JOHN CARTER takes his tribe to Longleat Forest to enjoy an action-packed weekend at Center Parcs.

Dear Center Parcs

Mum and Dad always taught me to write a thank-you letter to Santa for all his presents.

So with the festivities now over, I thought I should make the time to write a similar letter to you.

First of all, thanks so much for making it so easy to keep four teenagers entertained.

Any parents will tell you the very suggestion of a walk is met with total disdain by those in their teens.

So the fact we were able to hire bikes to negotiate our way round the forest was a big win for all concerned.

The cycle routes are brilliantly laid out and I took enormous satisfaction from the fact we were out exercising in the fresh air.

Not even then rain could stop us in our tracks as six of us pelted from our woodland lodge on one side of the forest to the plaza on the other.

I loved it that for the duration of our stay, the only vehicle sharing the roads with us was the Land Train.

It was at the plaza where we enjoyed our most fun. The subtropical swimming paradise is packed with things to do, and we loved negotiating our way down wild water rapids more times than I care to remember.

The less-energetic among our party chilled out in the hot tubs, while all the teenagers took on the challenge of a dip in the icy-cold plunge tank on the proviso I treated them to a Starbucks in return.

Thanks also, Center Parcs, for making our visit to Huck’s Diner a night to remember.

After a full-on day of exercise there were plenty of healthy appetites waiting to be satisfied, and your American diner did not disappoint.

A surf platter and large nachos were gone in the blink of an eye before we tucked into a variety of main courses, from racks of ribs, to burgers and a sumptuous fillet steak.

Thick shakes and chocolate sundaes followed for some, while I rounded off the night with a fabulous Barnamint Bailey. Enough to send anyone to sleep!

There’s so much else I need to be grateful for.

Our three-bedroom lodge in the Fir section of the forest was equipped with everything you need and the family grocery pack meant those teenage hunger-pangs were always kept at bay.

While it was great to get away from the stresses of the daily grind, you know teenagers aren’t going to be able cope for too long without their mobile phones.

So I was pleased to discover the wi-fi has improved dramatically since my last visit. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be worrying about things like that on a weekend break. But when you’re catering for teenagers aged between 13 and 18, these things matter.

Knowing the children were happy meant my partner and I could escape to the sanctuary of the Aqua Sana Spa.

Here we were able to relax, unwind and chill in 15 different spa experiences, ranging from a Tyrolean sauna to a Turkish hammam and Greek herbal bath.

We loved sitting in the outdoor pool and peering up to the tops of the Redwood trees as the rain beat down on us. Pure heaven.

My partner liked it so much she returned the next day to enjoy an Elemis visible illuminating facial, returning to our lodge with a visible glow.

And I mustn’t forget to say thanks for the segway expereince. These our great fun for any age and for 40 minutes we whizzed around some specially-crafted routes having the time of our life.

Paintballing, archery, quad bikes and tree trekking are just some of the other activities available for the more adventurous.

Back on the bikes, we headed for the Jardin des Sports, where there’s all sorts to do, from snooker and squash, to roller skating and table tennis.

We opted to hire a badminton court and the rest of my party took great delight when I ended up on the losing team. I guess I should say thanks, Center Parcs, for keeping the smiles on their faces.

Our visit in the run-up to Christmas meant we could also enjoy a visit to Winter Wonderland.

The teens might like to make out that Santa is not so cool, but even they were swept up in the magic of the twinkling lights, singing reindeer and Christmas carriage rides.

I didn’t quite manage to get them to Santa’s woodland workshop but I reckon, deep down, they’d have loved a sneak visit to see our bearded friend.

So, Center Parcs, what else can I say except thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for a truly memorable weekend.


John Carter

Center Parcs villages transform into Winter Wonderlands at the beginning of November each year and offer a truly magical place for all the family.

Guests can choose to do as much or as little as they like with a large selection of festive and traditional activities available (additional charges apply).

Prices for Winter Wonderland in 2017 start at £349 for a four night mid-week break staying in a three bedroom Woodland Lodge which sleeps up to six.

Lodges feature stylish interior design, open-plan living and modern appliances and can be booked online at or by calling 03448 267723.