Sherwood Forest Winter Wonderland – A Festive Feast
By Richard Jones
Long dark nights, freezing cold mornings and miserable damp weather. As each year passes, I find myself disliking the British winters more and more.
But before anyone accuses me of being a grumpy Grinch or sulking Scrooge, I do get excited for Christmas and, over the last few years have found the perfect solution to get into the festive spirit – Center Parcs’ Winter Wonderland.
The season runs from the beginning of November to early January, and we tend to go quite early on, when you can start the Christmas celebrations early and get in the mood for what the manic few weeks in December brings.
Our annual pilgrimage to Sherwood Forest starts in familiar fashion each year – and that’s its beauty.
As soon as you drive into the resort, and glimpse the snow-dusted trees and twinkling lights, you feel instantly relaxed and at home – even more so when you’ve parked up and checked into one of the gorgeous wooden lodges.
We were based in the Parc’s Pine area this year, in a plush four-bedroom executive lodge, complete with outdoor sauna, games room, open-plan kitchen and living room with a log fire.
Surrounded by nature, there was plenty of opportunity to explore the forest floor in between the towering pine and oak trees, while our animal neighbours, robins, ducks, squirrels and rabbits, also stopped by at the patio door each morning, hoping for a snack.
Although you can walk (or run) around Sherwood, bikes make it much easier, and after we picked up our rides and helmets from the Cycle Center, the eight of us couldn’t wait to get in the saddle for carefree spins on the car-free paths.
“Santa’s spiritual home”
Our first destination was Santa’s Woodland Village, a magical, sparkling section of the Parc, which is home to an animatronic barbershop choir of reindeer singing Christmas classics, a lavishly decorated wish tree, a Winter Forest Lights trail, and a big red post box for kiddies to send letters to Father Christmas.
If you’re planning to go to a garden centre or pop-up shopping centre cabin to see the big man this year, forget it. Away from the North Pole, Center Parcs is surely Santa’s spiritual home.
At least that was the opinion of our kids – my daughters Isla and Evelyn and their friends Charlotte and Abigail may all be teenagers, but they enjoyed it just as much as the toddlers. The Insta-worthy photo ops didn’t hurt, either.
During our first morning, we rode our bikes through the forest again, getting lost (usually on purpose), before arriving at another one of our favourite places, the Subtropical Swimming Paradise.
Even during the cold winter months, the temperatures inside are a balmy 29.5 degrees celsius and we spent a couple of hours each day on the rides, including the Tropical Cyclone and the always thrilling outdoor Wild Water Rapids.
“Seal of approval”
After lunch, my wife Rachel and her friend Pam were joined by older girls Isla and Charlotte for a spa session at Aqua Sana.
If the four of them weren’t already feeling relaxed, the Treetop Sauna, Volcanic Mists and Salt Steam Room did the trick.
Later, Rachel was treated to a full Swedish massage, designed to increase the oxygen flow in the blood, release toxins from the muscles and generally relax the mind and body. It certainly got the seal of approval from Mrs Jones.
While the girls were at the spa, Steve and I had our own bit of downtime in the Sports Cafe, watching the weekend football over a few pints, while Evelyn and Abigail were happy exploring the Parc on their bikes and calling off at Starbuck’s and the Pancake House for their own treats.
Returning from the spa and the pub, it was time for the eight of us to get ready for a taste of Latin America at Sherwood Forest’s newest restaurant, Las Iguanas.
Bursting with tropical flavour and creative combinations, we had steak skewers, enchiladas and fajitas, all washed down with Brazilian beer, cocktails and mocktails.
Another quirky feature was Las Iguanas’ quirky robot assistant waiter, who helped the server deliver the food to our table.
“A magical trip to Sherwood Forest”
If you prefer to spend your evening in, you can try out Center Parcs’ new Restaurant Runner service which brings your favourite meals, from Rajinda Pradesh, Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge and Huck’s, to your lodge door.
Following another day of swimming, biking and general adventure around the forest on Sunday, we wandered up to the Pottery Painting Studio in the Village Centre for a Festive Pottery Painting session.
Between us, we designed and painted all sorts of trinkets and mementos to take home, including plates, mugs, bowls and snowman and reindeer ornaments.
Then, after dropping the bikes off at the Cycle Center, we walked through the woods, took one last look at (and a few snaps of) the Enchanted Light Garden, and arrived home for an evening of hot chocolate, wine, toasted marshmallows, pool and cards.
While the sun had shone all weekend at Center Parcs, the weather was typically dreadful when we departed on the Monday morning.
Even a magical trip to Sherwood Forest can’t change that certain element of winter.
Nevertheless, after a busy few months at work and school, our pre-festive trip had well and truly got the eight of us in the spirit.
The Winter Wonderland break has become an essential part of our holiday season and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Three-night breaks at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest in November and December 2024 start from £679 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.