Two nights at a Bedfordshire holiday park may not sound glamorous…that’s until you visit the new village at Center Parcs! Suzanne Baum reports back on a fun-filled, luxurious weekend!
There’s one thing holding me back from writing a glowing review of Center Parcs and that is I don’t want to encourage people to come. This is purely for selfish reasons as our visit to the new village last month was one of the nicest weekend breaks I’ve ever had.
In fact, the less people who know about the new £250 million Woburn Forest village the better. That way getting a booking won’t prove impossible!
Unfortunately for me, word is already out about the new village- in fact since its opening on 6 June it has welcomed over 100,000 guests. Unless you have been to Center Parcs before, you may well imagine it to be a campsite, holiday park or an upmarket Butlins. As a veteran visitor (this was my sixth visit), aside from it being a British break that has plenty of fast food joints, these comparisons couldn’t be further from the truth!
Just a 50-minute drive from our Finchley home, the new village is easily accessible. It is, it seems on arrival, also wonderfully quiet. And that is part of the Center Parcs charm. For despite being very close to the motorway, once you enter the 365-acre forest you instantly feel as though you are in the countryside. Cars are banned once you’ve unloaded your luggage, so practically everyone gets around on rented bicycles that, if needed, have numerous attachments for the young, old and wheelchair-bound.
Unlike the other villages, Woburn is a lot smaller so bike hire is not a necessity although we found cycling along as a family made our weekend all the more fun. When else do you get a chance to cycle without the worry of cars? That said, I did have to apprehend my teenage sons for taking selfies of themselves cycling at night- a true recipe for disaster!
New to Center Parcs are the wristbands that are handed out on arrival. This clever device not only can be used for both locking your lodge but when you go swimming, it also operates the locker system (so, no need to hunt out a £1 coin)! It might be a small thing, but its token thoughts like this that really sums up the village: it pays attention to every little detail.
This is immediately apparent inside our executive lodge that had a better fitted kitchen than the one we have at home. Not only are the lodges cleverly laid out so that you feel a sense of seclusion from other families, but they have everything you need, including in our case a Jacuzzi bath and sauna!
“Oh my goodness, we’ve got our own pool table,” screamed our 12 and 13-year old boys in excitement. With my five- year- old son Jake engrossed with the huge kitchen chalkboard, my husband and I were able to leisurely unpack and enjoy none of the usual pandemonium that normally occurs on arriving at a new destination.
When we did venture out an hour later it was to the £28million Subtropical Swimming Paradise with its Wild Water Rapids and Tornado Raft Ride that our older two couldn’t get enough of. Having booked our youngest onto a jet skis lesson it proved a thrilling experience for him as he learnt to drive a mini jet ski with an instructor. I can highly recommend it.
When not in the pool, there is so much to do. Having pre-booked our activities in advance we had our days mapped out for us and although following a schedule is not what you’d expect on a holiday, booking in advance is a must.
The boys tried the indoor climbing wall at the same time as my husband and I played badminton and they all had a go at tennis lessons. We tried archery, fencing, squash, table tennis and even persuaded all three kids to have a go at the high ropes activity that really challenged their fear of heights. On two evenings we had booked ten-pin bowling and let the older two loose in the arcades whilst our youngest went to the children’s disco.
In fact, with so much to do, I didn’t make it to the Aqua sana spa but have heard it is incredible. Strangely, I didn’t feel the need to have “time to myself”; it is rare we get time together as a family and I was content to soak it up as, for once, my children’s focus was not on their gadgets.
The supermarket on site has an excellent choice of food and makes a fun shopping experience for little ones who can push their own mini-sized trollies around. However, if you don’t want to self- cater there are a lot of restaurants to dine at in the village and with soft play areas situated within most, dinner is a lot more relaxing. No moaning whilst waiting for the food to arrive plus it also meant that Jake burnt off so much energy racing around he slept like a log. In fact we all did, such are the plush comfortable beds.
Daily maid service was included in our lodge so there was no need to stress about housework and there’s also a new, 75-room luxury hotel, for those who prefer someone else to do the cooking. (25 of the hotel rooms have a small kitchen so guests can choose to cook if they wish).
There are only two problems I can find with Center Parcs: the kids had such a good time they are nagging to go back and its price; a three-day long weekend break can prove quite pricey. For me though good quality time spent together with the family is priceless.
As much as I’d like to encourage you to go, please don’t. I need to go back again soon.
For more details, visit www.centerparcs.co.uk