Bluestone National Park Resort and Center Parcs are both good choices for families who want high quality accommodation and lots of activities. They are both at the more luxurious end of the UK's family holiday market and are aimed at outdoorsy families.
But which is best?
We've compared customer reviews, activities and facilities, accommodation, food and drink, prices and location at Bluestone and Center Parcs.
In summary, Bluestone tends to be a little bit cheaper than Center Parcs and it certainly competes with it on review scores (or perhaps beats it by a whisker). Both resorts have equally good swimming pools, free playgrounds and a similar range of watersports, high ropes and other activities.
Center Parcs is the winner if you want to take the dog or want a hot tub (and don't mind paying a premium for it...). However, Bluestone also has its advantages such as interconnecting lodges and an all-weather high ropes course. For people in England, Center Parcs is better if you don't want a long drive but Bluestone will be closer for most people in Wales.
For the full comparison, read on...
Which gets the best reviews? Bluestone or Center Parcs?
There's barely any difference between review scores for Bluestone National Park Resort and Center Parcs.
On TripAdvisor, all five Center Parcs score 4/5. Bluestone National Park Resort also scores 4/5 after more than 3000 reviews.
On Google reviews, you'll find that Bluestone is tied in joint first with two of the Center Parcs resorts.
Result: There's very little difference between reviews for Bluestone and Center Parcs - both get impressive scores.
Which is cheaper? Center Parcs or Bluestone?
A holiday at Center Parcs in the UK can be pretty expensive, particularly during school holidays. That's why a lot of people look at alternatives, such as travelling to Center Parcs in Europe where prices are often much lower.
For a rough price comparison, we looked at the cost of a holiday at Center Parcs and Bluestone for a family of four on a selection of dates. We looked for the cheapest accommodation available, without any extras, upgrades or pets.
At Center Parcs, the cheapest option was always a two bedroom woodland lodge. At Bluestone, the cheapest accommodation available when we searched was a two bedroom Caldey Lodge.
A week in early August 2024, from cheapest to most expensive:
For a week during the school holidays, Bluestone is the cheapest of the prices. It's almost £400 cheaper than the most expensive Center Parcs resort (Longleat).
We then looked for the price a family weekend break in mid-June 2024. From cheapest to most expensive:
In this instance, Bluestone is the clear winner again. It's £160 cheaper than the lowest priced Center Parcs resorts and a whopping £280 cheaper than Center Parcs Woburn Forest.
Finally, we looked at the cost of a midweek break in mid-September 2024. This is obviously a term time holiday, so it's a lot cheaper than visiting during school holidays. From cheapest to most expensive:
Again, Bluestone is cheaper than all the Center Parcs for a midweek break. In our price comparison, it was £160 cheaper than lowest priced Center Parcs (Elveden Forest in Suffolk). It was £240 cheaper than the Center Parcs in Wiltshire (Longleat Forest).
Next, we checked the price of a holiday for a group of eight people, including four adults and four children. We started with a week's holiday in August 2024 and looked for one lodge. From cheapest to most expensive:
Finally, we searched for a weekend for eight people in mid-September 2024 and found these prices:
Again, Bluestone is the cheapest for a short break (off peak) and for the whole week at peak time.
Result: Bluestone is always cheaper than Center Parcs in our price comparisons.
Which is in the best location? Bluestone or Center Parcs?
I suspect that location will be the clincher for a lot of people. Long car journeys with children can be excruciating and it's probably not worth driving miles if you're just planning a short break.
Center Parcs clearly has the overall advantage as it has five resorts and so will be quicker for most people. Bluestone is also quite tucked away in the South West of Wales. You aren't likely to go past it on the way to anywhere.
From most of the UK's big cities, you're closer to a Center Parcs resort than to Bluestone.
Result: Center Parcs is the winner on location for most people. Unless you live in Wales, it's likely that there's a Center Parcs closer to you than Bluestone.
Which is bigger - Center Parcs or Bluestone?
I personally have no real idea of what an 'acre' looks like. You may well feel the same, unless you're a farmer or an estate agent.
So, it's not a great deal of use for me to tell you that Bluestone is spread over 500 acres whilst the UK's Center Parcs are somewhere around 400 acres. However, it does at least tell you that they cover roughly the same area. If you've been to one then you'll understand the scale.
More interesting is the fact that Bluestone has about 300 lodges whereas Center Parcs has about 800 lodges. So, the lodges and other accommodation at Bluestone is much more spread out than the lodges at Center Parcs.
My experience of Center Parcs is that you certainly don't feel crammed in, but it's something to consider.
Result: I'm giving this one to Bluestone, as it covers a larger area but has fewer lodges
Which has the best activities? Center Parcs or Bluestone?
Center Parcs and Bluestone are both renowned for their activities. Both have some activities which are free and others which you pay extra for.
At Bluestone, the Blue Lagoon swimming pool is free and is a big part of the appeal. It's described as a 'subtropical indoor water park' and features a wave pool, four flumes, a lazy river and a 'heated bubble pool'. It scores 4.4/5 from reviewers on Google Reviews.
Meanwhile, each Center Parcs has a 'Subtropical Swimming Paradise'. You get a similar selection of wave pools, flumes, rapids and hot tubs. Reviews on Google reviews range from 4.6/5 for Sherwood Forest and Woburn Forest through to 4.8/5 for the Subtropical Swimming Paradise at Longleat.
