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While Center Parcs has everything you could want and more, it isn’t always a place people can afford, especially in school holidays. Though a Center Parcs break is worth the money (if you go at the right time) we also realised how many other options there were that are similar to Center Parcs here in the UK.
The UK is home to a number of different ways and means you can holiday from hotels in cities to cosy cottages in the countryside and even holiday villages where you can spend an action-packed week as a family.
Places such as Center Parcs are increasing in popularity as more and more of us choose to have staycations and getaways for the weekend.
I decided to put together a quick find guide so you can find an alternative to Center Parcs quickly based on some key factors from what’s included in your stay to whether you can take pets or not.
I included Center Parcs at the bottom so if budget is your biggest decider you can quickly look down the table and rule out any that are over your budget.
If you don’t want to give up on the Center Parcs dream holiday then look at different ways to save money on your trip, including putting together a thorough packing list to avoid having to spend money unnecessarily on-site.
What surprised me the most was how many holiday parks there were in the UK and how many were so very similar to Center Parcs.
Depending on your requirements, budget and where you live in the UK may depend on your choices.
Some of the holiday parks have a wide variety of locations to choose from which can be beneficial but may also work against them. If they have too many the standards between each may differ much more.
They are also a great place to group together and spend a long weekend with your family and friends.
With options to cook in your accommodation, swim all day and barbeque on a night along with so many activities and options to keep everyone entertained it is easy to see why people are looking for alternatives to Center Parcs.
No matter your reason for looking for an alternative to Center Parcs, there is plenty to choose from. From woodland villages to seaside retreats and even those buried in the wilderness somewhere, there is something for everyone.
Butlins is a well-known brand for having three locations in coastal areas from Lincolnshire, West Sussex and Somerset. With Skegness, Lincolnshire being the flagship location of the brand, it is often the most popular.
There is plenty available to do that is included in your break from live shows and entertainment, the fairground and of course swimming. There are also more activities including discos, small animal discovery, little library and arts and crafts.
You can also book and pay for some extra activities during your stay or you can go off and explore the seaside and beach.
There are a number of different styles of accommodation from basic rooms and apartments to luxury lodges. The most basic is a hotel-style bedroom(s) with a toilet and shower room, while the more luxury lodgings are separate bedrooms with a fitted kitchen, living room and family bathroom.
If you are looking to spend a week at Butlins and still save on money I would suggest upgrading your accommodation and taking your own food, that way you can cook your meals at your lodge or even pack a picnic for your day out.
Otherwise, in basic accommodation, you would be needing to purchase 3 meals a day for each person during your stay as you have no access to a kitchen in your room. Alternatively, there are some onsite restaurants or you can purchase one of the dining plans available.
Unfortunately, pets are not permitted at Butlins breaks and would need to stay home during your holiday.
If you wish to do any shopping or purchase any food you would need to go off-site to the nearest supermarket to do so. Though this is also a good thing as you can save money by shopping at a regular supermarket instead of inflated prices.
Bluestone holiday park is nestled in Bluestone National Park Resort in Pembrokeshire. This private piece of Pembrokeshire is a wonderful place for children to run free and explore nature.
Within your break at Bluestone, you can have full use of the Serendome, Blue Lagoon Water Park, surrounding land to play in and the Bluestone Village. This is pretty much on par with Center Parcs which I like as I think these are the things families really want to have access to within a holiday park stay.
Unfortunately, during your stay pets except guide dogs are not currently allowed to stay and come onto the resort. This is due to many different species of wildlife within the area which they work hard to not disturb.
Something I find interesting is that Bluestone has a very similar policy on cars on the resort, with private car parks and no vehicles to be driven to lodges and back out of specific times. This is something I really like as we found that we really enjoyed this aspect of free-roaming at Center Parcs.
They do recommend doing your large food shop before arriving and unloading when you arrive at your lodge. There is a small convenience shop on-site and you can even order a grocery pack to be delivered to your lodge upon arrival.
The duration of the stay is the same set up at Center Parcs where you arrive Monday or Friday and leave on the following Monday or Friday. If you wish to arrive on a Wednesday you would still be charged for the 2 previous nights within your booking.
Bluestone has a wide variety of lodges, cottages and apartments available at their resort with the largest lodge at the resort sleeping twelve people. This is a step above Center Parcs as the largest accommodation they cater for is eight.
However, both Center Parcs and Bluestone have cooking facilities inside the lodge that make cooking meals inside your accommodation a breeze.
If you don’t feel like cooking there are a number of restaurants, cafes and snack spots available on the resort.
There is also plenty of activities free and paid that you and your family can enjoy. With 20+ paid activities you can book onto your stay or you can take advantage of some of the free things in the area from the nearby beach, hikes and walk or even just go swimming.
