center parcs

Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs – Why You Should Visit & My Top Tips

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With 57,600 fairy lights, 90 Christmas trees and 3 tonnes of snow, you can imagine the excitement when we arrived to Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs Longford Forest. 

 

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ was on repeat on my Spotify playlist, and despite the fact that it was only the 8th of November, I was as excited as the kids! We were fortunate to be invited to Center Parcs Longford Forest for the opening in July, and after a fabulous few days we couldn’t wait to return. Temperatures in July were over 20 degrees. During Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs the average was only 4 degrees, but surprisingly that didn’t matter.

 

instagram center parcs

 

The outdoor swimming pool reminded me of the Blue Lagoon – the combination of the hot pool (29.5 degrees) against the crisp cold air was invigorating. Cycling around the resort was just as enjoyable as it was during the summer time, once we were wrapped up with hats and gloves. Even the biodegradable snow suited the temperatures perfectly!
 
winter wonderland at center parcs
 
All we could see from 5pm was thousands of fairy lights lighting up the resort. The whole village was illuminated – it was an amazing sight. Garlands filled with twinkling lights lined the lake, and massive Christmas baubles beamed in the village. The Christmas tree at Santa’s Woodland Workshop is 10 meters tall and has 4,450 lights! The whole experience was magical and one that all of us throughly enjoyed. It was, to coin the phrase from Center Parcs – Epic Family Time. As I write my my 12 top tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, I am already planning my next visit…

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 


 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 

1. If price is a factor, book a Woodland Lodge. 

All of the lodges in Center Parcs are modern, spacious and well equipped. We stayed in a Woodland Lodge during the Winter Wonderland experience and an Executive Lodge during the summer. I found very little difference between the two, especially if you are staying for a short break. The executive lodges have house-keeping services, TV’s in all rooms and all bedrooms are ensuite – but otherwise they are very similar. 

woodland lodge at center parcs ireland
 

 

 

2. Book a lodge close to the village centre

With rain being a common occurrence during Irish winters, I would recommend paying an additional €49 to stay in a lodge close to the village centre. Although we loved cycling, it is nice to walk to the village and the swimming pool if the rain is heavy – wet saddles are not very pleasant either! This is also a great solution for anyone who doesn’t want to rent bicycles.

winter wonderland center parcs

 

 

 

3. Enjoy a cosy night in

Pop down to the Parc Market when you arrive and pick up some supplies and some fire logs – you can buy three for €6. Treat yourself to dinner from the extensive Dining In menu and light the fire! We did this the night we arrived and it was a great success. We ordered four different types of cuisine: Pizza, Thai, Indian and Asian, and all meals were delivered to our lodge at the same time. The pizza was a big hit, and I loved the prawn rogan josh. Prices were reasonable too, you could even order a bottle of wine to your lodge for €13.95! Make sure you order early, as popular delivery times get booked out. 

dining in center parcs
 

 

 

4. Book a Santa Visit

You need to book the Santa Experience separately. The cost is €18 per child and parents are free. Each child receives a gift and a free photograph afterwards. We thought this was great value. Envelopes will be left in your lodge, one for children to write their Santa letters, and another for parents to help keep the Christmas magic alive… There is a post box in Santa’s Woodland Village where the kids can post their letters before their visit.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Depending on the age of your children, try to book a Santa visit at night time. The Woodland trail is all lit up and it adds to the experience. If the night time slots happen to be booked out, don’t panic. Santa’s Woodland Village is lit up every night and you can walk through it anytime. The Santa visit lasts about 10 minutes, so if you are booking a restaurant, book the time for a half hour after your scheduled Santa visit.  

winter wonderland at center parcs longford

 

 

 

5. Pre-book restaurants

I tried to book restaurants two-weeks in advance, and still only managed to get 9pm slots. You don’t have to pre-book the Sports Cafè, but it can be quite noisy and I didn’t think the food was as good there as it was in other restaurants. If you have young children it is vital you book restaurants in advance, especially if you want early sittings. The restaurants are extremely family friendly, with kids play areas and great kids menus.

