Museums, theme parks, zoos and National Trust properties now open
- Credit: Archant
Museums, heritage attractions and theme parks have reopened to the public following the pandemic - but many require you to book in advance. See our guide to what’s open in Suffolk and Essex, what restrictions are in place and how you book your place.
Maldon Rd, Heckfordbridge, Colchester CO3 0SL
Admission: Adult: £21; Concs: £19, Child: £15
Colchester Zoo, one of the top zoos and conservation centres in the country, home to 220 species of animal, bird and reptile, has re-opened with extensive social distancing to make sure staff and visitors are safe. The majority of the 60 acre site is open-air, with wide pathways and open areas and is an ideal location for those who would like to venture outside and reconnect with nature but within a safe environment.
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The zoo have introduced a number of restrictions and conditions including: restrictions on the number of visitors per day, a one-way route to ensure social distancing measures are maintained, all visitors, including passholders, must buy/reserve tickets in advance online, tickets will be available online in 30-minute time slots to stagger arrivals throughout the day. All visitors are being asked to bring face coverings and wash hands regularly during their visit. Additional hand sanitising stations are going to be in place throughout the park and for those who require them, face masks will be available to buy.
Tickets must be booked in advance on the zoo’s website.
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Kenninghall Rd, Banham NR16 2HE
Admission: Adult: £20, Child: £15, disabled/carer: £10
The zoo on the Suffolk/Norfolk border has re-opened and has introduced extensive measures to ensure staff, visitors and animals remain safe. Visitors and members will need to book online for a timed entrance slot every hour which prevents any queues forming. You can book one family visit every three days to ensure a fair distribution of tickets.
There will be separate entrance and exit points meaning no overlap in guests. More than 200 new signs with reminders to wash hands, keep social distance and follow new one way rules. Hand washing or sanitisers at over 20 points throughout each zoo and prior to entrance and unisex toilets which will be one family at a time with enhanced cleaning schedule.
Extra catering outlets with outdoor hatches have been installed, no indoor eating to be allowed and all outdoor seating to be spaced to ensure good distance from other families.
A limited range of outdoor animal experiences will continue to run but all indoor animal experiences to be closed for this summer period.
Tickets should be booked online at the zoo’s website.
Whites Lane, Kessingland, Lowestoft NR33 7TF
Admission: Adult: £20, Child: £15, disabled/carer: £10
Like its sister site, Banham Zoo, Africa Alive has re-opened as a cashless site, with a socially distanced, one way route around the site with timed entry, dictated by a pre-booked ticket system –– limited to 250 slots per hour. WiFi in the car park means that visitors on the day can book slots from the safety of their cars but may have to wait sometime for slots to become available.
All playground equipment, hand stamping equipment, woodland trail slides and swings, any enclosures where animals can be touched will be closed because of social distancing requirements.
The Train round site to be closed for this summer period. All indoor animal experiences will be closed for this summer period but a limited range of outdoor animal experiences will continue to run.
You should book tickets and timeslots on the park’s website.
Museum of East Anglian Life
Iliffe Way, Stowmarket IP14 1SL
Admission: Adult: £12, Concs: £10, Child: £8, Family: £35
With 17 historic buildings set in 75 acres of beautiful countryside, the Museum of East Anglian Life is the largest independent museum in Suffolk. The museum is an educational charity caring for more than 40,000 objects – once the everyday items of East Anglian life. The collection has a particular focus on the production of food and the region’s social history, reflecting our strong agricultural character.
The museum and the Osier Cafe has now re-opened. You do not have to book in advance but it will help if you do. This summer’s temporary exhibition is The Year I went Heywire, a new art collection made from litter discarded by telecom operatives in Woolpit and surrounding Suffolk villages.
What do you do when you see litter? Ignore it or pick it up, collect it and make it into art? That’s exactly what artist Chrissie O’Connor has done.
Chrissie’s frustration began in 2015 when she started to notice litter discarded by telecom engineers at junction boxes in her home of Woolpit. She saw that lots of small pieces of litter add up to a much larger global impact.
The work includes art made from found discarded materials such as crimp connectors, wire clippings, cable ties, crocodile clips, electrical wiring and general debris. A particularly poignant piece is the bunting containing plastic debris collected over the course of 116 days.
Tickets can be booked on the museum’s website.
Family Theme Park, Leisure Way, Lowestoft, NR32 4TZ
Online Admission: from £15.50; children under 90cm free; discounts for disabled, carers, NHS staff, lifeboat crews, military personnel and members of emergency services.
The park is open again from the beginning of July but only to people who book in advance. There are limited numbers being given entry in order to maintain social distancing regulations. Most of the 35 rides are currently operating but some including the mini pirate ship, Woody’s Cub House and Woody Copters have been closed because of social distancing measures. Fireball, The Jolly Roger and Timber Falls are out of action because of refurbishment work.
No cash transactions will be allowed on the park – only contactless card payments will be accepted.
Those with season passes will also need to book an entry time online. Booking and further information on the website.
