20 things to do in Essex over the May bank holidays

PUBLISHED: 12:05 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:08 08 September 2020

Layer Marney Tower

Layer Marney Tower


What’s not to like about the month of May? The long months of summer stretch out before us in expectation, plus there are two Bank Holidays to get out and enjoy the warmer weather. Essex Life helps you make the most of this special time with some great ideas for top family days out in the county

1) Terry Pratchett’s Lords and Ladies | 2 to 4 May | 7.45pm

Towngate Theatre, St. Martins Square, Basildon SS14 1DL

The Towngate Theatre welcomes a hilarious, fast-moving and exciting adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s well-loved novel, Lords and Ladies. Here, we meet the witches of Lancre: Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who are the Discworld’s only hope of rescue from Elves whose outwardly glamorous exterior hides a dark and sinister purpose.

The witches are aided and hindered, in equal measure, by Rude Mechanicals, Wizards, naïve young witches, the soon to be Queen Magrat Garlick and a diminutive highwayman aka ‘the world’s second greatest lover’.

Admission: From £11

2) Essex Craft & Design Show | 3 to 6 May | 10am to 5pm

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Creephedge Lane, Chelmsford CM3 8ET

The Essex Craft & Design show returns to RHS Garden Hyde Hall for its tenth year and is set to be even bigger and better! It will be showcasing more than 80 talented artists, craftspeople and designer makers selling fine art, photography, jewellery, ceramics, textiles and many more contemporary crafts.

This is a great opportunity to see amazing arts and crafts, but also to enjoy this beautiful venue on the brink of summer.

Admission: Prices vary

3) South Essex Bark for Life | May 4 | 9.45am

Canvey Heights Country Park, Canvey Island SS8 8NB

Come and support The South Essex Bark for Life event all in aid of Cancer Research. It is a fun, varied route of 5k or 10k around Canvey Heights Country Park, boasting outstanding estuary views making it the perfect setting for a walk with your canine friends.

Every registered participant will receive a medal, doggy bag and a certificate for their dog. There will also be food and refreshments, stalls, face painting, canine obstacles on the route and much more.

4) Bank Holiday Special | 4 to 6 May | From 10am

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey EN9 1JY

The Royal Gunpowder Mills is hosting a spectacular weekend full of fun, which will guarantee to keep you all entertained all day.

There will be a variety of exciting history, heritage, science and nature activities, and Professor Nitrate and his team will be on hand with some interactive science and musket firing. There are many other exciting elements to be revealed so visit the website for details.

Admission: Adults £10.50, children £8.50, concessions £9, and family tickets are also available.

5) Kids for a Quid | 4 to 6 May | Times vary

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park, South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford CM3 5WP

Yes, you heard it right, Marsh Farm is running a special Kids for a Quid offer over the May Half Term, so children can visit for just £1 when accompanied by a paying adult.

There will be a full day of fun waiting for you — go wild in the soft play barn, take a tractor and trailer ride through the country park, build a den, jump on the bouncy pillows, play mini golf and meet the wonderful farmyard friends including spring lambs and chicks.

Admission: Prices vary

6) Super Hero Weekend | 4 to 6 May | From 10am

Lee Valley Park Farms, Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey EN9 2EF

Visit Lee Valley Park Farms this May and be part of a weekend with some very magical moments! Discover the super powers and magical abilities of the farmyard animals, get your face painted to get you into character and embark on a magical heroic quest.

There will also be other extra special events that will make your trip to the farm even more exciting, so this event is definitely not one to be missed.

Admission: Prices vary

7) Beer Festival | 4 and 5 May | Noon to 8pm

Chelmsford City Racecourse, Chelmsford CM3 1QP

Join Chelmsford City Racecourse for its spectacular beer festival this Bank Holiday Weekend. Entertaining you with some fun-loving live music from FUNK2K on Saturday and The Bavarian Stompers on Sunday, gives you the chance to dance the day away.

But of course, it wouldn’t be a beer festival without a huge selection of more than 60 different beers and ciders from all around the world to whet your appetite. (Please note, there will not be a race day for this event)

Admission: Prices vary

8) All the King’s Horses | 5 and 6 May | 10.30am to 5pm

Audley End House and Gardens, Audley End Road Saffron Walden CB11 4JF

It is 1670 and King Charles II is hosting a horse race, stopping off at his new palace at Audley End on the way to Newmarket. Join the merry monarch for a lavish, glamorous day of celebration, and get swept up in the excitement and tension of a day at the races when the king’s Cavalier soldiers race their horses.

Soak up the indulgence and fun of the restoration period. There will be lots of hands-on activities for the little ones too.

Admission: Prices Vary

9) The Weald Park Country Show | 5 and 6 May | 10am to 5pm

The Weald Country Park, Brentwood CM14 5QS

If you are looking for lots of laughs this is the perfect family day out. See amazing attractions from Jonathan Marshall (horse stuntsman from Poldark and Game of Thrones), falconry and heavy horse displays, motorbike stunt teams and Britain’s Got Talent’s Dima and his dogs.

For foodies there will be more than 40 small producers on site and you can enjoy cookery demonstrations from amazing professional chefs. Plus, dog shows with over 22 classes a day, a K9 Security Display and other dog activities. Don’t forget the Festivals of Kids with the wonderful Gemma’s Petting Farm, Punch and Judy Show, circus aerial displays and much more.

Admission: Prices vary

10) Essex Craft Guild Fair | 5 and 6 May | 11am to 4pm

Coggeshall Grange Barn, Grange Hill, Coggeshall CO6 1RE

One of Europe’s oldest timber-framed buildings, Coggeshall Grange Barn is a perfect location for the return of the Essex Craft Guild event.

