50 free things to do with your family in Essex this May half term 2024 - including splash parks, country walks and much more

Hanningfield Reservoir has stunning lakeside views
-Credit: (Image: Essex Wildlife Trust)

The school half-term break is almost upon us which means families might be looking for ways to entertain their children (and themselves) during the holidays. Some might have holidays prepared or they might be spending the time visiting Essex's many hidden gems and wonders.

There has always been a demand for things that have little or absolutely no cost attached. That could be visiting one of our county's excellent Green Flag Award parks or something else.

Essex has plenty of Blue Flag beaches to build sandcastles on or go swimming at, picturesque villages to walk through, and historic attractions to explore. Whatever it is that you have planned, it could certainly be an entertaining half-term period and there is absolutely no reason for bucket loads of cash to be spent.

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EssexLive has compiled a list of free (and some low-cost) things to do across the county this summer. There might be small costs for parking for some of these, but we have done our best to include activities which are completely free of charge.

50 free things to do with children in Essex in the May half term:

  1. Go for a walk round the picturesque Priory Park in Southend where there is a large children's play area, lake, woodland walk, café and more

  2. Explore wildlife and nature at Hanningfield Reservoir

  3. Let the children play in the adventure castle area at Hylands Park

  4. Learn about different modes of transport over time at the Canvey Island transport museum (free entry but donations welcome)

  5. Explore various historical exhibits at Chelmsford Museum in Oaklands Park

  6. Visit the 200-year-old Grade II listed windmill in Rayleigh (free entry, donation suggested)

  7. Enjoy a sensory trail and interactive play equipment at Great Notley Discovery Park

  8. Spot different wildlife and enjoy updated play equipment at Wat Tyler Country Park

  9. Go strawberry and fruit picking at Cammas Hall Farm, close to Bishops Stortford

  10. Explore the fairy-tale village of Thaxted that has been barely touched

  11. Learn about famous Essex crimes and policing at the Essex Police Museum in Chelmsford

  12. Visit the historic and beautiful Chelmsford Cathedral

  13. Learn about life in Colchester stretching back over the past 300 years at Hollytrees Museum in Colchester (parking charges)

  14. Explore the ruins of a 13th century castle in Hadleigh

  15. Take a gentle stroll along the coast at Southend-on-Sea

  16. Take in a seven-mile walk between the piers at Clacton and Walton

  17. Learn how jam has been made in Essex for nearly 150 years at the Tiptree Jam Museum

  18. Visit the Leigh Heritage Centre to learn about the community's rich maritime history

  19. Go plane spotting at fields close to Southend or Stansted Airport

  20. Explore Essex by going geocaching (some charges may apply)

  21. Test your skateboarder skills on the ramps at Central Park in Chelmsford

  22. Get lost in a huge turf maze at Saffron Walden Common

  23. Walk the beautiful Flitch Way from Braintree to Little Dunmow

  24. Learn about the Tudor ages at Cressing Temple Barns

  25. Go on a trail of blue plaques in your local area to learn about the history of the area you live in

  26. Take a visit to one of England's lesser-known museums (Bay Museum) on Canvey Island

  27. Take a bucket and spade to one of Essex's beaches to build a sandcastle

  28. Spend a few hours following the Oak Trail from Theydon Bois tube station through Epping Forest

  29. Wander among archways and giant pillars at St Botolph's Priory in Colchester

  30. Play at the nautical themed playground in Southend, close to the library, The Forum and Focal Point Gallery

  31. Take a cycle ride through the Essex countryside

  32. Feed the ducks at Lake Meadows Park or Northlands Park

  33. Navigate an easy walk through Constable Country, close to Dedham and Colchester

  34. Visit Beeleigh falls waterfall

  35. Enjoy free children's activities at FirstSite in Colchester

  36. Support your local community by volunteering with local groups

  37. Explore the Natural History Museum in Colchester

  38. Find excitement from the toys, dolls, trains, puppets and games at Chelmsford Museum that previous generations of Essex children used to play with

  39. Go for a splash at one of the county's many splash parks, including some in Harlow

  40. Go for a day trip to central London and watch the changing of the guard before doing a walking tour of the capital

  41. Live out your inner fireman desires by visiting the Essex Fire Museum in Grays

  42. Follow in the footsteps of famous actors at various filming locations in Essex used for TV and films

  43. Burn off some energy at Great Notley Country Park

  44. Enjoy one of the free open days at Bocking Windmill

  45. Explore the history of Braintree using Lego bricks and other building toys at Braintree Museum (children under five free)

  46. Take in the calming sound of flowing water at Papermill Lock

  47. Enjoy Promenade Park in Maldon and (potentially) cool down at the splash park (£3.50)

  48. Watch as the Clacton skies are filled with a number of historic planes in the Clacton Airshow on August 24-25

  49. Get up close and friendly with the cows at Dedham

  50. Take a walk to a WWI memorial that marks the site of one of Essex's worst ever plane crashes

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