What’s On May Half-Term: Events + Free Days Out in Essex

If you’re looking for fun and affordable things to do with your little ones this May half-term, you’ve come to the right place. This article is jam-packed with fantastic events happening right here in Essex. The best part? Many of these events are under £10, and there’s a big selection of free events happening across the county too! From special animal handling sessions at Get To Know Animals to exciting activities at the East Anglian Railway Museum, there’s something for every family to enjoy. So, let’s dive in and start planning a memorable half-term!

1. Southend Museums: The Romans: Settling in Southend

Venue: Southend Museum

Town: Southend on Sea

Time: Monday-Sunday, 11:00- 17:00

Price: Adult – £4.50 per ticket; Child – £2.50 per ticket

Description: The exhibition features a stunning collection of Roman artefacts from across South Essex, many of which are being displayed publicly for the very first time! Visitors will have the opportunity to explore artefacts unearthed from Roman settlements spanning from Prittlewell to Wickford, Shoebury to Rayleigh.

Website: The Romans: Settling in Southend

2. East Anglian Railway Museum: Steam Days at the East Anglian Railway Museum

Venue: East Anglian Railway Museum

Town: Colchester

Time: Sun 05 May 2024, 10.30 – 15.30

Price: Adults: £10; Children (4-17): £7; Under 4s: Free

Description: A firm favourite with families, they’re a great opportunity to visit the Museum and have a ride in vintage wagons or carriages pulled by one of our restored Steam Engines. Our site of over 10 acres is ideal if you would like to bring your own picnic.

Website: Steam Days at the East Anglian Railway Museum

3. Hopefield: Hopefield Family Festival

Venue: Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

Town: Brentwood

Time: 25th, 26th & 27th May, Saturday-Monday, 10:00-16:00

Price: Adult: £8.00 per ticket; Child: £10.00 per ticket; Concession: £7.00 per ticket

Description: Spend the bank holiday weekend with us at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, as we bring you our Family Festival! With a line-up you won’t want to miss you can expect inflatables, soft play bus, BBQ, Bar, live performances and, of course, the chance to meet our rescued residents, plus lots more! Children’s activities mentioned all included in the ticket price.

Website: Hopefield Animal Sanctuary

4. Colchester Castle: Planetarium at Colchester Castle

Venue: Colchester Castle

Town: Colchester

Time: Planetarium – Tuesday, May 28 only. The whole castle: May 25 – June 2, Mon – Sat 10am – 5pm, Sun 11am – 5pm.

Price: Adult £10; Child £5.25.

Description: For one day only, a pop-up planetarium is coming to the castle which you can climb inside. You will see the constellations appear and hear stories about Roman beliefs which were linked to the stars. There’s space-themed crafts too. The Planetarium will run at 45-minute intervals throughout the day. This is included in the admission price on May 28 only. After you’ve enjoyed the planetarium, Colchester Castle has so much to offer. The castle, which is now part-ruin, became a museum in 1860 and is a great place to visit all year round. There are loads of interactive displays and major exhibits including the Colchester Vase – one of the finest pieces of art to have survived from Roman Britain. There is also the Fenwick Treasure, a hoard of Roman silver and gold found in 2014, or your kids will love activities like excavating a Roman doctor’s grave or steering a chariot. You can book extra tours down in the Roman vaults or go up onto the roof with a panoramic view of Colchester and beyond.

Website: Planetarium at Colchester Castle

5. East Anglian Railway Museum: Diesel Day

Venue: East Anglian Railway Museum

Town: Colchester

Time: May 29, 2024, 10am – 4.30pm

Price: Adults £10; Child £5.

Description: For one day in May half term, there’s a special Diesel Day where you can enjoy unlimited rides on one of the classic diesel trains. You can also explore the vintage carriages and goods shed, operate the signal box and climb into the big, red, double decker bus. There’s a children’s playground too if they need to burn off any more steam. The Heritage centre, the restoration shed, the codebreaker experience, the miniature railway and the station café are great too.

