Monday, 24 September 2012

Center Parcs

(Goblin is 35 months)
As many of you will know, last week I took a blogging break so I could spend some quality time with my two boys at Center Parcs. We absolutely loved it, and I'm about to tell you why, but before I do I should mention that this is NOT a sponsored post. I tell you this now because after I am done you will be thinking, "How much is she getting paid to say all this stuff?". 
Well the truth is that if Mr Center Parcs was to offer me a free holiday to review I would bite his hand off and probably take most of his arm with it. But alas we forked out for this one from our own pocket, and I would happily do it again. Here is why:
We stayed at the Elveden Forest Center Parcs and its set in woodland in the middle of Suffolk. The lodge we stayed in was by the edge of the lake and most mornings we were greeted by squirrels, ducklings or deer. The photo at the top of this post is of the sunset taken from the patio door. 
We hired two bikes and a trailer, as well as bringing Goblin's balance bike. He alternated between riding in the trailer and riding his balance bike - which involved weaving across the road into oncoming cyclists while Hublet and I screamed at him ineffectually. We loved the trailer so much that when we got home we instantly ordered one from Amazon. 
On one of the days we hired a pedal bike with stabalisers. Goblin was reasonably useless at pedalling. Despite being able to pedal his trike with no problems, the disconnect between the pedals and he wheels - by virtue of a chain - and the fact he was able to pedal backwards and free wheel, seemed to completely throw him. Instead of pedalling normally he spent his time taking the pedals to half way, pushing down to the bottom, then cycling backwards to bring the pedal back up to half way before pushing down again. This made the bike move, but at an excruciatingly slow pace. Great as an activity but completely impractical as a mode of transport. It was however much easier on the nerves than watching him hurtling into rocks on his balance bike - Goblin thought the funniest thing in the world was to 'cycle' head first at the giant boulders that were placed in the middle of the footpaths to stop cars driving up them. 
Eleveden Center Parcs has a number of age appropriate playgrounds which Goblin loved. I have heard people complain that Center Parcs can be expensive because of all the activities, but for toddlers there are a lot of things that you can do for free, and just exploring took up a lot of our days. Not to mention digging on the fake beach, and in the 'garden' behind our lodge. 
We did do some activities though. 
Goblin tried rollerskating. Toddlers, who have just learnt to walk are pretty hilarious beings when placed on rollerskates - you know the scene where Bambi gets stuck on the ice - it was like that for 45 minutes with about 15 Bambis. 
We played crazy golf (also known as adventure golf or mini golf) as a family and both Hublet and Goblin beat me - beaten by a 2 year old *hangs head in shame*. In my defence Goblin may have cheated a little bit. 
One day when we managed to convince Goblin to stay in the creche (he was not keen) Hublet and I managed to do an adult activity - Off road Segway. Segways are awesome and completely idiot proof - well apparently not completely idiot proof as George W Bush managed to fall off one - so lets say average idiot proof.  I loved my Segway and burned around the course at top speed (about 15 miles per hour)! If it wasn't illegal to ride a Segway both on the pavement and on the road in the UK I would buy one tomorrow. I should write to the Government demanding that they stop trying to solve the big issues and deal with something trivial that will make me happy like making Segway road-use legal. 
The main awesome attraction of Center Parcs is the pool which is free to use every day. There was one slight problem. Goblin hated it! It is built in a giant dome and is very noisy and echoey and Goblin sometimes has issues with auditory sensitivity. The first time we went in he started kicking off about the noise while we were still in the changing room. By the time we were in the pool area he was in full melt down and was clinging to me like a limpet crying to go home. I was seriously disheartened thinking that the main free activity at Center Parcs was something we would not be able to take advantage of. But then we discovered that there was an outdoor area at the pool. As soon as we swam out of the dome Goblin's demeanour changed, he disengaged himself from his death grip on me and swam off into the middle of the pool. And stayed swimming and splashing for 2 and a half hours. 
After our big swims we ate in one of the many child friendly restaurants. Nearly all the restaurants at Center Parcs have bottle warming stations, high chairs, colouring for at the table entertainment and soft play areas in the restaurant so you can eat while watching your toddler mayheming from a distance. 
Our favourite was the pancake house - responsible for a significant proportion of my incredible weight gain on this holiday despite all the exercise. It had a soft play area, and an activity table full of mega blocks. It had a book case full of children's books to read, and it had the ubiquitous colouring pages and crayons. 
Center Parcs has onsite baby sitting, a creche, messy play activities for toddlers, special toddler playgrounds, toddler specific activities, and even toddler sized shopping trolleys at the mini supermarket. It was a perfect holiday for our family and we will certainly be going back. 
If you have been I'd love to hear what you enjoyed most. 

I'm sharing this at
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


  1. Looks like a brilliant holiday! We've had several great holidays at Elveden Forest too over the last couple of years. It's true that the extra activities are expensive, but especially with little ones there are lots of free things to do. It's also cheaper when you can go in term time!

    I really like how all the restaurants have a play area for children. Our favourite part is probably the toddler area in the swimming pool with the sand to dig in.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Even the toddler pool was too noisy for Goblin so we didn't really spend any time in there, although I did love the idea of the sand pit in the pool.

  2. We are fellow Center Parc converts! It's just such an easy break with kids, especially the whole business of eating... you can order to your cabin, eat out or shop 'n' cook. And the kids get their own room, so you can (gasp!) have an adult evening after they've gone to bed! Ours adored the cycling and the pool, we didn't need to try anything much extra, though we did go rollerskating too :-) Glad Goblin liked the outdoor pool bit!

  3. Sounds like a great family holiday! And I want to try a segway!! They looks like so much fun :-)

  4. It sounds like you all had a brilliant time & the photos are lovely - especially the ones of the wildlife right up at your window. Thanks for adding this to the link up, Kierna

  5. I think you guys had a lot of fun. :) Unforgettable memories.

  6. I have not been to CenterParcs for quite a few years, but your post brought back some great memories. We were booked to go to Elveden the week before they had a big fire in the restaurant area (a lot of years ago). It was on the news, and my husband thought I was pulling his leg when I heard about it and called to him. Luckily they found room for us at Sherwood.

  7. You make it sound very appealing and we must go one day to see what they do as so much sounds similar to us, so it could give us some new ideas. If it gave you some relaxed family time out then they re certainly getting things right. Glad you had a lovely holiday.

  8. What a lovely place for a family holiday! I am soooo envious! :) Karen (Flights of Whimsy)

  9. Wow this post makes me want to book up RIGHT NOW!
    Such lovely photos and I love the text to accompany them.

    Please enlighten me - how do people do those underwater shots? I have always wanted to know.

    Aaron is so adventurous and so good on his feet (running and walking) I just know that he would absolutely love it.

    Liska xxx

    1. We just took the photos with our waterproof video camera (it takes stills too) its a Kodak and they are really cheap - you can get them here
      If you mean how did we get Goblin under the water, we had two ways, one where he'd hold onto my neck and I'd swim under the water and Hublet would take a shot. And the other way was just pulling him under - which he thought was really funny - hence all the big smiles in the shots.
      Center Parcs is however about the only pool I have ever been to where we were allowed to take photos in the pool. Most public swimming pools won't let you.

  10. P.S. I hope Center Parcs become aware of your great review

  11. We've not been to center parcs but really keep meaning to - and it looks fab.
    I am particularly loving your underwater pictures which reminds me we have a camera needing developing of ours somewhere.


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