What Is Happening And Where To Go In Essex This Summer

Whether you want to fill the Summer holidays with activities or you just want to plan a few special days out there is so much going on in Essex. In this post you can find out what events are happening in Essex this summer and what special activities the county's best attractions have planned for families.

Contents (click to skip straight to the following sections)

Special Events In Essex
Summer programmes at attractions

You might also be interested in reading these posts:

Where to go on rainy days in Essex
Free places to go in Essex
10 unusual things to do in Essex
Days out for Teens and Tweens in Essex

children wearing sunglasses and hats on a hot summers day out in Essex
Find out where to go in Essex this summer

What Is Happening In Essex This Summer?

Special Events In Essex This Summer

Chelmsford Festival - Chelmsford (Mostly Free)

10th June to 9th July Website

With special events including: an art trail running throughout, Chelmsford Carnival on 2nd July and Streets Alive with live theatre in the High Street on Sunday 9th July this festival helps showcase the best of of Chelmsford.

Leigh Art Trail - Leigh (Free)

8th to 16th July  Website

Visit pop up galleries with contemporary painting, ceramics, mixed media, sculpture and photography from over 70 artists. The trail begins in Chalkwell Park and finishes in Old Leigh. Maps are available on their website.

Peppa Pig at Colne Valley Railway - Castle Hedingham

9th July Website

Colne Valley Railway is a heritage railway with roughly a mile of track. You can enjoy the normal day out at Colne Valley Railway (Castle Hedingham) with added appearances by Peppa Pig. Activities include riding on a train, a miniature railway, indoor model railway, interactive museum and Woodland Walk Educational Trail. There is also a Paw Patrol event on 24th September.

Haven House, a member of staff and a decorated elephant
How many elephants from Herd In The City can you spot?

Herd In The City - Southend, Shoeburyness & Leigh (Free)

14th July to 4th September Website

Haven Hospice have teamed up with Wild in Art to bring another art trail to the streets of Southend. This year there will be 46 elephants to spot each decorated by local artists. You can buy a map or download the app (only available from 14th July).

Southend Pride - Southend

15th July Website

There are a number of events happening in Southend in Pride week (running 7th to 15th July) with the main event taking place on 15th July. The Parade seems to go from Royal Square at 11am and there is a festival in Warrior Square Gardens from Midday.  Adventure Island will also be celebrating "Adventure Pride" in 15th July with activities to celebrate.

Essex Family Fest - Hornchurch 

Sunday 16th July Website
Harrow Lodge Park, Hornchurch, RM11 1JU

A family festival organised by the local MIND charity. Enjoy live performances (including a panto), soft play for toddlers, character meet and greets, petting zoo, children's fun fair and more. Most events and activities (other than the fun fair) included in the ticket price. Save money by buying your tickets in advance.

Layer Marney Tower - Tudor Fair

Sunday 16th July 11am to 5pm Website
Layer Marney Tower, Nr Colchester, Essex CO5 9US

As part of the celebrations to commemorate 500 years since the death of the first Lord Marney who built the Tower, Layer Marney Tower are having a Tudor Fair. During the fair the funeral procession will arrive from Tiptree after 3 days of travel recreating Henry's final journey. Think part historical reenactment and part festival, it includes stalls, tents, games, armour and food. You can also climb the tower and enjoy the play area. Prebooking tickets recommended.

Dinosaurs at the Railway - Epping Ongar Railway

Sunday 16th July Website

Meet Bruno The T-Rex, enjoy a train ride with added baby dinosaurs. This is a roughly 90 minute experience and you need to prebook your place on the train (unlike non-event days when you can go on as many train journeys as you can fit in). EOR also has events with a special appearance of Bluey on 30th July and 20th August.

Orsett Family Fun Day - Grays

Sunday 16th July 12pm to 6.30pm Website
The Orsett Showground, Grays, RM16 3JU

An outdoor screening of Encanto, live music, inflatables, petting farm and character meet and greets are all promised at this fun day raising money for The MCA Trust.

Brightlingsea Regatta - Brightlingsea (Free)

22nd to 23rd July Website

A two day event which includes: a carnival and fireworks on the Saturday, fun fair, sand castle competition and plenty of boats to see (and even have a go on). Further details available on their website closer to the time.

