Ah, the family holiday! As much as we would like to trek off to Nepal with the kids, sometimes we just need an easy family holiday nearby. There are 6 Center Parcs in France, with some easier to get to, and some offering better value.
If you are coming from the U.K. and are familiar with the concept, you may have heard the secret: the Center Parcs in France are known to be a bit cheaper than the ones in the U.K. Combine that with a bit of French culture and sightseeing, and you have a winner!
Now Center Parcs sounds French, but it was actually founded by a Dutch company. The company today is owned by a multinational French company “Pierre et Vacances” and so has quite an international feel, with resorts all over the UK, Belgium, France, Netherlands, and Germany.
The service and layout is pretty standard across the resorts, but each resort has its own look and style. The cottages in each resort vary from cape cod to modern style wood and concrete structures laid out across the resort in a suburban neighborhood style.
By this I mean that since regular houses in France are usually built with stone, don’t expect the traditional French village look at these Center Parcs. These are clearly more modern structures, each with its own look and feel.
Most of the activities occur in a central area, so you do have to walk back and forth. There is usually a large indoor domed pool, an outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor playgrounds for the kids, spa, bowling, minigolf, a supermarket, restaurants, and a multitude of other activities.
Some of the activities such as the swimming pools and playgrounds are free. The rest of them like have additional fees (unlike a cruise ship) so you need to take that into account when budgeting for your holiday.
This guide will compare the 6 French resorts, look at nearby attractions, and which ones offer ease of access to make the most of your holiday. So let’s get to it shall we? Allons-y!
1. Le Lac d’Ailette
- Location: North Picardie
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 2.5 hours drive from Calais, 2 hours drive from Paris
- Closest airports: Paris Charles de Gaulle airport (2-hour drive), Brussels Charleroi airport (3-hour drive)
- Surrounding attractions: about 45 minutes away from Reims and the Champagne region of France
- Age of the resort: Opened in 2007 (VIP Nouveau Design cottages recently renovated)
Lac d’Aillette bills itself as pied dans l’eau, meaning “feet in the water”. Along with a large lake, there are small little inlets around which the cottages are built. Depending on the cottage you pick, you can literally feed the ducks in the water from your balcony. (I recommend picking a VIP cottage with sauna, which will definitely have you with pied dans l’eau!)
The cottages are built in a New England Cape Cod-style, with wood frame walls with shingles or clapboards, the gabled roof, and a large central chimney. The resort itself is nice and calm, though the footpaths are a bit hilly, but you can hire a golf cart for €99/week.
This isn’t the most exciting resort with a ton of activities or attractions. There are the usual (swimming pools, playgrounds, bowling, yoga, spa, etc), but nothing overly extraordinary. If you are looking for a calm holiday en famille, this is it. With the chance to try different types of champagne (perhaps)!
See accommodation and reserve Lac d’Aillette.
2. Les Bois-Francs
- Location: Normandy
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 4 hours drive from Calais, 2 hours drive from Paris
- Closest airports: Deauville Saint-Gatien Airport (1h40 minutes drive away)
- Surrounding attractions: 15 minutes from Château Verneuil-sur-Avre and town
- Age of the resort: Opened in 1988 (currently undergoing a renovation to expand the Indoor swimming pool which will be completed in 2022).
This is the oldest of the Center Parcs in France and so has slowly been undergoing major renovations. Along with the swimming pools, some of the Pagoda cottages have also been recently renovated (in 2017). The cottages are laid out in a beautiful forest setting that is quite tranquil.
If you enjoy golf, this resort has a 9 hole golf course and is part of the Golfy network. There are also golf lessons available through the resort. It also has all the usual activities, along with tennis courts and a place to fish.
See accommodation and reserve Les Bois Francs.
3. Les Hauts de Bruyères
- Location: Loire Valley
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 5 hours drive from Calais, 2 hours drive from Paris
- Closest airports: Bourges Airport (1-hour drive) and Tours Airport (1.5-hour drive)
- Surrounding attractions: surrounded by the Chateaux of the Loire Valley
- Age of the resort: Opened in 1993
Other castles in the area include Château de Chéverny, Château de Villandry, Château de Chaumont, and Château de Blois. There are guided excursions to the chateaux available for purchase at the concierge.
