So it’s that time of year again when we make our annual trip to Center Parcs in Longleat Forest.
We’ve been doing this since our eldest child was just six months old and she’s now 13 and our family has grown to include another two children.
Day 1 – We’re here!
As we drive through the trees towards the welcome lodge the excited squeals fill the car! We are met with a very cheerful member of staff to go through the check in process.
It’s quick and easy as we have checked in online prior to our arrival (something definitely worth doing)
We’re here pretty early (11.30 am) to make the most of our holiday. Although we can’t check into our accommodation until 3pm there’s plenty to do for a couple of hours. We decide to head down to the sports café for some lunch.
Although it’s quite a walk we stop off at some of the parks en route and the children are quite happy.
The parks are amazing, they cater for all ages (even grown-ups!) and they are all blotted throughout the resort so you’re never far away from a park!
We arrive at the sports café and although it’s quite busy we have no problem finding a table and we are able to order our food relatively quickly. It arrives pretty quickly too and everyone is happy.
The Sports Café itself is a great place to eat with kids, there is a soft play area, colouring mats/crayons and sky sports on all the time for those who like their sport.
It’s definitely not a place for a romantic place for two though! The food itself is lovely, nothing too fancy but nice nevertheless. My only criticism of eating out at Center Parcs is that it is not cheap, especially for a family of six (we’ve brought granny with us!)
We tend to bring food with us for a couple of evening meals and go to the onsite supermarket (Parcmarket) for food for lunchtimes. The supermarket is very well stocked and the children always enjoy having a mini trolley to help with the shopping!
The time soon passes and we are able to check into our lodge. We have found a system that works for us here (years of practise!) Hubby walks back to the car park to collect the car while we locate the lodge and meet him there! For the last few years we have chosen to stay near the lake.
We always find it’s best to pay a little bit extra on booking to choose a specific location/lodge.
This year we decide to have a change and book to stay up in pine, near (ish) to the plaza.
We find our lodge and everything is ready for us. The children head straight to the giant wall blackboard to add their artwork to it! (Every year we say we must get one of these at home as they love it!)
The lodges are nice enough, there is everything that’s required in them for us, though it would be handy to have some kiddie-size coat hangers in the wardrobe to hang the small clothes on!
In the past we have ordered food at the supermarket to be delivered to the lodge and this was in the lodge when we got there and all put away which was brilliant. Once we’ve unpacked our first priority is always to head to the pool.
We arrive at the pool at four ish and it’s not too busy at all. I tend to head to the female communal changing room with the girls and hubby to the men’s with our son. There are family changing cubicles but in all honesty they are tiny!!!
The pool is fantastic, it caters for all ages. There are big slides for older children and the brave grown-ups and the rapids are a firm favourite with our family. I love the separate areas for younger children. There are two, one for very young children (with a couple of small slides and very shallow pools) and one for slightly older children/toddlers (with a flume and bigger slide)
The outside pool is great too. It’s so warm and when it’s dark there are lovely lit up trees surrounding it.
There’s a freezing cold plunge pool for those who are brave enough but in all honesty I’m definitely NOT! At the pool there are lots of different sized swimming vests for the non-swimmers to use free of charge, which saves having to bring your own which is great.
There is also a place to buy inflatables, swim nappies, goggles etc pool side. After a couple of hours we are ready to get out as it’s time for some dinner. We feel pretty smug that we have got the whole showering/dressing process sussed now and so hysteria is minimal (this was not always the case).
We tend to bring towels and shampoo into the pool area(leave it on one of the seats around the pool) so we can shower straight away. A pound in the big people dryers (or whatever they are called) is money well spent as it feels pretty chilly when you leave the pool (probably only because it’s so warm in there) and they do a good job of drying us off, so save having a load of soaking wet heavy towels to carry back.
We decide to eat in on the first evening and have brought everything we need for that. After dinner the children play for a bit while we clear up and it’s not long before the little ones are ready for bed. Fresh air + swimming = very sleepy children!