Besides the swimming pool, Bluestone has some other free activities including the Village Green Playground, sand play, guided walks and the Treetots treehouse.
Meanwhile, Center Parcs has its own adventure playgrounds which are free to use.
Paid for activities at Bluestone and Center Parcs
Comparing the paid for activities at Bluestone and Center Parcs is a little bit tricky.
The list of activities on the Center Parcs website is certainly longer than the list on the Bluestone website but that doesn't tell the whole story. As an example, Center Parcs Whinfell Forest shows 168 activities compared to 49 at Bluestone. However, the Center Parcs list includes a lot of duplicates so it's not really a fair comparison.
For example, archery is listed six times at Whinfell Forest because there are slight variations in what you can do. Meanwhile, Bluestone just lists archery once. Similarly, Center Parcs lists eight different Easter themed activities which are only available in April. There's a good chance they won't be available when you visit.
Center Parcs also offers family photo shoots (not my idea of fun, but each to their own). It's listed as seven different activities, but it's really just the same thing with minor differences such as whether it's for a family or a toddler.
A slightly fairer comparison is to look at a category such as watersports.
At Bluestone, you can choose from:
Meanwhile, watersports at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest include:
As you can see, they both offer slightly different things. Kayaking and paddleboarding is available at both, but Bluestone is better for more adventurous off-site activities (coasteering, coastal adventures) whilst Center Parcs has pedalos and six person kayaks.
It's a similar story with high ropes and climbing activities. At Bluestone, your options include:
At Center Parcs, the high ropes and climbing activities include:
So, both resorts offer an extended 'Go Ape' type activity and somewhere to do some sort of climbing. The main difference is that Bluestone has an indoor course and an outdoor course.
(We just looked at Center Parcs Whinfell Forest. There is some variation between Center Parcs resorts, but they are fairly similar overall)
My advice is to have a think about whether there is a particular activity which your kids are desperate to do. There are some activities which are only available at one or the other. For example, Coasteering isn't available with Center Parcs but quad bikes aren't available at Bluestone.
Result: I'm declaring this one a tie. Bluestone and Center Parcs both have excellent swimming pools and a similar range of activities.
Which has the best food and restaurants? Center Parcs or Bluestone?
The notable difference between Bluestone and Center Parcs is that the restaurants and pubs at Bluestone are their own brands. At Center Parcs, they have a mix of their own restaurants as well as big names like Bella Italia, Cafe Rouge, Starbucks and Las Iguanas.
The choice of food is quite similar. Bluestone has about 10 different places to eat and drink. By my count, there are seven different places to eat at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest.
We did a price comparison of a meal out for a family of four at Knights Tafarn at Bluestone and Huck's American Bar and Grill at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest.
We looked for the price of two burgers for the grown ups plus a side of onion rings. For the children we looked at the price of two kids meals of chicken nuggets or similar. For pudding we looked at the price of brownies for the grown ups and ice cream for the children.
Knights Tafarn at Bluestone
£16.95 x 2 for burgers and chips
£7 x 2 for chicken strips and chips
£7 x 2 for cheesecake and ice cream
£4.50 x 2 for kids' ice cream
Total bill: £70.90
Huck's American Bar and Grill at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest
£12.50 x for The Classic Burger
£7.99 x 2 for chicken nuggets and chips
£7.49 x 2 for cheesecake and blueberry compote
£3.99 x 2 for kids' ice cream
Total bill: £63.94
Result: Not much in it. Bluestone was slightly more expensive, but not really enough to change your plans!
Which has the best accommodation? Center Parcs or Bluestone?
Center Parcs has four grades of lodges. They range from Woodland lodges (£) through to Executive (££), Exclusive (£££) and Treehouses (££££). They also have apartments for smaller groups.
Within some categories you can also upgrade to a 'newer' lodge. Other upgrades get you things like en-suite facilities, a games room, a coffee machine, a wine cooler (absolutely essential, of course), dedicated parking spaces, a hot tub, a sauna and even a host with maid service.
We've written a whole blog about choosing the right Center Parcs lodge, but one key factor is the size of your group. The cheaper lodges are available for group sizes of between 2 and 12 whilst the most expensive lodges are best for groups of 7-8 people. You'll pay a premium per head if you have a half-empty lodge (we once saw a Treehouse which was £10,000 for the week...).
Meanwhile, Bluestone has 16 different types of accommodation by my count, including:
Some differences worth noting:
Result: Bluestone is a good option if two families want to holiday together, but still want some privacy. Center Parcs is a good option if you want a hot tub or sauna and have deep pockets.
Which is best for dogs? Center Parcs or Bluestone?
Bluestone has a complete ban on dogs, so you'll need to leave Rover with grandma or cough up for the kennels.
Of course, if you don't particularly like dogs then Bluestone is the winner!
Center Parcs has dog friendly lodges but there are some limitations:
The first thing to say is that are a lot of similarities between Center Parcs and Bluestone. Both are good choices for a family holiday at the more luxurious end of the UK's holiday lodge resort market.
Customer reviews are very similar and they both have excellent indoor swimming pools/water parks. They also both offer enough activities to keep you entertained for several days and have a big range of accommodation.
There are a few factors which might make up your mind:
Review scores and prices correct at the time of writing.
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