There are also plenty of other attractions such as paintball, archery, pétanque, indoor and outdoor tennis, a circus school, and all the usual swimming pools and playgrounds.
It has more activities than Lac d’Aillette and so in a nice compromise between those wanting calm, and those wanting a few more activities.
See accommodation and reserve Les Hauts de Bruyères.
4. Les Trois Forêts
- Location: Moselle
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 5.5 hours drive from Calais, 4.5 hours drive from Paris
- Closest airports: Strasbourg airport, France (1h away) and Saarbrücken airport, Germany (1h15 away).
- Surrounding attractions: 10 minutes away from the Château de Turquestein and 20 minutes from Golf du Pays de Sarrebourg. 1-hour drive from Strasbourg and Alsace.
- Age of the resort: Opened in 2010 (Spa and other facilities were renovated in 2017-2018)
This is one of the newer resorts, within a couple of hours of both the German and Swiss borders, near Alsace. Les 3 Forêts is all about the forest with contemporary wood cottages, some of which have a special theme.
There are 3 themes that you can pick from:
- Adventure cottage
- Animals of the forest cottage
- Fairytale Kingdom cottage.
You can also just pick the VIP cottage with sauna, which is what I always recommend. There are plenty of activities including high wire adventure, paintball, and all the usual swimming pools and playgrounds.
The Alsace region is also popular for its different types of wine, with many a visitor traveling along its famous Wine Route.
See accommodation and reserve Les Trois Forêts.
5. Le Bois aux Daims
- Location: In Poitou-Charentes
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 5.5 hours drive from Calais, 3.5 hours drive from Paris
- Closest airports: Poitiers (1 hour away), Angers Airport (1 hour away) and Nantes Airport (2 hours away).
- Surrounding attractions: 10 minutes drive away from Château de la Mothe-Chandeniers, 20 minutes away from Château de Ternay, and 1 hour away from Poitiers
- Age of the resort: Opened in 2015
If you have ever wanted to stay in a treehouse, this is your chance. There are only a couple of treehouses, but if you get lucky you can stay high up in the trees with a beautiful private terrasse overlooking the treetops.
The treehouses may look rustic, but they are fully equipped with dishwashers, wifi and everything in the regular cottages.
There are all the standard and VIP cottages as well, if you are scared of heights. Similar to Les Trois Forêts, these are also modern-style cottages with contemporary clean lines.
The terrain is flatter compared to Lac d’Aillette, which is great for small kids biking along. There are also plenty of activities like an animal sanctuary, high wire adventures, fun bikes, and the usual swimming pools and playgrounds.
See accommodation and reserve Le Bois aux Daims.
6. Villages Nature Paris
- Location: Suburbs of Paris
- Accessibility by car (without traffic): 3 hours drive from Calais, 0.5 hours drive from Paris.
- Nearby international airport: Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris Orly airport
- By train: Eurostar, Thalys, and other high-speed trains arrive in Paris directly, from where you can take suburban trains. This Center Parc is accessible without a car. A paid shuttle can transport you between the train station, Disneyland and the Village.
- Surrounding attractions: 10-minute drive away from Disneyland Paris, 20-minute train ride away from Paris
- Age of the resort: Opened in 2017
☞ READ MORE: Paris with kids: Things to do that are not crazy
Center Parcs with Mickey and Minnie! Village Nature Paris has a partnership with Disneyland Paris, which lists it on its website as an official Disney village.
Because of the Disney connection, this resort is easily the most expensive of the Center Parcs in France. If you can add on tickets to Disney, it gets even more expensive. Certain tickets also get “Extra Magic Time”, where you get to go to Disney one hour before the park opens, so there is that.
Village Nature Paris has everything you would expect from Center Parcs, the indoor domed pools, the playgrounds, activities, etc. It also has an upgraded Action Factory, with climbing walls and other games for older children and adults.
See accommodation and reserve Village Nature Paris.
So there you go, are you inspired by where you want to stay? If you have never been to Center Parcs before, check out my top tips on visiting Center Parcs. Happy vacationing and à bientôt !