I feel Bluestone is the most similar to Center Parcs as it shares many of their core values and thoughts on nature and family holidays.
Haven holidays have been another holiday park that has been popular with many families looking for an alternative to Center Parcs. Though Haven doesn’t have log cabins or lodges they have static caravans in a variety of sizes and styles to suit any family.
Much like Butlins, Haven specialises in coastal locations with stunning views over the sea and beaches located nearby to explore. There are over 30 locations in the UK to head to and explore new coastlines.
There is an onsite convenience shop, 4 dine-in or takeaway restaurants along with other facilities from a launderette, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and activities. Each accommodation comes with a kitchen to enable you to cook and dine in, make breakfast or even make up a picnic for the day.
Haven much like Center Parcs has over 100 activities both indoors and outdoors for everyone to enjoy. Along with things such as bike hire, aerial adventure and pottery painting for adults and children. There is also plenty of activities such as swimming, the beaches and walking routes are free to use and included in your break.
If you have dogs and wish to take them with you, certain locations will allow pets. Check you can add a pet to your accommodation before booking.
Some of the Haven locations also have options for touring campers and motorhomes and tents with facilities available if you wish to take your own accommodation with you but still have the fun of the facilities of a Haven holiday.
4. Parkdean Resorts
Parkdean Resorts have over 60 locations across the UK there is a wide variety of places to stay and explore.
Parkdean offers a wide variety of accommodation styles from touring and camping to static caravans, lodges and chalets. Depending on where you want to go or your location style will depend on your type of holiday.
Some locations have more than one style of accommodation while others specialise in one style only. The lodges are the most similar to what you would experience at Center Parcs.
They are less spaced out or seem to be in a less private setting compared to some of the lodges at Center Parcs.
At Parkdean resorts you can find yourself in better company with the pet-friendly locations so your four-legged friend doesn’t have to miss out.
Over 60 locations have swimming facilities from indoor and outdoor pools to swimming complexes and slides. These are included in your stay at the resort along with the kids club.
There are a number of other activities which you need to book and pay for from archery to arts and crafts to Bear Grylls survival academy.
There are select restaurants that are unique to Parkdean resorts on sight for eating out, you can also choose from away of the restaurants for a takeaway or you can simply cook in your accommodation. You can also choose to have one of two options for a dining package during your stay.
There is entertainment during the day and into the evening with kids clubs, live acts and shows along with touring name acts. There is also a bar area to enjoy the evening entertainment with friends and family.
Also due to the location of the resorts being coastal, you have all the fun of the idyllic seaside towns, beaches and places to go hunting for crabs. I the weather is nice enough you can escape to the beach and even do a little sunbathing while the kids play in the sand and sea.
5. Forest Holidays
Forest Holidays is very much like Center Parcs as the locations are all based in forests and surrounded by gorgeous woodland. There are 11 locations to choose from across England, Scotland and Wales so there is bound to be a convenient location for you.
There are up to 6 different types of cabins to choose from including a disability access style lodge for anyone requiring wheelchair access.
Cabins range in size and sleep up to 10 people which is great if you have a large family or there are a number of families/friends staying together.
The cabins are well designed, comfortable and fairly modern, they have the option to have a hot tub at the back to add a little luxury to your stay. Along with added extras you can get or upgrades to your cabins you can also bring a pet (this is only available in certain locations and specific cabins).
Much like Center Parcs, Forest Holidays have an onsite supermarket within the Forest Retreat area. You can bring your own food with you and simply top-up from the onsite shop or you can dine in the Forest Hub to find snacks, sandwiches or just a drink at the bar.
There is just the small menu at the Forest Hub for dining in or out but they provide a wealth of knowledge on the local pubs, restaurants and cafes where you can find great locally made food.
Even though it can be a little bit of a pain to leave the site to go out for food, it is also great to get out and experience more of the local area and local produce.
Something Forest Holidays excels at is that they are partnered up with Forestry England, Forestry Wales and Forestry and Land Scotland. This is to help keep the forests thriving and better protecting them for a full and healthy future.
The drawback to Forest Holidays locations is that none of them has a swimming pool. There are still plenty of other activities you can do from Go Ape adventure to water sports and woodland survival.
There is also the option of bringing your furry friend along for the break so you can all get out and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. You may be required to book a special pet-friendly lodge if you wish to bring your dog.
While the lack of a swimming pool can dampen the spirit, the overall theme of Forest Holidays is being with nature and having an adventure. With so much natural beauty to explore on bike rides and walks there is still so much to see and do during your trip.
Parking is available at your cabin but only at certain locations and cabins. There is space for 2 cars but any extra would be parked at Forest Hub, those without parking would be required to park in the nearest car park or at Forest Hub.
