Center Parcs Sherwood Forest – Review
By Richard Jones
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but do you see everyone and do everything you had planned to at Christmas?
The answer is probably no, and if you’re anything like us, the December page on the family calendar is full up by the summer.
Spare days to see our friends and family are few and far between, and we often have to postpone get-togethers until the New Year, which, let’s face it, may as well be indefinitely.
Thankfully, this year we were well-prepared and booked a weekend at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest.
Every November and December, the Nottinghamshire Parc is transformed into a magical Winter Wonderland, complete with twinkling lights, fake snow, festive music, elves and Santa, getting ready for the big day in his Woodland Workshop.
“Plenty of room”
In short, it was a pre-Christmas Christmassy break, which gave my wife Rachel and I the opportunity to spend time with our friends Pam and Steve, before the craziness of Christmas kicked in.
There was also room for our daughters Isla and Evelyn to take their friends Charlotte and Sophie along too.
The eight of us arrived at Sherwood on the Friday night and checked into what would be our home for the next three nights – a New Style Executive Lodge in the Pine area of the forest.
With flat screen TVs and en-suite bathrooms in all four bedrooms, as well as a games room with a pool table and sofa downstairs, we had plenty of room to spread out.
For the adults, there is a wine cooler and Tassimo coffee machine, depending on whether you need to chill out or wake up, while across the patio, the private sauna is a perfect place to warm up during the winter.
“Youngsters who lead the way”
The stress of packing the food and drink was taken away too, as Center Parcs provided us with a grocery pack containing most of the essentials we required for the weekend.
With our small cases unpacked, our next task was to pick up our bikes from the Cycle Centre.
They stock a huge range, including hi-tech electric models that make those pesky woodland hills a bit easier on the legs.
Over the years, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise has always our favourite part of Center Parcs, but as the kids have got older, there has been a shift in the way we spend our mornings there.
Gone are the days when we have to keep a beady eye on them in the shallow pools and pirate ships of Venture Bay and Venture Harbour.
Nowadays, it’s the youngsters who lead the way, dragging their parents onto the Tropical Cyclone, Grand Cascade, flumes and water pistes, and then for back-to-back trips down the iconic outdoor Wild Water Rapids.
“Thousands of lights”
After drying off and tucking into lunch, we headed to the Outdoor Activity Centre for a spot of Target Archery.
Although we are all bow-and-arrow novices, the games certainly brought out the competitive side in everyone.
The instructor Wendy challenged us to hit the highest and lowest score, slot an arrow in each of the coloured scoring rings, and fire a single shot as close as we could to the bullseye.
During the hour, each member excelled at different times, so we all went back to the lodge happy.
That evening, we spent an hour marvelling at the thousands of lights in the Enchanted Light Trail and Santa’s Workshop courtyard, before heading over to Huck’s American Brasserie in the Village Square.
After a few cocktails and mocktails, we then tucked into shared starters – with the restaurant’s famous sticky BBQ chicken wings, burnt brisket ends and cheesy garlic bread bagels our favourites.
For mains, we all went for something different, with falling-off-the-bone pork belly ribs, sizzling fajitas and Mexican chicken and cheeseburgers all on the menu.
As Evelyn’s birthday was on the horizon, the jolly servers made a fuss of her, before we all tucked into zesty Key Lime pie, towering hot fudge sundaes and classic ice-cream desserts.
The next morning, we got back in the saddle for a morning bike ride to burn off a few calories, with an obligatory pit stop at Starbuck’s for festive gingerbread lattes and hot chocolates.
Then, Rachel, Pam, Isla and Charlotte headed off to Aqua Sana for an invigorating World of Spa session.
They moved from steam room to sauna to showers, via rain walks, ice rooms, mists and hot whirlpools, arriving back at the lodge feeling refreshed and revitalised.
Meanwhile, Rachel had an extra level of pampering. She was booked in for a VOYA Skin Soothing Facial featuring exfoliation, a seaweed mask, and a booster eye treatment to reduce dryness and sensitivity.
With the older girls were at the spa, the rest of us headed over to the Jardin Des Sports complex.
While Steve and I had a couple of cold pints in the bar, Evelyn and Sophie booked a badminton court to bash a shuttlecock around for an hour.
“Spend some precious time”
Before the weekend ended, the full group reconvened back at the lodge and ordered takeaway pizza from Bella Italia.
Although it may not sound like a Christmassy way to end the weekend, the corks had been popped on a couple of bottles of fizz by the adults relaxing around the roaring log fire, and the kids were playing with their new toys (well, the pool table in the games room).
The only thing missing was a tree decked out in baubles and tinsel – although there were plenty of tall pines with lights on outside the patio doors.
Our annual trip to the forest had not only got the eight of us in the festive mood, but it also gave us the chance to spend some precious time with our friends and family.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to fit everything in during silly season, Center Parcs’ Winter Wonderland may be the early Christmas gift you’re looking for.
Three-night breaks at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest in November and December 2023 start from £629 based on four people sharing a two-bedroom Woodland Lodge.
Winter Wonderland takes place in the forest each year from the beginning of November until January.
For more information on Center Parcs’ five UK villages, go to centerparcs.co.uk or call 0344 826 7723.