At the end of last year we were chosen to become Center Parcs Family Bloggers. We were over the moon and starting planning our 4 night break to Center Parcs in Longleat as soon as we could. We thought it would be nice to take our holiday over my birthday and ask our lovely friends to join us.
Center Parcs in Longleat is less than an hour away from us, which was really handy as we didn’t have a long car journey with an uncomfortable toddler. We spent the morning of our holiday, packing up the car and decided to take advantage of time in the Sub Tropical Swimming area before access to the lodges was allowed. Entry to the parc was easy and parking spaces were readily available. We were concerned about leaving our laptop and my birthday gifts in the car, so took them to the pool and found several large lockers available, which we thought was great if you were worried about leaving larger valuables.
The swimming pools on offer are fantastic, there really is something for everyone. We had a short play in the wave pool, before heading back to the car to join the queue to the lodge.
We stayed in a 3 bedroom woodland lodge which offers a dining area, living space, two twin and a double room. There is also an open plan kitchen with oven, hob, microwave, dishwasher and fridge. We were happy to discover a nice large bathroom with bath/shower and toilet and also a separate toilet. Our little man is a bath lover, so staying somewhere with a bath is essential at the moment.
The Accommodation was very clean and modern which made it feel very homely. Our lodge was located about 30 minutes walk from the main Plaza and about 15 minutes walk to the Jardin de Sports complex. We were supplied with bikes to use during our stay and there was also a land train stop a minutes walk from our door. We never felt like we were too far from any activities and we benefited from being away from the main hustle and bustle.
We visited many of the restaurants around Center Parcs during our stay. The first we visited was Cafe Rouge, on my birthday. They had been told one of us was celebrating a birthday so they table had been decorated with balloons and a birthday banner, which was a really personal touch. After making our menu choices, I was presented with a birthday drink of champagne. We each chose a starter, main and dessert and were really impressed with the portions, flavours and children’s menu. My favourite meal was the starter of breads and hummus, I highly recommend if you ever visit. Both children were given colouring pencils and the wait for food wasn’t long, so they didn’t get bored.
We also visited the Pancake House, Strada, Dexter’s Kitchen and Starbucks in both the Jardin des sports and the Plaza. Clara’s favourite was the Pancake House where she ate a short stack of pancakes with golden syrup and bacon. I shared some nachos with my friend and followed it with a chocolate pancake. The Nachos were really nice, but they do use the fake runny cheese, so if you aren’t a fan, it’s worth asking for it without.
I loved Strada, the food was delicious and came in perfect portions. The atmosphere was lovely and they didn’t even mind that M fell asleep before the food arrived and had a little nap one of their booths. We also went on the last day of our stay, so it was nice and quiet, which meant C and I managed to enjoy a conversation and our meals whilst M slept.
Dexters Kitchen was great for a quick milkshake and some nachos. M tested the first aid response team in this restaurant as he decided to beat the floor up with his face. We were helped by a lovely young man who made sure M was ok and not seriously hurt.
It is best too book the restaurants if you want to eat at a specific time or during busy times. I know it’s common sense, but we saw several families turned away from the Hucks Diner due to them wanting a table during a busy period. Luckily the times we visited the restaurants they weren’t very busy at all and we managed to get seated straight away.
There are so many different activities offered on site, for all different ages. We selected a swimming activity called Swimasong (which we will write about in a future post) for M and his little friend, but liked the look of so many of the other activities. We highly recommend you book in advance when planning your stay as most of the popular activities get booked up pretty fast. They also vary in price, so you should be able to find an activity to fit all budgets, depending on the size and ages of your family.
We decided to make use of the bowling alley with the little ones and had lots of fun. We thought it was a bit more expensive than a lane at our local bowling alley, but the atmosphere and black light effect was totally worth it. We were impressed that there were bowling shoes in M’s size, but M was adamant he wasn’t going to wear them, so ended up wearing his own shoes anyway.
Even though there are so many activities to choose from, don’t feel you have to fill your stay with them. We found so much to do without rushing around trying to get to a planned activity. We would like to try a couple of the outdoors activities on our next visit, but would be just as happy with a stay where we made up our own adventures.
It is possible to visit Center Parcs, leave your car in the car park and get everywhere by walking, although it may take you some time to get round the whole park. We were given 4 bikes and two trailers for the duration of our stay and they were so much fun. I would suggest hiring bikes if it fits into your budget. They were so useful on the two mornings we attended Swimasong, as we had to travel to the Plaza before the land train started. I found the trailer too hard to pull, so if I was going to hire bikes on our next visit, I would ask for a child seat instead.
The land train is a great feature at Center Parcs, Longleat. It’s a little train that pulls two or three carriages around the entire park, stopping at stops near the lodges and activity centers. We were lucky to have a stop right near our lodge and the little ones were so excited each time we rode it. Take note of the timetable on stops and try and plan for less busy times when catching the train from the Plaza or Jardin des Sports, a couple of times it was too busy for us to get on, so we had to wait a further 20 minutes.
We found the signs for directions when cycling to be a little confusing at times, with us ending up in a dead end at the bottom of a hill at one point, but it certainly made sure we got to see more of the park. It is handy to keep one of the free paper maps you get given on arrival, in your backpack just in case. I also found the Google maps app was really helpful as it showed all the routes around the park. You could cycle for hours around the park if you are lovers of cycling, the scenery is lovely and the paths are generally cycle friendly, don’t be afraid to use your bell to let pedestrians know you are behind them.
Subtropical Swimming paradise
This is where we spent most of our time during our stay. We are all huge water lovers and swim every week, so faced with so many different slides, pools and features was perfect for us. If you are visiting with small children, there are a couple of mini pools with baby slides and you can also borrow buoyancy aids in case you forgot arm bands. M enjoyed the slides in the baby pools and even managed to climb up to them on his own, which gave him a huge sense of independence.
If you are swimming with older children, adults or more confident toddlers, there are even more options available. We enjoyed the wave pool, inside rapids, outdoor pool and indoor cavern (during the Swimasong). M was far too young to travel down the outside rapids, but C and I managed several turns thanks to our friends watching M for us. If you are a confident swimmer the rapids are a must, they are so much fun and had us giggling like children. A great feature by the outdoors pool is the plunge pool, an incredibly cold mini pool, just big enough for one person crazy enough to plunge into it. C did it without pause, yet I took a bit more time before subjecting myself to the cold waters. Although once I’d met the challenge I was very proud of myself, jumping back into the heated pool feels so good.
The wave pool can get quite busy during wave times, but we still found plenty of space to jump the waves with M. I also loved the fact I was allowed to take my phone into the pool in my Lifeproof cover. I even managed to send a tweet from the middle of the wave pool.
At busy points during the day there can be a wait for a family changing room. We suggest leaving your towel on one of the many chairs around the subtropical swimming paradise, so that your little ones don’t get cold whilst you wait.
We had such a fantastic time, so good that we were googling prices for a holiday there next year. We really felt a connection with Center Parcs, maybe due to the fact we are quite outdoorsy people who love the woods and swimming or maybe because they make your holiday special. We could see ourselves taking our little family there each year as a lovely tradition and trying out the different activities as they grow. It’s perfect for all ages, celebrations, relaxation or just regular holidays. You can book all the trimmings or purely book your lodge, take your own bikes and explore. There is something for everyone. Massive thanks to Center Parcs and the team who booked our stay.