The Ultimate List of Places To Go With Children In Essex

If you are looking for places to go with your children in Essex this is a list of places I have reviewed and visited. At the bottom you will also find a HUGE list of other places to go in Essex that maybe I will eventually manage to visit all. Please let me know in the comments where you recommend and anywhere I might have missed.

Entrance costs 
To give an indication of the price I have used a 5 point scale based on visiting at a peak time and paying full price for 1 adult and 1 child. There are often offers available or savings for visiting off peak.

£ Completely free
££ Just parking
£££ under £15
££££ under £30
£££££ over £40

You might also be interested in looking at my reviews for places to go in London and Hertfordshire.

Reviews of Places To Go With Children In Essex


Audley End Miniature Railway - Audley End Road, Saffron Walden CB11 4JB

A place to visit for train fans, but these are miniature unlike at the Epping Ongar Railway. The main season runs weekends from Easter to September, opening every day during school holidays and special opening for Halloween and Christmas events too. As well as the train there is an Enchanted Fairy and Elf Walk and normally bouncy castles (chargeable).
££££

A girl dressed as a fairy sat on a log surrounded by fake flowers at Audley End Miniature railway

Ashlyns Play Barn and Farm Park - 5 High Road, North Weald Bassett, Epping CM16 6RZ

We went to Ashlyns Soft play a lot when my eldest was little and enjoyed it, but I haven't visited for a few years. Recent reports are that the food in the soft play area is poor, and generally the soft play could do with a good clean. The farm and outside play areas have better reviews and they have a splash park in the summer too.
£££

A medium size indoor soft play frame at Ashlyns

Boydells Dairy Farm - Braintree Road, Braintree, CM7 4AQ

This is a small working farm with very limited opening times, but it is a really lovely place to go. We went to a birthday party and we were taken around by the owners and got to handle lots of the animals. A lovely little place to visit to get a better understanding of animals and how farms work.
£££

A farmer walking a cow at Boydells farm

Cammas Hall Farm - Needham Green, Hatfield Broad Oak CM22 7JT

Pick your own farm (June to October) with with a nice play area, café, nature trail and maize maze (August to October). If you plan to pick fruit check the website or Facebook page to find our what is currently available. Closed on Mondays.
£ (No parking charge or entrance fee, but there is a minimum spend if you do PYO and you are not allowed to bring picnics so you will have to spend some money).

A toddler sat on a red tractor outside Cammas Hall PYI farm

Colchester Zoo - Maldon Road, Colchester CO3 0SL

We love Colchester Zoo. There is so much to see and do. They have all the animals you expect to see at a zoo and you can even feed the elephants and giraffes. There are also lots of playgrounds (although most of these are best for 4 years and up) and a soft play which we haven't yet made it in despite 7 visits.
£££££

A toddler pointing at a wallaby visiting Colchester zoo

Epping Ongar Railway - Ongar and North Weald

Running most weekends and with a few special events throughout the year this is a great place to go for children who love transport. You can get an old fashioned bus from Epping or Shenfield stations to the the heritage stations to ride on steam and diesel powered trains.
££££

A toddler in an old fashioned train carriage with wooden seats on Epping Ongar railway

Epping Forest and Visitors Centre - High Beach/ Beech, Loughton IG10 4AF

Epping Forest (the forest as opposed to the district) is a long thin strip of forest which runs from Forest Gate though to Epping with a few small breaks. The easiest bit to explore is probably High Beach where there is the small visitors centre, a good amount of parking and the Kings Oak Pub. The pub also runs an ice cream van and kiosk. There are lots of trees to climb on and over, ponds and general woodland fun.

A toddler looking out into a pond in epping forest

Gruffalo's Child Trail at Thorndon Country Park - The Avenue, Brentwood CM13 3RZ

You can buy a map for this trail from the visitor centre. There is also plenty more to explore in this large park. Parking is expensive (for parking), but entry to the trail is free. Review of the Gruffalo Trail at Thorndon.
££

A girl creeping up on a wooden carving of a fox at the Gruffalos trail essex

Harlow Leisurezone - Second Avenue, Harlow CM20 3DT

As well as the swimming pool, gym etc Harlow Leisurezone has an indoor climbing area and a good size soft play. M had her 7th birthday party at VertiGo (the climbing area) and it's suitable for age 6 plus. Sessions last 90 minutes and I would recommend pre-booking.
Kidzz Kingdom softplay has a separate section for toddlers and a small seating area for adults with a cafe. It's meant to be suitable for up to age 10 and my 7 year old enjoys it.
Make sure you ask for a car park token when you pay so you don't have to pay for the car park.
Climbing ££££
Softplay £££

Harlow Vertigo climbing walls

Harlow Pets Corner and Town Park, Harlow, Essex, CM20 2QG

Harlow park has a lot going on including a great large playground, a smaller new inclusive play area, Pets Corner (a small free farm) and paddling pool (summer only).