Website: Diesel Day

6. Beth Chatto Gardens: Garden activities for children at Beth Chatto Gardens

Venue: Beth Chatto Gardens

Town: Colchester

Time: May 29-30, 2024, Mon – Sat 9am – 5pm, Sun 10am – 5pm

Price: £7-£9

Description: There are two kids’ activities at the gardens over May half term. May 29 – Ponds and Flower boxes with pond dipping and making your own seedy egg box of flowers. May 30 – Brilliant Birds, Trees and Bumblebees including a bumblebee safari, migration trail and tree art. This attraction is made up of around seven acres and includes a gravel garden (which was once a car park and is never watered), scree garden, water garden, woodland garden and reservoir garden.

Website: Garden activities for children at Beth Chatto Gardens

7. Layer Marney Tower: Tudor Domestic Re-enactment at Layer Marney Tower

Venue: Layer Marney Tower

Town: Colchester

Time: Sunday, May 26 to Monday, May 27, 11am – 5pm

Price: £9 adults; £5 children

Description: The Companye of Merrie Folke will be at the tower for two days telling families about their lives and times. There’s a surgeon barber who can either cut your hair or your arm off, herbalists who can cure all ills, the armourer who can’t wait to show off their armour and arrows, puppeteers, basket makers, musicians and spinners.

Website: Tudor Domestic Re-enactment at Layer Marney Tower

8. Museum of Power: Half Term Havoc

Venue: Museum of Power

Town: Maldon

Time: May 29 – June 2, 9.30am – 3.00pm

Price: Adults £7.00, Concessions £6.00

Description: Bring your youngsters along to the Museum during the Half Term Holidays and join in the fun of our activities (to be confirmed) Astaria Model Village open & Trains running on Thursday 1st June ONLY Note that the Museum is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays

Website: Museum of Power Events

9. Hylands Estate: Hylands Park

Venue: Hylands Estate

Town: Chelmsford

Time: May 25 – June 2, 7.30am- 5-10pm

Price: Free

Description: Hylands Park is the largest park in Chelmsford and a great trip out for the family. It’s part of the 574 acres of the Hylands Estate. It includes huge fields to play on, ancient woodlands, play areas, formal gardens and ponds. Children love this place as they can run free, play games or go on the play equipment. You can also feed the ducks and explore the gardens. There’s a café, shops and loos in the Stables Area too. Hylands Park hosts lots of events too including dog shows, garden shows and drive-in movies. It’s a great cheap day out with the kids.

Website: Hylands Estate

10. Tiptree: Tiptree Jam Museum and Café

Venue: Tiptree

Town: Colchester

Time: May 25 – June 2, Mon – Sat 9.30am – 5pm, Sun 10am – 5pm

Price: Free

Description: One sweet trip to go to at the weekend is a jam factory! The home of Wilkin & Sons – one of the most famous jam-makers in the world and the owner of a Royal Warrant. This small but perfectly-formed museum is a hive of old jam-making equipment, old photos, documents, machinery and fascinating titbits from the history of the famous Essex company. Of course you have to visit the attached tearoom, which serves all manner of goodies. A nice day out in rural Essex.

Website: Tiptree Jam Museum and Café

11. The Naze Visitor Centre: Naze Nature Discovery Centre

Venue: The Naze Visitor Centre

Town: Colchester

Time: May 25 – June 2, 9am – 5pm

Price: Free

Description: The Naze at Walton-on-the-Naze is one of the most important parts of the Essex coastline. The visitor centre opened in 2016 and is a great place to find out more about the wildlife and heritage, as well as a café and gift shop. On the Naze itself you can spot migrating birds and small wildlife, and go hunting for shark’s teeth down on the beach. You can also visit the historic Naze Tower. If it’s warm you can build sand castles and splash about in the sea. You and your kids will have a great day out here.

Website: The Naze Visitor Centre

12. Chelmsford Museum: Chelmsford Museum

Venue: Chelmsford Museum

Town: Chelmsford

Time: May 25 – June 2, Monday-Sunday, 10:00am- 4:00pm

Price: Free

Description: Chelmsford Museum and Essex Regiment Museum sit at the heart of the city’s beautiful Oaklands Park. Chelmsford Museum is FREE to visit and houses 4 main attractions: Chelmsford Museum, Oaklands Park, Essex Regiment Museum, Sandford Mill Industrial Store.

