Where to go on rainy days in Essex - Indoor Activities For Children

It's cold and wet, you want to get the children out of the house for a while, but you can't quite bring yourself to go on an adventure in the great outdoors. It's ok, if you are looking for ideas of places to go with children on cold or rainy days in Essex I have you covered. There is a huge amount of choice so whether you fancy some thing energetic or a more leisurely activity you should find some where to interest you, or more realistically to interest your children which you can tolerate. There are suggestions of places to go with toddlers and preschoolers right the way through to where to go with teens so whatever age your children are you will find ideas of inside places to go to.

I also have a big list of places to visit in Essex with children, but most of them are outside and many have seasonal opening so they aren't so good in Autumn and Winter. The cold weather options range from soft play to swimming, climbing walls to ice skating and cinemas to museums. So whether it's a rainy day in the summer holidays or a cold and wet half term there are plenty of ideas of where to go.

a window covered in rain drops illustrating indoor places to go with children in Essex
Over 150 places to go with children in Essex that are indoors and ideal for wet or cold days

I was originally going to put all the locations in one post, but it was HUGE so where there is lots of choices eg swimming pools and bowling the details of all the venues are in a linked post. There is a map at the end of this post so you can find out what is near you. 

Where to go With Children in Essex on Wet or Cold Days


Many of the pools in Essex require prebooking due to popularity, but there are quite a few indoor pools in Essex including some with slides (Colchester Leisure World is the best for that and you don't need to book), plenty with shallow training pools and a few private pools you can book for an hour for just your family. Check out my list of public swimming pools in Essex.

Soft Play

Some days the idea of going to soft play fills me with fear, but there is no doubt they are a great way for children to burn off some energy while you get to be inside in the warm. If you are lucky you might enjoy a warm cup of tea too! Many need to be prebooked which requires a little planning, but at least keeps the numbers to a less-than-absolutely-crazy level on wet days. Here is a list of soft play venues in Essex.


Ten pin bowling is a fun activity with children that works from preschoolers (with a little help) right through to tweens. Most bowling alleys have arcades and other activities too and some now let you wear your own shoes as long as they have non-marking soles. Find out where to go bowling in Essex here.


Spending an hour on so in a warm room watching a film with popcorn is an appealing activity for a cold day when you don't want to do too much. I have pulled together a list of nearly 20 cinemas in Essex including a few drive ins. Check out which are near to you in my Essex cinemas post.

Laser Tag

There are a few indoor laser tag venues in Essex (and a couple of outdoor venues as well). They are generally suitable for children 6 and older who are confident in the dark environment. It is perfect for groups of friends to play together and appeals to tweens and teens, but as long as enough people are booked into the session you don't have to go with a group. I have written a guide to the laser tag venues in Essex here.


We have some great trampoline parks in Essex which have so much more than just the traditional jump pads. They have minimum age limits (between 3 and 6 depending on the venue) for the normal sessions, but in quieter times many have sessions suitable for toddlers and preschoolers. Some venues have soft play areas for younger children too. Find out where to go trampolining in Essex in this post.

Climbing Walls in Essex

Climbing is a great activity for rainy days. It requires concentration, planning and it's a good work out too. There is a range of places to go climbing indoors in Essex; they range from more traditional climbing and bouldering centres where children and adults can learn to climb with instructors to modern clip and climbs where there are lots of themed climbing challenges. Some venues allow climbers from age 4 in general sessions, but they are better for children aged 6 and up. Find out more about where to go indoor climbing in Essex in this post.

Harlow Vertigo climbing walls
Climbing walls at Harlow Leisure Zone

Indoor Go Karting

Team Sport Go Karting Basildon, Unit 3, Festival Way Basildon Essex SS14 3WB

Team Sport Go Karting Harlow, Unit E, 26 River Way, Harlow, Essex CM20 2DP

Indoor Crazy or Mini Golf

BCK YRD GOLF 19-21 Springfield Rd, Chelmsford, CM2 6JE
A quirky indoor golf experience with two 10 hole courses in the style of a junkyard. Children are welcome until 8. No dedicated parking.

Caddies Crazy Golf12 London Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 1NT
18 hole crazy golf course combined with a restaurant. No dedicated parking, closest car parks are Essex Street, Warrior Square and The Victoria Shopping Centre.

Glo Crazy, 1-5 Harvey Centre Approach, Harlow CM20 1HF
A 12 hole glow in the dark crazy golf course with UV lighting. No dedicated parking, closest car parks The Water Garden or Harvey Centre.

Hackers, 34-36 High Street, Billericay, CM12 9BQ
Enjoy the 8 hole Rosa Trail or the more challenging 16 hole Azure trails. They also have escape rooms (for children 10 and older)

Mr Mulligans, Unit 9, Festival Leisure Park, Festival Way, Basildon, Essex SS14 3WB
There are two courses to choose from: fairground and arcade. Children welcomed until 8.45pm (when it becomes over 18s only)

Puttshack, The Quay intu, West Thurrock Way, Grays, Essex RM20 2AD
Described as a tech infused mini golf, your ball records your score and the scorecard will be emailed to you. Children welcome until 7pm. Free parking in Lakesides car parks

Skull Point Adventure Golf, 1 North Sea, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex CO15 1QX
18 hole all weather adventure golf course. No dedicated parking, nearest large car park is the High Street car park on Carnarvon Road.

