17 Best Things To Do In Essex With Toddlers in 2023

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As an adult, you probably already know exactly where you want to go if you’re looking to have a great weekend. From bowling alleys to beaches, and everything else in between, there’s a ton of things to do.

However, not all these places would be appropriate for toddlers. After all, you want your child to have fun in a place where they could meet other toddlers and develop social skills as opposed to having to hang out with adults all day. You also want them to be able to play and have fun in a safe and engaging environment. 

Finding a place like this in Essex requires a fairly decent amount of research that you might not necessarily have the time for. To help you get past this, we’ve taken the step to compile a list of things you can do in Essex with Toddlers in 2022. 

Here they are:

Southend-on-Sea Pier

Southend-on-Sea is a seaside town — but it’s more than just that. It’s one of those places where you can walk around for hours, stop for lunch and then wander back in the evening on the longest amusement pier in the world.

If you’re looking for a bit of old-school British seaside, you can’t beat Southend-on-Sea. While it has been modernised and rebuilt since the early 1900s, it has retained much of its heritage and character. You can discover a little museum and explore the history pier. 

A nature reserve protects the area around the museum. So, there are plenty of birds to spot on the landmark, and if you visit in spring or summer, butterflies can fly around.

Whether you’re too old to be a teenager or old enough to remember being there when the likes of Wham were at the top of their game, the Southend Pier provides something for everyone.

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Mersea Island

If you have time on your hands, why not plan a trip to visit the seaside and enjoy a day at Mersea island? This small estuary island has plenty to offer, with many activities, including diving and kayaking.

In addition to enjoying the tranquillity of its sandy beaches, you can head out onto the water after hiring a paddleboard from Mersea Island Watersports. Do not miss out on snapping the aesthetic photos of colourful beach houses reminding you of Victoria Esplanade.

Although the queue is often too long, take your time to stop for a meal at The Company Shed, which is famous for its tastiest seafood and fish on Mersea island. The best part is they welcome kids!


Find the Witchfinder General

Matthew Hopkins was one of the most notorious figures in history. The Witchfinder General turned clockwork figure you can see in Colchester Castle’s mediaeval cellars does happen to be him.

The Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins was a 17th Century judge infamous for his brutal methods of dealing with sceptics. And luckily, his days on earth were numbered because he was eventually hanged and drowned for being a witch himself.

He was not a nice man, but if you have easily scared children, we recommend they face the terror of the tales of Matthew Hopkins. So, it is the best place for older kids rather than easily scared little ones. However, it is not just the Witchfinder General who is terrifying – actually, the whole town is at the point.


Spy a Windmill & Highwayman

The village of Thaxted is a classic English village with a twist. Not far from the Essex town of Saffron Walden, it’s home to one of the largest churches in Essex. Plus, a nearby windmill and a link to highwayman Dick Turpin and famous composer Gustav Holst make it more quirky.

Thaxted is a quaint, pretty village with some intriguing history. It is known for its watermills and windmill, which helped power the village for over 100 years. Moreover, Thaxted is a village of fewer than 3,000 people, but it has some nooks and crannies that make it worth visiting. 

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Explore Historic Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is one of the most attractive English towns you are likely to visit, with a historic centre and plenty of galleries, museums, and places to explore. The town’s name comes from the saffron crocus that used to grow here and which was once worth more than gold.

If you are in the Essex countryside, it’s a small village but well worth a visit – and there are many historic buildings to see. Besides, you can explore the remains of the castle, the beautiful Bridge End Gardens, a hedge maze, the wilderness, and a variety of formal gardens. 

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Colchester Roman Circus

The Colchester’ Roman’ Circus is the only known one in these isles built in the 2nd century. The circus is big and exciting to see and explore on your own. You can watch chariot races and other spectacles until the arena fell out of use nearly 150 years later. However, it has been refurbished today, so you can still find some great delights here.

The Colchester Roman circus is open from Tuesday to Saturday throughout the summer; it is free for children under 11. Besides enjoying chariot racing and other ancient spectacles, you can wander around the circus and the visitor centre. You will get to listen to the stories revolving around its establishment in 2005.


