It has become a family tradition for us to visit Centre Parcs, Longleat in the lead up to Christmas.
We (I mean me really) are huge fans of the build up of Christmas and Centre Parcs have nailed a chilled out magical Pre-Christmas trip!
We all love Center Parcs though, we love the sense of relaxation, the sense of being at one with nature and the feeling of the children being safe and happy.
We usually stay in a New Style Executive lodge. We like to have the sauna (I use the word ‘we’ loosely, as really it my husband that insists that he has the sauna at the lodge) and games room, as it keeps everyone happy! But there are other accommodation options such as apartments for smaller familes/couples.
The lodge is now like a home from home. Apart from at home we don’t have a sauna, games room or seperate fridge for wine, but otherwise just like home! Each one of the bedrooms have a ensuite shower or bathroom complete with fluffy white towels and miniature toiletries (I am a sucker for any type of mini in the beauty world so a big winner to me). In the living area of the lodge, there is a huge corner sofa, patio doors out onto the patio, and if honest, a rather small TV. There is also a dining table large enough for us all to eat at for our ‘the last supper’. We always have Christmas dinner with crackers, turkey and all the trimmings on the last night of our trip.
Talking of Crackers, I made the Crackers this year, which added a little element of fun to the table! Inside was the standard paper hat and rubbish joke. I then tied a gift tag around a Cadburys Santa with the message, “No present inside your cracker? Find number 7 to claim the present!” Then as you can imagine there was all of us running around the lodge trying to find the hidden present with our number on. Everyone had a personalised gift. My Husband received a personalised cheese board, the children all got door hangers with mini blackboards on to write the number of sleeps left till santa on one side, and on the other side (for Christmas Eve) the door hanger reads “Please Santa stop here! Love From Brooklyn” and finally the ladies all received a Pandora charm. When I first started to think of gifts for the crackers, smaller gifts where more expensive and harder to think of, hence why I thought of the idea of adding a bit of fun into finding your cracker gift!
Bearing in mind, I don’t do excercise or nature, I love Centre Parcs, which involves both! No cars are allowed on site, everyone is asked to leave their vehicles in the large car park at the front of the resort. This no car rule makes Centre Parcs very safe. This also means you have to either ride a bike, catch the land train or walk. This year we are took our bikes, which made me realise how unfit I am!
If you didn’t know already, the resorts are always set in woodland areas, meaning that there is wildlife that roams freely and you become accustom to stumbling over a squirrel, duck or deer.
One of my ‘must do’s’ when we visit Centre Parcs is a trip to the Aqua Sana Spa during one of their Twilight sessions. When you arrive, you are given a wristband that allows you to lock and unlock your locker without faffing around with a bulky key to your locker. You are also given a fluffy white gown and towels. The Cafe area within the spa is very nice serving my favourite, Prosecco! Yay! But there is also soft drinks, very tempting cakes and other very appealing to the eye snacks on offer.
The spa consists of various different relaxation rooms, like the infrared rooms, lavender steam room and waterbeds. Now the Waterbeds to me seemed like a really weird thing to experience when I first saw them. Just a row of single and double waterbeds lined up in front of a wall of different led candles on shelfs. I was thinking, “that is not relaxing, that looks just boring”. Well 20 mins after lying there and just quietly talking to my Sister-In-Law, I found myself trying to keep my eyes open. I was proven wrong by Centre Parcs again. There is a inside/outside pool that is just lovely at night. There is very limited street lights in Centre Parcs, therefore there is no light pollution, so when you sit outside in the warmth of the pool water, you can appreciate the stars. During the Twilight sessions you will have up to 3 hours to explore all the different spa rooms and relax. The Twilight Sessions are sold in pairs, which sell out fast so pre-book, and are £64 a pair.
Another tradition is to visit Santa in his workshop at The Village Square. If you want to take your little ones, pre-book! It costs £12 per child, which will include your visit to Santa, a photo and gift! Sshhh! The Elves hand out a form to the adults asking for some basic details of the child like, age, name, want they want for Christmas, who they are on holiday with etc. The walk through to visit Santa is beautiful, with giant Nutcrackers, faux ice blocks, faux Polar Bears and Penguins. When Santa is ready for his next visitor, the Elves will come and collect you from the workshop and ask you to knock politely on the door of the room Santa is currently sat in. The room that Santa is sat in, is decorated very traditionally, with a fake log fire, bookcases, little stools for the children to sit on next to Santa and a Elf on hand ready to take that all important photograph.
