15 Summer Holiday Events in Essex under £20

Summer is a season full of fun and exciting opportunities, especially for families. However, it can be challenging to find activities that won’t put a strain on your wallet. Fortunately, there are plenty of events taking place in Essex this summer that are perfect for families on a budget. We’ve done the research and found some great options that we’ve included below so you can find the perfect activity that will keep your family entertained without breaking the bank.

Essex offers a variety of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences that are suitable for all ages. From picnicking in the park to exploring local museums, there’s something for everyone. This list of 15 summer holiday events in Essex under £20 will help you plan your next family outing. Not only will you have a great time, but you’ll also save money in the process. Included in the list are some great free events in Essex.

So, why not make the most of the summer season with your family and explore all that Essex has to offer?

1. Hedingham Castle: Knight School – Medieval Combat, Halstead

15-17 August 2023, 11:00 AM To 04:00 PM

2 adults + as many children as fit in the car £34.00 for castle access

£ 2.50 per person add-on for Knight School

Learn together and fight together in duels and team battles at Knight School! Using padded weapons, you will learn how to fight like a medieval knight! In each 1 hour session, be coached in combat techniques by members of Knight’s Tower Medieval Combat School.

Suitable for children aged 6+ as well as adults, all abilities welcome. Hourly sessions available on the following dates, on the hour from 11am – 3pm inclusive.

2. Naze Nature Discovery Centre: Naze Family Fossil Discovery, Walton-on-the-Naze

25 July 2023, 10:00 – 11:30am

£3 per person (both children and adults need a ticket)

Come along to The Naze to discover why our cliffs are so special. Our introduction tells you about The Naze geology and where to find fossils before heading out on a group fossil hunt. Please bring a bag or bucket to collect your fossils in and wear sturdy footwear.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please come suitably dressed for the weather as we will be outside for the whole session. Meet at the Nature Discovery Centre on arrival.

3. Marsh Farm: Children’s Summer Festival – Bubble ‘n Bop, South Woodham Ferrers

20 July – 1 September 2023

10:00am – 5:00pm

Tickets from £6.99 to £19.99 per person

Don’t miss Marsh Farm’s summer children’s festival ‘Bubble ‘n Bop’ it’s bursting with bubbles and exploding with excitement. There will be so much going on including the much loved foam machine, our brand new beach, our train ride, fairground rides & more!

At Bubble ‘n Bop Children’s Festival you’ll still get to meet all our lovely animals. As you mosey around the farm you’ll be able to see Llamas, Alpacas, Pigs, Cows, Goats, Rabbits, Hens & more! You’ll also be able to experience our furry-tastic Pet Encounters and Goat Feeding throughout your stay.

4. Mischief & Mystery in Moominvalley, Mercury Studio, Colchester

5th August 2023

11am & 2pm

£10.00 per person

Discover the world of the Moomins where anything is possible. Be sure to pack your imagination and join us on an unforgettable journey to Moominvalley where everyone is welcome, nature thrives, and adventures are plentiful.

Based on the much-loved novels by Tove Jansson, this heart-warming show tells the story of a year in Moominvalley. Moomintroll wakes up in the middle of winter with a ‘something-wrong-feeling’. There’s no sign of his good friend Snufkin, or the note Snufkin left him. As winter turns to spring and Snufkin returns, the days lengthen into a lazy summer and ‘the sea brings them all the adventures they could wish for’.

British theatre group Get Lost and Found was commissioned by the Tove Jansson literary estate and Moomin Characters to create a new theatrical experience for children aged 3 – 7 years. The result is a delightful show full of magical puppetry, an ingenious pop-up book set, original music, and interactive storytelling

5. Abberton Big Butterfly Count: Abberton Reservoir Nature Discovery Park, Colchester

24 July 2023

1:30pm – 4:00pm

£5 per child

Join us as we go on an adventure round Abberton to look for butterflies. We will use our special bug hunting nets to try catch some for a closer look! Once we have ticked off all the butterflies we can find we will make one of our own to take home.

Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please come suitably dressed for the weather as we will be outside for the whole session. Advance booking essential. Meet at the outdoor education shelter.

6. Matilda Jr: Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-Sea

27 August 2023

4PM & 6:30 PM

Theatretrain Leigh-on-Sea are proud to present… MATILDA JR

Rebellion is nigh in Matilda JR., a gleefully witty ode to the anarchy of childhood and the power of imagination! This story of a girl who dreams of a better life and the children she inspires will have audiences rooting for the “revolting children” who are out to teach the grown-ups a lesson.

Packed with high-energy dance numbers and catchy songs, Matilda JR. is a joyous girl power romp. Children and adults alike will be thrilled and delighted by the story of the special little girl with an extraordinary imagination.

7. Manga drawing – Summer Workshop: The Art Place, Chelmsford

11 August 2023

1:00 PM – 3:00 PM


Learn the basics of drawing manga, and learn more about this amazing type of Japanese art.

About the artist. Instagram @PaniniButter

Hi I’m Lauren! On social media known as PaniniButter! I’m a self-taught manga artist! I’ll be teaching you how to draw anatomy and people, How to design characters and colouring! I hope to teach you everything I know and give you advice to advance with your passion! Please bring a pen and paper to write notes on/practice with!

The price of this workshop will be split between the artist -80% and the charity- 20% .

8. Naze Kite Festival: The Naze Nature Discovery Centre, Walton On The Naze

23 July 2023

10:00am – 4:00pm

£7 per kite

Join us for an amazing weekend of kite displays by the East Anglian Kite Flyers and kite decorating workshops here at The Naze centre.

