Everyone knows that Essex is a fantastic place to live and work. But as a vacation spot, Essex still has many charms that aren’t widely known. Some of the best things to do in Essex in winter are known solely to the locals, and you might miss them if you’re not paying attention.
To help make sure that this doesn’t happen, we did a lot of research to find out several great things you can do in Essex even during winter. Here they are:
19 Best Things to Do in Essex
1. Swing by the Audley End House, Saffron Walden
The English Heritage describes the Audley End House as one of the finest county houses in the country. This one-of-a-kind mansion was built in the 17th century and is a sight to behold on a cold winter’s day.
Though the mansion retains much of its original Jacobean character, the gardens and grounds are a mishmash of styles that illustrate the evolution of garden design in Britain through the centuries.
This winter, you can bring your family to enjoy the mansion’s stunning scenery and rich history. You can also participate in interactive seasonal events at the mansion.
2. Sightseeing in the Valentines Mansion, Ilford
The Valentines Mansion, Ilford, is another great location to have fun and enjoy nature. Relax and unwind as you explore the mansion’s many beautiful gardens, like the Victorian rose garden and historic kitchen garden.
As you explore the mansion, keep an eye out for interesting sights like the dovecote, Long Water Canal, and rococo grottos. Also, don’t forget to visit the Animal Corner & Aviary to see Tinkerbell the Tortoise and other interesting animals. The mansion also offers a wide range of hands-on activities like role-playing, dressing up, storytelling, and object handling.
3. Visit the Chelmsford City Racecourse
Chelmsford City Racecourse hosts horse races and welcomes visitors all year round. With its many daytime and nighttime events, the thrilling racing activities can light up even the darkest of evenings in the dead of winter.
The one-of-a-kind champagne-fluted floodlights give the venue a unique intimacy and are an ideal setting for a memorable evening out. Additionally, you can visit Fairwood to spend quality time with your family. The Club restaurant is also a good spot for couples or singles looking for a special evening out.
4. Enjoy Some Wine at the Barleylands Farm, Billericay
There is no better place than Barleylands Farm park to enjoy indoor and outdoor play. There’s a ton of exciting stuff to do at this farm park, both indoors and out. They even have large play areas with slides, climbing structures, and bouncy floors for kids to enjoy.
This park’s themed days are extremely popular and have won numerous awards. It was designed from the ground up to give its visitors the fullest possible experience of being one with creativity, nature, and wildlife.
Furthermore, they offer all your favourites, including the Snakes Alive Reptile House and Birds of Prey. Also, “The Village,” a hub for artisans from around the globe, is a fantastic place for families to have fun!
5. Explore Colchester
It is common knowledge that the Romans invaded Britain nearly two millennia ago. However, did you know that Colchester is one of the oldest towns in Britain? Additionally, Colchester served as Britannia’s capital for many years before Boudica stormed the city and took it by force.
Colchester is home to a castle that’s over a thousand years old and two of Britain’s five Roman theatres. If you’re a history buff. Colchester should be at the top of your list of locations to visit in Essex. Let’s have a look at some of the best places in Colchester to visit:
The first place you’ll want to explore in Colchester is Colchester Castle. Colchester Castle is one of the town’s biggest attractions. The castle had fallen into disrepair since the 17th century. However, the Colchester Council purchased it in 1922, repaired it, and converted it into a museum.
The museum contains various displays, from antiquity to modern art. It also has a costume trunk where visitors can try on replicas of ancient Roman togas and World War I helmets.
If you’re not into history, don’t write off visiting Colchester just yet. Colchester Zoo, with its vast collection of animals, including rare tigers, penguins and komodo dragons, is a regular destination for Essex locals.
The zoo allows you to get up close with elephants, giraffes and other large animals during their feeding time. The zoo also has a new exhibit where visitors can interact with woolly mammoths and stroll alongside them through augmented reality.
6. Take a Tour of the Crouch Ridge Vineyard
The first places that come to mind when you think about vineyards are the sunny coasts of California or Italy. Only a few people think about the Essex countryside! However, hidden in the heart of the country lies a family-run vineyard that has been operating since 2010.
This vineyard grows grapes for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay wines. You can visit the Wine Cellar Shop and purchase locally-made wines. They also offer visitors several packages and experiences. For example, wine tasting starts at £25 per person and sparkling afternoon tea for two is £50.