The Tiger That Came To Tea - Chelmsford Theatre

Tuesday 25 July to Thursday 27 July Book here
Chelmsford Theatre, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1JG

Direct from the West End this musical play based on the book by Judith Kerr is adapted and directed by David Wood. The show lasts less than an hour and is suitable for all ages, but tickets are selling out fast.

Writtle Sunflowers - Chelmsford 

Last week of July to end of August (depending on when they flower) Website
Opposite Pooty Pools Farm, Radley Green Road, Roxwell, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 4NW

Fields of sunflowers are an impressive sight which wow adults and children alike. Writtle Sunflowers is a great PYO flower farm where you take some lovely photographs and cut a few stems to take home with you. Opening the end of July for around 4 weeks you need to prebuy tickets for entry.

Roman Festival - Colchester

Saturday 29th July – Sunday 30th July 2023 10:30am to 5pm. Website
Lower Castle Park, St Peter’s Street/ Middle Mill entrance, Colchester, CO1 1ES

Back for a second year this Roman world is brought to life by an re-enactment group. It includes: gladiators battling it out in the arena, local tribesmen attacking Roman soldiers, falconry and archery. High-quality crafting, donkey rides, dressing up, enthusiastic and knowledgeable re-enactors, a Romano-British market and there's a programme of talks, panel discussions, and workshops in the Talk Tent.

UFest - Maldon (Free)

Friday 4th August 11am to 4pm Website
Promenade Park, Park Drive, Maldon, CM9 5JQ

A free festival of community and wellbeing will include music, food and the chance to try out different activities and workshops.

Brightlingsea Free Music Festival - Brightlingsea (Free)

5th and 6th August Website
Hurst Green, Brightlingsea

A great opportunity to enjoy a music festival atmosphere for free. Acts are on stage between 12.30 and 8.15pm on Saturday and Midday and 7.15pm on Sunday so you don't even need to keep children up too late to see the headliners.

Anglo Saxon Weekend by Southend Museums - Southend

5th and 6th August Website
Southend-on-Sea, Priory Lodge, Victoria Ave, Southend-on-Sea SS2 6NB

Explore the daily life of the Anglo-Saxons through a living history camp. Take part in Anglo-Saxon themed crafts and activities, and get hands on with archaeological excavation. Tickets available here.

Colchester Summer Social - Colchester

10th to 13th August Website
High Street, Castle Park, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1UD

Described as: movies, comedy, music and street food it includes Kidz Bop in the Park on Sunday between 1pm and 5pm. Featuring live performances, inflatables, music and more. Tickets available here.

Unicorn and Princesses at Woodstock Farm - Cold Norton

11th to 13th August Book here
Woodstock Farm, St Stephens Road, Cold Norton CM3 6NP

Meet Disney style princesses (from the Princess Emporium), go on unicorn rides (may not be real unicorns), enjoy arts and crafts, glitter tattoos and more in this 3 hour long event.

Colchester Pride - Colchester

12th August from 11am. Website
Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, Colchester,  CO1 1JH

A mixture of indoor and outdoor activities including 2 stages, a children's area and market area. Under 13s free, but must be accompanied by an adult. Advanced tickets for over 13s cheaper in advance. 

Wizard of Oz Outdoor Theatre - Hylands House- Chelmsford

Tuesday 15th August, various times. Book here.
Hylands House Back Lawn, London Road, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 8W

Enjoy outdoor theatre by Immersive Theatre group in this adaption of the Wizard of Oz. You can sit on the floor or bring a chair which helps make this a relaxed family friendly performance.

Knight School - Hedingham Castle - Halstead

15th to 17th August Book here
Castle Hedingham, Halstead, Essex CO9 3DJ

Children 6+ can take part in 1 hour sessions at Hedingham Castle where they can learn to fight like medieval knights, but with padded weapons. Advanced booking required.

Clacton Air Show - Clacton Seafront (Free)

25th and 26th August Website

Head to Clacton Seafront to see displays from a range of aircrafts including the RAF Red Arrows. Displays start around 1pm both days and on Thursday evening there is also a special early evening display including lasers and pyrotechnics. Further details on timings etc will be available closer to the date.

