The Ultimate List of Things To Do With Children In Essex

If you are looking for places to go with your children in Essex then here 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 with children that I haven't managed to make it to yet.  Please let me know in the comments where you recommend and anywhere I might have missed.

I also have a post covering over 150 indoor places to go in Essex with children which is worth looking at if you are looking for somewhere to go on a cold or rainy day. Many of the places in this post have seasonal opening hours so I created the new post better suited to days out in Autumn and Winter.

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.

Due to COVID restrictions some places still require prebooking and masks are encouraged for indoor areas (including toilets).

Reviews of Places To Go With Children In Essex

Audley End House and Gardens, Audley End Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JF

An English Heritage Jacobean mansion with grounds including a play area. Most of the house will be of minimal interest to children, but there are some interactive activities and a dolls house in the nursery (top floor). Pushchairs aren't allowed in the house, but they do have carriers you can borrow while you leave your pushchair at the entrance.
There is a play area in the grounds and some dressing up clothes and wooden horses to play with in the stables. Free for English Heritage, Art Pass members and under 5s.

A toddler holding 2 horse brushes with a hat and clothcap on her head standing in a stables with a wooden horse next to her
Pretending to look after horses in the stables at Audley End House

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, adventure play area and normally bouncy castles (chargeable).
Covid-19 Update: Changes have been made to improve social distancing, but it is fully open. Weekends and event days will be busy and must be prebooked, but the website says you can buy admission on arrival on quiet days (call to confirm). 

A girl dressed as a fairy sat on a log surrounded by fake flowers at Audley End Miniature railway
The Enchanted Fairy and Elf Walk 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.
Covid-19 Update: Farm and soft play now open every day. Farm doesn't require prebooking, but for soft play you need to book into one of their 3 number limited time slots: 9 to 11, 11.30 to 1.30 and 2 to 4. Call on 01922 523118 to book.

A medium size indoor soft play frame at Ashlyns
Ashlyns Softplay

Barleylands, Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD

Check out my review of Barleylands Farm Park for full details. This educational farm has lots of animals for children to meet and play areas too (including a soft play, sand pit and ball cannons). You can feed the farm animals, meet reptiles in their large reptile house and hold rabbits and guinea pigs.

Child on blue toy tractor at Barleylands
At Barleylands we had fun riding the tractors around the site

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. Open Friday to Sunday every week and every day in May half term and August. Running 2 sessions: 10am to 1pm and 2pm until 5pm.

A farmer walking a cow at Boydells farm
Boydells is a working farm which provides a real insight into farming

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
Cammas Hall Farm is more than just a pick your own farm with lots of activities for children

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.
Colchester Zoo is open every day except Christmas Day.

A toddler pointing at a wallaby visiting Colchester zoo
There are so many animals to get close to at Colchester zoo and most of it is outside

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 Ongar railway is great for train lovers young and old

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.
The Visitors Centre is now open Friday to Sundays and Bank holidays. Car parks are open and there is plenty of space to explore. There aren't many toilets available in Epping Forest, we generally use pubs/ cafes, but these are for customers only. 
Epping Forest has introduced parking charges at it's larger car parks payable via RingGo or card (High Beach only). This costs £1.50 for 1 hour going up to £6 for a maximum 6 hour stay.

A toddler looking out into a pond in epping forest
There is so much to explore in Epping Forest

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, good size sandpit and water area (currently and apparently frequently closed). The Discovery Centre includes a cafe and toilets, but toilets are some distance from the sand pit so it might be worth taking a travel potty. 
Water play and climbing forest currently closed.
Parking costs £1 for 30 minutes up to £6.50 for over 3 hours.
Covid-19 Update: Park, car park and toilets are open. The café is open for walk in and take away.

Sand pit with wooden play frames at Great Notley Park near braintree in Essex
(When all open) there is enough to entertain children at Great Notley Park for hours

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. Parking is £2.20 for 1 hour going up to £5.50 for over 3 hours.
The Countryside Cafe and toilets are open.

