A first timers review of Center Parcs 

If you live in the UK, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard of Center Parcs. Located within forests across the UK, CP is a one stop holiday suitable for all generations. The only catch is relying on the UK weather. After much dillydallying about where to go on holiday this summer (read: leaving things to the last minute), we booked a mid-week stay at CP Elveden Forest.

On a sunny Monday in August, we loaded our two cars with bikes, suitcases and half our kitchen before heading up the M11 to Elveden Forest. Having never been to any of the other Center Parcs in the country – Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, Whinfell Forest in Cumbria, Longleat Forest in Wiltshire and Woburn Forest in Bedfordshire – we had nothing to judge it by. Some described it as a nicer version of Butlins. My cousin Latika and I bravely (yes, bravely!) took our boys to Butlins last summer and I can tell you, comparing Butlins to CP is like comparing £100 an ounce caviar to the stuff you get at Yo Sushi! From the moment we drove into CP, I was completely bowled over by the giant trees that seemed to touch the sky.

Once all the Monday check ins were complete, cars were relegated to the car park for the duration of our 4 day stay and what we were left with was open safe green space. Our lodge (which had its own sauna at the back) had 3 bedrooms, all ensuite, and an open plan kitchen, dining and living room. With multiple restaurants, a beautiful lake, an indoor tropical pool and sports centre (incase it rains), tree climbing, ziplining, laser combat, off road biking, wall climbing, a pottery barn and lots more, CP quite literally has something for everyone and enough activities to exhaust even the most energetic 5 year old! S who had only learnt to ride a bike without stabilisers 2 weeks prior mastered his riding skills as he quite literally flew around CP at every opportunity. I loved the village feel of the place – we took two bikes and hired 3 there, riding everywhere we wanted to go and locking up the bikes in the many cycle parks dotted around CP.

We had beautiful sunny weather for 3 out of 4 days and on the one day it rained, while all the adults chose to stay indoors, S was still adamant he wanted to ride his bike in the rain. As long as there’s fun to be had, nothing stops my 5 year old, even a bit of the typically wet British weather. We spent a lot of time at the Tropical Pool – I lost count of the number of times we went on the rapids which S absolutely loved! We went tree trekking, ziplining across the lake, wall climbing and boating. And while the grown-ups played laser combat, S was entertained in an Alice the Wonderland themed drop-off camp. Win:Win!

If I had to nit-pick, I’d suggest baskets on the bikes – trying to ride to the pool while balancing a bag slung on my shoulder was no easy task. Towels in the pool area would also be a nice touch.
Top tip – You can actually order take out from one of the many local restaurants. Although the food was good, we found very limited vegetarian options (my dad is a vegetarian). At Forresters Inn (one of the nicer bars/restaurants), there was only one vegetarian main option and at Bella Italia, a vegan pizza didn’t include vegan cheese, it was just a pizza without any cheese!! One night we took the car out to a local Indian restaurant and another night we ordered take out and went to pick it up (although they do deliver as well).
Fret not, if you run out of milk there is a supermarket on site (and a Starbucks!) There’s also a gift store and a couple of clothing stores in The Sports Centre. I ventured in to have a look at some sweaters because in very uncharacteristic fashion, I relied on the BBC weather app and didn’t take a jacket or any sweaters for that matter. We live in the UK, always take a jacket and sweater!!

By the end of the 4 days, S had to be cajoled into the car to go home. With a slightly sore bottom from all the bike riding, a bruise on my leg from the wall climbing and adrenaline running through me from the ziplining, I went home thinking I’d definitely go back!

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