Last week we had an amazing last minute short break at Center Parcs Woburn Forest. My sister-in-law was in the UK very briefly for a conference, so we decided to find somewhere close-ish to London and meet up. Woburn Forest is 1 hour north of London and very accessible. Not only that, it was far cheaper than us trying to find a last minute hotel with two rooms and so much better for a family environment. We were booking so late we had the last lodge available so it really was a very unplanned trip. Although there are five different Center Parcs forests around the UK (Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Elveden Forest in Suffolk, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire) each one is structured in a very similar manner, so no matter which one you’re going to, these great things should apply!
Here are the absolute best things about a Center Parcs holiday.
We stayed in a 2 Bedroom Executive lodge, for 3 adults and a 12 month old baby. There was plenty of open space, ample dining space, an equipped kitchen with all the basics you need (I always travel with my favourite frying pan though to self catering accommodation!). The beds were comfortable and there was enough room in the main bedroom for a cot. There was ample storage space, and I loved the fact that it had two bathrooms, one with a shower and one with a proper bath. When you’ve got young kids, having a bathtub is a big plus especially if you’re going in swimming every day. Despite the park being completely full (we literally booked the last 2 bedroom lodge available and 3 and 4 bedrooms were already sold out), it didn’t feel busy or overcrowded around the lodge as they’re spread out quite well.
With over 97% occupancy throughout the year, you do want to book early if you’re looking for a specific location. We booked less than 2 weeks ahead of the date as a last minute booking and were still happy with our lodge and location.
Safety for Walking and Cycling
The fact that the only cars on the road are ones for necessity or for disabled guests is amazing. We went days without seeing a car around the park. This means it’s totally safe to walk in the middle of the road or cycle without having to constantly look behind you. The holiday park I own a caravan on is lovely, but there is a lot of traffic and I often think it would be better if you couldn’t drive on it! It’s also better for the environment (less emissions and fuel being used as people are forced to use their legs!) and there’s no traffic noise at all.
Last week was my first Center Parcs break. I expected one or two food options, but there were so many options! Including Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas (which is already a favourite of mine). There’s also a Pub, a classic American / Mexican called Huck’s an Indian called Rajinda Pradesh, a Pancake House and a cafe in the pool. That’s not even all of them. There are so many different places to eat, and a supermarket on site. The supermarket on site is more expensive than off site (you’re paying for convenience), but we brought a bag full of supplies with us and only used it for bread and milk. The key for me is flexibility – you have something that will cater to every diet on site, you can head off site or you can simply cook a meal in your accommodation. I’m so pleased we went self catering and not a hotel room, as it just makes life with a baby so much easier.
Activities & Swimming
Oh boy, are there activities. Once you’ve booked, you’ll have full access to the timetable for your week and can check every single activity, their prices, and book in advance if you want to (recommended at busy times). There are HUNDREDS of things to do! I was shocked at how there were 20+ things I could book suitable for a 12 month old. From a close up experience with Owls in a falconry centre, to sensory and messy play, to a horse and carriage ride or swim classes. Since we were on a short break and were there primarily to just relax with family and had days out planned for several of the days anyway, we didn’t pre-book any activities. But if you wanted to stay on site all week, had older kids and wanted to fill the days, I have no doubt you can find something for anyone whether 1 year old or 70 years old!
I was very happy that the swimming pool was included in the price. It was busy, and is more family orientated than for serious swimmers (no specific swim lanes and at the deepest it can’t be more than 5.5 foot) but if you enjoy splashing about in the pool, slides, waves and winding rivers, this tropical swimming pool is amazing. I loved the atmosphere, the plants and the activities here. William loves swimming and has been going in the pool since he was a newborn, so we made sure to pack several of our Splash About Swimsuits and got in the pool every single day!
Whether you’re going in the winter or in the summer, you’ll find plenty of accessible activities at Center Parcs.
I’ve asked some other bloggers what their favourite things about Center Parcs are. Check out their websites and links as well!
“We went on our first Center Parcs break last year and loved how child friendly it was. There’s so much for the whole family to do!” – Lyndsey from Me Him The Dog and a Baby.
“I went for a girly weekend for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I loved the fact that even though it was busy, and the lodges are close together, it felt really quiet and like you had it yourself.” – Rachel from Coffee Cake Kids.
“We went to cp a few years ago with my family and then again for a girly weekend the other week. I loved the fact that it always seemed quiet and everything was on site and it’s all very family/child friendly and there is something for everyone.” – Kim from Life of an Auntie.
“I love Center Parcs because it feels like you’re miles away from home. In a forest, beautiful bird song, nature. The pools are warm, clean and fun. Literally prefer it to our holidays abroad! Even though you get the sun, the pools are still freezing!” – Emma from Me and B Make Tea.
“I love how safe it feels; the lack of cars and wide cycling/walking paths mean you can give little ones a bit more freedom.” – Hayley from Devon Mama.
“I love centre Parcs as there is something for every age group. You can please everyone!” Anna from Popitha, who has some great tips and advice for families with small children / toddlers.
“I love how much there is so much to do for kids of all ages. I have a teenager, toddler and a baby. There are lots of activities my teenager can do, messy play classes for my toddler and baby sensory classes for my 3 month old. I love that most restaurants have play areas attached and computers for the older ones to play on.” Amy from Mama Mighalls.
“I think my favourite thing is the softplays in restaurants and general mix of adult and kid stuff together. It feels like you can still have an adult holiday and do stuff you enjoy as parents, all while your child is entertained and happy too. It’s win win.” – Samantha from Porridge And Parenting.
“We have been a few times and have been to 3 different sites. They’re all brilliant, we first took Freddie when he was 3 and unlike other places it’s completely safe and there is something to do for ALL ages.” – Clare from Freddies Mummy.
As you can see, Center Parcs is a firm favourite for being family-friendly, safe, quiet, fun and flexible!