This post has been a little bit of a long time coming as I was meant to start it off by writing about how we have just come back from Center Parcs in Longleat Forest, but it’s been over a month since we went now!
It was our second time going to Center Parcs and we absolutely love it. Covid put a stop to us going in 2020 but we finally managed to go at the end of May 2022. I only wish that we had started going when the kids were younger as they would have loved it BUT there is still plenty to do there.
We went to Center Parcs on a Monday to Friday break, and we did take the kids out of school for the week before half term for it as we prefer a quieter, slower holiday as a family in general and Jac and Anest are not huge fans of crowds or a lot of noise (I’m not either if I am being honest!).
Check in to the lodge is at 4pm, last time we paid for an early check in (2pm) but that wasn’t an option this time due to covid. However, you can access the park from 10am on so we tried to get there as early as we could – we arrived just before lunch. Checkout is 10am, but you can stay on the park and use all the facilities until midnight on check out day.
The nice thing about Center Parcs is that there are activities for all ages. We did make sure we booked everything before we went, especially swimming! As we didn’t want to get there and find out things were fully booked (especially since covid!). Luckily everything we wanted to do we were able to book.
We tend to prefer a slower paced holiday, so we aimed for swimming every day and one activity just so we weren’t rushing around from one thing to the next and it gave us some time to just relax in the cabin in between or go for a nice walk in the evenings.
It did work well, although it felt a bit more rushed than last time even though we did roughly the same amount of activities because we were conscious of the times we had booked. I think next time it would be nicer to not book the swimming and just go when we all feel like going as on a few days it would have been nice to have an extra hour of slouching before we left for swimming.
Just as a side note, at the time we went you had to book swimming unless you wanted to risk it and go after 6pm where it was first-come-first-served but that has been taken away now and you no longer need to book for swimming. Swimming was top of the kids lists for activities they wanted to do so that’s why we made sure we booked during the day.
One of the nice things about Center Parcs is that all the activities finish by about 6/7pm, the swimming pool in open until 9pm but the evenings are quiet there. It just has a getting back into nature and slowing down vibe in the evenings which is lovely.
The restaurants are open until later, but there aren’t any clubhouses or bars (except in the restaurants) there, it’s just not that sort of place.
We stayed in a new style woodland lodge (number 204), I did request that area as it is where we stayed last time and it was lovely and quiet on the outskirts of the park. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the pool and the main area and about 20 minutes to the lake.
Although it took a LOT longer last time when the kids had littler legs!
The lodge we stayed in was just a normal lodge, we are not quite at the stage where we need an adapted one but it is something we will need in the future. They seemed to be closer to the main parts of the park and they had disabled parking outside of them.
Center Parcs is a car free zone, so it is a very walking heavy holiday (which we love!).
If you are not a huge walking fan, you can hire bikes to cycle around (or take your own to save some money!). We haven’t hired bikes in center parcs yet, but perhaps we will next time and it gives the older two the option of going off for a cycle on their own.
Our lodge was lovely, we were in a ‘terrace’ of 5 lodges, but they are all angled slightly so if you are sitting outside around the back you do have a bit of privacy. There was a patio table and chairs and a bbq outside (although you do need to buy a bbq tray to go on the bbq and they sell these in the on-site shop).
We stayed in a three bedroom lodge, there was a double room and two twins. The main bedroom has a TV, but the other bedrooms do not. The bedrooms are minimally furnished. They all had a very generous, single sized wardrobe either side of the room – one had shelves and the other had hanging space. All the rooms had a small ‘dressing table’ with a mirror, stool and a hairdryer.
The bathroom is a nice size, with a shower over the bath and plenty of space in them. There was also a second small toilet room with a sink in the lodge.
The living room, dining room and kitchen is all open plan but the kitchen area creates a divide for the areas. The lodge is spacious but small at the same time.
We had room to park our wheelchair inside without it being in the way and that is always a bonus! There was also a utility room with a hoover and the boiler etc in, there was room in there for us to park our second wheelchair.
Utensil wise, we had everything we needed although there was minimal amounts of everything (like teaspoons) and there was only one scissors, we are a very scissor heavy family we use it for a lot of kitchen things that normal people would probably use a knife for! And we use it for things with Anest so that may be something to bear in mind if you don’t want to keep cleaning the scissors.
