I have long been an advocate of Center Parcs, I enjoyed many family holidays there as a child and since having my own babies have rediscovered its brilliance.
This year’s visit was to explore Woburn Forest, the newest of its five locations across the UK, that opened back in 2014.
The 600+ lodges definitely have a newer and improved design, again very sympathetic to the local environment, but looking more contemporary on the exterior with a striking timber design. Inside you’d be hard pushed to differentiate too much as they maintain the high quality furnishings and feature the uniform open plan layout that promotes family time together.
It has long been said that the best way to explore Center Parcs is by bike and with a 12 month old, three year old and four year old we splurged on a bike with bike seat, another with a trailer and one with a tailgate – just to keep it interesting! The freedom and enjoyment had by all ages during our peddles through the woods were infectious – making up games and stories gave a real sense of exploration to what could have just been a ‘bike ride’ and we became a novel adventure each time we left the lodge to go anywhere.
I think there’s a misconception that Center Parcs is pricey and you have to spend a lot of money there – this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes – there’s plenty of add ons should you wish to purchase, but for little ones there’s so much to hand that you can really enjoy quality time together getting creative within the landscape of nature.
Playtime at Center Parcs
Aside from our jaunts on the bikes, my little ones loved the sprawling play areas, building sandcastles on the sandy beach and simply just staring out and watching the birds and squirrels cheekily pinching our food. As a parent, I enjoyed the break from the daily grind and taking pleasure in these simple things with my children – quite often it is these moments in life that make for the best memories.
Center Parcs has always centred heavily on the swimming, and Woburn Forest is exactly the same. I loved walking in to find as many family change units as single ones, and each one is quite literally spotless and equipped with handy nappy bin and baby changers making life so much simpler at such a potentially chaotic moment in time! All the lockers are coin free and electronically locked using your digital lodge wristband so all in all a great inclusive activity.
The pool area itself is great – a tropical lagoon of a nice heat to keep little ones warm and comfortable. For babies and toddlers, there are two large areas comprised of slides, splash pads and pirate ships while as a family we really enjoyed the main pool and lazy river. Dragging the family out the lazy river was my weekend but also to have lots of fun and giggles! For the big kids (yes I am talking about you and I!) there are the water rapids – not for the feint hearted – and three thrilling slides. I won’t ruin the surprise for you but there are plenty of squeals to be had on both.
Creative fun and relaxation
Not wanting to miss out on some of Center Parc’s other attractions, we were literally spoilt for choice for all the little ones. There’s a preconception that Center Parcs is focused on older children but if anything I would go so far as to say the opposite. My pre-schoolers couldn’t wait to get hands on creative and messy in the chocolate workshop with the enthusiastic and bubbly staff, and after that managed to coax their grandparents into the Pottery Barn to get even more artistic.
Meanwhile I decided to use this time to enjoy the spa. The Aqua Sana Spa is the largest of Center Parcs’ with endless experience rooms to suit all preferences with steam rooms, saunas, foot spas and a luxurious outdoor infinity pool that takes in the stunning pine surroundings. Topped off with a massage I was in sheer heaven taking relaxation to rarely experienced levels of tranquillity.
All the lodges provide full kitchen and facilities, however if you want to break away from cooking, there’s plenty of onsite choice with familiar eateries such as Café Rouge and Strada. My one to have on the radar is Rajinda Pradesh, a contemporary Indian restaurant where you can rely on generous portions at a reasonable cost, and also discover a mean chilli cocktail!
The saddest thing about Center Parcs was having to leave. Departing through the gates felt as though we were saying goodbye to our own rural escape that we had temporarily called home, and the kids and I cannot wait to return.
Prices start at £559 for a four night mid-week break staying in a three bedroom Woodland Lodge (sleeping up to 6 adults) at Center Parcs Woburn Forest on Monday 19th June. Accommodation can be booked online at www.centerparcs.co.uk or by calling 03448 267723.