Center Parcs has been voted Best Holiday Provider in the Tommy’s Parent Friendly Awards three years running – in 2005, 2006 and 2007. And, to be honest, there is no wonder. You can go on a Center Parcs holiday and forget the outside world ever existed, as you enjoy everything from subtropical swimming and cycling in the picturesque forest environment to more adventurous activities, if you wish. All ages have been considered and catered for in superb fashion.
The Center Parcs Environment
The features which set Center Parcs apart from many other family holiday destinations are plentiful, but two stand out more than most. The first is that, whichever of the four Center Parcs destinations you choose, the entire area is car-free (except for an odd maintenance van) for your stay. Cars remain in designated car parks, away from children and adults who wish to enjoy the vast area in which to walk and cycle. It is an ideal setting for a child to learn to ride a bike.
The second feature is the setting itself. As the names of the parks indicate – Sherwood Forest, Longleat Forest, Whinfell Forest and Elveden Forest – all the amenities are arranged in a central complex, surrounded by glorious trees, lakes and wildlife. The views are simply stunning, but this is nothing compared to the thrill a child (or an adult) gets when rabbits hop past your window, ducks sit and wait for breakfast titbits or a deer takes an early morning stroll past the patio.
Throughout the parks, too, it is fantastic to be able to spot the wildlife. Birds of all shapes and sizes go about their business, and inquisitive squirrels are to found around every corner. As the seasons change, the woodland changes. The trees covered in greenery contrast beautifully with the golden, orange and red leaves on the deciduous trees. To see them covered in frost in winter, around Christmas time, is a treat indeed.
Activities for Children – Indoors and Out
The vast array of adventurous activities are so plentiful as to keep the most active of older children and adults busy for their entire stay. But many of the outdoor activities have an extra charge, particularly those which have to be booked on arrival or in advance. Obviously, not every family’s budget caters for extensive extra activities, and this is where the Subtropical Paradise swimming pools come into their own. With relaxing settings among bushes and rocks, the pools are designed to cater for everyone from the tiniest baby to the most active swimmer. Life jackets are provided free of charge for babies and small children to use, and extra swimming aids are sold at the pool-side.
The pools cover all different depths, and even contain little nooks or flumes (at certain destinations) with whirlpools. Warnings are given for the very popular start of the wave machine in the main pool, giving anyone with very small children or less confident swimmers time to get out. But the best part about the pools is that there is no charge, and families can come and go as they please, until very late. What a perfect location to teach a little one to swim.
Specially for Little Ones
Center Parcs caters extensively for babies and pre-schoolers. Each type of accommodation can include cots and highchairs, and a Baby Essentials Pack can be hired to help make the accommodation even safer, and includes items such as an expandable safety gate and a baby carrier, as well a everyday items for a baby aged 3-12 months. Nappy-changing bottle-warming facilities are present wherever families can congregate to eat in relaxed, family-friendly areas.
For the specific entertainment of under-5s, there are activities such as crafts, swimming sessions aptly named Baby Dolphins, indoor and outdoor play areas and the Bumblebees crèche facility. Different parks host different activities, so it is always worth checking the specific activities on offer at the park of your choosing, if you want something specific.
Character-related, themed events are very popular at Center Parcs and are featured in shows or interactive activities for the very young. However, possibly one of the most memorable themed events each year is the Lapland Experience, throughout November and December. The cold weather is forgotten on a holiday at Center Parcs just before Christmas, as the children (and adults!) are treated to, among others, Christmas-time pantomime, Santa’s workshop, singing reindeer and the stunning wonderland display in the park centres.
Center Parcs stands out as being a very special venue for taking a family for a memorable holiday – from the very, very young and active to the older members of the family who want a relaxing break. But be warned – once you begin your holiday experience at Center Parcs, chances are that you will want to return year after year, and most possibly try out all of the parks in turn. And it’s well worth the return trip each time.