Families, children, and adults are welcome. There is disabled access, toilets, baby changing, a shop, and a cafe/refreshments. The displays are free to attend.

There will also be a chance to decorate your own kites to fly and keep for £7 per kite with our kite workshops which will be running both days. Advance booking advised – we sold out last year.

9. Prehistoric Week: Chelmsford City Museum, Chelmsford

1 – 3 August 2023

10:30am – 12:30pm & 2pm – 4pm

£5  Accompanying adults are free.

Discover the prehistoric period, with History Hacker Rok as our guide. He’ll be taking us even further back in time to discover Essex when Mammoths roamed the land. Explore more about what we know about that time, and what you can learn in the present day. Enjoy getting your hands dirty with digging trays, creating your own fossil bed and painting your own fossil to take home, object handling with real objects, dressing up, and we’ll give you a gallery challenge which involves exploring the museum!

We’ll provide the materials and inspiration from our own Prehistoric collection; you just need to bring your creativity and an adult to help you. Activities are suitable for ages over 6 years old. All children must be accompanied by an adult, who can attend for free.

10. KidsFest: Lee Valley Adventure Park, Waltham Abbey

24 July – 1 September 2023

10am – 5pm

Tickets from £12.99 per person 2yrs+, £4.00 per person 6m-2yrs

KidsFest is BACK! It’s BIGGER! It’s BETTER! And it’s running EVERYDAY this Summer Holiday!

Enjoy a boogie at our Main Stage and be entertained by our headline acts. Get your festival sparkle on at our DIY Glitter Station, AND have a blast at the Foam Party!

The kids will love exploring our BRAND-NEW Crazy Golf AND Adventure Playground OPEN just in time for Summer! Not forgetting about the rest of the fun too, enjoy jumping around on the inflatables, getting dizzy on the fairground rides, AND of course, meet our friendly farm yard animals!

11. JMT Summer Workshops: Jaywick Martello Tower, Clacton

Weekends, 23 July – 26 August


Join us at Jaywick Martello Tower for a summer of crafting! During the school holidays we will be hosting a series of drop-in family workshops to keep the kids entertained. Artist Clare Sams will be joining us for the workshop on Saturday 29 July for a collaborative coastal themed weave, creating woven strips representing the beach, sea and sky using recycled materials; and on Saturday 12 August artist Nicola Burrell will be here to show us how to make cardboard sculpture eco systems.

12. Clacton Pier: Clacton Pier Free Fireworks Display, Clacton on Sea

22nd July – 19 August 2023


Spectacular free fireworks extravaganzas return to Clacton Pier this weekend to mark the start of the school summer holidays. The first of five displays will take place at the end of the attraction on Saturday night (July 22) around 9pm, subject to darkness. There will be further events on Saturdays on July 29, August 5, 12, 19 as part of the pier’s largest ever annual programme.

For years Clacton Pier have offered FREE Fireworks Displays to our customers to say thank you! We offer several displays throughout the year.

Please note that we never release an exact set off time due to weather, darkness and safety checks. Please come and enjoy some of the activities we have on offer at Clacton Pier and grab the best view in town of our fireworks!

13. Thames Sailing Barge Trust: Children’s Activity Days, Thames Sailing Barge Centaur, Maldon

10 and 17 August 2023

11:00 am – 4:00 pm

Entrance is by donation, but pre-booking is essential.

Each session will last one hour and there are four slots available.

A day of children’s activities aboard the historic Thames sailing barge Centaur.

A fun educational activity based experience for children aged between 5 and 11 years.

Explore the sailing barge above and below deck with a free child’s activity pack as well as take part in other activities. Entrance is by donation, but pre-booking is essential. Each session will last one hour and there are four slots available.

14. Chelmsford City Council: Picnic in the Park Activity Session, Chelmsford

24 July 2023

10:00 – 12:00


Free fun festivals including sports, arts & crafts, bouncy castles and other activities. Free lunches for children on free school meals.

We are a community-based event and will provide opportunities for children and families to come and enjoy the first week of the summer holidays with our friendly team to play, create and take part in fun sports, games, and craft activities. We will also feature additional activities to give that festival feel including travelling natural history museum where you will have a totally roarsome dinosaur and fossil digs experience, reptile handling with SnakeAlive, face painter & glitter tattoos artists , scooter and skateboarding workshop, smoothie bike workshop, Essex’s most loved party entertainer Mr B providing Magic Shows and Balloon modelling experience and inflatable bouncy castles provided by 1st 2 bounce.

15. Family Fun Weekend: Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Brentwood

26 – 27 August 2023

10:00am – 4:00pm

Tickets: £7.00 per adult, £10.00 per child (2-15yrs)

Back by popular demand, our Family Fun Day is making its’ return on 26th & 27th August!

Weekend includes: Children’s Funfair Rides, Soft Play, Mega Inflatable Slide, Bungee Trampolines, Live Performances, Children’s Entertainer, Arts & Crafts (not included in admission fee)…and so much more!

You can also wander round and meet our rescued residents, read their stories and find out why they ended up in our care, enjoy delicious refreshments from Max’s Café, and treat the little ones (or yourself!) in our gift shop on your way out.

With these affordable events, you can create memories that will last a lifetime without worrying about the cost. So pack a picnic, grab the kids, and get ready for some summer fun that won’t break the bank. If you’re looking for more ideas for summer activities have a look at our article 10 outdoor activities with the kids. Have a great summer break!

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