A girl creeping up on a wooden carving of a fox at the Gruffalos trail essex
The Gruffalo Trail is a manageable length for preschoolers and suitable for pushchairs

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.
It's a nice walk to see the trail, but you can't really see much of the reservoir in the summer because of the plants in the way. It's worth combining a visit with the Hanningfield Waterside Park which is a short drive (or longish) walk away where there is a nice playground.
2 young children looking at Wind in the Willows hedgehog character carvings
The trail and brass rubbings at Hanningfield Reservoir will appeal even if children don't know The Wind In The Willows stories

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 £££
Covid-19 Update: The gym, pool, climbing area, trampolining and soft play are all now open. Prebooking recommended, non members should call 01279 621500 to book.

Harlow Vertigo climbing walls
Climbing walls at Harlow Leisure Zone

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 pools (summer only).
Pets Corner is open 11 to 4.45pm until November when it reverts to shorter opening hours for winter months, closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The playgrounds are open as normal.

A toddler looking in a fish tank at Pet's Corner Harlow
Pets Corner is a great way to see some cute animals for free

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 9BZ

We were invited to visit this animal sanctuary in August 2020 to see the great work they do. Other bloggers who visited at the same time were really impressed and while it was a nice way to spend a few hours I can’t rave about it in the same way that they did. There is a great range of animals, including ones you might not expect, but the site obviously needs the investment of more money to refresh the enclosures. Money that they are only going to get if they have more visitors as this is how they are funded. The site was pretty muddy in places despite it being Summer and you could have problems accessing some areas with a pushchair. A few inside enclosures were closed due to Coronavirus restrictions.
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 and free grass based car park.

Looking at some information about an owl at Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary in Brentwood

Hylands House and Park, Chelmsford, CM2 8FS (Use the Hylands Park entrance for playground)

The grounds of Hylands House are large and used for many festivals during the summer months, but visiting outside of festival time means you get to enjoy the award winning castle themed playground. The playground gets very busy in Summer so get there early. Lots of people use the grounds for picnics and meet ups with friends. After they have exhausted themselves playing you might be able to persuade them to walk towards the house so you can enjoy the beautiful formal victorian gardens. There is also woodland and a visitors centre as well as 3 cafes (including one next to the playground). The House is open on occasional Sundays. Toilets available next to the playground and near the house.

Stunning Wisteria tunnel at Hylands house in June
Visit Hylands Park in late May/ early June to enjoy the stunning wisteria, if your children let you leave the brilliant playground

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

Lee Valley Park Farms has been taken over by the Partyman company which own Marsh Farm and rebranded as Lee Valley Adventure Park. We have always been a big fan of Lee Valley and used to be members, but there are lots of changes and I haven't yet visited it's new incarnation. Lots of changes are underway including: you can no longer visit the dairy farm, the soft play has been changed into a theatre for performances and there are currently less animals. Most activities are outside so dry days are best. I've heard positive feedback from visitors about their event days.

A girl feeding a white goat at Lee Valley Farms Essex
We easily manage to spend a day at Lee Valley Farms, but the play areas appeal more than the animals

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 which are fun to visit. 

A children's playground at Marsh Farm Essex
One of the play areas at Marsh Farm

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
Mountfitchet castle is a really interesting introduction to Medieval England

Nickelodeon Adventure, 612 The Quay, Thurrock intu Lakeside Shopping Centre, West Thurrock, Grays, Essex RM20 2AD

Fans of Paw Patrol, SpongeBob SquarePants or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aged roughly 3 to 6 will enjoy this inside soft play/ adventure park. There is enough to entertain children for an hour or two making it a great way to break up a days shopping or just something to do on a cold day. Read my full review of Nickelodeon Adventure here.

Nickelodeon Adventure outside of building
A good indoor place to go with preschoolers

North Weald Airfield Wings CafeNorth Weald Airfield, North Weald, Epping CM16 6DD

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 while they enjoy the play area and you have a coffee or food. There are lots of ambulances based at the airfield too so they will get to see all of those on the way to the café.
Generally open 7 days a week 9am to 4.30pm. You can contact them on 01992 523588.