Additionally, they offer private buggy rides, which costs £200. Furthermore, the vineyard offers on-site accommodation for guests who may prefer not to drive home after enjoying a day at the vineyard! Plus, the Wine Barn serves brunch, lunch, and tapas on its garden patio.
On the other hand, note that the Crouch Ridge Vineyard occasionally hosts holiday-themed events. Therefore, check their official website before visiting to see if they have any special events.
7. Winter Fun at Maldon
The Maldon district has plenty of fun and exciting activities to offer Essex tourists. One of the best places to visit in Maldon is Promenade Park. This large park is located on the banks of the River Chelmer and offers several different attractions.
The Promenade Park features a sandpit, a large playground, and a crabbing lake. A nice stroll along the promenade will lead you to the statue of Byrhtnoth, which looks over the river estuary. Byrhtnoth was an important military figure in the Battle of Maldon, which took place in the 10th century.
In addition to Promenade Park, the Museum of Power is another must-see site. This museum lies on the other side of Maldon (near Langford, moving towards Hatfield Peverel). The museum is filled with displays of old engines and steam pumps. The Museum of Power also has a tearoom, serving some tasty breakfasts.
8. Enjoy Some Chocolate Fixes at Truffle Shots
The Truffle Shots is one of the best places in Essex to satisfy your chocolate cravings. With over 30 varieties of their iconic truffle shots and chocolate chip cookies, it’s little wonder this shop has won prestigious international awards.
This store offers truffle shots with flavours like Macallan Whiskey Caramel, Morello Cherry, Miel Habanero, and Tellicherry Cardamom. They make their truffle shots in small batches.
Plus, they create their concoctions using the finest ingredients, which melt on your tongue as soon as you take a sip. These popular truffles are also free of alcohol and made fresh daily, making them the perfect gift for chocolate lovers.
9. Visit the Spa of Essex for a Relaxing Treat
You can find the Spa of Essex on South Main Street, not far from the heart of the Essex Village. It’s one of the best places in Essex to unwind with some relaxing body treatment. The facility covers an area of around 3 acres, and they strictly maintain high levels of hygiene.
The Spa of Essex offers cosmetic treatments, Spa services, Swedish massage, and pedicures. Furthermore, there is a waiting area, a sauna, and a relaxing area with low lighting and comfortable seating. They also offer facials, couples massage, deep tissue massage, and other ways to relax and rejuvenate.
Plus, they organise special events like Valentine’s Day parties, spa parties, and baby showers. Also, they have a team of attentive staff, skilled estheticians, and professional therapists to make sure you get the most out of your time and money.
10. Cliffs Pavilion Theatre
Cliffs Pavilion is one of the most popular places in the county to see a theatre or musical. The Cliffs Pavilion theatre hosts several famous shows yearly, such as Aladdin and Peter Pan. Several musical legends, like Paul McCartney, Oasis, and Blur, have also performed at the Pavilion. With its proximity to the Southend coastline, this theatre district provides a perfect backdrop for one of Essex’s busiest and most successful performing arts centres.
11. View Stunning Local Art at the Fry Public Art Gallery, Saffron Walden
The Fry Public Art Gallery is the perfect spot to get lost in the beauty of local art. It features a vast collection of artworks from the 20th century and beyond, including illustrations, paintings, wallpapers, and decorative designs.
The artwork on display changes regularly so visitors can see new works whenever they return. This means each trip to the gallery offers something new.
12. Explore Contemporary Fine Art at the Cooper and Smith Gallery
The Cooper and Smith Gallery is another great place in Essex to explore fine contemporary artwork. This art gallery has nearly 5,000 square feet of display space, now occupied by several great artworks. This gallery is deeply rooted in tradition and features oil paintings done using traditional drawing techniques.
The gallery is the perfect place for both new and experienced collectors to take in some stunning art, from abstraction to realism. The gallery features the works of Tom Root, James Coe, Molly McDonald, Merrill French, and other incredible artists. Additionally, the gallery throws a variety of art displays and other events throughout the year.
13. Ride Around Hadleigh Park
Hadleigh park is one of the largest green spaces in Essex. This park offers tons of thrilling activities for everyone, from breathtaking vistas of the Thames Estuary to beautiful countryside to superb cycling trails.