Ice Skating

Riverside Ice and Leisure Centre, Victoria Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1FG

Sapphire Ice and Leisure centre, 24 Western Road, Romford RM1 3JT

Lee Valley Ice Centre, just outside of Essex, this centre has 2 huge ice rinks offering skate courses and public skating sessions. Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7QL


RollaCity, 12 Purdeys Way, Rochford, Essex SS4 1ND

Sk8ters at Madison Heights, Park Drive, Maldon, Essex, CM9 5JQ

Ceramic Cafes and Craft Cabins

A great option for children who want a less active day is doing some pottery painting or other craft. This is enjoyable for all ages, but it will entertain some children longer than others. You generally pay per item plus a materials fee so you might need to manage expectations before visiting about how much they can do. See my guide to ceramic cafes and craft cabins in Essex here.

Gaming Cafes (board games and computer games)

The Board Game Hut,  10-12 Clarence Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 1BD

Dice & A Slice, 37 Queen Street, Colchester, CO1 2PQ

Immersive Gamebox, Lakeside Shopping Centre, Thurrock, Essex, RM20 2ZP
(In The Quay, opposite Vue Cinema) Suitable for everyone over 5 years old, enter an interactive digital room featuring projection mapping, touch screens, motion tracking, and surround sound, creating a hyper-immersive, 30-60 minute game experience.

Geek Retreat, Harlow- Harvey Centre, Harlow CM20 1XR
Chelmsford- 48 Cunard Square, Townfield St, Chelmsford, CM1 1AQ
Described as a nationwide retailer, gaming cafe and events hub. They have a calendar of events on their Facebook page with events every day for children and adults including D&D, Pokemon and board games. 


There are lots of theatres in Essex and from pantomimes to musicals it is worth checking out what they currently have to see.

Museums and Open Houses

Braintree Museum, Manor Street, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3HW
Open Tuesday to Saturday all year round. There are often children's crafts, trails and activities in school holidays. 

Chelmsford Museum, Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 9AQ
Free Museum with lots of interactive displays for children. Also home to the Essex Regiment Museum. 

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. 

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 most Saturdays and also Wednesdays during the school holidays. Free, but small charge for special events. Read about what to expect from a visit here.

Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens, Muskham Road, Harlow, CM20 2LF
Free entry, open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday with free parking available. 4 galleries tell the history of Harlow. 

Hollytrees Museum, Castle Park, Colchester, CO1 1UG
A Georgian townhouse with hands on exhibits and displays to help discover what life was like for the rich and poor. Open Monday to Saturday. Previously free entry, but charging introduced in Spring 2024.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker,  Kelvedon Hall Lane, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, Essex CM15 OLA (If using Sat Nav use post code CM15 0LA- Access via A128)
A large cold war bunker that can be explored.

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 last Tuesday of each month for 2 to 4 year olds. 

Saffron Waldon Museum, Museum Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1JL
A wide range of exhibits with interactive learning for children including a sandpit to dig for archaeological treasure.

Southend Museums, Victoria Avenue, Southend-On-Sea, Essex SS2 6EW
Next to Southend Victoria Station and at the top of the High Street you will find Southend Central Museum (which contains an planetarium) and next door is Beecroft Art Gallery. Closed Monday and Tuesdays.

Other Indoor Places to Go In Essex

Get To Know Animals, Forest Lodge Commercial Complex, High Rd, Epping, Essex, CM16 5HW
Essex’s newest zoo is a “mini zoo” just outside Epping. Get To Know Animals previously had a tiny zoo in Chingford and they have now moved to bigger and better premises. Includes a nocturnal area, walk through aviary and alligator room. They have lots of small animals that animal lovers will enjoy looking at and learning more about. They also offer hands on experiences and birthday parties.

Sealife Adventure Zooquarium, 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, meerkats, butterflies and monkeys. Mostly, but not all, indoors. You can read more about what to expect here.

Brentwood Park Ski and Snowboard Centre, Warley Gap, Brentwood, Essex CM13 3DP.
Skiing, snowboarding and tubing activities available on this dry slope. Ski classes available Saturday mornings for 4 to 16 year olds. Prebooking required for all activities.

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. No minimum age limit but guests under 16 must be supervised by a guest who is over 18.

Legacy XS Centre, South Benfleet, Essex SS7 5HE
An indoor (and outdoor) skate park with different sessions suitable for age 6 upwards.

Also potentially worth visiting if you are looking for somewhere with free entry that is a change of scenery:

Shopping centres- Lakeside is a great option for a rainy day, if you are shopped out it is also home to Laser Quest, Escape Hunt, Nickelodeon Adventure  and the Upside Down House as well as plenty of eateries.

Local libraries- It is always worth checking the online calendar for upcoming events at your local library.

IKEA (Lakeside) Often have free events for children throughout the year- check them out here.

All 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.

Cold? Wet? Over 150 indoor places to go in Essex with children
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