‘Family, I have a surprise for you!’ announced my husband with a triumphant smile on his face. Fairly certain that the news wasn’t going to be we’re pregnant – I mean I would know right?! I listened in with much anticipation.
‘For Mum & Dad’s anniversary next week, we are all going to Center Parcs’ [cue screams of excitement from the kids.]
I on the other hand – whilst very appreciative of the gesture – was slightly more apprehensive. You see, I know of Center Parcs, but I’ve never been to a Center Parcs – Isn’t it all just about trees and cycling?
How special was our 15th wedding anniversary going to be there – was this something I was actually going to enjoy?
Well, yes, it was actually. I really enjoyed it, we all really enjoyed it.
Here’s what I thought was great about Center Parcs Woburn Forest (and why you might enjoy a break here too)…
To be honest, I’ve never been checked in to anywhere so fast. We just drove up to a check-in booth, gave our details (without getting out of the car), received our wristbands, which act as your lodge keys and also a map with instructions on the short drive to our lodge.
Within minutes we were pulled up outside our accommodation (you can park until 10pm on arrival day before all cars have to be moved to the central car park) scanned our wristband at the lodge front door and we were in!
A great stress-free start to our break.
We stayed in a two-bedroom executive lodge, that was open plan, modern, clean and well-equipped. I’m not going to lie, the wine fridge and coffee machine were the star attractions for me!
It was such a lovely touch to see that housekeeping had written a little Happy Anniversary welcome message on our lodge blackboard for us. To me, it was a really sweet acknowledgement of the special nature of our trip.
The lodge was set back from the road, which helped you feel quite private and peaceful. Plus we had the forest in our back garden, it surprised me how much calm I found sitting and looking out at the trees. (Yes I know – me & trees, who’d have thought it?!)
The beds were comfy and we all slept well. The kids loved having a TV in their room. I can only imagine what time that got switched on every morning!
Good to know: The lodge had the majority of kitchen gadgets and gizmos you could need, including everything you would reasonably expect from a self-catering apartment. There was a housekeeping package of dishwasher tablets, cloths, a tea towel and washing up liquid. I personally packed anti-bac wipes, a liquid hand soap, kitchen roll and clingfilm/kitchen foil. But other than that I wasn’t missing anything. You might find it helpful to know the lodges at Center Parcs Woburn were adequately stocked with toilet roll.
Everyday housekeeping came to make the beds etc. So whilst we were self-catering, I still felt it had a bit of the ‘hotel’ treatment about it. Anything that gives me a break from the daily routine is definitely welcomed by me!
Lots of Fun! Family fun!
Everyday life, with all its demands and requirements, doesn’t always allow time to just have fun. At Center Parcs, if you’re not relaxing, you’re doing. But doing in a good way, a fun way.
There are loads of activities on offer. Yes, you have to pay for them, but there ’s lots of variety and lots of fun to be had.
Whilst at Center Parcs Woburn Forest, we tried archery, high wires, zip wires, tennis, kayaking, climbing and some sort of football on a giant pool table (still questioning that one.) All this before you even enter the Subtropical Swimming Paradise – which was definitely my family’s personal highlight – and ironically the only ‘free’ thing in the place!
There really is a lot to choose from – check out their website for the full list. Not all of them require a lot of physical exertion, there’s a range of craft activities on offer too.
Allow me to go back to the swimming for a moment.
This kept us occupied for hours, daily. It’s really family friendly, from the family changing rooms through to the complimentary float jackets for the kids. There are segments for all age ranges and swimming abilities.
I have a 9-year-old & 7-year-old and most of our time was spent on either the outdoor rapids, the flumes (one is, in my opinion, poop-your-pants extreme) or the much more my style, lazy river. There was a wave pool and a toddler splash area themed like a pirate ship. It’s all clean and easy to navigate. A total winner for us as a family.
I’ll admit, I thought I’d get bored, but Center Parcs Woburn Forest didn’t really give me the chance.
The great outdoors
I made mention of the fact I had slight trepidation about all the enforced ‘being outside’ that I believed a Center Parcs break regimented. But actually, this was probably what I ended up loving the most about Center Parcs Woburn Forest.
