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50+ things to do in Essex this Summer 2024

From thrilling attractions to free family activities, Essex has something for everyone this summer of 2024. Get ready to make the most of the sunny days and warm evenings with our ultimate guide to 50+ things to do in Essex this summer.


whats on in Essex Summer 2024

With so much to see and do, Essex is the perfect destination for a summer to remember. Whether you're a nature lover, thrill-seeker, or family looking for fun-filled activities, Essex has it all.



Make sure you check opening dates and times with the venue before travelling! You may need to book tickets in advance. The Parks of Essex Summer 2024 guides includes days out, events and amazing Essex attractions! There are also tonnes of great free things to do in Essex this Summer.




Free Things to Do in Essex

Who says you need to break the bank to have a good time? Essex offers a plethora of family friendly free event. Whether you're a local looking for a fun day out or a visitor exploring the area, here are some free things to do in Essex.



Visit a Playground

We have lots of great playgrounds listed if you are looking for free days out in Essex. Our Directory has A-Z of over 100 Parks in Essex. We also have a list of Over 50 playgrounds which have FREE PARKING. So gather your friends and family for a picnic at one of Essex's brilliant parks .



Free Events

  • Love Parks at Oaklands Park! As part of the nationwide Love Parks Week, join the Love Parks event in Oaklands Park on 26 July. Events include arts and crafts, wildlife societies, screen print artist, storytelling and Hylands Forest School. No booking required – just turn up!

  • A free family festival ! U Fest - a free all-day community festival in Maldon Promenade Park will be held on 16th August. This popular river side park is situated on the river Blackwater. Promenade Park hosts a sandpit, pirate themed playground, petting zoo, adventure golf, skateboard park, BMX track, model boating lake and an amazing seasonal splash park. You can read more about Promenade Park by checking out our post.

  • Art Exchange - There are several family friendly free events this summer at Wivenhoe Park through the Essex County Council Arts and Cultural Fund. Events include Painting in the Park on 27th July, Cyanotype photography 3rd August. Foraging in the Park 10th August, Walking with Wild Writer James Canon 17th August Animal Crackers Sculptures in the Park 24th August and Circus Skills in the Park 31st August. Admission free and there’s no need to book – just turn up at Art Exchange.

  • Westlands Country Park Wildlife Walk - 21st July - James Carter Road entrance, CO3 9XB - Join the ranger to discover what wildlife and wildflowers can be found in the grassland.

  • High Woods Country Park Wildlife Walk - 29th July - Monkwick School Road playing fields - Join the ranger looking at plants, birds, insects and any other wildlife on this pleasant summer’s walk through the High Woods.

  • Countryside Games and Crafts - 30th July, 6th, 13th, 20th August - Monkwick School Road playing fields Drop in and join us for outdoor games and crafts. There will be plenty of free activities to do, including craft using natural materials and woodland inspired games.

  • Wild Woodland Fun – 31st July, 14th August - Welsh Wood Forest School Area - Enjoy den building and woodland games amongst the trees, and make the most of the great outdoors.

  • Pond dipping – 7th, 21st August - Salary Brook, Greenstead - discover what creatures hide under the surface. 

  • Nature Reserve Flora Survey - 18th August - Lexden Springs Nature Reserve - We will be in the meadows looking at the Spring plants and wildflowers





Free Character Trails

  • Did you know Essex has a NEW Gruffalo Trail? You can find the Gruffalo Party Trail at Thames Chase. The trail consists of several games and activities to teach you about the forest. Search for party favourites to celebrate the Gruffalo's birthday!

  • The original Gruffalo Trail is at Thorndon Country Park. We have a post comparing the two Essex Gruffalo Trails if you are deciding whcih one to visit.

  • Stick Man Trail - The Stick Man Trail is at Weald Country Park. There are a series of wooden, sculptures located close to the car park and around the lake.


  • Peter Rabbit Trail -  There are a series of wooden characters along the trail at Langdon including all the Peter Rabbit favourites such as Jemima Puddleduck and Benjamin Rabbit.

  • Wind in the WIllows Trail - you can find the Wind in the Willows Trail at the beautiful Hanningfield Reservoir. There are a series of wooden sculptures and brass rubbings along the woodland trail.

  • Eastbrookend Country Park is home to Artys Sculpture Trail. The trail starts and ends at the Discovery Centre. The trail starts with Robin Rue’s sculpture next to the Discovery Centre.

  • The longest play trail in Essex can be found at Great Notley Country Park. The Great Notley Play Trail is a 1.2km loop with various pieces of play equipment and playgrounds along the route


Visit some animals!

  • Did you know it is FREE to enter Pets' Corner at Harlow Town Park! There is also 2 hours free parking, making this a great free day out in Essex. Don't forget to visit the brilliant accessible Pet's Corner playground whilst you are there!

  • Feed the Deer at Weald Country Park - You can find an enclosed deer park, close to the car park and visitor centre at Weald country Park. The friendly herd can be fed via feeding funnels or by holding fruit and vegetables through the fence.

