We’ve just come back from a break in Center parcs, Longleat – our first time there with a toddler and baby. As we’ve been there twice, and Bluestone three times… I thought compare them both for you…
I think both places are beautiful – peaceful and stunning! Center parcs Longleat is set in a huge forest, while Bluestone is more open… with gorgeous views overlooking the Preseli Hills.
Both are a bit hilly but the main difference is the size – Center Parcs is huge compared to Bluestone! Center parcs has a land train to connect everywhere which is great for toddlers but a bit of a faff to fold your prams into – also, I think it gets full at peak times. We made great use of our buggyboard when we there… and chose our accommodation quite close to the main plaza.
In Bluestone you can hire golf buggies which is great fun for toddlers but again a bit of a faff to put your pram, car seat on etc. Book in advance as they do sell out – we found this out the hard way when I was pregnant but luckily they have a half hourly minibus service!
In center parcs we’ve stayed in the cheapest woodland and woodland executive lodges – these are on one floor and have everything you need! Can’t fault them and I love the wood burners!
As Bluestone is cheaper we’ve always gone for the mid-range Ramsay lodge option which is set over two floors – with the bedrooms on the ground floor. In terms of value for money, I think you get more space in Bluestone and also the furniture seems higher quality e.g. Solid wood dining table compared to a more IKEA-esque one in Center Parcs.
We love the farmhouse grill in Bluestone – good food, service, ambience and they did have a little play area for children although when we went last time it was a bit empty of toys.
At center parcs we decided to eat out every night as a treat (no having to clear up/do dishes!!) and we were spoilt for choice – about 7 restaurants there, all very family-friendly. We loved the Sports cafe for its brunch and great softplay area for kids, and we were really impressed with Bella Italia – a small softplay area, free breadsticks for kids while they wait for their food, free straw to keep and great food for adults! Hucks also has a play area…. and a children’s buffet which I thought was a great idea!
The kids meals at center parcs all come with something healthy e.g. Cucumber and carrot sticks, they bring colouring in stuff to you straight away and also free baby food (Heinz or Ella’s kitchen) is available at all their restaurants which I thought was a really nice bonus!
So center parcs definitely wins on that front!
Both places have a big indoor swimming pool as their main attraction. Both have family-friendly changing areas, a toddler pool and a main pool that you can walk into with your little one(s).
Bluestone has a lazy river, Center parcs has a lovely outdoor area and some fast rapids, and both have slides for the older kids/adults. I’d say both are pretty equal but maybe center parcs’ outdoor area gives it the edge.
Things to do for toddlers and babies
Outdoors – Bluestone has an outdoor play area in the village square, Center parcs has a few dotted around the square and by the lake. Both have plenty of nature trails and walks to do outdoors – both have a lake although the center parcs’ one is big enough to do activities on… and has a little beach which I bet is lovely in the sun!
Indoors – if the weather isn’t great, Bluestone’s adventure centre is great for toddlers – the circus room upstairs is a mini soft play and full of toys, downstairs there is another soft play… ball pool etc. We were surprised to find that center parcs didn’t really have anything comparable – just some small soft plays dotted around the restaurants really.
Although I’ve just remembered, W’s favourite indoor activity in Center parcs was watching the fish and ‘sharks’ (large koi) in the plaza!
Classes – both offer a range of classes and W has enjoyed messy play in both! Center parcs has a slightly bigger choice including a mini adventure harnessed in the trees! Both do baby classes like sensory, massage etc.
In addition, Bluestone has three characters e.g. Shelby snail who are central to their toddler activities and pop up in messy play, free meet and greets etc. Bluestone also has a show on every few days full of singing, dancing etc. And on check-in days they have a free show/playgroup for kids. So overall Bluestone win here as they put a lot of thought into toddler fun!
Crèche and spa
Both places have a crèche – we used the one at Bluestone and it was great, I’m sure the center parcs one is too! This means you can check out the spas – the one in Bluestone is faultless but the one in Center parcs is…. wow! I’ve never seen so many different steam rooms and saunas!
Bluestone usually works out cheaper than Center parcs and so overall it’s better value for money. While eating out at Center parcs was great for our young family, I think the indoor play and the characters/shows at Bluestone give it the edge from a toddler point of view. Center parcs is much bigger and busier – I think as the boys get older it will be better for them.
Have you been to both? What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below