A Special Family Break at Center Parcs Longleat

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A Special Family Break at Center Parcs Longleat
My Family & I needed a special holiday to mark the successful end of a hard chapter in our lives.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer last summer and had to undergo a series of surgeries and chemotherapy treatment - so we decided to book a weekend break at Center Parcs in Longleat. The idea was to have an "outdoors" holiday with plenty for us all to do as a family and start living again. Having three children Dominic 5, Aimee 4 & Amber 2yrs we wanted to plan lots of activities and pick the outdoors lifestyle back up.

Ten Pin Bowling

We arrived early at 10am on our first day to make the most of the facilities and soon after we were at our first pre-booked activity - ten pin bowling.
Dominic, Amber and Aimee
I was pleasantly surprised that there were shoes to fit all of us - including our two year old, and with lane buffers and bowling frame in place we were off! The kids loved knocking the pins down, we all had great fun and our holiday was off to a flying start. However, I would definitely advise to pre-book as all the lanes were full by the time we finished our game!

After the bowling, we checked into our Center Parcs Accommodation - a 'New Style Executive Lodge'. It was very modern, open plan with quality furnishings and was spacious, very clean and warm. All the lodges seemed to be facing out so nobody was overlooked and we all had forest views. Even better, within the first hour we saw birds, squirrels and two baby deer from our back window! With all modern facilities including dishwasher and even a barbeque outside, it became home from home pretty quickly. Having three young children it was piece of mind to see all windows had safety locks, as did the blinds, all stand alone furniture had rounded edges, and there were infant steps in the main bathroom. Best of all, there was a floor to ceiling "chalk wall" for the kids to create on and keep them entertained, which was a great touch.
Squirrel outside the Lodge

The Lodge

The lodge covered pretty much all our requirements - even a cot & high chair if needed, but the plates were china and the cutlery was adult size (not too great when you have 3 under 6...) The bedrooms were of a good size with plenty of hanging space, and the hallway was heated which meant if you had wet coats and shoes they could be kept separate! The only concern I had with the accommodation was that the water and radiators were very hot so we needed to keep a close eye on the kids for the first few hours!

We also ordered a grocery box to save us carrying many more items, and the products were laid out in the kitchen for our arrival. The items which were all branded or local produce included fresh fruit, croissants, bread, milk, butter, fruit juices, bacon, eggs, sausages, cordial, coke, bottled water, lager, wine, tea, coffee, biscuits, dolly mixtures, toilet paper, washing up liquid, admittedly it was additional money, but the feeling was that it was money well spent!

We hired bikes to help us all travel around the spacious park - hiring bikes was great fun and enabled us to see more of the park in the time we had but do set you back around £100 for 5.
Bouncing good fun!
Not riding myself for around fifteen years, I started a little wobbly (especially with an infant seat on the back) but soon overcame that, and I was soon laughing at my husband puffing and panting with a trailer behind his bike for our two eldest - which they thought was fantastic. It was a must for us as the limited energy the little ones had was kept for the activities and not pedalling up and down the hilly landscape, and as there were dozens of bike parks to drop your bikes while exploring, it was easy to get around. The bikes did come with locks, but we were disappointed that no helmets were provided for safety!

Swimming at The Plaza

Throughout our stay, the swimming at The Plaza was the children's favourite part without doubt. None of my children can swim but they have gained so much confidence just in four days. The pool has a shallow walk-in end - great for youngsters. With a large heated swimming-pool, wave-machine, Lazy River, many slides and warm hot tub there is plenty to do and that's just inside - they also have these facilities in the outdoors pool too. There were complimentary life jackets on poolside for anyone to use as well as a shop in case you forgot anything...

During the stay we booked two children's activities which were both held at the 'Time Out Clubhouse'. The staff were polite and professional, and explained the set-up to us to put our minds at ease! I was pleased to see that the clubhouse had up to date facilities with secure indoor & outdoor space.