There was a dishwasher which is always a bonus – so remember to take dishwasher tablets! They did provide two, and a tiny sachet of fairy liquid (equivalent) so it may be a good idea to take these from home to save a bit of money.
My favourite part about the lodge was the woodland animals. We had a cheeky squirrel that spent all it’s time trying to get in, so Anest was enjoying chucking snacks out to him. Last time we went there was a duck doing the same but we didn’t have any ducks this time! We did see quite a few rabbits in the distance though.
There were loads of deers too, one was coming really close to our patio area, it didn’t seem phased at all that we were there!
We picked some up from the shop. The shop is really well stocked. Price wise it is on the expensive side, but it is what you expect when you are on holiday. We did do a click and collect in the closest Morrisons (about 5-10 minute drive from Longleat) so we didn’t do a big shop in the on-site shop but we did go in a couple of times a day to pick up bits – mainly Krispy Kreme Donuts!
The shop has little child sized trolleys too which is perfect for kids to push around!
Eating out and Dining In
When we go on holiday, we always eat breakfast at ‘home’ and usually lunch, then for evening meal we either get a takeaway or eat food out.
So this break was no different.
A few places offer ‘dining in’ options where they deliver to your lodge, we had thought initially this was the full menu, but it was a limited menu. You could basically order a chinese style takeaway, an indian, or there was another option where you could get burgers, southern fried chicken etc. We did this for three of the nights and on the fourth night we went to the on-site Bella Italia and had a meal out which was lovely.
We did go to the sports bar for lunch the day we were leaving, and that was really nice too. The sports bar is away from the main bit, it’s down by the lake and it was a bit of a calmer more laid back vibe – although I do imagine that could change depending on what sport is being shown on the TV!
There are loads of places to choose from to go out for food.
The food is a bit pricey but it is nice to not have to cook whilst on holiday!
There is a starbucks on site too.
Activities and the Pool
Most of the activities we booked were in the morning, I booked the start at 10-10.30am slots so the kids could have a bit of a lie in, but we weren’t wasting the day either!
On the Monday we went on an electric boat in the afternoon, the kids enjoyed and it was quite a nice activity to do while we were waiting to access the lodge (at 4pm).
On the Tuesday, Mali did an inflatable obstacle course on the lake, she really enjoyed it, although she did end up losing a shoe and they had to speed boat a new one out to her!
Jac was booked in to do it but he changed his mind – we were given our money back but we were offered to put it towards another activity if we had wanted to. It was a shame as he would have loved it (it wasn’t there when we went last time), but there were a lot of younger kids doing it and he would be been one of the eldest doing it so it’s understandable why he didn’t want to. I guess that is one of the down sides of going during term-time is that there does tend to be more younger aged kids than older ones.
On the Wednesday, James, Jac and Mali went to try out some archery, they all really enjoyed it and Mali hit a meerkat in the head which the man had never seen done before, so she was very pleased with that!
James and Jac both really enjoyed it too.
Then on the Thursday, Jac and Mali did the high ropes obstacle course. Jac did this last time but Mali didn’t, but she did do the smaller one, so she was chuffed to be doing it this time. They both loved it, and they both loved the huge zip line over the lake at the end so I imagine it’s one of those activities that we will be booking in every time we go!
In the afternoon, James, Jac and Mali went paddle boarding which they have all been talking about trying for ages so they really enjoyed that. Then later on in the evening, James and the older two went to the pool but me and Anest stayed behind.
On the Friday we didn’t do swimming because we would be leaving in the afternoon, you can stay in the park until midnight if you want to, so it was just personal preference that we didn’t. In the morning we checked out of the lodge and went to do some Ten pin bowling, Anest enjoyed putting the ball down the ramp. We had lunch in the sport’s plaza and then Anest and Mali did some Teddy Bear making.
The lady who did the bear making was really lovely, and she went out of her way to make sure Anest was involved throughout. She did put the pedal for the stuffing machine on Anest’s foot support for her to press it but Anest wasn’t fussed – she did offer her to do it with her hand but that creeped Anest out a bit too much so Mali did it for her.
While there are loads of activities in Center parcs that Anest could have done, we did try to keep it to a minimum not to overwhelm her. Anest could have done the smaller high ropes course as the man told us last time that they have specially adapted harnesses etc for disabled people to take part, but it’s not something that Anest would enjoy, but it is nice to know that there is an option to do so!
