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Center Parcs is a popular holiday destination in the UK. With individual lodges dotted around a complex and woodland that create hidden pockets and adventure, it’s the perfect family holiday.
The lodge is pretty much a “home from home” with everything you need to make a home-cooked meal, along with plenty of space to sit at the dining table along with a large sofa to relax on an evening.
Center Parcs has plenty to do with activities including treetop adventures, archery, pottery painting and pony rides along with many more. With so many activities to do and each costing anything from £10 up to £50+, you can easily feel like your holiday budget is dwindling, though there are plenty of ways you can save money at Center Parcs.
We worked out that only certain activities were worth the money (in our opinion) we created a list of activities we feel are worth the money and time doing them. But you don’t have to book any activities at all, there are a whole host of things you can do for free still making your trip to Center Parcs worth it.
1. Feed The Wildlife
Something that is so amazing to see and witness at Center Parcs is the wildlife. There isn’t a day at Center Parcs you won’t spot some wildlife, whether it is ducks, geese or squirrels. If you are lucky you might even get to see ducklings and deer.
We found packing a number of different bird feeds and nuts for the squirrels were great as we got to attract a number of different animals (birds, squirrels, duck and geese) to the lodge.
If you don’t fancy listening to the ducks quaking outside your lodge, you can take your bird food on a woodland walk and feed them as you move around the park.
We found many of the ducks liked to hang out near the lake so don’t forget to take a little bag of bird feed if you plan on having a stroll. Spring is a perfect time to see much of the wildlife as babies are born and parents are often waddling around with anything from 3 ducklings to 10.
Squirrels are a big part of park life and so you will see plenty snacking away on nuts and jumping from a tree. There is also the options and areas around the complex to go do some bird watching from huts, seats and more shaded areas that are perfect for twitchers.
Sadly, unlike most hotels, the gym at Center Parcs is not free and instead needs to be booked at a cost of £5 per visit.
2. Go Swimming
Swimming is one of the best free things to do at Center Parcs. The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is open to all guests from 10am to 9pm and is a popular place for many families and people to go during their trip.
There is something for everyone from rapids to water rides for both adults and kids, jacuzzi’s for the adults and a super fun play area with a pirate ship for infants and smaller children to play in.
The subtropical swimming paradise has pools located inside and outside perfect for when the weather is at its best. The subtropical swimming pool is an activity that is included within the price of your lodge and with that, you can have unlimited access to the pool, rapids and slides during your stay.
We found the swimming pool, rides and rapids were especially popular with older children and teens as it was somewhere they could have a little more freedom, though make sure you accompany them to the swimming pool to follow the safety guidelines.
While the Subtropical Swimming Paradise is fully stocked with swimming vests for young swimmers and safety guidelines there are things you will still need to pack for a trip to Center Parcs such as swimming nappies, armbands and towels.
3. Play On The Playgrounds
Center Parcs has a variety of playgrounds dotted around the complex which are free to use for any and all guests. They vary in size so every age and ability has the chance to play on the playgrounds and test their agility.
The playgrounds are mixed in size and can differ from location to location. These are perfect for keeping little ones occupied and entertained without having to spend a penny. There is a number of parks located around each of the Center Parcs locations so your kids will never get bored.
Each playground in Center Parcs is slightly different so even if your children get bored of one there are others they can play on. We also found that this was great as some had been tailored to smaller children and some to older.
We also found that if one park was busy and quite crowded we would go for a walk and find another to play on. As we went with children ranging in age from 4-8 we didn’t struggle too much as anything the 8-year-old could do, the 4-year-old would also try.
These are especially helpful on the first and last day of your holiday as there can sometimes be limits in place to what activities can be booked and used on Monday and Friday. Look at utilising some of the other activities throughout your stay and try and save the playgrounds for the first and last day.
4. Walk Around The Lake
You will find a lake at every Center Parcs location, this is generally a focal point for the water sports and activities along with the Lakeside Inn and sometimes even the village centre.
We found that taking a walk around the lake was something we enjoyed as it would often lead us to other areas of the complex and is great for animal spotting.
Some of the Center Parcs locations have larger lakes compared to others but this shouldn’t be an issue as they all provide a good place for a run, walk or a gentle stroll.
The lake provided a place that we could go to and have a set route if we were wanting to get the little one off to sleep or just a nice walk before bedtime to settle down.
5. Go For A Bike Ride
One of the biggest things to do at Center Parcs is to go for a bike ride. Since cars are not a viable way of getting around due to the amazing way of how Center Parcs is set up, many people turn to use bikes as a mode of transport.
When it comes to cycling around Center Parcs you have two options. You can either bring your bike from home which is completely free or hire a bike at Center Parcs. Unsurprisingly, the cost of hiring a bike at Center Parcs doesn’t come cheap. So if you have the equipment and / or space available, I highly suggest bringing your own bike from home.
There are smooth pathed roads along with some other routes that are perfect for exploring the park. This is a perfect way of seeing more of the area, seeing new things and having an adventure.
There are plenty of roads that are flat for those looking to have a more gentle bike ride or alternatively there are plenty of routes that take you up and down hills giving you a better sense of adventure and exercise.
There are also a couple of routes labelled up for footpaths or bike tracks that take you off-road and into the woods to give you something a little different to experience. This might be more interesting to older guests or those who have a mountain-style bike.
We found that the kids most mornings and evenings enjoyed going for bike rides just on a circular route close to our lodge as they had a little more freedom and we could be safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t get lost.
All Center Parcs lodges include a bike rack where you’re able to safely and securely lock your bike. As such, if you’re bringing your own bike, remember to bring a bike lock with you.
6. Spot The Wood Carved Animals
Something we found on our first visit was a whole host of wood carved animals dotted around the park. They are different animals and carved into old log woods. Some of them were even made into benches to provide handy little seating around the park.
I really like this idea as it is something different and interesting from what else you can see and do at Center Parcs. There are plenty around so you might not see them all in one go but that doesn’t matter as you can keep coming back to see more.
Some are stand-alone statues, some are hidden on the ground and some are made into benches. This can be super fun and even educational, especially for younger children.
You could head out on a walk and make this into a game to spot the different animals, make notes of the ones you have seen and create somewhat of a treasure hunt.
7. Build Sandcastles On The Beach
Who doesn’t love building sandcastles?
Aside from the lake, many of the Center Parcs complexes have a small sandy beach area that is to the side of the water sports areas that you can let your family go and play in the sand.
We found it was a very quiet space so it was perfect for anyone with a small child who is looking for a fun afternoon activity to do.
Some of the locations have more activities based around their lakes and so doesn’t leave much place for sandcastle building but if you can find a good spot on a sunny day it is the perfect thing to do.