So, if you read my post a few weeks ago you’d know we were off to Center Parcs for our first mini family break, well we went last weekend and had a really great time. Weather wise it wasn’t too bad either. We visited the Whinfell Forest resort as it is our nearest, and although it’s not as big as Sherwood Forest (which I think I tend to prefer) it had its own charm and perks.
I was quite anxious about the journey but it turned out to be fine. There was a little wobble just before half way but we managed to soothe the little man to sleep and so went past our emergency stop point and kept going on to Carlisle. We were debating ploughing onto Center Parcs until he woke just before we were about to arrive in Carlisle so pulled into a large Tesco store which is brilliantly located pretty much on the round about of the two main roads and has everything you’d need and a great coffee shop serving Costa coffee. This pacified J enough so wasn’t worried about going back in the car to finish our journey which was only 20min away.
We had a little walk around, a drink in the Sports Bar and a little dip in the pool before it was time to check into our accommodation, which was ideally located a few minutes walk from the centre. We had chosen the apartment style which was perfect for us, it had everything you’d need, plus little luxuries of a whirlpool bath, coffee machine and dishwasher. The travel cot supplied wasn’t so good so J ended up sleeping in-between us, but the high chair was great, the place was very clean and putting J to bed then sitting on the balcony really worked well. We also had a maid service which was very nice.
For entertainment we had booked the baby owls session which I’d highly recommend to anyone with smaller kids. It was £7 a head for an hours experience and you got to see 6 (I think) different owls, you could hold them, stroke, take as many photos as you liked and the host was a really nice chap who’s talk was informative and funny. J is 13 months and was maybe a little too young but he still enjoyed most of it.
We also made use of the pool everyday and the kids section was really good. Better than the other Center Parcs we’ve visited. It was very big and warm, was stocked with watering cans, life jackets, a little slide and a place kids could run around and water shot up at them. The changing rooms were really good too and we never failed to find a family cubicle even when it was very busy. There’s free to use hair dryers and for a cost straighteners, costume and people dryers. The only let down with the pool was the baby dolphins session where the open the pool half an hour early for little ones with a session of songs, when we visited Sherwood Forest this was great, but at Whinfell nothing actually happened! There were no songs and we were greeted by a very grumpy chap who complained everyone had arrived too early! There was little point in it to be honest.
Pretty much every bar and restaurant we went to have a softplay featuring an under 3’s section which J really enjoyed, and the play areas, although for older children, were also really good.
Going shopping en route and eating in one night and at breakfast really saved us money. We didn’t find the on site shop too bad cost wise really and would recommend their meals, but the restaurants and bar were pretty pricey – as you’d expect.
Two half pints of coke when we arrived, which were mainly ice, cost £4.80
A glass of cordial juice for J was £1.20.
We went for a meal at Hucks where me and my husband both had burger and fries with a cocktail and little man a side order of macaroni cheese (no drink) and the cost came to around £40 – so we definitely wouldn’t be doing that every night!
- Top Tips!
Get the wrist bands, these are great and allow you access to your accommodation, use of the lockers and to pay for food within the swim paradise without have to worry about keys and cash. Don’t forget to activate it though we did so on the Friday and were pleased as there was big queues for the machine on the Saturday morning.
- Arrive early to get a car parking space and keep your car there if at all possible. The car park is frankly a total nightmare. The spaces aren’t marked out so people park terribly and it is very chaotic.
- If you want to eat somewhere specific book in advance, we booked a few days before we visited and didnt get our first choice of time, we saw people getting turned away at the restaurants without reservations.
- Same with the take away, because it’s such a family friendly place a lot of people make use of the take away, so again, book your slot early – you can book from 3pm.
- Carry a back pack big enough for everyones swimming costumes, drinks and snacks. This will keep costs down if you end up being out longer than planned and if you decide to visit the pool impromptu – you won’t need to go back to your lodge.
- If you are planning to do a water sport don’t forget waterproof trousers – you will get wet!
It’s also worth noting Center Parcs offer lots for families to make your break easier, they rent pushchairs, have a creche where you can leave your child, and offer a babysitting service.
Here’s some photos of our lovely break…