6. Ribby Hall Village
Ribby Hall Village is a privately family-run holiday village in beautiful Lancashire. This is a contrast to the many locations Center Parcs have across the UK, where there is only one. It is just a short drive from the bustling fun and sandy beaches of Blackpool and Fylde Coast.
The accommodation at Ribby Hall Village is still varied with holiday cottages, pine lodges, spacious lodgings for larger groups and even dog-friendly accommodation. Each is built and separate from any other which makes it feel like you have your own private space.
The accommodation can suit anything from 2 people to a group of 14 in one place, perfect for all the family to come.
Very similar to Center Parcs, Ribby Hall has included in your stay many things such as the use of a swimming pool, playgrounds, soft play areas and even the gym for adults. There are also extra activities which you can book from segway experience, climbing, golf, painting, cake decorating and more.
What I also like is that there are options for just adults to enjoy a woodland getaway together, there is the use of a gym and you can book yourself for a spa treatment too.
All styles of accommodation come with a fully fitted kitchen with everything you would need to make a meal and the tools to do so. There is a Spar convenience shop near the resort in which you can run to, to find extras you need for your trip.
Ribby Hall also has 3 on-site restaurants, along with a Papa Johns pizza delivery/collection service, a bar and a coffee house for a quick pick me up. The onsite amenities are great as you can stay on-site and explore everything there is to offer without having to drive far to find a Starbucks or Costa (though there is a Costa nearby).
While you are experiencing a lovely getaway your pet can come too, with special accommodation so your pet doesn’t have to miss a thing. Make sure you check out the accommodation to accommodate pets before booking.
7. Away Resorts
Away Resorts is another holiday resort that has multiple locations across the UK. They like many of the other resorts offer stand-alone accommodation and touring and camping style accommodation. So even if you want to have the feel and amenities of the resort you can still go camping or go in your motorhome.
They offer anything from camping and glamping through to caravan style living up to luxury lodges so there is something for everyone. Some styles of accommodation may only be available at certain resorts so make sure you check this before booking.
The accommodation comes in a number of styles so you can choose what suits you and for how many people are going. I like the different styles of accommodation and designs as it makes it a little more fun for the family.
Certain locations will offer different things from different activities to different facilities so check your location before you book. There are many similarities between Away Resorts and Center Parcs, with Away Resorts having a cycle centre to hire bikes, spa and treatment area, indoor and outdoor swimming and also the village store.
While each accommodation is self-catering and has the facilities to cook a meal in your own lodge/caravan there are also a couple of places to eat on site. There is also information on nearby places to eat if you feel like a change or exploring more of the surrounding area.
In terms of activities, there are plenty of free and included activities from soft play areas, parks and playgrounds and swimming along with being able to walk around the resort. Some of the larger resorts such as Sandy Balls, Whitecliff Bay and Tattershall Lakes offer more facilities, activities and amenities compared to the smaller resorts.
Some of the styles of accommodation and resorts are pet friendly but not all of them, they are to be added to your booking straight away to make sure there are space and the right style of accommodation for your pet. You are allowed up to 2 dogs per accommodation.
While the accommodation is modern, clean and well looked after the feel of the resort itself differs from Center Parcs, while it is set out in the open and countryside it doesn’t have the whimsical feel of the forest life at Center Parcs but is still a great alternative.
8. Landal Green Parks
Landal Green Parks originally started in the Netherlands and then came to the UK. On their website, you can book a trip to one of the European resorts if you want to experience places such as Germany, Belgium, Austria and more. There are 6 locations in totally here in the UK from Scotland down to Cornwall.
Each location is unique with some having lakeside views and others buried deep in the forest. Each one is a different experience and style but still comfortingly the same. The largest accommodation you can find will sleep up to 6 people and can come with or without a hot tub and BBQ area.
The accommodation varies in style but mostly are cabin style settled in clusters around the park. The more luxurious types that come with hot tubs and have more space around them may be set off into a more private area for that added peace and tranquillity.
The swimming pools are complimentary and are included in your stay at any Landal Green resort. There are a whole host of different activities that can be booked while you are there or in advance so you don’t miss out on something you really want to do. Though the pools don’t have slides and super amazing things to do, it can be much nicer as there is more space to swim and have fun as a family.
There are other amenities included in your stay from the spa and sauna for adults along with added extras you can try such as mini jets and snorkelling.
The onsite cafe and restaurants will differ depending on the resort and resort size but will generally have the same styles of offerings.
The food is said to be simple but filling and the cafe is a good spot to head to after swimming for a snack and milkshake. Many of the restaurants and cafes will have a play area within eye line for children to play on, leaving you to eat in peace.
There is a small onsite shop where you can pick up some essentials for your BBQ or even just as a snack throughout the day. You can of course leave the site and go to any of the surrounding areas for shopping or other activities that you can’t find on-site or just simply wanting to experience the area.