with things to do and other suggestions for an amazing Center Parcs stay
It was my birthday a few weeks ago so my lovely partner organised a fun packed weekend away with the kids to Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest. We left our house handy (early if you don't know what that means!) on the Friday and decided to take the scenic route to avoid Friday traffic. The sat-nav took us over the moors and Snake Pass, which was beautiful to see on a sunny day as I normally take that route when I’m doing late night gigs. Sometimes you take for granted the stunning scenery that we have on our doorstep. The kids were so excited to get there, as soon as we got in the car the obligatory car games pursued, eye spy. Trying to teach a 3 year old how to play this one gets quite tricky! Ella kept saying on her turn, "Something beginning with car", or "Something beginning with sky!" It really tickled us but we went along with it, saying silly words and she was giggling away.
When we arrived at Sherwood Forest it was absolutely stunning, the sun was cascading through the trees, the ducks, birds and rabbits were out in force. What hit me straight away was the stillness of the trees and how peaceful it was, it was almost as if we had been dropped into the middle of a beautiful painting.
On arrival we checked in, and they really have it down to a T. No need to get out the car even, you just drive up to these check in booths and we were handed some brochures about what we could get up to whilst on our stay... then given the keys and off we went, all very painless! We followed the map to find our chalet nestled deep in the forest. It was lovely, with 3 decent sized double rooms all with their own bathroom, a big living and dining area, and well-equipped kitchen. There was an outdoor patio area where you can usually have a BBQ, but because the British summer had been so unusually hot and dry there was a BBQ ban in case of forest fires.
There were families cycling around, and everywhere just seemed very chilled and calm. After we unloaded the car we placed it in the main car park, and then collected the bikes we had hired in advance - and that was our main mode of travel for the rest of the weekend. I was, to say the least, a bit nervous at first with my bike as it had a child seat on the back for Ella - so it was my job to make sure she was transported safely around the park. All sounds fine, but not when it had been 5+ years since I last rode a bike! But as the old saying goes, 'you never forget how to ride a bike', and after a little practice I felt confident to get out on the roads with Ella and explore our beautiful surroundings. She loved it on the back and kept saying “Mummy, I am so happy.” She was laughing her head off and throwing her hands in the air like you would do on a roller-coaster, and I was riding round with a big Cheshire Cat smile on my face. Hearing your children so happy and excited over simple things is such a pleasure to witness, just cycling through the forest and seeing all the wildlife, stopping to play in the maze or on the adventure playgrounds, or taking a break at one of the restaurants and watching the world go by was just heaven. And the boys had been to this park before which was very handy, as we had our own personal tour guides the whole time we were there! They knew every nook and cranny and loved showing us all that the park had to offer.
You can book activities weeks in advance for when you get to the park; the only down side is that most have an extra charge so it can add up, and it's therefore good to think about what you'll be wanting to do whilst booking. For our first evening we decided to book the family quiz that took place in the Sports Bar, and we also booked out the pool tables and "football pool". This was good fun, you kick the football in to large holes that are placed around a rectangular court, replicating what a pool table looks like, and then whoever ‘pots’ the most balls wins. The quiz was brilliant, and perfect for any competitive general knowledge geeks like us lot. There were several different rounds with different genres like sport, music, TV and film. The questions were aimed at all ages, there was no way just myself and Charlie could have won without the help of the kids and their knowledge of children’s TV and film. Also inside, or just outside, all of the restaurants are big adventure play areas, so when the younger ones get bored they can go and play within eyesight, and the whole place felt very safe and secure.
Day 2 was an early start for us, with Ella and Alfie booked in to cake making and archery; whilst the older boys had a lie in. The early morning classes were almost empty so the kids had one-on-one tuition and I even helped out with the cakes! The afternoon we booked to do den building. When I initially booked it no one was that bothered, until we arrived deep in to the forest and the boys realised it was a proper den, and we would be building it with wood, logs and branches, and that the den needed to be big enough to house us all! They immediately grabbed some safety gloves and got to building the biggest wigwam style den I’ve ever seen. Ella managed to sleep the whole way through, which was useful as the rest of us could have all hands on deck as we were up against the clock! By the time the final whistle blew we had managed to build a massive den with amazing team work (no one even argued!), we all took on certain roles and stuck with them, and I was so proud to see everyone beaming from ear to ear at the end, a very satisfying moment to sit inside our den that we built with our own bare hands and it didn’t even fall down!
We were all quite exhausted after that so we went to chill in one of the many bars to have a refreshing drink, and then walked back to our chalet to rest some more before getting ready for dinner, bowling and a disco that evening. The disco and bowling are both in the same building so in between our bowling turns, me, Ella and Alfie were having a boogie on the dance floor too! After 2 games of bowling and a good dance off, we had pizza and headed back for the night.
Sunday morning we had a lie in and took the kids to the Waffle House for breakfast which was a real treat. At one point there was a beautiful swan that took a liking to my blueberry pankcake stack and wouldn’t leave us alone, it was quite funny really, to see us all stressing over a swan trying to pinch our breakfast. More cycling after brekkie (now all fun rather than nervous laughter!), and then I took the younger kids for face painting.
We were so lucky to have such glorious weather whilst there, not a cagoule or welly in sight! We spent Sunday afternoon chilling on the lake on one of the 6-seater boats, the stillness of the water with the sun shining away was so relaxing, even Ella chilled right out for at least 10 minutes!
The main attraction for the boys was laser quest in the forest! On arrival you are given face paints so you can get camo’d up in preparation for the battle that is about to commence. There were around 10 people in each team, 3 different games were played, by the end of it, everyone was exhausted! Myself & Ella waited in the sidelines as all the boys ran around, jumped over logs, hid in huts, crawled through the trees and tried their best to beat their opponents, it was really good fun to watch!
The whole weekend was brilliant, we never stopped really, but I suppose Center Parcs is one of those places where you can chose to be as active or as chilled as you want. With 4 kids, all very different ages and needing different things to keep them occupied, we managed to do a lot as a family. We cannot wait to go back again in the future and have our next Center Parcs adventure.