There isn’t evening entertainment in the resort, with the exception of live music in Cara’s Restaurant every Saturday and Tuesday at 8.30pm. We booked Cara’s for Saturday night and really enjoyed listening to The Dixie Micks. The menu was limited, but the food was very tasty.

caras restaurant at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
We also enjoyed Bella Italia. We dined there twice and found the food great, and reasonably priced. There is a wide selection of pasta dishes, and not just the typical spaghetti bolognese. The Cacio e Pepe pasta: a mix of roast chicken, pancetta and pecorino cheese in a tasty wild garlic and black pepper sauce, is delicious. I had this during the summer too! I also love that they have a Piccolo kids menu for 3-6 year olds (€6.95) and a Grande kids menu for for 7-11 year olds, (€8.95).  I’ve been told that the Carbonara isn’t great so maybe avoid that! 

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

6. Pre-book activities

Popular activities like the Aerial Adventure, where you Zipline across the lake at Center Parcs, get booked out very early. We did this during the summer and loved it – well it scared the hell out of myself and Cormac, but the kids loved it! Luke and Alex wanted to book it again but it was booked out throughout the weekend – I can’t say I was too disappointed…

center parcs longford forest ireland
 

 

 
Festive activities like the Festive Pony Rides and Festive Chocolate Chefs (age 3-7) are particularly popular with younger children and also need to be booked in advance. You don’t need to pre book too many activities though, one or two activities should be ample on a short stay, as you will probably spend a lot of time in the pool.

winter wonderland at center parcs longford
 

 

 
We really enjoyed the Festive Treasure Trail. It is a super family activity and one I would encourage all families to do. We were given a map with nine wooden markers to find around the forest. There were clues on each one and once we had all nine, we had to report back to the booking desk to collect our prize. We were competing against lots of different families and I was surprised how competitive we all were. However despite racing around the forest in just over an hour, we came 4th! It was a simple but very enjoyable family activity and a great way to explore the whole resort. Price is €5.50 for children under 12 and €6.50 for 12+years.

treasure trail at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Luke and Cormac loved the Laser Clay Shoot. It was Luke’s first time to try this and he was a natural. He not only came first place within the group, but he set a new record score for Center Parcs Longford Forest – he was delighted with himself. I have no doubt it was due to too much Fortnite, but it was a great achievement nonetheless! Price €27 per adult, €23 per child.

laser clay shoot at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Myself and Alex opted for the Festive Roller Skating. It is a handy indoor activity if the weather is bad. I didn’t find it particularly festive, but I was delighted that despite being 30 years since I has last on skates, I was able to keep up with Alex! Price €9.50 per person.

roller skating at center parcs longford forest

See more info on activities and restaurants in my Ultimate Guide to Centre Parcs Longford Forest

 

7. Don’t miss the Light and Sound Show

The Winter Wonderland light and sound show takes place over the lake every Sunday and Wednesday evening during Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs. Unfortunately it was lashing rain during our visit, but nevertheless, the 9-minute animation was really impressive. There are animals, fish and even snowmen projected on to the water, with the North Pole and Santa Claus in the finale. It takes place right outside The Pancake House so it might be an idea to pop in for one of their delicious ice cream sundaes before it starts! I am told they have mulled wine and mince pies too.

pancake house at center parcs longford forest

 

 

 

8. Check out the shops

I was really surprised by some of the prices in the shops. Luke picked up a Harry Potter Lego set in JustKids that was cheaper than Smyths. I bought a lovely Christmas decoration in The Store Room – it wasn’t particularly cheap, but was a lovely souvenir. You may not have considered it, but you may pick up some Christmas gifts in Center Parcs. Ask about the 10% off promotional evening – this is on twice per week.

christmas at center parcs
 

 

 

9. Come early and stay late

Although the official check-in time to your lodge is 3pm, you can access the resort from 10am. Similarly on the day you are leaving, you need to vacate your lodge by 10am, but are free to stay and enjoy the facilities as long as possible. We did the later and enjoyed a fabulous day at the pool…

swimming pool at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

10. Spend your last day at the pool

We loved the subtropical swimming pool during the summer, but it was equally as good this time. We tried all the slides numerous times but our favourites were the Wild Water Rapids (need to be a competent swimmer), and Tropical Cyclone – a tube ride that we could all go on together, (minimum height 122 cm).

