I love Christmas! I have always loved Christmas. I love all the trimmings, the planning, the food, the presents, the carol concerts, the films, the excitement on Christmas morning, the fizz, the giddiness and the family time. Now I’m a Mummy to my three Mini Travellers I love it even more. Hubby professes not to love it quite as much as me, but he does get swept along with the excitement (I think).
Last year we needed to take a week of annual leave in mid November and we weren’t sure where to go. Just think how excited I was when I found out that Center Parcs started their Winter Wonderland mid November, so not only could we go away somewhere with a large indoor pool, we could also do all the Christmassy things too. Basically starting Christmas in November! Now I know to some of you this is your idea of hell, and if it is you probably need to step away from this post now. But if like me, you LOVE Christmas, then Winter Wonderland might be the place for you.
We booked a mid week break at Whinfell Forest in a 4 bedroom lodge for around £500. We planned on arriving at Center Parcs around 2pm on the Monday. We always take a picnic with us for the Mini Travellers for lunch just in case (a) the journey takes longer than expected (b) they require lunch at 11am (likely when bored in the car) or (c) it’s busy when we get there. We arranged to meet the grandparents in Starbucks for coffee and sandwiches and then we know the holiday has begun.
Prior to leaving we had been sent the usual emails from Center Parcs suggesting we book the activities prior to leaving. Anyone who knows me knows I like to be organised, so book we did. When I started to look I was a little disappointed at how much some of the activities cost, and the lack of activities for those under 4. Also given the age of my 3 last year (just 3 and just 2) I couldn’t bring myself to book everything when there was every chance they would refuse to try it. We did however book a visit to Santa’s woodland workshop, mini ballerinas for our 3 year old, and (much to hubby and Grandads delight) the pantomime for all of us!
When it came to the week we were lucky. Whilst it was freezing as it can often be mid November, it was mainly dry. So we packed thick coats, hat scarves and gloves and off we went.
Arriving on the Monday afternoon we just wandered and explored. We knew where we were staying having booked the same location as last time (we like Fell View as it close to both the swimming pool and the sports village and it isn’t too hilly) but it was fun to wander round the lake, see the squirrels, play on the playground and then sneak into our lodge early because we found it, and noticed it was ready.
When the gates opened at 4 and you can bring your car in, Mr MT and Grandad went back for their cars to unload. We had thought we might go swimming that afternoon but no-one felt the need to in the end. The girls were happy with a play in the playground at the sports village, whilst we were happy to drink more coffee. Another Starbucks there too!
On Tuesday we hadn’t booked anything in, so we went off for a walk to find the little Christmas village they set up and see the Reindeer. Except none of my three could say reindeer so they were ‘rein de daar’ all week. Cute. The reindeers pull Santa’s sleigh (obviously) so have a little home just outside Santa’s Woodland Lodge. My three were too young to understand the (free) talk at 12pm about the reindeers but me and Grandma found it interesting. The girls had more fun running up and down looking at all the little Christmas houses and badgering us for the chocolate treats they could see.
Tuesday afternoon was a pool afternoon, and we can literally while away hours in the big pool with the girls running in and out of the waves and going up and down, and up and down the slides.
Finishing Tuesday with a trip to the Bowling alley was really good fun too and a first for us. There is a mini soft play in the bar there too whilst you wait.
We had booked to visit Santa on Wednesday at 10.15. We could have booked to get a horse ride there, or a carriage but as we hadn’t booked we opted to simply walk. The right decision for us as it was easily £30 to book for all 3 plus an adult, but looked cute for others. The Santa visit was lovely. There was a little queue but there were things to look at as we waited. My youngest two didn’t really gel with Santa, but it was a lovely moment watching my eldest ask for her yoyo for Christmas. *Thank you to Peppa Pig for this basic gift request.
We repeated the afternoon swimming on Wednesday afternoon with a bit more playground time too. It’s also never too cold for an ice cream!
Thursday was the day the men weren’t looking forward to. Panto day. First thing my eldest went to Mini Ballerinas with her grandparents as the two younger ones weren’t quite old enough. She twirled and did pointy toes and looked really cute. She has actually remembered it ever since albeit for some reason doesn’t want to actually start ballet. Then 12.00 was the pantomime Sleeping Beauty. For me, Christmas is all about going to see the panto, you shout, cheer, laugh, cry and generally have a giggle. We did all this watching the panto. I can’t tell you it was good, it was very very bad. But that’s what pantos are all about right? They got the girls up dancing and singing. The girls hid from them when they shouted too loud, but we (well I) loved it!
We ended up back at the lodge for the afternoon pottering round the woods at the back whilst the youngest two had a late sleep. We needed to make sure they were well rested so we could head out to the firework display round the Lake at 5pm. For three little girls under 3 heading out for fireworks after your tea is very exciting when its usually bath and bed. The reality was a little different, with 7 of us sat in Starbucks whilst we watched the fireworks and couldn’t hear the noise at all, after the first firework bang brought screams and tears from all 3! It was a pretty good display though and I think another year on they would love it.
Friday morning meant a very sad home time. Oh well Winter Wonderland there is always another year! See you again soon.
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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.