We light the fire in the lodge and enjoy a glass of wine, though we only have a couple as it’s certainly not the kind of holiday where you would want to be even remotely hungover! It’s not long before we are ready for our beds. Sleep is blissful, the beds are super comfy.
Day 2 – Lets get active
Day 2 involves lots more activities. We swim, go to park and roller skate! The roller disco is great fun and I have to say I have still got it! The children are pretty impressed to see mum and granny whizzing round. Hubby declines to join in and instead opts to sit in Starbucks and enjoy a coffee.
Granny kindly volunteers to babysit that evening so we book a table at Café Rouge. It’s lovely in the Plaza in the evening as there are lots of pretty coloured lights lighting up the trees.
Café Rouge is nicely laid out. The tables are scattered around. Some of them are near the little stream. The staff are very attentive but not annoyingly so.
We order drinks and food and it’s not long before our starters arrive. We both opt for pate and it’s delicious! The main doesn’t fail to disappoint either (hubby has steak, I have chicken) , it’s really, really good!
We’re so full we decide not to have desert, though we do manage another glass of wine! It feels like real treat to have a meal that is definitely better than anything we could cook at home.
Day 3 – Just relax
Day three involves a trip to the Aqua Sauna Spa for me and granny. We’ve been before a couple of times. It is absolutely blissful. It has 15 different rooms, from hot and cold to soothing and meditative. There’s also an area to lie and relax and take a snooze or read a magazine.
There is an extensive range of treatments available from massages to beauty treatments, I opted for a hot stone massage and it was heavenly!
The only thing I would say is that the treatments are quite pricey, £45 for 25 minutes. I could have done without the five minute sales pitch at the end too.
The spa entry itself seems like better value though at £42 for three hours. If all that relaxation has made you peckish then you enjoy some of the delicious Mediterranean cuisine at the Vitale Café Bar. We didn’t eat here this time but we have in the past and it was yummy.
After three hours (which passes surprisingly quickly) we head back out into the slightly chilly March air and head back to the lodge. We decide to take the land train as we are far too sleepy to walk!
The land train is fab by the way! It comes every twenty minutes from various locations, and is very handy when you have tired children and lots of swimming bags or shopping.
That evening we decide to eat out as a family and head to the family friendly ‘Hucks’. We’ve pre-booked as it’s a very popular choice with families. The food here has an American and Mexican twist. There are also menus for gluten-free, lactose-free and Vegan requirements.
There is also a special children’s buffet where the children can help themselves to their favourite food which is a big hit. There is also the option for children to have half portions of meals on the adult menu which is great. Service is really good, despite the staff being very busy.
The food is good. There is a great soft play area for the kids and a bank of iMacs to keep them entertained in between courses. There’s also a microwave, bottle-warmer and choice of baby food for those who need it.
We head back with three sleepy children and bed calls for all of us pretty quickly! It’s our last day tomorrow so we need a good night’s rest!
Day 4 – Time to say goodbye
On our final day we have booked the children in to do some pottery. We think we have created pretty talented kids so we are expecting great things….The pottery class is based in the village square.
Parents must accompany their children to the session. The children all enjoyed this activity, despite their different ages. They produced some beautiful pots (well kind of) which we will treasure forever!
Just be aware that the cost of the pottery class session does not actually include your pot, you have to pay extra to take it home!!!
The rest of the day involves den building and chilling out at the lodge. We decide to have one last swim that evening. It lovely in the pool at night, especially the outdoor pool. This is the only time during our stay though that the pool has been busy (everyone obviously has the same idea).
We are off home in the morning. We’ve had a fantastic time as usual. We will never tire of Center Parcs as there’s loads to do. As the children get older we will probably book more of the outdoor activities and I look forward to the days when I can go to the spa with my daughters! For now though we head home, with lots more fantastic memories to add to the collection!!
See you next year CP’s!
Center Parcs booking information
For latest availability and prices and more information on a Center Parcs break please visit the Center Parcs website.