What To Do This May Half Term - Essex

May half term 2024 this year runs from Saturday 25th May to Sunday 2nd June and includes a Bank Holiday on Monday 27th May. There is lots happening so if the weather is good you will be spoiled for choice, but even if the sun doesn't stay I have days out ideas for you. This post contains information about special events, half term activities at popular Essex attractions and free places to visit this half term.

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Where to go in Essex May Half Term over a transparent image of a girl feeding goats a colchester zoo


What's On In Essex This Half Term?


Special Events In Essex

Ride London - Friday 24th to Sunday 26th May 
Whether you are interested in cycling or not Ride London is something to pay attention to because there will be road closures across large parts of Essex, especially on Sunday 26th May. There are rolling road closures on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th May in Uttlesford, Braintree, Tendring and Maldon and on Sunday 28th May some roads will be closed for most of the day. If you are planning to go out on these days make sure you check the map to see where is affected. The event goes through Epping, Ongar, Colchester, Maldon and Saffron Walden so traffic and access across large parts of Essex will be impacted.

Barleylands Spring Country Show - Sunday 26th and Monday 27th May 
Not to be confused with Barleylands farm park (although it's next door) the Spring Country show is organised by Haddon Events. It includes stunt shows, sheep dog displays, birds of prey displays, Kids Fun Zone and some farm animals (from Barleylands farm). Tickets can be bought online or at the gate.
Takes place at Barleylands Showground, Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD 

Knights of Royal England Jousting - Sunday 26th and Monday 27th May
Head to Hedingham Castle over the Bank Holiday weekend to explore the castle, experience medieval pursuits and watch knights joust on horseback. The joust is on at set times so make sure you don't miss them. Prebooking recommended.
Takes place at Bayley Street, Castle Hedingham, Essex, CO9 3DJ

Layer Marney Village Fete - Monday 27th May
On Bank Holiday Monday they have an old fashioned style village fete with games, dancers, stalls and the tea room. You can also go in the tower and see the exhibitions. There is also a dog show you can enter, with a twist. Prebook your tickets.
Takes place at Layer Marney, Nr. Colchester, C05 9US

A blue bookworm puppet sticking it's head out of something saying world's smallest library
Enjoy free theatre with George The Bookworm


Free Events In Essex in May Half Term

There are lots of places to go in Essex this half term if you don't want to spend much. Many of the County's Museums are free and we have great playgrounds, trails, parks and beaches. You can check out some of the best free places to go in Essex in this post.

Free events taking place in half term include:

Chelmsford Museum, Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, CM2 9AQ
Chelmsford museum is always free entry and over half term they will have additional activities tbc. The museum is set in Oaklands Park so make sure you visit the playgrounds while you are there.

Natural History Museum, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1DN
Colchester's Natural History Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday with free entry. During May half term they are running free art drop in for children. 

Essex Fire Museum, Grays Fire Station, Hogg Lane, Grays, Essex RM17 5QS
Essex Fire Museum is only open on a few days each year. This half term it is open on Sunday 26th May and Tuesday 28th May. If you would like to visit they ask that you email: museum@essex-fire.gov.uk and let them know how many people will be coming. 

Other Ideas Of Free Days Out In Essex

What about Harlow town Park? There are two playgrounds, plenty of green space for picnics and a free mini farm (Pet’s Corner). Go inside the farm to see animals including fish ad chickens, but if the weather is nice most of the animals including sheep and reindeer are probably in the paddocks outside. If you go through the exit on the far side of the Pets Corner playground it's a short walk to a pond where you might see baby ducklings.

On the other side of Essex Maldon is a nice day out. There is lots of space to play and explore so head to Maldon Promenade Park for parking. The main playground is themed as a large pirate ship, on the other side of the playground there is a smaller pirate ship for younger children in a sandpit. There's also a zip wire. If you walk away from the Promenade Park there is a larger sand pit, an older playground and lots of moored boats to see. If you want to buy some food there is a good range of stalls including: local ice cream, fresh doughnuts and seafood at Blackwater Seafood. Chargeable activities include: Maldon Promenade mini Zoo, Pirates Bay Adventure Golf and the splash park which reopens for May half term (book here). 

The large pirate ship play frame at Maldon
Maldon has plenty of free things to do on a day out


Good Weather Activities This Half Term

Prebooking recommended as many events sell out and others you save money when you buy your tickets inadvance online.

Audley End House & Gardens - Audley End Road, off London Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JF
This English Heritage site has a Kids Rule event to celebrate the coronation. Learn about Kings and Queens of the past, receive your own crown and enjoy hands on activities.

Audley End Miniature Railway - Audley End Road, Audley End, Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4JB
There is a new craft event taking place over half term with 4 craft stations around the site including floral crowns and nature medallions. Tickets must be prebooked and price covers a train ride, crafts, Elf & Fairy walk, play area and interactive shows.

