First of all the prices of these activities are not for the feint hearted. Secondly the prices of these activities are actually cheaper than you think and here’s why…
Everyone I’ve spoken to about Center Parcs has essentially said the exact same thing;
“Expensive, but worth it!”
We completely agree. When we chose this holiday, it came right off the back of one that had disappointed us in terms of activities and inadvertently involved a lot more driving that anticipated. We didn’t want that again. We wanted the convenience of driving to one location and having a base for a week and just keeping things a bit more laid back.
5 years ago, we went to Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, which is a similar set up to Center Parcs in that all the activities are on site and it was AMAZING but what ruined it rather significantly was the 2 day drive to get there and the never ending soul destroying holiday blues fuelled 2 day drive home. It was AWFUL, not to be harsh but until Wales sorts it’s roads out we’re not going back anytime soon! It is just too far for us, I do highly recommend it though if you’re closer!
Center Parcs Whinfell Forest is only 3.5 hours away from us. A hell of a lot closer than both sets of our folks and only a wee bit further than our siblings in Glasgow! Perfectly doable and with the petrol prices going up and up, crucially, 3.5 hours driving is still affordable!
I promise there’s a point to all this!
Once you’re at Center Parcs that’s it, there’s no need for any driving. No time spent doing 50 miles into the hills/woods/coast for activities it’s all right there on site. No additional fuel/parking/snacks/meals etc everything is within walking distance from your lodge. This saves you a small fortune, especially if you’re planning multiple activities in multiple locations.
We ended up with 7 activities plus swimming, ooh and an impromptu 2 day bike hire (which we booked while we were on site), which turned out to be in 5 different locations across the 7 days of our stay. That’s a total faff if you factor in all of the above nonsense. Not at Center Parcs, you could get everywhere you wanted to, in less than 20 minutes, on foot from our lodge. It was actually kind of perfect!
Right here goes… here are the activities we did, with prices and a super short review;
- Swimming – FREE, COMPLETELY TOTALLY FREE, DID I MENTION THIS WAS FREE?!
We went every morning for roughly 2-3 hours and twice we went back in the evening, which was a lot quieter if that’s your thing, the lockers are free, the salad spinner for swimmers (a personal highlight) is free. Everything is completely free. There’s about 15 different pools, a canyon ride, 2 flumes, big slides, wee slides, rapids, indoor and outdoor shenanigans, a wave machine and it’s the size of a giant supermarket! It has loads to keep you all entertained. Make the most of that one for sure.
- Bike Hire (Cycle Centre) kids bikes were £27 for a full day hire, plus £3 hire fee for helmets
My Mum and Dad hired these during our stay. A day’s hire was frighteningly close to the price of a full week’s hire (currently £36) which is pretty shocking, but not surprising. Charging extra for the helmet I personally find a bit cheeky though. Money making comes first over safety isn’t the greatest message to be sending. Funnily enough, a lock is provided FOC… make of that what you will. The cycle paths took a lot longer to get you anywhere – but great if that’s your thing. Personally I wouldn’t hire them for the day again, I’d commit to the full week, the boys loved them. They were top quality bikes too, super light!
- Aerial Adventure (Sports Plaza – Outside) was £41 per person (think you had to be 8+) 1 hour
This took place entirely outside, bar a wee covered shed thing to get harnessed up in. There were about 20 different staff members involved across the course on the ground and up in the trees and it was worth every penny. Shout out to Cameron, he was awesome and had the best banter! The course itself was in fantastic condition and meticulously maintained. You felt very safe at all times and the safety training was reassuringly thorough. The zip line across the lake at the end we had absolutely no idea about prior to arrival so that was a delightful bonus!
- Archery (Field) (Outdoor Activity Centre) under 12s £33 and over 12s £39 for 75 minutes
Mark took the older two boys on this and they all came back saying it was amazing. Proper equipment, a proper instructor who gave fantastic advice and a proper professional and maintained set up in the woods. Totally different from any other Archery activity they’ve done before, which was brilliant. They all agreed it was worth every penny!
- Archery (Robin Hood and Little Johns) (Outdoor activity centre) designed for little kids, £25 per pair (child and adult) it states 45 minutes on the booking but we only got 30 minutes.
Glad there was only Loki and I and one other pair involved as it was quite a small space. The set up was a netted off area and 3 ground level targets 10 metres away. Instructor was friendly and helpful and the kids got 20 shots and the adults 15. This was priced and timed perfectly and I would definitely do again to build up his confidence. I even managed to get a left handed bow, which made such a difference from the last time I used one! Worth it!
- Adventure Golf – 9 holes (Sports Plaza – outside) was 2 x under 12s at £7 and 5 x Adults at £8.25 for an 1 hour
The cost was slightly more than most places but perfectly reasonable, it was a great course. Totally worth it. There are actually 2 different 9 hole golf courses, both loads of fun. A few holes were a bit tired in places but it was a great activity to kick off our stay, so glad we booked it the first night. The actual golf area wasn’t staffed at night so we just didn’t pot the ball at the 9th hole and sneaked onto the other course and did those too. We regret nothing!
- Double Kayak Hire x 4 (Boat House – outside) £13 per Double Kayak – 30 mins
Turn up early for this one and you can get on the water quicker and make the most of your 30 mins. Just the right amount of time if you’ve got kids I think too. No instructors or lesson you’re just left to paddle about free range style. (There are lifeguards etc about the lake) The equipment was really good quality and the life jackets were well fitted. They also had left handed paddles, which was great as 3 out of the 7 of us were lefties and I was curious if they could cover that many. Loads of fun!
- Bowling (Village Centre (through a pub)) – Hire a lane for an hour with up to 8 players for £42
Took us a few days to find where this was as it wasn’t obvious at all! Nice little set up, loads of shoes (bring/wear socks). It’s all dark and neon which the kids loved and the bumpers come up specific to a person’s go, which was a bonus! An hour was long enough for us to do one complete game with 7 players. Great activity to do before dinner in the Village centre. Worth it!
- Indoor Climbing – (Sports Plaza) £28 per person for 55 minutes
This was really busy. Difficult to see the kids depending on what wall they were on and you had to stand right next to active ball games, (yes we got hit a lot!) which wasn’t ideal. The boys were often ignored and just left standing about doing nothing. From a parental POV, we really weren’t thrilled with this activity. We think due to their height, they looked a lot older and therefore they got put on the more difficult climbs, where they could barely get off the ground. We had to nudge a staff member to avoid some frustrated tears. But the boys loved it, despite not being able to climb anything and have asked to do it again so what do we know. Pricier than we’d have liked!
- Laser Combat – (Outdoor Activity Centre) under 12s £32 and over 12s £38 – 75 mins
Absolutely extortionately priced and a total waste of money. In fact this was so bad we complained and after some shenanigans with CS got a full refund. Not at all suitable for the 6+ age recommendation and totally ruined our afternoon! More on this one later… but I do not recommend this one for young kids or families.
I didn’t mean to end this list on a downer but in the spirit of keeping it real; it is what it is! I’m just trying to blank Laser Combat from my memory right now! I’ll be doing full proper reviews of each activity in due course so keep an eye out for those if you want to know more.
Do you think the prices are worth paying at Center Parcs? Does the convenience of one site location for everything appeal? Have you got over the stress of booking them yet?!