If you’re looking for family-friendly days out in Essex, then look no further! We have picked out some of the best activities and attractions that the county has to offer, to suit all ages and budgets – there are some free days out in Essex to be had too!
** This is a paid campaign with Visit Essex**
Essex is easily reached from London and borders with Suffolk and Cambridgeshire – there is plenty going on this year. Here are just a handful of ideas to keep the children entertained.
Eastern Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2ER
The Sealife Adventure in Southend-on-Sea is the UK’s first Zooquarium. It’s one of the best things to do in Southend with kids. You will be immersed in the wonders of life on planet earth, with everything from the mysteries of the deepest oceans to the beauty of the jungles and deserts. We absolutely loved our visit and it was amazing to get so close to our amazing sea life.
Not only can you gaze at the tranquil aquarium with rays, sharks and marine fish but there are also animal enclosures including meerkats and a family of monkeys which were rescued from a lab. There is also a small dinosaur walk through with moving dinosaurs and fact cards which is amazing. They also have a cafe on site as well as a gift shop.
Prices: Entry on the day £12.50; children under 90cm free with full-paying adult
Opening daily: Summer 10.00am to 8.00pm; winter 10.00am – 5.00pm.
More info on Sealife Adventure here
Essex Fire and Rescue Museum – One of the best things to do in Essex
Fire Station, Hogg Lane, Grays, RM17 5QS
The Essex Fire Museum could be seen as a rather unusual place to visit in Essex, but we recently took the girls and loved it. It gave us the opportunity to take a look at the history of the Fire Service in Essex and kids are kept engaged by going on a letter hunt around the engines with a prize if all of the letters are found. It features historic fire engines, firefighting equipment, uniforms and photographs. On display are a collection of different fire appliances, including artefacts from World War II, hand drop pumps and other fire service equipment. The kids will have great fun trying on the helmets, sitting in a real fire engine and holding the hoses and squirting targets – it was a real hit with ours.
The Fire and Rescue Museum is currently open on certain days during the school holidays – keep an eye on their websites for dates and their halloween special!
Suitable for all ages
More info on the Essex Fire and Rescue Museum here
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
Sawyer’s Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
The girls just loved Hopefield Animal Sanctuary and it’s a great thing to do in Brentwood with children. All of the animals are fairly close together so it makes the perfect day out for toddlers too. There were many different animals to look at and interact with – From cats to farm animals, horses (their favourite), birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, to raccoons and tanukis (Japanese raccoon dogs). There are animal trails if you fancy a short walk, a small cafe and picnic area.
Suitable for all ages.
Open 7 days a week from10.00am – 4.00pm from Monday 19th July to Sunday 29th August
Save money by booking online first: Adults £6.50; child (2-15 years) £5.50; Family of four £20; under 2’s go free. There is free parking onsite.
More info on Hopefield Animal Sanctuary here
Colne Valley Railway
Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ
The Colne Valley Railway is a heritage railway based at Castle Hedingham Station, near Halstead. It is a great family day out in Essex. The railway consists of a mile long running line, a fully reconstructed station, signal box and railway yard. You’llget to travel on board a traditionally restored carriage in either a steam or diesel railcar. Watch the model railway trains travel around the layout of the model railway. There is also a post office exhibition to wander around.
Suitable for all ages.
Open every Wednesday and Sunday during the school holidays from 10.30am the first mainline train each day is at 11.30am
Diesel Day: Adults £8; children £5; family ticket (2 adults 3 children) £23.50; under 3’s free; dogs £2
Steam Day: Adults £12; children £8; family ticket (2 adults 3 children) £36; under 3’s free; dogs £2
More info on Colne Valley Railway here
Nuclear High Ropes
The Secret Nuclear Bunker, Ongar Road, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
Nuclear High Ropes provides excitement for the whole family, whether you’re climbing, ziplining or just watching.It’s the largest high ropes course in Essex with three ability levels, six courses, a giant zipline and big drop all situated in the treetops. New facilities include a registration cabin with all facilities, harness room and safety zone. Sessions last two hours – minimum age 6 years (minimum height 1.2m, maximum weight 120kg).