Play area at Wings cafe at North Weald Airport includes a climbing frame and trampolines
Wings Cafe is a must visit for children who love aeroplanes 

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. 
This has recently reopened after being closed for 2 years due to misuse. If you visit please ensure your children don't damage any of the plants of this charity run playground and please don't leave litter. It is such a lovely playground and it would be a shame if they had to close it again.
£ Free

Children playing in a playground with lots of sand a climbing equipment at Pelican Playground Chigwell
Pelican playground is sadly closed and looks like it might not reopen

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

Visitors centre and main car park has now reopened. With free parking this is a 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
The Peter Rabbit Trail has lovely wooden carvings of Beatrix Potter's best loved characters

Rock Up Lakeside - intu Lakeside, Thurrock Way, Grays RM20 2ZP 

A new climbing centre inside Lakeside shopping centre with climbing walls for age 4 and upwards and a softplay for 8 and under. This is a great place to go with the family. Read my review from our visit.
Covid-19 Update - The centre is open for climbing and soft play with prebooking recommended. Visitors over 11 must wear a face mask.

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 and other areas inspired by the book. There is a visitors centre, cafe and deer in an enclosure. The trail is free (although you might want to buy a map) and you need to pay for parking £2.20 for one hour to £5.50 for over 3 hours.

The older children's wooden play area at the Stickman Trail Weald Park Essex
The Stickman Trail is a natural playground with a reasonable amount of walking

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 under 8 year olds) and outdoor play area with sand pit and sit on diggers and a John Deere tractor track. This is a lovely place to visit with preschoolers and young children, my 2 year old didn't want to leave and my 5 year old loved it too. Located within the grounds of White Elm Garden Centre  the farm is ok, but children will love the play areas best. The soft play frame is fairly small, but surrounded by loads of other toys for role play etc and it is a lot of fun.
There is a small cafe inside the softplay, but outside the farm the Garden Centre has a larger informal restaurant serving full meals. You currently need to prebook either a morning or afternoon slot.

the soft play area at White elm petting farm

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

Prebooking required at weekends and school holidays, but not always required during the week.

View towards a large soft play frame at 360 play Basildon
A huge softplay that is lots of fun for toddlers to tweens

Other Essex based reviews:

Bowling Party at Hollywood Bowl Review

Other places to go in Essex 

Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre, Church Road, Layer-de-la Haye, Colchester, Essex, CO2 0EU.
A wetlands nature reserve, has a play area, picnic space, Bramley Hedge trail, toilets 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 these can be booked online to save money.
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. Prebooking required for visits to the garden.
Bourne Mill, Bourne Road, Colchester, CO2 8RT.
National Trust property with a working water mill, although the water wheel is currently under repair. Currently CLOSED
Brentwood Park Ski and Snowboard Centre, Warley Gap, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3DP.
Ski classes available Saturday mornings for 4 to 16 year olds. Prebooking required for all activities.
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. You can book entry here.
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.
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. 
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. Currently CLOSED, except for event days as listed on the website.
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. The website is saying it is still CLOSED until further notice so it's worth giving a call if you want to visit.
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. Prebooking required.
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. 
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. Prebooking required.
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. Gardens currently open, prebooking required.
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. Currently only open to the public one weekend a month and they are requesting those visits are prebooked.
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. Currently CLOSED
Saffron Waldon Museum, Museum Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1JL
A wide range of exhibits with interactive learning for children. Book entry online.
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 selected days, prebooking required.
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.
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


  1. Great reviews. Thank you! I can’t believe they’ve closed the pelican park. People are so careless. Really want to try Stansted Mountfichet.

    Of the ones you are yet to do, massive thumbs up for Hylands House. My two year old loved it and he was too little for half the playground. Chelmsford museum was nearby and it is surprisingly interactive. We had a great hour there. Thanks for a fab post.

    1. Thank you. Yes it's so frustrating about Pelican Park, hopefully they will reopen it next year.
      I'll probably spend a few days out in Chelmsford in the spring, there is so much I want to do over there. I've driven through the Hylands House playground before a couple of festivals and it looks fab, but never when it's open