This week we had a family break at Center Parcs, Whinfell. For those of you that don’t know, this is a holiday village located slap bang in the middle of a forest. It is in my opinion one of the most relaxing places we have ever been, although a little less relaxing with a 2-year-old. One of the things that makes Center Parcs so relaxing is the fact that when you arrive you unload your car at your accommodation then take your car to a separate car park and don’t see it again until the end of your holiday. This means the park is a car free zone (apart from the odd electric maintenance vehicle). This car free environment means that Oliver can happily spend the whole holiday travelling by balance bike, which is currently his favourite mode of transport.
As with most of our family holidays, food is usually a main focus. Does anyone else talk about what’s for dinner while still eating breakfast?
All the accommodation at Center Parcs is self catering, so there is no need to spend money eating out if you want to keep costs down. We like to do a combination of eating out and in. My tip for anyone going self catering would be to pack a bag of larder staples (obviously not if you’re flying to your destination) from home. Salt, pepper, oil and etc. The reason I do this is that I have too often ended up having to buy duplicates of stuff for the sake of a couple of uses. It is actually much easier (and cheaper) to take it with you.
If you do need to buy food there is a great supermarket on site, it is maybe a little pricier than normal, but not too bad at all and it has a great selection of food (and wine). My husbands and Oliver’s favourite thing about the shop is the amazing selection of fresh cakes. (At this point my hubby would like to mention the cakes are also huge.)
The fact we are on holiday does mean we like eating out. At Center Parcs it is a good idea to book restaurants in advance as they can get busy (especially during school holidays). This time we had booked Café Rouge and Bella Italia.
I was delighted when we arrived at Café Rouge on the first night and Oliver was presented with a menu suitable for his specific age. Oliver was delighted with his pizza fingers and ice cream (it was his holidays). Our meals came to the table wrong, but were quickly changed and the food was delicious.
On night 2 Bella Italia also offered a menu for different age ranges, so in my eyes we were already on to a winner. Oliver devoured the tomato pasta and couldn’t believe his luck when he got ice cream for the second night running. Unfortunately, my lasagne was fairly disappointing and it took 3 attempts for my husband to get the right pizza. In their defence they took the price of the pizza off the bill and to be honest if Oliver is happy when we are eating out as a family so are we.
My favourite food option at Center Parcs is takeaway (to be fair I quite like this option when I am at home). They have a brilliant delivery service and can choose from a range of different cuisines. This is great for me and my hubby, as I prefer Indian and he prefers Chinese. On this occasion, however we both opted for Indian. I had my usual chicken korma and hubby had chicken tikka masala, we decided Oliver could just share ours. I was overjoyed when it became clear he much preferred the tikka masala, happily leaving me to devour mine on my own while he tore bits of naan bread to scoop up curry from his Dads plate.
For lunches and breakfast we either grabbed some supplies for the supermarket or tried out a couple of the other park restaurants. Dexter’s does some good fast food and I would highly recommend The Sports Bar for breakfast.
This was our 4th trip to Center Parcs and we have never been disappointed and as Oliver gets older there is more and more for us to discover. This time he was old enough to try out a mini trek, a nature hunt, as well as loving the swimming and freedom on his bike.
I have never heard anyone not enjoy their trip to Center Parcs, with people’s main grumble being the cost. It can be quite pricey, but we think it is worth every penny. It is hard to put a price on the safety, serenity and service (we have always loved the level of service from all staff) we get when hiding away in the forest. I would encourage anyone to give it a go, at least once, although you may get hooked. We are already hoping to make a trip to the Winter Wonderland next year for Oliver’s birthday.