Review - Visiting Chelmsford Museum and The Hive Café, Essex

Chelmsford Museum is based in a victorian house and modern extensions in Oaklands Park, Essex. The exhibits cover the history of the city, the people and animals who have lived in Chelmsford from the Ice Age to the present day with a focus on social history. Exhibits include: toys, fashion and the natural world. The Bright Sparks exhibition tells the stories of three industries which were developed in Chelmsford (including live entertainment broadcasts). Chelmsford Museum is also home to the Essex Regiment Museum which tells the story of the county’s infantry regiment.

It’s not somewhere you will spend the whole day, but it’s a great free indoor place to visit for an hour or two with children. 

The outside of Chelmsford City Museum
Chelmsford Museum is a local museum with plenty of interactive exhibits to interest children

Visiting Chelmsford Museum with Children

Why Chelmsford Museum is a good place to visit with children:

  • It’s free.
  • They have lots of interactive exhibits which will appeal to children and keep them interested.
  • The bee exhibit and view inside a living beehive is a favourite area of the museum. 
  • You can borrow backpacks for children which have missions to complete inside.
  • There is a great onsite café: The Hive Café.
  • There are often fun temporary exhibits, currently they have Montgomery Bonbon until end of March where children can help solve a mystery.
  • Outside the museum, in Oaklands Park, there is plenty of space to run around and play areas.

The Explorer Zone with bags full of activities for children to borrow at Chelmsford Museum
Children can borrow activities to help them to become more engaged in the museum 

What is There to Do at Chelmsford Museum?

Chelmsford museum has been designed to engage children who might not otherwise take interest in museums through the use of technology and hands on activities. There are touch screen information boards, headphones and other interactive exhibits.

There were two separate areas with costumes for children to dress up in which will help the characters of days gone past come alive (and is fun for taking photographs). 

A clever idea (which is similar to at the British Museum in London) is the backpacks you can borrow for free from the Explorer area. They are filled with resources for children to use to complete challenges and missions around the museum. They also regularly have child focused special events and activities. Most recently this was a mystery trail to celebrate the launch of a new book with Kids in Museums which saw children wandering around the museum with their clipboards, searching for clues in the different exhibits to complete their challenges. 

The bee exhibit is a particular hit for all ages: you can get up close and personal with the bees in their glass covered hive, and it even has vents for you to put your ear next to so that you can hear the buzzing without worrying about the bees visiting you.

The exhibits are so varied and there is something to interest everyone. Exhibits included toys throughout history, technology across the ages, many animals including a huge stuffed bear which children were enjoying looking at (and roaring at!). 

a small rack of dressing up clothes for toddlers and preschoolers at Chelmsford museum
Children can dress up at the museum

Busy bees in a beehive with glass walls
See inside a beehive at Chelmsford Museum and watch the busy bees

What age children will enjoy visiting Chelmsford Museum?

The interactive museum will appeal to children of all ages from before they can read to teens. Children’s interests and how long they want to stop and read will impact how long you will stay in the museum.

Is it suitable for pushchairs?

The museum is accessible and has a lift to get to the upstairs. It’s quite a small lift though and a side by side buggy is a tight fit.

The Hive Café at Chelmsford Museum

The Hive café is in Oaklands House, the same building as Chelmsford museum, but you can visit separately. The main entrance is via steps at the entrance of the park. Buggy/ wheelchair access is around the other side of the building. The main door can be opened manually or there is a large button for disabled access which is helpful with a buggy.  The café is open everyday 8am to 4pm, although they stop serving food at 3.30pm.

The Hive café (named the hive because of the famous bee exhibit in the museum) has a varied menu of hot and cold food. They offer all day breakfasts, brunches, hot meals, and also cakes, pastries and snacks (crisps, chocolate bars, ice creams etc). The Hive welcome children of all ages and their menu has some good options for children’s meals and snacks. They serve hot and cold drinks, and also a variety of wine. The different hot chocolate flavours with cream are recommended. 

Vegan options were plentiful and they had many gluten free cakes. Their menu board requested that customers make their allergies clear to staff so they can ensure food is safe for them to consume, however the menu states food is prepared in the same area so they can’t guarantee there is no cross contamination.  

Seating is available indoors and out, and there are lots of tables. The outdoor area fills up very quickly in good weather, so you’ll have to grab a table as soon as you see one. The indoor areas are spacious, but it can get very busy. Staff are welcoming and pleasant. 

Try to get a seat outside if the weather is good, as the views of the rose garden are gorgeous. Tables can’t be booked ahead of time during school holidays. 

The outside of The Hive Cafe and a cherry tree in blossom
The Hive Cafe at Chelmsford Museum

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Chelmsford Museum 

  • Entry is free
  • It’s open 10am to 4pm November to end of March, 10am to 5pm every day April to end of October. Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day. Reduced hours Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.
  • There are toilets and baby changing facilities in both the café and museum. The baby changing facilities in the Chelmsford Museum were tricky to find as they aren't signposted. They are located in both the men’s, women’s and disabled toilets, in a separate cubicle within the main bathrooms.
  • There is a gift shop next to the entrance/ exit which has a good range of toys, stationery, books, cards and a variety of precious stones. 
  • If bringing your own food there are plenty of places to eat outside the museum in good weather.

Is it Dog Friendly?

Dogs are not welcome inside the museum, but they are allowed on the patio area of The Hive café. There is a dog water bowl and home made dog biscuits for sale in the café. 

A glass display cabinet with animals in at Chelmsford Museum
There are a wide range of different exhibitions

How To Get To Chelmsford Museum and Where To Park


Chelmsford Museum
Oaklands Park
Moulsham Street

The Museum is easy to find at the entrance to Oaklands Park. The museum website has a travel section which clearly outlines how to get to the museum and cafe by car, train, bus, bike or on foot.

Parking is free all day on weekends and bank holidays. During the week parking is free but is limited to two hours at a time, between the hours of 10am and 6pm.

What To Do Nearby By Chelmsford Museum

Photographs and recommendations by Meghan who can be found on Instagram as @tipiandtedsoftplay

A collage of photos of what to expect from a visit to chelmsford museum including the explorer zone, stuffed bear and the entrance
What you can expect from a visit to Chelmsford Museum

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