In the height of summer I decided to book us a little family weekend to Center Parcs.
Fast forward a few months and we arrived at Elveden Forest laden down with food and boots and coats and a sense that Christmas was about to start. Center Parcs, Eleveden is nestled in the woods, and as soon as you arrived I could feel the festival levels ramping up!
The car park had a huge snow-covered tree and in the distance a while sleigh sat driverless among the trees. “Where’s Santa?” Arthur asked. “ He’s here, but he’s waiting for you in his workshop.” Oh my god I was ridiculously excited and so far so good. Arriving was an easy process, I had been warned there could be big queues and long waits once the barriers were open for people to get to their lodges. But we cruised through – I have a sneaking suspicion Jonathan drive down a one-way road – but hey ho.
Out little log cabin was hugely impressive – it’s not cheap but inside it’s everything you could wish for. We booked the Woodland Lodge but there are loads of options. It has two good sized bedrooms, a bathroom with toilet and separate toilet plus a spacious living area and fully equipped kitchen. Our first afternoon was spent wandering around and finding our feet, we had an early dinner in Huck’s American Diner and then headed back for a cosy night in front of our real fire.
The rest of the time was filled with swimming in the fantastic pools, riding bikes through the forests, spotting deer and squirrels from our huge windows in our little cabin and basically having a fantastic time.
On Sunday Arthur met Santa in his workshop and they’d done a great job with a magical post office, wonderful scenes with elves and a real sense of wonder – the present was good quality too. We booked in advance and for £11, I think it was good value. There were also some reindeer waiting outside to say hello and you could feed them and find out all about where they lived and what they liked to do.
The pool area is faultless, despite being very busy it was spotlessly clean and really easy to navigate. In my excitement I managed to take Arthur down a, slightly faster than planned, water side. This resulted in a momentarily upset little boy who spent much of the day saying: “Mummy why did you make me go on the slide and push me under water?”
The children’s area is amazing with loads of slides, water squirters , splash areas and fun stuff for little people. I loved the lazy river and the secret pools around the edges which offered a chance to warm up before heading back in for more fun.
Jonathan tried out the Cyclone water slide which apparently was ‘very fast, quite quick and at one point left me free-falling in the air’. Earlier that day I’d queued up behind a woman who told me she’s been on and it was the worst five minutes of her life – I quickly decided it wasn’t for me. We cooked in our lodge two nights and on the Sunday there was a brilliant free fireworks display early evening so all the little people could enjoy it too.
I loved it and can’t wait to go back. Yes the activities can be expensive and I’d recommend planning to take at least some food with you – although to be fair their supermarket was well stocked and about the same prices as a normal supermarket.
But it’s perfect for families, there was a real sense of Christmas and the decorations were fab. Our accommodation was faultless and we enjoyed three great days together as a family – what more can you ask.