Adult £29; child £23
More info on Nuclear High Ropes here
Dukes Park Industrial Estate, 12 Richmond Road, Chelmsford CM2 6UA
Jump Street is an indoor adventure park containing Essex’s biggest trampoline arena and largest climbing facility and soft play centre. Have fun in the Open Jump arena, Slam dunk, Big Bags, Dodge ball courts and Wall trampolines. There is also a Toxic Wipeout challenge. The all-weather climbing space has 32 unique multi climbing challenges varying in design and difficulty, plus there’s a Vertical Drop Slide, Leap of Faith and Stairway to Heaven. Kendrick’s Kingdom soft-play is perfect for toddlers with four levels of activities to explore.
Please note – the minimum age for unaccompanied minors is 12 years old.
Book online for discount: Open jump (4+) £10; tots/siblings session £5; open jump & Kendrick’s Kingdom from £13.50.
Everyone who jumps/climbs is required to complete a waiver.
Spectators can come in for free.
More info on Jump Street here
RHS Hyde Hall
Creephedge Lane, Chelmsford CM3 8ET
During the summer holidays you can tumble down the rabbit hole at RHS Garden Hyde Hall. They are celebrating the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Activities include afun family trail across the garden featuring illustrations from the brand new edition of Through the Looking Glass, with illustrations by Chris Riddell. You may even see the Cheshire Cat among the trees, or spot a table set up for a mad tea party! There’ll be theatre performances, storytelling, birds of prey flying displays, picnic days and much more.
Open daily from 10.00am – 5.00pm
Adults £12.15; children £6.10; under 5’s free
More info on RHS Hyde Hall here
Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1EE
Adventure Island is Southend’s free entry theme park. The park has over 40 rides and amusements, great for the tweens and teens, and it is right next to Southend pier. The wristbands are great value allowing access to the rides and attractions, but if you don’t fancy going on the rides and just want to wander around and have a bite to eat, then you can just enter for free.
Wristbands online are £20.
Western Esplanade, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1EE
Adventure Inside is one of Southend’s most popular indoor family attractions. It is the home of big entertainment for all ages, including soft play, rides, and arcade games. Matilda absolutely loved ringing the carousel, it was her favourite ride of the day. The staff were all fabulous and so enthusiastic with the children. There is a diner which serves a good selection of meals. We loved it as it is all under one roof, so it’s a great spot for a rainy day.
Day Pass £12.50 per person
Adventure Inside is open daily from 11.00am
More info on Adventure Island and Adventure Inside Here
Audley End Miniature Railway
Audley End Road, Audley End, Saffron Walden CB11 4JB
The Summer Festival returns to the Audley End Miniature Railway with activities and entertainment for the whole family. Book a train ride through the Audley End Estate on a miniature steam railway. Watch out for fairies and elves welcoming visitors to their charming woodland homes. Wander through the magical fairy and elf walk whilst filling out activity books. Plus, there are magical shows happening too. There is an adventure play area and a brand new nature corner and games area.
Included in the ticket price: Train ride, Fairy and Elf Walk, Nature Corner, Games Area, interactive Story Telling, Adventure Play Area
Booking is required, tickets must be booked in advance before you visit.
Adult £14; child over 92cm £14; child under 92cm £7; child under 1 free; carer of disabled free
No cash excepted on site
Open daily 9.30am-5.30pm
More info on Audley End Miniature Railway here
Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP
Mountfitchet Castle is a unique time capsule, overlooking the Stort Valley, the Castle is situated on its original site which is steeped in history. It used to be an Iron Age hill fort, a Roman signals fort and later a Saxon and Viking settlement before being attacked in 1066 by William the Conqueror who built a wooden Motte and Bailey castle here. The Norman Motte and Bailey Castle has so much to see, with its wide open spaces, historical buildings, and free roaming animals.
Spookily located within the Toy Museum is The Haunted Manor, if you’re feeling brave enough to walk through the chilling chambers to the bewitched Victorian bedroom then a small extra entrance fee of £1.00 per person applies.
Adults £13.50; children (3-13yrs) £11.00; OAPs £13.00
Open daily from Monday 12th April 2021 until Sunday 7th November including all weekends and bank holidays. 10.00am to 5.00pm.Last Admission is 4.00pm.
More info on Mountfitchet Castle here
We hope you have found plenty of new ideas and things to do in Essex and that our guide was useful, do look out for our guides featuring other counties in the UK – helping families to keep their children entertained throughout the school holidays and beyond.
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