Outside of Santa’s Workshop is the The Village Square. Decorated with a countless number of Christmas trees covered with the most impressive fake snow and fairy lights, a canopy of twinkling lights, singing Reindeers and even real Reindeers, which you can feed, again if you pre-book.
The children requested that we attended the Jingle Bell rock Roller Disco again this year. Held in Jardin Des Sports, there is Christmas music playing and flashing lights! Roller Skates, helmets, knee pads and elbow pads are all included in the fee of £7.50 and the roller disco lasts an hour. The children find it immense fun, especially if one of their Aunts or Uncles fall over!
Another activity we took part in this year was Pottery painting in the Painting Studio, just on the outskirts of the The Village Square. In all honestly, it is pricey, I think it worked out to be about £60 for the three of us to paint a piece of pre moulded pottery, but was very relaxing. We all sat quietly around a table of paints for nearly 90 mins concentrating on our master pieces. Even my little 3 year old nephew did tremendously well at painting his Dinosaur! 48 hours later the pottery had been baked and was ready for collection. We all waited with bated breath at how our pieces has turned out, all in all, they were a success!
The main activity that we all enjoy is FREE! Yep Free! Is the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at The Plaza. With a large pool including wave machine, windy river, slides, flumes, hot whirlpools, cold plunge pool, Wild Water Rapids, Toddler pools and slides and even a outside swimming pool. True to Center Parcs style even the outside swimming areas have twinkling lights, mini Christmas trees covered in fake snow and lights lining the edges of the pool. The children and even us truly enjoy the swimming pool, but especially the Wild Water Rapids. The rapids are not deep, but you will need to be able to swim unaided to be able to enter them. You can stand in the water in the rapids as they are only as deep as mid-thigh height. There are drops, twists and currents to have fun in, all ending back within the shelter of the subtropical roofed swimming area. We are most excited to be returning to next year, as they are currently building a brand new extension to the swimming area, to include even more slides and rumour has it even a raft slide! This is set to open the summer of 2017, so we will be even more excited to arrive next year.
Center Parcs always have a trail too for the children to complete (yep this is free to do too). This was a really nice way of us getting out on the bikes for an hour cycling around the park finding the letters to complete the phase. They handed it in at Guest Services and where rewarded with a Lindt Teddy chocolate, and then we were also in the right place to hit the pool again!
Next to Jardin Des Sports is a large play park too. Suitable for all ages, with swings, zip lines, climbing frames and slides. We stumbled across this in fact, as the large trees were shielding it from view.
On a Tuesday evening and a Sunday evening there is a firework display. Best viewing point is down next to the lake near Jardin Des Sports. Starts at 6pm and lasts about 15 mins! All free again!
Another rather sweet thing to do just next to Guest Service within The Plaza is the ‘Wishing Tree’. Just a twig tree with leaf shaped paper in a tray beneath it for you to write out your Christmas Wish on and hang the leaf on the tree. Take a moment to read other guests wishes, some are rather humble, some are very ambitious and some are quite funny, usually the ones the children have wished for!
At The Plaza there are restaurants, shops, an arcade, bowling alleys and Guest Services. Limited shops to be fair, but your not there for retail therapy. The children’s favourite shop is ‘Treats’, the one stop sweet shop and my favourite shop is ‘the Store Room’ selling lots of unique shabby chic home decorative items and quirky gifts. There is a small super market too for in case you run out of milk or bread, it is more expensive then your average super market but that is to be expected!
One of our favourite restaurants that we visited again this year is Hucks! They serve American and Mexican food in a diner style restaurant. The children’s buffet is really good, as they can choose what they want to eat for £7.50, everything from salad, chips, fish, beans and pasta! This year I had the steak and king prawn fajitas, which was delicious! Within Hucks, there is a soft play area and some Mac computers for the children to entertain themselves with once the table chatter has bored them!
As I said Center Parcs is a lovely family holiday. It can be expensive, as the accommodation is not cheap to start with in comparison to other self catering holidays in England, plus any activities you wish to do, dining out or purchasing food before you go for your lodge. But if you want a truly magical kick start to the festive season with your family, save throughout the year, and book! You can make it cheaper, by dining in your lodge, playing bored games at home, completing the free activities within the park and just being a family, which we can loose sometimes in the bustle of modern life! Enjoy and Merry Christmas!