There were a lot of sensory style activities, like painting and decorating cupcakes etc that Anest could have taken part in but they are things Anest does all the time anyway so we skipped them. I do wish I had booked the pottery decorating for her, so I think i will book that for next time!
Anest loved the arcade, she always enjoys an arcade on holiday. There was a Peppa Pig rocket ride which she loved. She was too big but we made it work!
The arcade was nice because it was very small and there was only a few things in there. That being said, we did find a bigger one in the sports plaza but it was very similar to the one in the main plaza.
Anest enjoys looking around the shops, and the novelty of pushing a mini trolley in the supermarket on site so we didn’t feel in any way that she missed out activity wise.
There are loads of activities there that we didn’t do, like quad biking, segways, bird of prey experiences, owl experiences, I promised Jac and Mali that when they are 14 I will take them to the Spa, there were quite a few water activities too. There is something to suit everyone there.
Then it was swimming in the afternoon (and all other afternoons!). The swimming pool is amazing. The kids loved it, there are so many different water slides there that there is something for every adrenaline level.
The last time we went, Mali didn’t really like water slides they were a bit too much for her and she enjoyed the pirate splash pool for younger kids with smaller slides but this time she enjoyed all the different slides, she even went on the extreme 60mph flumes! Jac has always been an adrenaline junkie so he loved them last time and he loved them this time too.
The wave machine goes off frequently and there is a beacon that flashes (for those who cannot hear) and a loud (but not too loud) tarzan noise to notify that the wave machine is about to start so it isn’t a surprise to anyone. The waves were too much for Anest so we didn’t stay in the main pool when they were on.
The pool has a baby pool with all different water play activities, the water is about ankle level so it can be crawled around in. Anest didn’t like the sensation of the grippy floor rubbing her feet (and I imagine it was a bit painful for her as she has tight ankles) so we didn’t do much crawling but she did enjoy the water fountains coming out of the floor and playing with some of the different water activities.
Anest didn’t want to go to the pool on the third day, I think she was a bit tired and I think it might have been a bit of a sensory over-load for her as there was so much going on but she did enjoy when we were there.
Disability and the pool
The pool had a couple of disabled changing rooms, but they were just normal changing rooms with extra space – a bit like a family changing room.
There was a disabled toilet/changing room/shower room – but there was only one which was a bit annoying, as there were quite a lot of disabled people/children there and we did have to wait quite a few times to access it and Anest was getting cold. They do need to have more than one!
It was a good sized room, there was a changing bed that you could shower on as well (we didn’t but you could) and there was plenty of room for the wheelchair to be in the room and still have loads of room to move around. The side of the bed could be put up as well so that I knew Anest was safe while I was sorting myself out too.
There wasn’t a hoist in the room but you can request one and they will bring it to you. They also have a wheelchair that you can push down into the water to get in and out of the water easier. We didn’t need to do either of these things but it is an option.
The staff were fine with us bringing our wheelchair out to the side of the pool.
Toilets and Changing rooms
In the main plaza and lakeside there were disabled toilets, but these were just toilet and sinks with a support handle – there was no changing bed in them which was really annoying because it meant going back to the lodge for changes.
However, there was a changing places changing room in the Sports Plaza, and it was a really nice one (as far as bathrooms go!). There was plenty of room in there. There was a toilet, sink and a changing bed and also a shower. There was also a hoist, and there were a selection of different sized slings in the room which would be handy if for some reason you didn’t have your own.
The paths in Center parcs are all tarred and really well looked after. There is a board walk going down to the lake, but that wasn’t an issue at all with the wheelchair.
The only thing I will say is that there are a lot of hills. So expect to be pushing up hill a lot. The paths are done in a zig zag way to break them up a bit, but it is still a lot of heavy pushing if you are pushing a wheelchair.
It was fine though, we did do it multiple times a day every day – but it is something to be aware of if you are pushing someone heavier.
Will there be a next time? Definitely! We absolutely love it.
It’s one of those holidays you can make as slow or as busy as you want it, which is nice.
We would love to go at Christmas time, so I think that will be our next plan, maybe next year.
We did notice an escape room there, so that will be a good thing to do next time now that the older two are getting older and starting to like different things.
Have you been to Center Parcs? What is your favourite thing there?