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 

 
Once you have checked out, you can leave your suitcases in your car, return your bikes and walk down to the pool. The pool is quieter on changeover days too. You can shower afterwards, dry your hair in the vanity room, and leave for home feeling refreshed. There is a cafe beside the swimming pool so you can even pick up lunch there. The chicken wraps and burgers were tasty – as fast food goes, it was pretty good. 

cafe at center parcs longford forest

There are large cabanas in the Subtropical Swimming Pool. These are equipped with TVs, towels and soft drinks. Priced from €50 for three hours, they can be a great help if you have a small child who needs a nap, and older children who want to stay at the pool. 

cabana at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

11. Bring warm clothes and a back pack.

Remember just because you are on holidays, don’t forget you are in Ireland! Gloves and hats are a must if you are cycling, and don’t even think about wearing skirts on a bike…Most people tend to dress casually, even in restaurants. Backpacks are a Godsend for the pool and are easier than hand bags when cycling.

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

12. Just book it!

If you haven’t already booked it – do it! Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs is an amazing family experience and one that all the family will love. If price is an issue, check out the prices for midweek (Monday – Friday) rather than weekend, (Friday – Monday).  Winter Wonderland short breaks start from €459 for a family of four in a 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge. Christmas and New Year short breaks are also available – you can dine in the resorts restaurants, or even cook a turkey in your own lodge! However if you are unable to go this year – all is not lost! You can book Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs for 2020 already. For availability and prices visit CenterParcs.ie

winter wonderland at center parcs lights
 

 

 

Like this post? You might like:

How to claim money back with the Spend & Save scheme

Ultimate Guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest

How to save money at Center Parcs Ireland

 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 
 
 
Note we were guests of Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, but all views, as always, are my own. 
 

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Family HolidaysHolidays in IrelandTravel Tips

Top Tips On How to Save Money At Center Parcs Ireland

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We are just back from an amazing weekend in Center Parcs. It is undoubtedly one of the best family holiday destinations in Ireland, but the questions I have been asked the most are all related to the prices, and how to save money at Center Parcs.

We rode bikes, we raced down water rapids, conquered the Aerial Assault course and shot a few strangers during Laser Combat. You know the best things about all of these activities? We did them together! It was one of the best family experiences we have had in Ireland, and the kids are already asking me when we are going back. As I browse through their website I notice massive difference in prices, depending on when you travel. This got me thinking that it is possible to visit Centre Parcs if you are on a budget. Here are my top tips on how to save money at Center Parcs Ireland. 

 

how to save money at center parcs ireland
 
See my ultimate guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest here.
 

 

 

1. Book in advance

There are only 466 lodges and 30 apartments in Center Parcs Longford Forest. It is smaller than Center Parcs in the UK, so it will get booked out in advance. Center Parcs use a similar model to the airlines and increase prices closer to departure if they have limited availability, so if you want to go during school holidays, book it now.

I was very lucky to be able to visit at Christmas time too – it was magical and a great way for the kids to see Santa. If you are thinking of visiting over the festive period – make sure to book in advance.

Read: 12 tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs

 


 

2. Visit off peak

If you can travel during school term, you will save a fortune! Prices start from €299 for a four night stay during the winter-time, so why not pay a visit and see what you think? Center Parcs Longford Forest is home to Ireland’s largest indoor water park and it is heated to 29.5c all year round – it is also included in the cost of your stay.