A toddler looking in a fish tank at Pet's Corner Harlow

Lee Valley Park Farms - Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey EN9 2EF

A combination of a working dairy farm and a fun play farm with the normal animals you would expect as well as play areas and a small softplay. Most activities are outside so dry days are best. Find out more in my review of Lee Valley Park Farms
££££

A girl feeding a white goat at Lee Valley Farms Essex

Marsh Farm - Marsh Farm Rd, South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford CM3 5WP

With animals, soft play, crazy golf, an adventure play area and more this is a fun place to go with children and it's all included in the entry price. They also have regular special themed events including their Easter Grotto that we reviewed.
££££

A children's playground at Marsh Farm Essex

Mountfitchet Castle -Stansted Mountfitchet CM24 8SP (for Sat Nav use CM24 8LY)

A reconstructed medieval Motte and Bailey Castle that brings history to life. There are also free roaming goats, deer and chickens that you can feed. Entrance also includes entry to the toy museum which you get to by walking up a very steep path past a few dinosaurs, but I found the toy museum had limited interest for my children. There are quite a few old fashioned slot machines you can play with so it could get expensive.
££££

Sharpening tools the medieval way at Mountfitchet Castle

Pelican Playground - Grange Farm Lane (off High Rd), Chigwell IG7 6DP

If you live near by this is a lovely little sand based park for young children. The toilets are a short distance away in the Grange Farm Centre and across the road from the playground there is a nature reserve with a duck pond.
£

Children playing in a playground with lots of sand a climbing equipment at Pelican Playground Chigwell

Peter Rabbit Trail at Langdon Nature Reserve - Lower Dunton Road, Basildon SS16 6EJ

With free parking this is an great free place to visit. You can buy a map to follow the Peter Rabbit trail and there is also a play area and plenty more to explore across the Nature Reserve. Read more about the Peter Rabbit Trail here.
£

Mrs Tiggywinkle carving at Peter Rabbit Trail Essex

Stickman Trail - Weald Country Park, Brentwood, Essex CM14 5QS

Unlike the Gruffalo Trail and Peter Rabbit Trail this isn't a short walk with wood carvings, instead the route is over a much wider area of the park (some areas) with a number of points of interest including two play areas (the best for younger children is next to the car park), the stickman's house. There is a visitors centre, cafe and deer in an enclosure. Trail is free (although you might want to buy a map) and you need to pay for parking.
££

The older children's wooden play area at the Stickman Trail Weald Park Essex

360 Play - Festival Leisure Park, Festival Way, Basildon SS14 3WB

A large soft play and play street. A great choice for a rainy day. Read about my visit with a toddler in my review of 360 Play Basildon
£££

View towards a large soft play frame at 360 play Basildon


Other Essex based reviews:

Bowling Party at Hollywood Bowl Review
Christmas Grotto at Wyevale Garden Centre Braintree

Other places to go in Essex (that I have not yet visited)


Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre, Church Road, Layer-de-la Haye, Colchester, Essex, CO2 0EU.
A wetlands nature reserve, has a play area, picnic space and cafe.
Adventure Island, Sunken Garden, Western Esplanade, Southend on Sea Essex SS1 1EE.
Described as a "free entry theme park", buy wristbands to go on a large number of rides.
Audley End House and Gardens, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JF.
An English Heritage Jacobean mansion with grounds including a play area. Seasonal Opening.
Barleylands, Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD.
A play farm including two inside play areas for rainy days.
Base Jump, 26a Brook Road, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 7XL.
Trampoline park.
The Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market, Colchester, CO7 7DB.
7.5 acres of gardens and a cafe.
Bourne Mill, Bourne Road, Colchester, CO2 8RT.
National Trust property with a working water mill, although the water wheel is currently under repair.
Brentwood Park Ski and Snowboard Centre, Warley Gap, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3DP.
Ski classes available Saturday mornings for 4 to 16 year olds.
Brightlingsea Lido, Promenade Way, Brightlingsea CO7 0HH.
A 50m (unheated) open air swimming pool and smaller toddler pool. Seasonal opening.
Capel Manor Gardens, Bullsmoor Lane, Enfield, Middlesex EN1 4RQ
30 acres with over 60 different gardens looked after by the college and a few animals in their "zoo".
Castle Park, High Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1UG
There is a play area in the Upper Park for children up to age 12, located near the café. There is also a boating lake.
Chafford Gorges Nature Park, Drake Road, Chafford Hundred, Grays, Thurrock RM16 6RW
A 200 acre nature park. The visitor centre is now permanently closed to the public so there is no longer a café or public toilets available.
Chelmsford Museum, Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 9AQ
Free Museum. The Victorian House is currently closed for development, but the extension is open and has interactive displays for children. Also home to the Essex Regiment Museum.
Clacton Beach, Clacton On Sea, CO15 6JS
Sandy beach, Victorian pier, seaside amusements, cafés and easy parking.
Colchester Castle Museum, Castle Park, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1TJ
The largest Norman keep in Europe. It houses the museum which covers Colchester's history and includes many of the historical finds. Includes interactive displays.
Colchester Leisure World, Cowdray Avenue, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1YH
Fitness and leisure swimming pools with log flumes and rapids.
East Anglian Railway Museum, Chappel Station, Colchester, Essex CO6 2DS
Has a wide collection of trains including steam and diesel. These include Thomas the Tank Engine trains although different ones may be available on different visits.
Epping Forest District Museum, 39-41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1EL
A small museum telling the story of Epping Forest. Generally probably of limited interest to children, but they often have small events on for children.
Essex Fire Museum, Grays Fire Station, Hoggs Lane, Grays, RM17 5QS
Visits by appointment only (apart from on event days), covers the history of fire fighting in Essex. Free entry.
Essex Police Museum, Essex Police Headquarters, Chelmsford CM2 6DN
Tells the story of the police in Essex from Victorian times to the modern day. You can go in a victorian cell, have your finger prints taken and dress up in police uniform. Open Saturdays and Wednesdays during the school holidays. There is a themed toddler group for 2 to 4 year olds the first Friday of the month (needs to be prebooked). Free, but small charge for special events.
Frinton on Sea Beach, Tendring, Essex, CO15 1SE
A wide sandy beach with beach huts popular with families and quieter than nearby Clacton or Walton on the Naze. There are toilets and traditional cafés rather than amusement arcades.
The Gibberd Garden, Marsh Lane, Harlow, Essex CM17 0NA
Open April to September on most Wednesdays, weekends and bank holiday Mondays in the afternoon. It's a grade 2 listed garden created by the Master Planner of Harlow New Town.
Great Notley Country Park, Braintree, Essex, CM77 7FS
Great Notley Country Park is home to Sky Ropes (a high ropes experience which includes a Sky Ropes Junior suitable for age 2 upwards) and a 1.2km play trail which includes play equipment, sandpits and water areas. The Discovery Centre includes a cafe and toilets.
Hadleigh Castle, Chapel Lane, Hadleigh, Essex, SS7 2PP
The ruins of a royal castle, free entry. There are no toilets or services available. One option is to walk (roughly 1km) from Hadleigh Country Park car park. The walk takes you past a cafe and rare breeds centre.
Hainault Forest Country Park, Fox Burrow Rd, Chigwell, Essex IG7 4QN
The park includes a small (free) visitors farm, cafe, boating lake and play areas behind the lake. 
Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre, Hawkswood Road, Downham, Billericay CM11 1WT
Home of the Wind in the Willows trail with carved characters and a Visitors Centre with toilets, cafe etc. You can buy a trail map for £1 and borrow a crayon to do a brass rubbing of the characters found next to the carving. There is also plenty of mature woodland to explore.
Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens, Muskham Road, Harlow, CM20 2LF
Free entry, open Tuesday and Thursdays with free parking available. 4 galleries tell the history of Harlow and the surrounding walled gardens are suitable for picnics.
Hedingham Castle, Bayley Street, Castle Hedingham, Essex, CO9 3DJ
The castle and grounds are open most Sundays and Wednesdays as well as Tuesdays in school holidays. Part of Historic Houses.The castle has narrow stairs and is not suitable for a pushchair. There are 4 floors of the castle to explore, but do check the website to ensure it will be open.