  • You can also Feed the Deer at Bedfords Park - The friendly deers are a real highlight of the park. The deers are fenced off but come right up to the fencing.

  • Foxburrows Farm can be found at Hainault Country Park - Foxburrows Farm is open 7 days a week. You can find ponies, alpacas, sheep, duck, chicken, peacock and goats. Admission to the farm is free, donations very welcome.



Visit the Beach!

Who doesn't love a visit to the British seaside? Enjoy a peaceful walk along the stunning beaches of Essex or visit a buzzlng seaside town!

  • Visit Mersea Island - Escape to the tranquil Mersea Island, known for its beaches and fresh seafood. The beautiful sandy beach at Mersea Island is lined with traditional beach huts. The perfect place to enjoying incredible sea views and stunning Mersea Island sunsets. We have a guide to the best child friendly places on Mersea Island, check out this post.



  • Visit Southend-on-Sea - The 7 miles of Southend-on-Sea sea front stretches from Leigh-on-Sea to Shoebury. Whether you are looking for a quiet stretch of beach on the Southend seafront, or are visiting to experience the hustle and bustle city beach, there is a beach to suit all. We also have a guide to seaside playgrounds in Southend-on-Sea, discover the 7 beach side playareas in Southend in this post.



Head to the Woods

  • Epping Forest - Lose yourself in the natural beauty of Epping Forest, perfect for hiking, cycling, or simply enjoying a leisurely day in nature. Did you know you can hire bikes at Epping Forest?

  • Belfairs Woods - There are plenty of amazing ancient woodland to explore at Belfairs Woods in Leigh-on-Sea! Children will love den building, splashing in the streams and the adventure playground.



  • High Woods Country Park - High Woods Country Park is perfect for walking due to the wonderful meadows, lakes and woodlands. Highwoods Country Park also has nature inspired children's play areas.





Visit a Museum

  • Chelsmford Museum - Chelmsford Museum is a super child friendly museum located in Oaklands Park. There are also two playgrounds within the beautiful park grounds.

Visit a Reservoir

  • Essex Wildlife Trust Abberton Reservoir is a great Nature Discovery Park. As well as the great wildlife spotting, kids will also love the Bramley Hedge woodland character trail

  • Hanningfield Reservoir is home to the Essex Wildlife Trust Nature Discovery Centre. The Wind in the WIllows Trail starts at the Centre. There is also a great play area at Hanningfield Waterside Park which can be reached a short walk away through the woodland.



Splash Parks

Cool off on a hot summer day at a water park! Essex is home to several great Splash Parks from Brentwood, to Grays to Southend-on-Sea. For links to book and for further information check out our Essex Splash Park & Fountains Guide.



  • King Georges Splash Pad in Brentwood

  • Jubilee Beach Water Fountains

  • Pavillion Water Park

  • Barking Splash Pad

  • Promenade Park Splash Park

  • Grays Riverside Park Splash Pad





Pubs with Play Areas in Essex

We know the perfect family friendly pub garden to enjoy a drink, while the kids have a blast playing nearby! In fact we have over 30 pubs with play areas listed in our Family Friend Pubs with Play Areas Guide. Our top recommendation is The White Horse in Billericay. The play area at The White Horse was refurbished this summer! We also recommend The Victory at Mersea where there is a good sized play area in the pub garden and beautiful sea views from the pub garden.


Attractions at Parks in Essex



Festivals

  • Smoke and Fire Festival - This foodie festival returns to Promenade Park on 16th and 18th August. This huge BBQ festival promises live music, food eating competitions, amazing food vendors and family entertainment.

  • Colchester Pride - Colchester Pride 2024 returns on 17th August 2024 at arts venue Firstsite. There will be indoor and outdoor activities.

  • Tribute Festival Nearly Festival returns to Promenade Park. Children Under 5 go free!


Events

  • Colourscape at Colchester Castle Park - Eye Music Trust presents Colourscape with Music and dance in Castle Park, Colchester


Visit somewhere Historic!

  • Chappel Viaduct is an impressive structure. The Viaduct was built in 1849 and is a Grade II listed building. It is a great spot for a day out, interesting photos and the Chappel Viaduct playground is a huge bonus.

  • Colchester Castle Park is home to Colchester Castle. Entry to the park and play area is free. Colchester Castle Park Play Area is being refurbished! Read More about the plans HERE. Catch Gaia at Colchester Castle this summer betweem 19th July and 15th September!



  • You can find the historic Prittlewell Priory at Priory Park in Southend-on-Sea. There are regular events held at Prittlewell Priory throughout the year and especially throughout the school holidays. The Anglo Saxon Weekend is on 3rd and 4th August.

  • Hedingham Castle : Step back in time with a visit to the enchanting Hedingham Castle, a medieval masterpiece set in the Essex countryside. Tehre are also great events at Hedingham Castle - this summer you can expect outdoor theatre productions, outdoor cinema, classic and vintage car show and a teddy bear's picnic!

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