Found in woodland locations throughout the UK, Center Parcs is a modern take on the traditional British family summer holiday. Since the first park opened in 1992, they have been attracting thousands of holidaymakers every year, so we went along to see what fun could be found in the forest...
There are five Center Parc villages, all situated near major access routes, spread from Bedfordshire in the South, to Cumbria in the North. We went to Elveden Forest in the heart of Suffolk, a two-hour car drive from London.
Tip: The SatNav may not recognise the villages as they are set away from nearby towns, deep in the forest. Make sure you mark the nearest main road or point of interest as a point to head towards.
Catering for over 4,000 guests, Elveden Forest's accommodation is split by the number of bedrooms required. You can stay in one of the many self-contained chalet apartments or in the hotel style suites. We opted for a lakeside two-bedroom Executive Lodge, which was very spacious and well furnished.
The patio overlooked the lake, which brought many inquisitive little furry guests to our door. The apartment was well stocked for appliances, cooking utensils, towels and bedding. The second bedroom came as a twin room, perfect for the kids!
Tip: Make sure you arrive with plenty of provisions. While there is an onsite supermarket that sells everything you may need, it does close at 6pm daily, so if you need anything out of hours, you'll be stuck.
What's to love?
Not only do you have beautiful, quiet surroundings, the wide range of activities will keep everyone from young to old entertained. From relaxing in the spa to a round of (nine-hole) golf, you can hone your archery skills or master the art of climbing.
Kids can fight their way through laser quest in the woods, or create a masterpiece in the pottery painting studio. For the grown-ups, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and even a nightclub for those looking to burn the midnight oil. There were also two Starbucks at Elveden, which can cause confusion if you arrange to meet in one.
Tip: The restaurants, such as Café Rouge, are of the high standard you would expect and not over priced.
Perfect for families
The Subtropical Swimming Paradise in an indoor heated water sports area offers a wave machine, waterslides and café facilities. It also offers the Tropical Cyclone water slide, which isn't for the small ones or faint-hearted. You can even learn to scuba dive if you're feeling adventurous.
Away from the pool, you'll find many outdoor activities in the forests, including aerial tree trekking, zip lining and quad bikes. There's even off-road Segway riding, which is more exhilarating than it sounds. The village also offers bike hire, by far the best way to get around.
One thing to do when you're there: Elveden is the only Center Parcs that offers cabled water skiing. You can ride along the lake on skis or a wakeboard, all under expert instruction.
And the best of it all? It's in the UK and no matter where you live, there will be one near you. And it doesn't even matter if it rains.
Our only gripe
The spa was extremely crowded and for £40 per person for day access, we didn't feel that it was great value for money. Kids aren't allowed in this area, so if Mum or Dad does fancy some R&R, we'd recommend going early to avoid the queues. Treatments are quite reasonably priced and if you opt for a massage, you won't be disappointed.
What's new for 2013
Venture Cove, a brand new family water playground located in the indoor Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The £3 million investment brings thrills and spills for parents and children alike.
Its toddler area, Venture Bay, is created for tots under four, featuring a shallow pool heated to a tropical 30 degrees, a two-lane multislide with safe toddler landing, spraying fish and fish net, slide and water fountains. Extensive seating areas are also provided so that grown-ups can stay close.
How to book
Short breaks at Elveden Forest in a 2 bedroom Executive Lodge (sleeping 4) in 2013 currently start from £399.
For more information or to book a short break at Center Parcs call 08448 267 723 or visit www.centerparcs.co.uk.