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 9BZ
Open Fridays to Mondays and everyday during school holidays. This animal sanctuary is opened to the public to help fund it's continued work looking after animals which need rescuing. There is a small picnic and play area.
Hollytrees Museum, Colchester, CO1 1UG
A Georgian townhouse with hands on exhibits and displays to help discover what life was like for the rich and poor. Free entry, open Monday to Saturday.
RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Creephedge Lane, Rettendon Common, Chelmsford CM3 8ET
The gardens have a play area and they suggest they are a good place to fly a kite.
Hylands House and Park, Chelmsford, CM2 8FS (Hylands Park entrance for playground)
The grounds of Hylands House are large and used for many festivals during the summer months. There is an award winning castle themed playground, formal victorian gardens, woodlands and a visitors centre as well as 3 cafes (including one next to the playground). The House is open on occasional Sundays.
Jump Giants Thurrock, J31 Park, Motherwell Way, Grays RM20 3XD
A huge trampoline park and "air park" described as an inflatable theme park or soft play suitable for children and adults. There is also an Under 5s area.
Jump Street Colchester 21 Mason Road, Cowdray Centre, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1BX
Jump Street Chelmsford 12 Richmond Road, Dukes Park Estate, Chelmsford, CM2 6UA Trampolines, large soft play and climbing facilities at Chelmsford branch.
Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker,  Kelvedon Hall Lane, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, Essex CM15 OLA (Access via A128)
A large cold war bunker that can be explored. Next door to a Nuclear High Ropes and Wild Forest (An obstacle activity centre suitable for age 6 plus).
Monkey Madness Play CentreMiles Gray Road,Basildon, Essex SS14 3GN
Soft play with separate areas for under 5s and babies/ toddlers and laser tag.
Natural History Museum, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1DN
Houses collections of objects found locally as well as hands on activities. There is a special Mini Museum Explorers session on the first Thursday of each month for 2 to 5 year olds.
North Weald Airfield and MuseumNorth Weald Airfield, North Weald, Epping
CM16 6DD
The museum is in the village and covers the role the airfield has had, particularly during wartimes, but for younger aeroplane fans head to the Wings cafe at the airfield (go left when you go through the gates and then drive around the airfield to the cafe. They can watch all the little planes take off and land and there is a play area too.
Old Macdonald's Farm, Weald Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 5AY
A play farm with lots of small rides for little ones and a good play area.
Parndon Wood Nature Reserve, Parndon Wood Road, Harlow CM19 4SF
Ancient woodland and a cafe. You can hire binoculars or bug hunting kits to have fun exploring.
Paycocke’s House and Gardens, 25 West Street, Coggeshall, Colchester, CO6 1NS
A Tudor merchants house. National Trust property.
Rainham Marshes, New Tank Hill Rd, Purfleet, Essex, RM19 1SZ
Part of the Thames estuary and home to many birds and wildlife. There is a toddler play area near the RSPB visitors centre and main adventure play area and climbing boulders on the reserve. Also cafe and toilets.
Redwings Stables, Ada Cole, Broadlands, Epping Road, Roydon, Nazeing, Essex EN9 2DH
Home to 90 horse, ponies and donkeys. Free entry and parking. Open Friday to Monday.
Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, Victoria Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1FG
Ice rink
Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1JY
Only open on open days as advertised on their website, but include most school holidays. Includes interactive science based and explosive displays.
Saffron Waldon Museum, Museum Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1JL
A wide range of exhibits with interactive learning for children.
Sealife Adventure Aquarium, Eastern Esplanade, Southend on Sea, Essex SS1 2ER
Claiming to be the South Easts premier aquatic attraction there are over 40 sea life displays as well as otters, penguins and meerkats.
Small Monsters, The Village Hall, Woolifers Avenue, Lampits Hill, Corringham Essex SS17 9AU
Soft play for 6 years and under with free parking. Open Monday to Friday
Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, Mucking Wharf Road, Mucking, Stanford-Le-Hope SS17 0RN
An Essex Wildlife Trust managed park on the Thames Estuary with play area.
Top Golf, Abridge Road, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6BX
More than just practicing your golf swing, you hit a microchipped ball from one of their 50 bays to take part in various games. Under 12s are Juniors and are a reduced price, I can't see the minimum age though.
Wat Tyler County Park, Pitsea Hall Lane, Pitsea, Basildon, Essex, SS16 4UH
There is a RSPB Visitor centre, miniature train (weekends and school holidays), adventure play area, café and free car park.
White Elm Petting Farm, White Elm Road, Bicknacre, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 4LR
A petting farm with an indoor soft play (toddler area and area for 8 year olds) and outdoor play area with sand pit and sit on diggers and a John Deere tractor track.
Wild 'n' Wacky, Unit 5, Mill Court, Edinburgh Gate, Harlow, Essex, CM20 2JA
A soft play with separate areas for babies (0-2), toddlers (2-4) and juniors (5-12). I went several years ago for a party and found the seating area crowded and it was very noisy. My daughter loved it though.

Information correct as far as I am able to check at time of publishing, please always check with the locations website/ Facebook page for opening hours and latest information.

The Ultimate list of places to go with children in Essex


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