Mountfitchet Castle, Stansted

Your kids will love the Castle and Village at Mountfitchet Castle. If you love history, you will feel like a Roman soldier on this warlike site or a knight going on a tour of mediaeval England in reality – with kids’ activities to explore as well!

The place is best for tracing England’s history by visiting Saxon and Viking settlements, an Iron Age hill fort, and a Roman fort. A visit to Mountfitchet Castle will surely bring you back to Norman times when the Conqueror’s forces built their bailey castle and first motte in the village. 

There are over 80,000 toys and artefacts in the toy museum. Of course, children will love all of these, but adults will also enjoy the collection.

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Hylands Park, Chelmsford

Hylands Estate is the ideal place to bring kids to visit. Located just outside Chelmsford, it’s an enchanting park with plenty of opportunities to get active and enjoy nature. Hylands House is a Grade II listed neoclassical villa. This elegant 17th-century villa is available for hire for exclusive weddings. 

Hylands Estate has many things to do, as it is home to a large park and a pleasant lake. The castle playground is the most popular part of the estate due to its unique layout. With lots of slides and climbing areas, plus pirate towers that kids can climb through, there are lots of things to keep them occupied.

The estate encompasses over 574 acres. Hyland Park has miles of walking trails and bridleways which wind through historic woodland, winding by lakes with ducks and geese to feed. There are play areas for children older than six, artist studios, a café, a small craft shop, and plenty of grassed areas. Overall, this site is suitable for families.

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Audley End, Saffron Walden

Audley End is a 17th-century Jacobean mansion and estate set in 6500 acres of woods and meadows near Saffron Walden, Essex. It is renowned for its ornate interiors and gardens. 

You will have a jaw-dropping experience with your kids visiting the ornate Great Hall library, using Doctor Johnson’s dictionary. The place has many trails for kids.

The mansion has historic servant quarters embellished with a fantastic art collection. The service wing displays videos portraying the exhausting lives of servants in the mansion. The videos show the debilitating reality, from mangling in the laundry and dairy to operating a huge butter churn, and toiling with copper utensils in the one-of-a-kind kitchen.

Although it may be hard to believe that it has been standing for 417 years, you will see why after visiting this magical place. From the formal gardens to the terrace walks to the hilltop views toward London – Audley End has it all.


Colchester Castle

Somewhere to enjoy history and culture, even if it is just an hour or two, would be nice and Colchester Castle is best to actualise that! Colchester Castle was built in the 1070s by French invaders as they sought refuge in Britain. It became a Norman stronghold during William the Conqueror’s reign and remains one of the country’s top tourist attractions today.

Colchester Castle is not just a house that catches your eye; it’s an old, imposing building that has been standing for hundreds of years and has seen many important events in British history.

This castle is a perfect place to discover more about Britain’s oldest town in the very spot where much of that history was made. You will feel like you are walking back through centuries of history as you explore the ruins of the Roman Temple of Claudius, the Anglo-Saxon settlement, and the Norman castle.

For kids, there are countless interactive fun opportunities. Using an AR tablet, you can wander around the castle and experience the place in the liveliest way. Besides, there are hands-on fun activities, including playing a virtual chariot race. Also, the Roman walls surrounding the castle garden museum are worth exploring. 


Sealife Adventure, Southend-On-Sea

Sealife Adventure is a great place to visit and end your family debate between choosing an aquarium over a zoo. This place boasts a Zooquarium where you can witness everything from meerkats and monkeys to marine life and penguins. 

Also, you can walk with your kids through the tunnel based in the ocean tank and explore every sort of life on earth. The Pangea area is among the best places to discover prehistoric animals. So, if your kids love dinosaurs, you must stop by Sealife Adventure for a great, fun time with your family exploring the jungle, desert, and underwater life. 

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Colchester Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is nestled in the old All Saints Church in Colchester. The museum has artefacts that portray the wildlife in British and north east Essex. 

You will have great pleasure in discovering the wildlife and the advancement of the environment from the Ice Age till the present. Plus, the museum has amazing family activities. Holding your toddlers’ hands, visit a stag beetle exhibition and garden trails and have a glance at the inside of a badger’s sett.  