Website: Chelmsford Museum

13. Lemmings Theatre: George the Bookworm presents Telling Tales

Venue: Lemmings Theatre

Town: Tendring

Time: May 30 – June 2, 2024, 10:30am-12:30pm, 2:00pm-4:00pm

Price: Free

Description: Telling Tales, presented by George The Bookworm is a touring festival celebrating stories, imagination, performance, and creativity. After the audience helps George to arrive through one of his wormholes, the fun unfolds with interactive storytelling, book-making workshops, magic, music, juggling, and mayhem. Telling Tales introduces children to the enduring power of stories in all their forms and a reminder that our imaginations are often our greatest gift to one other.

Website: George the Bookworm presents Telling Tales

14. Southend: Big Up Southend

Venue: Southend

Town: Southend on sea

Time: May 25, 2024, 11.00 am to 4.00 pm

Price: Free

Description: Big Up Southend! is all about celebrating the talent that Southend has to offer – from small business owners, to creatives and performers. We’ll have creative activities for young people to take part in, so there’s something for the whole family.

Website: Big Up Southend

15. Southend: In Harmony

Venue: Southend

Town: Southend-on-Sea

Time: May 26, 2024, 12.00 pm to 4.00 pm

Price: Free

Description: A free family friendly multi cultural street festival celebrating, music, art, community and local craft and businesses at Hamlet Court Road. In partnership with A Better Start Southend (ABSS) will be providing a children and families area with activities and information. There are stage performances, a variety of stalls, food and fun.

Website: In Harmony

16. Colchester Museums: Wild Imaginations: Create Your Own Creature

Venue: Colchester Museums

Town: Colchester

Time: 25/05/2024 – 02/06/2024, Monday-Saturday, 10:00 – 17:00; Sundays, 11:00-17:00

Price: Free

Description: Calling all young creative minds! Get wild and dream up the most creative animal you can! From vibrant colours to fancy features, we can’t wait to see what your wild imaginations conjure up! The best creatures win a prize!

Website: Wild Imaginations: Create Your Own Creature

17. Colchester Museums: Puppet Craft

Venue: Colchester Museums

Town: Colchester

Time: 27/05/2024 – 31/05/2024, 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 4:30 pm.

Price: Free

Description: Be inspired by Colchester Castle’s newest exhibition, Thunderbirds & Co: The Joy of Puppetry, as you design and bring your own puppets to life. Use colours, textures and endless possibilities as you create your very own masterpiece! Spark your creativity and let the puppetry fun begin. This event is suitable for ages 4+.

Website: Puppet Craft

18. Essex Wildlife Trust: Bedfords Bee Bonanza

Venue: Essex Wildlife Trust

Town: Romford

Time: May 28, 2024, 10:00 – 16:00

Price: Free

Description: We are celebrating our favourite pollinators at Bedfords this May half term with a FREE Bee themed event day. Follow our self-led bee trail round to the Walled Garden, where you can find a beautiful display of bee-friendly plants, have a go at making wildflower seed bombs by the Nature Discovery Centre, and join us for a guided bee walk and talk with a bookable timeslot. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Please wear suitable outdoor clothing as the event is running outside.

Website: Bedfords Bee Bonanza

Special Event Mention – Get to Know Animals: Half term 1 hr animal handling shows!

Venue: Get to know animals

Town: Epping

Time: 11am and 2pm, every day throughout Half term

Price: £25pp

Description: Come and enjoy 1 hr of fully interactive animal handling in our stunning party cave! Zoo entry afterwards also included + 1 FREE return visit!

Website: Get To Know Animals

This concludes our round-up of fantastic events and day trips in Essex for this May half-term. Whether it’s stepping back in time with the Romans at Southend Museums, or taking in the beauty of Beth Chatto Gardens, there’s something here for every family to enjoy. So why not start planning that perfect day out? Remember, most of these activities are free or cost less than £10, so they’re as kind to your pocket as they are fun. Have a wonderful half-term break, and don’t forget to share your experiences with us!

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