This Grade I listed venue is delighted to welcome back this highly-acclaimed event for another weekend of crafts and exciting, innovative products. Come down to see the exceptional skills of this group.

Admission: Adults £2.50 and children £1

11) Fun 4 Kids | 5 May | 10am to 4pm

Museum of Power, Steam Pumping Station, Hatfield Road, Langford CM9 6QA

Looking for something fun to keep the children entertained? The former water pumping station, The Museum of Power, is the place to be this May Bank Holiday Weekend.

It has so many exciting children’s activities on offer, including access to a free ride on the miniature railway for children up to 15-years-old, a huge range of fun games, a bouncy castle, animal handling, sweets and treats, face painting, crafts and stalls, plus much more. (Charges may apply).

Admission: Adults £6 and concessions £5

12) Craft Market | 6 May | 9am to 5pm

Thaxted Craft Market, Margaret Gardens Thaxted CM6 2QN

Who doesn’t like a mooch around when shopping? Experience real authentic craft goods and other items such as plants, collectables, jewellery and books. It’s great for those who love to see what’s new and witness beautiful, handmade crafts.

Also, discover original gifts for your loved ones as you never know what you might find, and perhaps even a treat for yourself. This event is in aid of Thaxted Scouts so any support helps.

Admission: Free

13) All About Dogs Show | 26 and 27 May | Times vary

Hylands House, London Road, Writtle, Chelmsford CM2 8WQ

Perhaps the biggest ever All About Dogs Show is returning to Essex! Bring your dogs of all shapes and sizes to join the fun at Hylands Park for two days of exciting arena displays, expert advice, shopping and lots of have-a-go activities.

However, if you don’t have a dog, there is plenty of fun for humans too, such as a fun dog show, main area displays, the village green, shopping and lots of other activities to get involved in.

Admission: Prices vary

14) Companye of Merrie Folke | 26 and 27 May | Times vary

Layer Marney Tower, Layer Marney CO5 9US

The Companye of Merrie Folke is a group of experienced historical re-enactors, primarily portraying the domestic and social lives of Tudor people. Meet the baker and Baxter as they cook bread in their ‘dragon’ oven or marvel at the work of the basket maker and weaver.

But be suspicious of the ‘cures’ on offer from the cunning man, his charms are not to be relied on. This is a chance to mingle and relax amidst the Tudors, feeling for their struggles and problems as well as their ways of fun and entertainment.

Admission: Prices vary

15) Open Gardens | 26 and 27 May | 2pm to 5pm

The Hall, Tendring CO16 0BP

If you want to see some beautiful gardens, visit The Hall as it opens its doors this Bank Holiday Weekend. There is so much to see, including large banks of rhododendrons and azaleas, a formal rose garden, a newly added sensory garden, a pond with a waterfall and water lilies, and a kitchen garden.

There will be a number of attractions, including local musicians, bands, craft stalls, a display of classic cars and an owl display. Plus, exciting activities for children, including a hedgehog hunt, a photo competition and a hunt for the Green Man.

Admission: £5 per person and under 12 Free

16) Coffee and Cars | 26 May | 9am to 1pm

Museum of Power, Hatfield Road, Langford, Maldon CM9 6QA

Car enthusiasts will love The Museum of Power’s special monthly meeting in May. Bring along your classic and modern vehicles together with anything else that might be of interest for the meeting and share your passion with others.

Also, the Steam Pump Tea Room will be open serving delicious breakfasts, hot and cold food, fresh homemade cakes and lots of other refreshments.

Admission: Donations will be appreciated

17) Forest School Fun Sundays | 26 May | 2pm to 4pm

Hanningfield Reservoir Visitors Centre, Hawkswood Road, Downham, Billericay CM11 1WT

Essex Wildlife Trust is hosting a fun, interactive, hands-on event that every child will love to get stuck in to.

The afternoon includes bug hunting, building dens, a rope walk, woodland crafts, using tools, creating wild art, playing woodland games, learning how to light fires and lots more fun outdoor activities. The only limit is your imagination!

Admission: Suggested donation £6 per child and children must be accompanied by an adult

18) Raver Tots | 27 May | Noon to 5pm

Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre, Southend on Sea SS2 4FA

The nation’s biggest kid-friendly rave is coming to Essex. This fantastic, fun family festival is the best of British rave culture with tons of children’s fun suitable for all ages.

The Raver Tots stage will showcase garage nation, drum and bass, Wideboys, Cartier, Hyperactive, free rides, huge balloons, giant parachute games lots of multi-sensory fun and activities for all age play areas. All music is at safe levels for little ears.

Admission: Prices vary

19) Jazz Afternoon Tea | 27 May | From noon

Wivenhoe House Hotel, Park Road, Wivenhoe, Colchester CO4 3SQ

After a successful sell-out event last year, Good Times Jazz’ will be back performing popular jazz tunes of the 1920/30s under the stunning Garden Gazebo at the Wivenhoe House Hotel. Guests will be seated al fresco style overlooking the sunken lawn and beautiful parkland grounds, where traditional handmade afternoon tea will be served.

Expect an afternoon of delightful music, performed by a band who enjoy playing as much as you will enjoy listening.

Admission: From £32

20) Magical Woodland Elves and Fairies | 28 to 30 May | 10.30am to noon & 1pm to 2.30pm

National Trust Hatfield Forest, Takeley CM22 6NE

Explore Hatfield Forest and join them for this great interactive event for children. Here you can join the learning team and search for magical elves and fairies throughout the beautiful woodland, look for hidden fairy doors and see what other exciting things you will discover along the way.

Also, you can make your very own woodland wand to take home with you.

Admission: £7


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