Way back at the very end of November we spent the weekend at the Whinfell Forest branch of Centre Parcs. It was our second trip to this beautiful countryside haven and a it was a very different experience to our last one.
Why? Because this one was done on a budget. Last time, we ate out a fair few times and did some of the more expensive activities. This time, we managed to do the whole four-day break on a budget of £150, including a meal out with alcohol.
There is a general conception that Centre Parcs is extortionately priced – and some of it is. But we soon realised there’s still a lot of fun to be had on a budget. So I thought it was worth imparting my wisdom here on the blog with my list of six affordable things to do at Centre Parcs
1. Games and grub in your chalet
This is probably the most fun thing we did all weekend and it cost us absolutely nothing (apart from what we spent during our trip to Morrisons before we went). Carl and I made some super tasty fajitas, we all had a few glasses of wine – or cans of beer in the boys’ case – and we sat round a table playing board games.
We got through two games; Scattegories and Articulate, and honestly I haven’t laughed so much in a long time. Some of the answers we were coming out with were hilarious and it made me realise just how important it is to spend phone-free time with your family doing something fun.
If you’re looking for affordable things to do in Centre Parcs, this one should be the first on your list.
2. Swimming outside
Use of the pool is one of the few things included at no extra cost when you book a chalet at Centre Parcs. The whole pool area was pretty fun – with a cool indoor rapids and some great areas for little ones – but the best bit for me was the outdoor section.
There is something liberating about swimming outside in England in the December. The water was super warm – like a big jacuzzi – and the steam coming off it just gave everything a magical feel. Some friends of ours ended up in here when it snowed one year, now that would be the dream!
There is a fantastic waterslide that catapults you into the outdoor area too. For something that looks pretty tame, this has some serious force. Carl went down before me and I ended catapulting right into the back of him. We had so much fun during our time in the pool. My only regret is that we didn’t go into the outside area at night as that looked pretty romantic.
3. Crazy Golf
We did this activity with my brother and (soon to be) sister in law and even on a cold day it was a lot of fun. The course is a *little* bit worn but it’s challenging enough to be fun without being super simple.
Make sure you get this one booked early as the price increases when you get onsite. It took us around an hour to complete both courses and it wasn’t so busy that we were waiting around for people to finish each hole.
We really enjoyed our time on the crazy golf course and for around £5 each we couldn’t really grumble at the price.
4. Pottery Painting
This is one of my biggest tips for affordable things to do at Centre Parcs. I just had such a bloody good time doing it.
Whinfell Forest has a huge dedicated pottery painting building (just by the sports centre). Once we arrived we chose the pottery we wanted to paint, paid for it and got to work.
Prices were really reasonable and there was something to suit any budget, from small Christmas tree decorations for a fiver to massive plates for over £30. I chose a snowman tea light holder (£20) and got to work painting it. In total it took about three hours and I enjoyed every second of it. It was a few hours completely phone free where my worries (anxiety was high that weekend) went to the back of my mind.
At the end, I came out with a slightly wonky – but pretty enough – keepsake that will stay in our house for years to come. Not bad for a gran total of £24.50.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that it would cost you Hollywood Bowl type prices to hit the lanes at Centre Parcs. But it’s actually a very affordable thing to do.
Again, we paid no more than £6 per person for an hour of bowling. The lanes are small but there are plenty of balls to suit everyone. Plus, you can grab a drink at the bar if you want.
This is only really applicable in winter but if you go in the colder months, I would absolutely suggest you make time to see the fireworks display.
This is completely free and takes place around the main lake near the village centre. Now, the fireworks weren’t Disney level of good, but they were the best we’ve ever seen in the UK. Set to seasonal music, there is something really lovely about the display.
Make sure you get there early for a good view, and if you want to enjoy a brew while you watch them. We arrived about 15 minutes before the fireworks were due to start and the queue for Starbucks was out of the door.
If I go again, I’ll try and catch these from the outdoor pool as I expect it would be an amazing view!
So there you have it, my round-up of affordable things to do at Centre Parcs. There are more than what I’ve listed (walking for one) but these are the things I enjoyed the most.
Have you ever been to Centre Parcs? What affordable things do you love to do?