What’s on locally this half term? We know!
The holidays are looming yet again, but panic not. We’ve rounded up 20 of the most brilliant things going on in Essex this half term – just add kids
Spring’s turning into summer, the temperature’s (reluctantly, very reluctantly) climbing, and the kids are biting at the bit to start half term. Will they be running bored circles around the kitchen table? Not on our watch! With life getting back on track, there’s plenty to entertain the kids with over the holiday.
SOMETHING FOR ADVENTURERS
Got some budding adrenaline junkies on your hands? Rock up to Half-Term High Ropes at Nuclear in Brentwood, and send them high into the sky – it just happens to be the biggest high-rope treetop challenge in the county. Especially for the spring school holidays, the courses will be open seven days a week, which means extra climbing time.
Or, if you’re looking for something a little more extensive, sign your kid up for a Smash Camp at Stubbers Adventure Centre in Upminster, suitable for ages 5½–16. Running every school holiday with early drop-off and late pickup, these entail an action-packed schedule of land, water, air and motoring adventures in one 130-acre site.
Still not enough adrenaline? Try the obstacle courses at Brentwood’s Wild Forest, or head to Adventure Island theme park in Southend, which has the added (and convincing) benefit of being free entry. Younger thrill-seekers will be glad that Kid’s Kingdom Indoor Play is open again from 17 May.
SOMETHING FOR ANIMAL LOVERS
After something cute and fluffy for the littlies? Barleylands Farm Park in Billericay is holding a Woolly Weekend on 29-30 May, where you can watch the shearers in action and get stuck in with some fun woolly crafts. The farm, is of course, home to a range of charming barnyard friends, but from 31 May to 6 June, it will also be hosting Magical Mayhem with the magician Skittleman. This entails shows throughout each day, as well as a magic trail with prizes scattered throughout the farm. Book tickets here.
For animals on a smaller scale, you can’t miss Wildlife Week at Audley End Miniature Railway in Saffron Walden. Revolving around their brand-new Nature Corner, this will teach children all about little creatures, from tiny ants to chirping birds. Kids can tackle a Wildlife Week Worksheet, watch interactive shows throughout each day, take a 1.5 mile train ride deep into the Audley End woods, go on a captivating Fairy and Elf Walk, and get stuck in with the Adventure Play Area.
Another family farm worth visiting is Marsh Farm near Chelmsford, where — as well as the obligatory barnyard staples — you’ll spot a range of familiar characters wandering past the pigs from 29 May to 6 June. Get your kids to dress up too, and join the Superheroes & Princesses for animals, crazy golf and more.
After a few wilder characters? Then head for a Walkabout in the Wild at Sealife Adventure, who are offering tours of their outside areas (no rough deal: there are monkeys, meerkats, penguins and otters, just to start) for only £5 at the moment.
Whether you’ve got a four-legged friend of your own or just leading around some pooch-obsessives, head for the All About Dogs Show at Hyland Estate near Chelmsford on 30-31 May. This entails two days packed with dog shows, exciting arena displays, expert advice and lots of fun have-a-go activities.
SOMETHING FOR DINO FANS
Perhaps your kids are of the opinion that if it ain’t got scales and died 66 million years ago, it ain’t worth their attention. Just for them, we have two dinosaur events to pick from this half term (or, indeed, attend both). From 29 May to 6 June, Lee Valley Animal Adventure Park at Waltham Abbey are holding their Big Dinosaur Day Out. Guests can meet dinosaurs, learn facts, and dig for prehistoric fossils – and that’s on top of the usual Lee Valley favourites.
Also from 29 May to 6 June is Dinosaurs Unleashed at Old MacDonald’s Farm & Fun Park near Brentwood. Here you can get up close and personal with their realistic six-foot dinosaur (and some of his mischievous babies), complete a dino trail for prizes, and enjoy performances.
SOMETHING FOR HISTORY BUFFS
Try the Knights of Royal England Joust at Hedingham Castle, 29-31 May, for plenty of Medieval action (though prepare to be disappointed if, like me, you always half expect Heath Ledger). There will be two jousts to enjoy each day, and a host of displays, musicians, archery, food stalls and more across the gardens. Also at Hedingham Castle is a brand-new escape room on the top floor from 29 May. This asks you to help the magical Headmistress Redwind who has become trapped in an old painting and needs you to figure how to reverse her spell. Recommended for ages 10+, it’s fun and challenging for adults too.
On 30 May, head on over to the Fun For Kids Community Day at the Museum of Power, Langford. Expect loads of activities and entertainment for the littlies, plus science shows with Mad Professor Dean. There’ll also be (deep breath) crafts, face painting, go karts, bouncy castles, museum hunts, a magician, storytelling, and a whirl on the miniature steam train (under-15s get one ride for free).
Later in the week, Colchester Castle is hosting a Jolly Jester Trail from 31 May to 6 June, which asks if you can beat the Castle’s jester by solving clues and answering his riddles along a packed activity trail.
SOMETHING FOR ADRENALINE JUNKIES
Teens are usually a tough crowd, but even they may raise an interested eyebrow at this – a whirl around Brentwood Go Karting. Billed as the South-East’s widest and fastest outdoor go karting race track, suitable for enthusiasts of all skill levels, you could always don a helmet and show them how it’s done, as you yell, “Eat my dust, baby!”
Even the most devoted video gamers will unplug for a day spent at Laser Mayhem, in Abridge. With all-bells-whistling infra-red equipment and 20 different playing fields, complete with life-size propers (think 38-ton tanks and you’re on the right track), it’s like playing a computer game but in real life.
Got a teen who fancies themselves as being all mature and sophis? Then drop them off at Row and Dine at Dedham Vale Boathouse from 28 May, for an hour rowing on the River Stour followed by a two-course meal for only £21.95pp.
And finally for those who like their thrills with lots of spills, make a beeline for the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Cross (a teeny hop across the border to Herts). As this adventure lovers go-to, you can try out white water rafting, tubing or hydrospeeding on the rapids.
WIN! Fancy unleashing your wild side on the rapids for free? Then click here for your chance to scoop a White Water Voucher for Two!