Activities

BulletActivity 1 was on Saturday and all three children took their teddys to The Teddy Bears Picnic. The weather was dry and they played games, had a picnic and met Teddy! Adults needed to attend this one, and although all three children seemed to enjoy, there wasn't much atmosphere and their lunch boxes were very limited without any choice.
BulletActivity 2 on Sunday was the Pirates & Princesses Party (3 hours).
Pirates and Princesses
My 4 & 5 Year old attended this by themselves. We completed a form giving location to be contacted in case of emergency whilst the staff bonded with the children, and almost immediately our two were happy to be left to have fun! Perhaps they mentioned cake? There was initially free play and tidy up time followed by hat making. They had face painting, party games and a magical princess and pirate party. Both children had a fantastic time - three hours of fun was well worth the cost (£17.50 per each child).

Dining at Center Parcs

We dined in a few restaurants during our stay at the CenterParcs Lonleat. Here are our opinions / experiences:

Hucks (Plaza) has American style menus with plenty of choice for everyone. Large portions, quick & friendly service. They have a children's play area with the start & exit both in the restaurant as well as a computer corner with various games & puzzles set up. A magician also came to our table while we waited to entertain the children - a great touch!

The Grande Caf√© (Village Square) was the venue for the Carvery at lunch on Sunday. On the face of it, it seemed a little expensive for a two course lunch (£15.95 for adults & £7.50 for children) but it really was worth every penny. Fresh, piping hot dinners and a choice of four hot & cold desserts. There was also an outdoor play area for young children just the other side of the window as well as colouring and puzzles. It was a good quality dinner with very friendly staff.
Both restaurants above offered great dining, friendly staff and plenty to entertain the children. But I would recommend you book a table in advance to save disappointment as they did seem to be pretty busy.

During our break we also had a snack at the Sports Village (Jardin des Sports). Again the food was good, the staff friendly and there was so much for children of all ages to do. Having young children, ours were happy with the Soft Play, while Dad had a pint and watched the rugby and mum had a coffee! The sports facilities were especially good in this complex. Inside there was badminton, squash, pool/snooker, table tennis, roller disco and even Zumba to name but a few. Outside was the boating lake, boules, playgrounds & tree top climbing ... the list goes on...

The Aqua Sana Spa

Our last treat was for both my husband & myself to relax in the Aqua Sana & Spa.
We had organised for three hours of relaxing quality time while the older two children were booked into the 3 hour session in the 'Time Out Clubhouse'. My Mother, who had come to join us on a Day Pass for the one day, had agreed to look after our youngest for us to completely switch off. The only snag was that the reservation for the clubhouse was mis-communicated, and would have left us without our Spa Experience if our family had not stepped in! It was very disappointing although it has to be said that the staff member at the Clubhouse did all she could to re-arrange our spa with childcare on a different day. The trouble was, the following day didn't suit us and our plans. Although the Spa itself was truly relaxing, it did leave a slight sting in my tail.

However, the Aqua Sana facilities were endless, with tranquil atmosphere and the friendliest staff ever. So many saunas and steam rooms to experience as well as an outdoor large Jacuzzi/pool, many loungers and also water beds to relax on, a meditation room and plenty of drinking stops for rehydration. We didn't manage to experience the eating quarters but the menu looked very Mediterranean with lots of fresh products as well as coffee & cakes. Highly recommend for couples or groups of friends!!!
Playground Fun

Our stay at Center Parcs as a whole has been absolutely fantastic. Lots of quality time as a family and a little time-out for my husband and I. There was lots of fresh air and we had so much fun trying out new experiences. The accommodation was great and Center Parcs Longleat really does have so much to do and see. The whole experience was so child-friendly, made safe with all the walk / cycle ways. Another great touch in Center Parcs is a ban on cars outside of changeover days, except service cars or medical staff. The park is so large to explore it makes you want to come back for more and see what you didn't get to this time We felt that that as there are so many activities to suit all ages, the kids will never grow out of this place.

Although Center Parcs seems a bit expensive for the average family, you can spend as little or as much as you like when you're in. The accommodation is self-catered with all modern appliances so who needs to eat out all the time? You can also cut costs by sharing accommodation with another family /friends. With the accommodation price including unlimited swimming, play in the various parks, treks, wildlife adventures and more, it really is a great place to go regardless of the weather in our great British climate!!!!!!

By Sian with husband George and children Dom 5, Aimee 4 and Amber 2!

March 2012

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