Thomas the tank engine at a railway station
Meet Thomas and friends this summer at East Anglian Railway museum

Day Out With Thomas - East Anglian Railway Museum - Wakes Colne, Colchester

26th to 28th August Website 
East Anglian Railway Museum, Chappel and Wakes Colne Station, Station Road, Wakes Colne CO6 2DS

A great day out for Thomas the Tank Engine fans as they will get to ride behind their favourite engines, meet Sir Topham Hatt and even play with Thomas toys. You book a morning or afternoon session and try and fit in as much as possible. You can read about when we visited Day Out With Thomas here.

Victorian Horses - Audley End House & Gardens Saffron Walden

Sunday 27th and Monday 28th August Website
Off London Road, Saffron Walden, CB11 4JF

There will be special displays by horses and skilled riders in the grounds of the gardens of this English Heritage property. Entrance on these days is an additional cost to normal prices (and extra on top of membership). It's worth noting that in July and August English Heritage are offering 25% off membership so you can get membership for all English Heritage properties for a year for £51.75 (the website says you need code IMAGINE50). With an adult membership you can take up to 6 children for free AND if you spend over £10 in English Heritage cafes over the summer you get 2 free children's lunch bags.

Brightlingsea Fresh Air Festival - Brightlingsea (Free)

10th September Website

A street performance festival due to return for it's second year in 2023.

Bubble n Bop festival sign in Essex with children posing next to it
Bubble N Bop Festival is at Marsh Farm every day this summer

What's Happening At Essex Family Attractions This Summer?

Audley End Miniature Railway (Saffron Walden) are inviting visitors to have an Enchanted Summer Adventure. Running from 22nd July to 3rd September you can go on the miniature railway to complete an I spy sheet and maybe even spot the dragons that guard precious ancient crystals. The ticket also includes entry to the elf and fairy walk, crafts, games area and adventure play area.

Barleylands is creatively calling their summer programme (running from 22nd July to 3rd September) "Summer of Entertainment". There are different entertainers putting on shows at the farm each week as well as various animal displays and encounters. There are lots of animals to see and play areas (including soft play) to enjoy.

Colchester Zoo has Wild Vibe Wonderland running from 22nd July to 3rd September. It's the zoo's 60th birthday this year so over the summer they have extra special activities happening every day including puppet shows, parties and parades. Open every day.

Epping Forest District Museum (on Sun Street in Waltham Abbey) has a free exhibition telling the story of The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Explore the interactive exhibition, art work, immerse yourselves in the world of Sophie and enjoy a cup of tea with the Tiger. It opened in May and is running until 2nd September. Closed Thursdays and Sundays. 

Essex Wildlife Trust has a huge number of activities at locations across Essex this summer. From story time to forest school sessions, drop off days and pond dipping. Look at their events page to find out what is on near you. Prices vary and they normally get fully booked.

Hasty's Adventure Farm (Clacton) has a butterfly trail around the farm from Sunday 9th July to Friday 11th August where you can look out for the wooden butterflies around the farm in exchange for a sticker.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall (Rettendon, Chelmsford) have a self-led family trail called The Grand Bug & Pest Hotel Hunt family trail which uses a AR App created by Aardman. There are plenty of other activities for children taking place over the summer holidays too including ZooLab minibeast workshops on 24th July and Aardman model making on 24th August. Prebooking not required for self-led trail, but special activities will sell out. Also worth noting that Hyde Hall's Flower Show runs from 2nd to 6th August so the gardens will be particularly busy on those dates.

Lee Valley Animal Adventure Park (Waltham Abbey) has it's Toddler Festival running on 22nd and 23rd July and Kids Fest every day from 24th July to 1st August. You can expect entertainment, music, animals, new crazy golf (opening date tbc), bouncy castles and a new adventure play area. Book in advance to save money. 

Marsh Farm (South Woodham Ferrers) has it's Bubble N Bop children's festival running over the summer from 20th July to 1st September. This is a full day out with lots to do including a disco, foam party, soft play, role play village, animals, a few rides and inflatables, character meet & greets (selected days) and the beach with a small splash area and large sand pit (you need non slip pool shoes to go in the water). Read more about our visits to Marsh Farm here.

Old MacDonalds Farm and Fun Park has a summer circus event running from 22nd July to 3rd September. There is so much to do at the farm including see animals, go on rides, a maze and new activities including a splash pad and play village.

All information correct at time of publishing, check details on the events website for further details.

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