It felt so good to be outside (even in the rain) taking in all the fresh air and hearing the rustling of the trees. It was peaceful, no real traffic just lodges and lots of forest.
We couldn’t go a day without encountering some wildlife. Squirrels, ducks, hares, partridges (I believe, I have never made a good bird watcher). It was wonderful. Our housekeeper told us if we left our patio door open, one of the ducks would happily wander inside for some bread. We never tried it, but I was over the moon to see the duck with all her ducklings waddling in the next lodge’s garden – something we rarely get to see every day.
Without the use of a car to navigate around a 365-acre forest you do need to be able to cycle, scoot or walk. There was plenty of opportunity for some fitness – although we didn’t often realise just how active we were being. One day the GPS tracker informed us we had walked 11 miles! That’s before we add on all the sporting activities we took part in.
Obviously, how much or how little you do is up to you, but for me, the opportunity to work-out was welcome. I certainly earned my pancakes at The Pancake House.
In my opinion, the main wellness attraction at Center Parcs Woburn Forest was the Aqua Sana Spa. With our kids happily being looked after, the husband and I enjoyed a day here for our anniversary.
I’ll talk more about the spa in a separate post, but sufficed to say, this is a great one to visit! There are multiple experience rooms (my personal favourite being the aqua meditation room), relaxation areas, affinity pool and zen garden.
This is a fantastic spa. I was more than happy to relax for the day here, catch-up on some reading and feel a lot less stressed than I did on this day 15-years before. It was the best place to celebrate this milestone in our marriage.
Good to know: You don’t need to be a Center Parcs Woburn Forest guest to visit the spa. Day spa packages are available and there is even a spa hotel, should you wish to make the experience last longer.
Great Customer Service
From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, we felt well looked after by Guest Services. They were always polite, helpful and made it clear their priority was making sure we enjoyed our stay.
We were delighted with a little gift from them to mark our anniversary.
Housekeeping were really thorough too, they even washed up for us once!
The staff we encountered on our activities were all friendly and professional. They made the kids feel at ease if they were doing something slightly scary and the onus was always on us having fun.
I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting this level of service at a Center Parcs, but I was delighted to receive it. It definitely helped us to enjoy our stay.
All good things…
All too soon, our woodland adventure was over. With the car packed, we locked our lodge door – maybe stopped for pancakes one last time (because why wouldn’t you?) dropped our wristbands in the box and headed home.
‘Did you have a nice time kids?’ I asked the satisfactorily tired little people in the back of the car.
‘Yes! When can we go back?!’ and to be honest, I felt myself asking that exact same question.
- Book in activities in advance. To ensure you get to do the activities you want to do when you want to do them, make sure to book before you go. This also extends to the onsite restaurants too.
- The majority of the restaurants on site are chain restaurants, Strada, Cafe Rouge etc. The quality of food and service you get in them (from our experience) is the same as you get in any of them across the country – read into that what you will. I do recommend The Pancake House, you can’t book, but it’s definitely worth a visit or two.
- You can easily eat in (or BBQ) at your lodge. To save time, money and just make our lives a little easier, we booked a food collection at the local supermarket in Ampthill (less than 10 minutes drive away) to coincide with our arrival.
- Housekeeping is available on certain lodge packages. Check their website for details.
- If you do venture out of Center Parcs for the day, there are lots of family-friendly options nearby, such as Woburn Abbey & Safari Park. I’ve spoken more about the Safari Park in Happy Days: 5 Great animal attractions to visit in Southern England
- Not travelling by car? There is a free shuttle service from Flitwick Train Station to Center Parcs Woburn Forest for guests.
Want to discover more happy holiday destinations? You can right here: Happy Travels
Have you been to a Center Parcs or a Center Parcs-style holiday before? What did you think? Would you like to visit or is this style of holiday not for you? Have you been to Center Parcs Woburn Forest? Is there another Center Parcs location you would recommend for us to try? Whatever you’d like to say, or if you have any questions about Center Parcs Woburn Forest, just get in touch by leaving a comment in the box below. I’m happy to help and I always love to hear from you!