I didn’t really know what to expect at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest when I went back in May. Center Parcs was always somewhere that I wanted to visit as a child, ever since one of my friends went there. It was always deemed too expensive, and for a family I now totally understand. I visited with my friends so the total cost of staying for the week was split between 8 and we went Monday-Friday during term-time, making it not too expensive at all. The activities are what add the bigger cost on.
Anyway, as a family needing to go during half-terms I can see why it gets expensive. Is it worth it? I think so.
#1 Expect To Do a Lot of Walking (Or Cycling)
I mean when you go to Center Parcs, I guess this isn’t really a ‘problem’. It wasn’t for me. But I was surprised at just how big the entire site was, despite everything also being very close together. Bit of a weird one.
The paths that you can walk down are so pretty and scenic, you wouldn’t want to drive anywhere anyway. There are some lodges that you get to keep your car with you, but for the majority you will drive up to the lodge to unload all your stuff and then have to return it to the main car park for the duration of your stay. It’s so you can walk/cycle freely without the worry of having to watch out for cars on the roads, and I really liked that. It makes for such a safer place for kids especially.
Anyway, this place is great if you just like to be outside and in nature. I like to explore and I had a great time just walking and enjoying all the views.
#2 It Kind of Feels Like Summer Camp
Okay so I’ve never actually been to a summer camp, but I’ve watched a lot of American films with kids that have. It Takes Two – absolute fave. Parent Trap – always a winner.
Anyway, your week or weekend in Center Parcs feels like you’re just in this happy little bubble of nature and all things outdoorsy. If you get outside, that is. (hopefully you do because what’s the point in going otherwise?)
No but seriously, on site you have a supermarket, a few restaurants, clothing shops, Starbucks, and gift shops too. There’s also a pub. So yeah, there’s no need to leave during your stay anyway. And then you add in the activities and it makes you feel like a child again. In a good way of course.
#3 Taking Your Own Supplies Is A Must
We did a big shop (probably too big ) before heading into Whinfell, and it really saved us a lot of money. As mentioned above, there is a small supermarket on site but the foods in there were a little more expensive than a shop outside of the park. Useful for little bits you might need, but I wouldn’t do a full shop. Taking your own foods mean you can have quick snacks and easy lunches without having to sit in a restaurant all the time.
This also means that you can have a night in with snacks without having to go buy them. We ate out twice, and then made group meals in the lodge twice too. Great idea for a group of friends.
#4 Center Parcs Isn’t Actually That Dog-Friendly At All
This one really surprised me. What better place to take a dog, than to a holiday village such as Center Parcs where you are pretty much encouraged to be outside and enjoying the nature?
There were set areas that had dog-friendly lodges, and they seemed to be more on the edges of the site with areas that you could let the dog off the lead. However, dogs aren’t allowed in any of the public buildings. I understand not being allowed in the restaurants or shops, but they couldn’t even walk through the Sports Plaza building or main centre. Instead you’d have to walk all the way round.
It explains why we didn’t see many dogs whilst there! It just seems such a shame.
#5 To Want To Do ALL The Activities
The costs can quickly add up once you start adding on the activities, but if it’s something you’ve never done but always wanted to try I say go ahead! They are SO worth the money. With such a huge range of activities to choose from at Center Parcs you’re sure to find something you want to do.
We all saved up knowing we wanted to do a few different activities and also pre-booked a few so the cost was stretched out a bit. They can get busy and some activities only run on certain days/times so it’s worth planning beforehand to check that nothing clashes. If you’re a big group especially, pre-booking is the best idea unless you want to split up on the day.
Out of all the options, we chose the Tree Treck, Raft Building, Archery and Quad Biking. I’d only ever done archery before, so plenty of new experiences here. It was great to do them as part of a group, and I think the Raft Building was everyone’s favourite. I just didn’t expect it to be as fun as it was – we built the raft and then got onto the lake with it to do some challenges. I’d definitely recommend!
#6 The Water Park Will Take You Back To Childhood
A massive pool, water slides, sprinklers, fountains, wave pool, a rapid river, a jacuzzi – what more could you want?! We were lucky in that it was really hot when we went, so we could go into the outdoor pools and enjoy them in the sunshine. It really felt like a proper holiday abroad then, and not just being in England. There are 5 different water slides at Whinfell, if I remember correctly, all differing in sizes.
Yeah, the water park is well worth a visit and the water is actually warm!