQ and a daily maid service. The villas are all modern and spacious enough to accommodate 4 adults, 2 children and 2 babies. Our villa had its own parking spaces which made it super easy to un-pack the car, and it was also near to water which meant that we were regularly visited by ducks on our patio, which my daughter loved.
This year taking a child, we decided that we needed to do more activities rather than just relaxing with the family, enjoying the odd wine or two in the middle of the day. So this year we booked a few activities and hired bikes in advance. We originally booked 2 adult mountain bikes and a trailer. At first the trailer seemed like a really good idea, but in reality it was quite difficult to manoeuvre down the winding paths to our villa, and my daughter just wanted to be outside. The trailers can accommodate two children, and I think if she was with another child it would have been fine. We quickly swapped our trailer for a bike with a child seat attached to it, and she loved it. Its great that Center Parcs offer a range of different types of bikes for children to sit in, and have so many paths and roads that are car free for us to enjoy safely.
We also pre-booked a visit to Baby Owls that is one of Center Parcs baby friendly activities. We arrived on a fairly cold morning to a number of different owls already set out on their perches. Some were tiny, and others were huge. Our daughter liked to point and shout at them, as they moved around. The session begun and we were each (including my daughter) handed a glove to hold the owls with, there is no way that she would hold an owl. We got to hold 3 owls. I was pretty scared when the keeper put the owls onto my hand, as they flap around for a bit, but then quickly settle. Our daughter got to stroke the owls and touch their feathers, which I think she enjoyed. Not only were there owls on the perches but also a Kookabura that the keeper made laugh, and a huge eagle too.
The main attraction of Center Parcs is the pool with its beach like pool & wave machine, numerous slides and rapids, as well as the toddler pool. Our daughter is a little bit young for the pool, but she managed to have a bob around with me in the indoor & outdoor pool, and had a little bit of a play in the toddler pool. The rest of the family loved going down the rapids especially at night time when you can float around in the warm water under a dark sky. I enjoyed swimming in the big pool, and it made me realise that I should start going swimming again.
To enjoy our time in the swimming pool we hired a cabana which is perfect with young children. It meant that we avoided the chaos of the changing room trying to get ready with my husband, and then get my daughter ready. Having a cabana meant that we could relax away from the crowds, watch TV and enjoy the complimentary drinks, whilst letting my daughter crawl around safely. It’s also next to the Starbucks which was perfect for me to grab a cheeky hot chocolate.
Lastly the other activity was the soft play. This was the first time we took our daughter to soft play, and she loved it. She was so excited to crawl up the slope, and then down the slide, which she did over and over again. By the end of the stay she was very confidently sliding herself down the slide, without any help from my husband and I.
The rest of the family also enjoyed table tennis, badminton, tennis, rock climbing, bowling, disco, and archery. Center Parcs has activities for everyone, and you can tailor your activities to suit what you want to do, there’s no pressure at all.
Food & Drink
We always take our food for the evening already prepared, so that all we have to do is either warm it through in the oven or heat on the hob. I find this to be so easy when catering for lots of people. We already had agreed between us that we would ready prepare a lasagne, thai curry and beef stew for every night that we were there.
As we took our own food the only restaurant we visited was Cafe Rouge for lunch after Baby Owls, and then for breakfast once we have checked out. The food was good, and free baby food was provided too. Not only this but the restaurant also has it’s own soft play area, which was perfect for our daughter when started to get a little grizzly.
There are a lot of restaurants on site including Bella Italia, an Indian, Dexters, Hucks, and the Forresters Inn at the Country Club, so there is always food available to suit every taste.
In case you want to cook your own food, or grab a chocolate bar, the Parc Market is excellent. It stocks everything you need, although slightly pricier than a normal supermarket. The Parc Market has recently been refurbished and stocks a few more gourmet items such as olives and tapas.
Center Parcs 2017
To keep the yearly tradition going our next visit to Center Parcs Sherwood Forest is already booked for the same weekend in 2017, and we are staying in the same villa. I would definitely say that we are beginning to become Center Parcs veterans. As our daughter will be a little bit older I hope that we can take her to see Santa and the fireworks, and enjoy some more of the child friendly activities such as the disco and Mucky Pups. I hope that this is something that we can keep doing year on year, and she remembers these holidays as she grows up.
Have you ever been to Center Parcs?