Saturday 10 December 2011

Things to do for free at Center Parcs, Elveden Forest

We love visiting Center Parcs, but we do find that the activities on offer can be rather expensive. So I've put together a selection of the things that we have found to do for free in Center Parcs, Elveden Forest. These activities are particularly suitable for toddlers and young children.

The largest attraction included in the cost of the holiday is the Subtropical Swimming Paradise. There are plenty of areas to sit and plenty of different swimming areas, waterslides, jacuzzis and so on. There is a small, shallow pool for babies and toddlers, with sand to play in and some gentle slides. Twice a week there is a free Baby Dolphins session in the pool with singing for under 3s, check the details when you arrive. There is enough here to keep people of all ages amused.

Another great thing is just the enjoyment of being outdoors in the forest. You can take along your own bikes, scooters, trikes, rollerskates, skateboards and so on, and make the most of some safe paths to ride along away from the traffic. You can cycle around the village itself, or else there are some short tracks away from the village out into the forest.

While out you can spot wildlife and take some bread to feed the ducks and other wildlife. You can also watch other people taking part in the activities - for example it can be entertaining to watch people on the High Ropes or out on the water.

The beach area by the lake has sand to play in and paddling when the weather is nice. Cross over the bridge to the Adventure Golf island - you don't need to be playing to explore the island and there is a range of play equipment to climb on.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest

Other outdoor play areas can be found outside the Sports Plaza, with equipment suitable for a range of ages from toddlers to older children. If the weather isn't good enough to play outside, there are indoor play areas in some of the restaurants. Although the ones in Bella Italia and Huck's are intended for customers, there is an indoor soft play area in the Sports Cafe which you can use without eating or drinking. Likewise at Foresters' Inn in the Country Club there is a large indoor play area (and small outside area) which you can use without feeling obliged to make a purchase. There is also a fenced off soft play area for very little ones. If you are eating or drinking in these places then you can sit within sight of the play areas.

Center Parcs Elveden Forest

Sometimes in the Sports Plaza area there are Playmobil displays and occasionally Playmobil which you can play with. Also keep an eye out here for special notices. On one of our visits there was a problem which required the Subtropical Swimming Paradise to close for a brief period. To make up for this, Adventure Golf was free for the rest of the break and childrens' soft play equipment was set out for free to use.

On some evenings there are free childrens' and adults' discos upstairs in the Sports Plaza. Check the sign by the entrance.

Seasonally there are various different activities running, in particular during the Winter Wonderland which runs from the middle of November until just before Christmas. As well as the village being beautifully decorated for Christmas there are also a range of other activities, many of which are free. On our visit at Christmas 2011 there were the following:

  • Festive Fireworks display twice a week
  • Two real reindeer to visit, and when we visited also an owl
  • Singing reindeer (see picture below, not to be missed)
  • Bjorn the Polar Bear
  • Daily opening of the Advent Calendar in the Piazza
  • Santa's Stocking Adventure - a treasure hunt to find letters hidden around the village
  • Christmas Market (on the night of the fireworks)
  • Santa's Woodland Workshop - even if you aren't paying to visit Santa you can still admire the lighted pathway to his house and illuminated snowmen, sometimes there is even snow!

And of course it's also important to remember that you don't need to stay in the park, you can easily jump in the car, or get out on your bikes and explore the local area. My Dad has some tips for fellow off-road cyclists:

"When you have done with hurtling round the Center Parcs perimeter track, scattering joggers and dog walkers alike, then it's time to cross the A11 to The King's Forest and beyond. Landranger OS map 144 will be your guide. As you might expect the land is flat but not without the occasional opportunity to slide into sand filled tracks or go with the undulations left by the four wheel drive drivers."

I hope that these tips are helpful!


  1. thanks for a grear guide to the free stuff this came in very handy.

  2. Really glad that the tips were useful, thank you so much for the feedback!

  3. Hi got back from holiday early as we ran out of things to do!

    Your guide is great but we found the free play area in Hucks to be way more for older kids and a pretty pointless area. Lots of steps and not really much at the top. The small toddler play area in Hucks was rubbish and Emily my 17 month old was bored in 5 minutes.

    Sports Cafe play area was sligly better but sadly taken over by the usual idiot older children who just rampage everywhere and knocked over Emily and ruined her fun. The parents were nowhere to be seen as usual.

    There is no actual fixed play area at Centre Parks, Elveden. I asked Guest Services why this is so today and they said you can pay to use the play zone but that is closed Tue and Wed and we couldnt use it Thursday as it was all booked up! They soooo need a proper big play area to let off steam in.

    There is NO and I repeat NO decent evening entertainment such as cabaret or a live band or karaoke or ANYTHING to goto at night just a kids disco at 7-8.30pm which is poor and run by one person who bless them trys there hardest but they just are not very good. They need a proper evening venue as we were just running out of things to do with Emily she was getting bored so were we.

    The pool is great but in January she was shivering when we got her changed when we finally found a vacant family changing room that wasnt being used by one person.

    We left one day early as personally I just found Center Parcs dull with not much to do with a toddler. Its too cold for sports.

    On a positive note to end on I cannot fault the accomodation. It was perfect with a perfect view.

    Jennifer your site is great but a little misleading for people expecting the free stuff to be great as it wssnt that great for us. I will be copying and pasting this to center parcs too.

  4. I just discovered this thread by accident and realise its not current, BUT just wanted to say what a wonderful list of things to do. We also found plenty to do when ours were 'little 'uns' If more people were like you, willing to share joyful info, the world would be a better place. And with regard to the comments from Ross; "There's no pleasing some people!" springs to mind.

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you so much :)

  5. Gosh you're hard to please.

    1. I'm not sure what you mean by that, we've loved our Center Parcs holidays and I hope that comes across in the (several) posts that I have written about them! But I think that anyone who has been would agree that the extra activities are very expensive for what they are.


I love reading your comments!