This park is also home to one of the best mountain bike courses. Since the park played host to the mountain bike competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it has gained a reputation as a world-class sports venue.
The Hadleigh park features a 400-space car park, bike hire, cafe, workshop, cycling trails, and kid’s play area. Also, before riding, you can head to the park’s Skills Area to develop your skill and confidence. However, if you don’t have a bike, you can rent a mountain bike for a small fee.
Hadleigh’s trails provide a stunning view of the Thames estuary and the picturesque Hadleigh Castle. On the other hand, this park is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. With its varied grasslands and woods, the area is home to various animals, like rabbits, adders, hares, stoats, and grass snakes.
14. Enjoy a Rollercoaster Ride at the Adventure Island
If you’re looking for a rollercoaster and some outdoor arcade games, look no further than Essex’s own Adventure Island. While admission is free, note that you still need to purchase tokens to go on rides. The rides are more kid-friendly due to their smaller size.
However, if you’re on the beach and want to try a few, you can buy tokens whenever you like. Additionally, you can purchase a day pass that allows for unlimited use of the candy floss, water slides, and dodgems for the duration of your visit.
15. Tour Essex Steam Train and Riverboat
Touring the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat allows you to enjoy two of the most charming forms of transportation from the old days. It is a relaxing 2.5 hours round trip, and there is stunning scenery to enjoy along the way.
Your tour starts at Essex Station. From there, you’ll ride in comfortable coaches to the riverboat, where your adventure will begin. The riverboat will tour you around the Connecticut River, where you can watch wildlife and listen to local musicians. After your breezy river cruise, the train will bring you back to Essex Station.
16. Checkout Artefacts at the Connecticut River Museum
The Connecticut River Museum has been around since 1813, making it as old as the river itself. It is an educational and cultural centre dedicated to studying and preserving the river’s maritime heritage. The museum spans three stories and is located in a historic steamboat warehouse built in 1878.
It is one of the few such buildings still standing on the waterway. Here, you’ll find all sorts of navigation equipment, maritime-related artefacts, and nautical artwork – much of which was generously donated by the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford.
Also, the shipbuilding exhibition features numerous interesting artefacts like historical maps and models of steamboats. A full-scale replica of the Turtle (the first American submarine) is also present at this museum, which will no doubt wow you.
17. Savour Delicious Seafood at Black Seal Seafood Grille
If you’re searching for authentic local dishes in Essex, the Black Seal is where you need to go. Located on Main Street, not far from the Essex Historical Society, this restaurant has a nostalgic New England vibe and serves tasty seafood.
The restaurant’s menu has something for everyone, from grilled seafood and spaghetti to burgers and the legendary “Whittingly” sandwich. Along with its contemporary menu options, the restaurant also serves classic pub fare paired with a large selection of wines and brews. Plus, the restaurant is great for a family to dine out and offers vegetarian options.
18. Visit the Oyster Bar for the World’s Best Oysters
Another great spot to enjoy the real taste of Essex is the Oyster Bar. The Oyster Bar has been a favourite among locals and visitors since it opened in 2006. It is popular for its fresh seafood and boasts of offering the “best oysters in the world.”
The oysters are as local as it gets, having been bred in West Mersea and processed just next to the restaurant. Thanks to its fully licensed restaurant, the Oyster Bar is also a great place to enjoy a meal and some fresh air from the seaside.
19. Make a Stop at The Griswold Inn
Enjoy a romantic lunch with your loved one in the elegant atmosphere of the Griswold Inn’s black-tie dining room. This historic restaurant is as old as America itself. The Griswold Inn has been serving traditional American dishes using fresh, local ingredients since 1776.
When put together, these ingredients create an irresistible aroma and flavour profile that will please even the pickiest eater. The seasonal menus are prepared by the restaurant’s Executive Chef Toppin, who has won numerous awards for his culinary skills. The restaurant serves high-quality dishes like pork chops, fresh seafood, and aged beef.
The natural splendour of Essex is not to be underestimated. There are many hidden jewels waiting to be found. Whether you love learning about centuries-old traditions or taking a quiet stroll through the woods, you will undoubtedly be spoiled for choice in this breathtaking county.
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