Besides, the museum is famous for quirky facts. These include the portrayal of the 1884 earthquake and the discovery of a deluged world under the North Sea.

colchester cimuseums

Essex Police Museum, Chelmsford

You will not regret heading to Chelmsford county to explore one of Essex’s most famous and toddler-friendly museums. The Essex Police Museum is a small amusing museum that depicts the tale of historical police events in the county.  

In addition to the real-life stories of many heroes, you will enjoy learning about the amelioration of police from the Victorians to the present day. The museum features interactive displays for enhanced engagement.

You will learn many things, from how to take fingerprints of culprits to dressing yourself in a police uniform and looking inside a Victorian prison cell. What’s great is your kids will love the regular special events the management runs. These include monthly toddler classes, treasure trails, and craft workshops. 

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Golf World, Stansted

If you long for a family attraction with a quirky twist, make sure to put Golf World in Stansted on your list. This 1066-themed adventure golf park has 18 holes, with an additional bonus hole for longships. 

All these holes are designed to connect different places, from wooden knights to water wheels to mock castles and little towers. Hence, while you enjoy your golf session, you will get many figures to spot. 

Some golf holes are cunningly designed among mini sand traps and slopes, offering a deceptively simple appearance. Overall, the golf park provides a balance between instilling a challenging feeling and offering fun activities and sites for children.

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Leisure Island Fun Park, Canvey Island

Leisure Island Fun Park is the perfect spot if you’re looking for fun activities on Canvey Island and Essex. Located on the seafront, it is a mini theme park with rides suitable for children 18 months to 9 years old. 

Pick the train from the station from Southend town centre to Canvey Island, which takes no longer than 30 minutes. The bus stops directly in front of the park entrance. So, you can just get on and off without walking around the whole way through the town.

Leisure Island Fun Park has many great fun activities planned for kids. Make your kids enjoy different rides, including ladybird land and teacups, specifically designed for toddlers. Besides, the mini go-kart track and Blackbeard’s revenge are great options to fill your little thrill seekers with pleasure.

It is a better option than Southend’s Adventure Island if you want to do things in Essex with younger children. Furthermore, the island is budget-friendly. While wristbands are priced at £5 for an entire fun day, accompanying adults can enjoy free rides. Since opening times depend on the weather conditions and season, check the times before visiting the park.


Aqua Park, Lakeside

Slip, splash and slide your way to a summer holiday with the family at Aqua Park Lakeside in West Thurrock, Essex. You can let the kids splash around in their private pool or use our inflatable water slides.

This aqua park features over 30 obstacles, including trampolines, balance beams, bounce pillows, giant slides, and monkey bars. All these amazing obstacles are floating in the centre of Alexandra Lake beside Lakeside Shopping Centre.  

Aqua Park has been voted one of the greatest attractions at Lakeland’s lakeside shopping centre for kids, and it’s for a good reason too. Aqua Park should be your choice for an adventurous day if you have children above six years old. The park welcomes all the parents and accompanying adults, so your kids’ fun time won’t be boring for you!

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Frinton-on-Sea is a quiet seaside town that’s about 15 miles away from Colchester. It’s exactly as you’d expect: houses with gardens, cute little cottages on the beach and a picture-perfect promenade down to the seafront.

It was a famous seaside place for royalty and aristocracy. Pick up your ice cream from one of the many stalls and venture along the esplanade. Or you can sit on one of the benches and watch people play beach cricket.



If you want somewhere to explore with kids, you can’t miss out on Essex. There are many tourist attractions in and around Essex. However, it can be hard to find time to visit them all during the school holidays and a half term. Families with young children have many more options than adults and teenagers, who might want to visit somewhere more exciting.

With so many choices for kid-friendly sites, it can be difficult to choose which attractions to visit first. Therefore, we have put together a list of the best things to do for families and kids in Essex. Additionally, we gave a full description of each place.

Check out our guide to the best things to do in Essex with toddlers for more affordable ways to keep the family entertained during your holiday!

About The Author

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James is a writer who is a self-confessed kitchenware and coffee nerd and a strong advocate of Sundays, good butter, and warm sourdough.