Barleylands - Barleylands Road, Billericay CM11 2UD
The farm is open over half term with a Magic and Mayhem event including magic shows, a circus workshop and a kids disco.  There will also be the normal animals, play areas, displays and softplay.

Cammas Hall Farm - Needham Green, Hatfield Broad Oak CM22 7JT
Twinkle & Snug are back with their fabulous 'Create a Bear and Sand-Art' workshop between 10am and 2pm (prebooking not required) on Wednesday 29th May.  The first of the season PYO is normally available at the end of May so there may be fruit to pick while you are there. To PYO you have to prebuy a voucher so check the website for fruit availability close to your visit. Cafe, shop and playground will be open and they may have other events to TBC.

Colchester Zoo  - Maldon Road, Colchester CO3 0SL
Essex's biggest zoo is celebrating Love Your Zoo week in half term with a range of activities included in the ticket price. On Tuesday 28th May Essex Libraries will be visiting and running animal themed story times. 
Last year they warned that they had some road temporary road closures in the area due to Ride London on the Friday so this may be the same this year.

East Anglian Railway Museum - Chappel Station, Colchester, Essex, CO6 2DS
EARM has a Transport Extravaganza & Mini Gala on 26th and 27th May which will be a fun day out for little (and big) train lovers.

Epping Ongar Railway Ongar and North Weald
EOR is open on 25th, 27th, 29th May and 1st and 2nd June. On Monday 27th May Bluey will be around for meet and greets.  On non event days (so not on 27th May) prebuy tickets and you get child tickets for £1 each to ride the steam and diesel trains (as well as a heritage bus). Check the website for the timetable.

Hopefield Animal Sanctuary - Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Lane, CM15 9BZ
Hopefield is having a family festival on the 25th to 27th May. As well as normal animals and activities there are inflatables, soft play bus and live entertainment.

Hyde Hall (RHS Garden) - Creephedge Lane, Rettendon Common, Chelmsford CM3 8ET
Hyde Hall has a Family Gardening Festival on over half term which includes a self led trail. In addition you can prebook activities (chargeable on top of entrance fee) including facepainting or crafts, storytelling on Tuesday and sow a sunflower on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Lambourne End -  Centre for Outdoor Learning, Manor Road, Lambourne End, Essex, RM4 1NB
As well as the full drop off half term activity camp Lambourne End have activities on Tuesday and Friday which are farm based in the mornings and outdoor activity based in the afternoon. Book on to a half day or full day session. Children under 5 need to be accompanied by an adult.

Markshall Estate - Marks Hall Road, Coggeshall, CO6 1TG
From 30th April there is a Tree Trail where you can find out about different types of tree. There are also likely to be additional activities running over half term tbc. 

Marsh Farm - Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers CM3 5WP
Marsh Farm has created a brand new dinosaur area so their theme for half term is Dinosaur Adventure. From 24th May to 2nd June you can meet dinosaurs, photo opportunities, shows, animals, role play village, soft play and more.  Buy tickets in advance to save money.

Old MacDonald's Farm - Weald Road, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 5AY
From Saturday 25th May to Sunday 2nd June there is a Magical Mayhem event which promises lots of fun and silliness. As well as the characters and shows throughout the day there are animals, rides, a play village, playground, soft play and more. Small saving with advance purchase.

Nuclear Races Wild Forest - Parsonage Farm, Ongar Road, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 0LA
On 28th and 29th May children can take part in Just Get Over It Obstacle Fun Sessions. For children 6 to 10 they will go on the obstacle course and new slip and slide, children 11 to 16 can enjoy an obstacle course and deathslide!

Essex Wildlife Trust have a huge range of activities at their sites across Essex. From pond dipping, to stories and drop off days activities need to be prebooked and are chargeable. Find out what they have happening near you here.

Wyvernwood - St. Osyth Road, Alresford, Colchester CO7 8AP
Wyvernwood is an immersive story led (mostly outdoor) experience that's like a giant playground with storytelling. 


Indoor Days Out For Rainy Half Term Days

I have a huge post with lots of ideas of where to go when it’s wet including the free museums listed above, softplay, bowling and ceramic cafes, so check this post out for more indoor days out ideas.

A few indoor places with special activities for May Half Term:

Libraries there are events happening at most Essex libraries over half term including crafts and LEGO clubs. Check out the events page to find out and book your nearest session.  

Chelmsford Theatre has a number of child friendly shows over half term including Milkshake Live on Sunday 26th May, a comedy club for Kids on Friday 31st May and Spots Birthday party on Sunday 2nd June. 

Colchester Castle. There are lots of activities on over half term at the castle. Some are included in your entrance fee (like colouring), some (Norman tours) cost extra.

It's also worth checking out Nickelodeon Adventure for younger ones or maybe Immersive Gamebox, Indoor Go Karting, Top Golf or rollerskating for slightly older ones.


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