If you don’t want to take the kids out of school, why not travel from Friday – Monday, but leave Sunday night instead ? You will be able to stay on-site as late you like on Sunday – as you officially won’t be leaving until Monday. If you love it as much as we did, you can always come back next summer. 

how to save money at center parcs ireland
 

 

 

3. Save €160 off your stay with Tesco Clubcard 

I have to thank one of my Instagram followers for this  tip on how to save money at Center Parcs: Every €2.50 in Tesco Clubcard vouchers rewards you with €10 towards your stay at Center Parcs Longford Forest. The maximum Clubcard voucher allowed off any one booking is €40, but this will give you €160 off your stay! See more here.

how to save money at center parcs
 

 

 

4. Bring your own bikes and pool towels.

Center Parcs is a car-free zone so everyone uses bikes to get around. Bike-hire is pricey, at €35 per adult and €25.50 for a 3/4 night stay, or €48.50 per adult and €36 per child for a seven-night stay. But you can bring your own – this will save you €169 if you are staying for a week. Incidentally you don’t have to hire bikes, you can choose to walk everywhere. If you want to do this, think about paying an extra €49 to book lodge close to the village centre.
 

 

 
The indoor subtropical pool is superb and I’m sure your kids will want to visit every day – luckily it is included in the cost of your stay! Towels however, are not. The charge to rent towels at the pool is €2 per day so this is €56 for a week, based on a family of four. Some people bring the rented towels back to their lodges to dry them so they are not paying the daily charge, but it is easier and cheaper to just bring your own. 


 

 

 

5. Dine in your lodge.

I found the restaurants quite reasonably priced and the food was good in most restaurants, but there is no doubt dining-in will save you money. There is a BBQ and a well equipped kitchen in every lodge, so you can dine inside or out, depending on the weather. As you will be travelling by car, you can shop in your own supermarket before you come, or use the supermarket on-site. I was quite surprised at the prices in the ParcMarket, they were similar to a local Spar or Centra, so if you don’t want to shop before you come, this is a great alternative. I’m sure most families cook breakfast and lunch in the lodge, but the likelihood is that you will be tired after a long active day, so a night-in will be welcomed too! 

Note: Center Parcs offer a great Dine-In menu if you don’t want to cook. This can get booked out though, so you need to call at 3pm to book it and arrange a delivery time.  


 

 

 

6. Pre-book activities

There are over 100 activities in Center Parcs, but with the exception of the swimming pool and playgrounds, they all incur additional costs. It is important to manage your kids expectations. Once you book your trip you will receive emails (lots of them!) and even phone calls about pre-booking activities. This is your chance to look through the various options and decide what you and the kids REALLY want to do.

You can do mini-golf or play tennis anywhere, but can you do tree-trekking, raft building or let your toddler be a chocolate chef? There are some amazing activities for kids of all ages, many of which are not easy to come-by, so pick your favourites in advance and book them. This will not only allow you to budget appropriately, but your kids will be aware of what activities they are doing, and hopefully won’t expect anything else! 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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7. Enjoy the free things too!

It goes without saying that you will spend time in the subtropical swimming pool, but take time to enjoy your surroundings too. Center Parcs Longford Forest is set in 400 acres of woodland. Enjoy forest walks and see what animals you can spot, we saw some deer very close to the village. Younger kids will love the fairy trail through the woods and the superb playgrounds on-site. Bring a bucket and spade for the man-made beach and a perhaps a football, but most of all enjoy the beautiful surroundings. This is one of the best ways to save money at Center Parcs!

how to save money in center parcs
 

 

 
8. Bonus tip – Receive €125 tax refund when you spend €625 from 1st October 2020 – 30th April 2021

For a limited time you can avail of the new government Spend and Stay scheme if you visit Center Parcs from October 1st 2020 to April 30th 2021. This will allow you to save 20% off your accommodation and meal costs at Center Parcs, subject to a maximum spend of €125 per taxpayer. If you are travelling as a family / couple and both parents are taxpayers, you can claim up to €250 if you spend a total of €1250. Read by blog on how to claim money back with the Spend and Save scheme.
 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to save money at Center Parcs. We were guests at the official launch of Center Parcs in Ireland, and you can see my ultimate guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest here.
 
For pricing and availability visit CenterParcs.ie

 

Like this post? See my ultimate guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest here.

See 12 tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs here.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.
 

 

 
Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

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