I didn’t know what to expect from a weekend away at Center Parcs. In all honesty, I hadn’t heard great things. And I’d never had the slightest inclination to visit what I’d been led to believe is a nature fiend’s paradise mixed with a Butlins-esque hen/stag party getaway. (Not that I’ve been to Butlins either.)
It was only when a group of my 20-something school friends and I decided we were well overdue a good old fashioned catch up. With us scattered allover the UK (Leeds, Oxford, Dublin, Bournemouth…) we decided neutral ground would be best. Something not too expensive, but exotic enough that we could treat it as a holiday.
When Center Parcs half jokingly cropped up in conversation as a suggested destination, it was only then that I actually thought, why not?
So after a quick Google and browse around the site, I was sold. Bike rides, woodland walks, a free water park, segways, tree-top canopy walks and zip wires… What’s not to love? So we booked!
And it’s a good thing we did.
Our quaint little cabin more than satisfied the five of us (even if the resident squirrels did seem to be on acid and more skittish than usual, galloping up to the French windows to steal our bread crusts. Argh!).
After arriving in the late afternoon and navigating our way through the identical cabins, we found our own allotted home-from-home. A little grubby on the outside, its interior was a pleasant surprise; soft beds with clean, crisps sheets, a roomy living room with L-shaped sofa (the corner spot was a fighting point!), an outdoor patio with table and chairs, and a sizeable bathroom and separate toilet.
As for Center Parcs’ on-site amusements, we were spoilt for choice. Not wanting to spend much money (if any…) we took full advantage of the free and unlimited use of the water park (*N.B. GO ON THE RAPIDS!). A solid three hours or so in fact.
After a light lunch we took a walk through the grounds, passing all sorts of activities that (budget allowing) are too good to miss. But even if you don’t fork out, like us, the grounds are vast enough to wander around for a good few hours. There’s a sand beach by the lake, leafy pathways, pedestrianised walkways, the ‘venue’… the list goes on.
After a tiring day of chinwagging and walking, we booked a table at one of the restaurants for dinner that night. Sitting around in the candlelight, a glass of wine in our hands, we couldn’t stop smiling lazily and commenting about how relaxed we were. We’d been in the forest barely 24 hours and were ready to drop off at the table. It was bliss!
All too soon we’d woken up to rustling leaves and scuttling squirrels and it was check out time. (My only complaint, the checking out process. The gate from the car park back to the accommodation was locked, which made for quite the extra excursion wandering through the extensive car park for someone to come and help!). After a (naughty but nice) breakfast of American waffles and pancakes at the Pancake House, we went out separate ways.
A half-joke turned into a long-overdue weekend away, I’d been converted. In fact, we all had.
If you’re planning a trip to Center Parcs, do it. Just make sure you bring your pennies with you.
**We visited Center Parcs in Elvedon Forest. I’d recommend pre-booking everything, as the queues are long and this wasn’t even peak season. Be prepared!**