Moyse’s Hall Museum
Market Place, Bury St Edmunds, IP33 1DX
Admission: Adult: £5, Concs: £3, Child: £3, Family: £15
The Museum has now fully re-opened. Situated in a beautiful medieval building, Moyse’s Hall Museum houses eclectic collections and exhibitions, and hosts events ranging from themed craft workshops for all the family to historical talks and lectures.
Moyse’s Hall will be offering families the chance to book onto special Horrible Histories inspired tours every Wednesday and Friday. Every Monday the museum will offer the public the chance to see the ‘hidden histories’ of the collection up close and like never seen before.
On Tuesdays the heritage team will be creating a new treasure hunt around the museum; with mini-mission and activities along the way. Every Thursday will include demonstrations of historic trade, some grotty and some beautiful; including history, science and maths learning outcomes.
The museum offers a fascinating view into the past with collections that document the foundation of the early town – from the creation and dissolution of the abbey, to prison paraphernalia and artefacts providing intriguing insights into superstition and witchcraft.
In addition to the world class collection of rare timepieces bequeathed by musician and clock collector Frederic Gershom Parkington and a gallery dedicated to the Suffolk Regiment, the museum also houses an impressive art collection. The current exhibition, East Anglian Artists and their Contemporaries, runs until September 30. It features local artists like Rose Mead, Henry Bunbury and Sybil Andrews and puts them in context alongside contemporaries like Sir Peter Lely, Gerard Soest, James Tissot and Thomas Rowlandson.
The museum has Covid safety measures in place including: contactless payment for entry and the shops (no cash payments) and restricted numbers being admitted.
There are more details on the museum website.
West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village
Icklingham Road, West Stow, IP28 6HG
Admission: Adult: £6; Child: £3; Family: £16
West Stow is the site of an early Anglo-Saxon village, occupied from AD 420-650, over 400 years before the Norman Conquest.
One of England’s great archaeological sites, West Stow has extensive indoor galleries and a stunning recreation of an Anglo-Saxon village surrounded by 125 acres of unspoilt countryside.
Visitors to West Stow can explore history and nature, watch a film, dress up as an Anglo-Saxon or say hello to the rare breed pigs and chickens. Due to the presence of livestock, assistance dogs only are permitted in the Anglo-Saxon Village.
The reconstructed village now consists of eight buildings including a farmer’s house, a craft building, a weaver’s house and a hall building.
Surrounding the Anglo Saxon Village and with 125 acres of unspoilt countryside, trails, heath and woodland walks, there is plenty to explore at West Stow Country Park.
For wildlife enthusiasts there are two bird hides and a bird feeding area as well as a lake and the River Lark with all the life that this attracts. Throughout August family fun trails will be available every day of the week.
Every August Wednesday at West Stow will be Crafty Wednesday when there will be an opportunity to book onto a craft activity session in the village. Each weekend throughout the month there will also be demonstrations and activities in the village.
West Stow will be hosting The Real Middle-Earth Tour on Sunday July 26, Sunday August 23, and Saturday September 19 2020. Find out about the links between Tolkien and the Anglo-Saxon world on a guided tour from a member of the Tolkien Society and a Middle-earth enthusiast.
There will also be courses during the summer introducing visitors to the world of archery and the longbow in particular. For further details check the website for up-to-date information.
Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester CO1 1JH
Admission: Children and Families: Free, Exhibitions: Free
Firstsite in Colchester is poised to reopen on Friday July 24 and promises a packed programme of art and culture to help everyone to reflect, refresh and reconnect.
The doors open at 10am, with a raft of new measures in place to provide visitors with a calm, secure and comfortable visit. Visitors do not have to book tickets to attend, but numbers will be carefully managed throughout the day to maintain two-metre physical distancing, along with a one-way path throughout. Hand sanitiser stations have been installed at key points in the building.
For added health, security and peace of mind for visitors and staff, Firstsite has also installed Perspex screens at locations such as the Welcome Desk and shop till, and staff will wear PPE in food preparation areas and where social distancing is difficult to maintain. Only cashless payments will now be accepted. The wearing of face coverings will be encouraged upon entering the building and will be required in the Firstsite shop.
Firstsite will be hosting a number of new and extended exhibitions, which explore themes of well-being, connection, creativity and community:
Colchester and Ipswich Art Societies: Borders: brings together landscape pieces from over 120 local artists, depicting their mutual border, the River Stour. Through painting, print, sculpture and textile, the exhibition as a whole reflects the lure of the river as a subject. Hung geographically to mirror the flow of the river, visitors are encouraged to take a trip downstream, to encounter expressions of the river and the landscape and life that surrounds it. It’s a trip that celebrates the thriving creativity of the region, the joy of making and the enjoyment and well-being gained through experiencing art.
Afro Futures – UK: Unravelling New Futures reopens on July 24. It explores how black experience, technology and historical narratives can inspire new ways of thinking and help us imagine new collective futures.
Sonia Coode-Adams: Lockdown Garden opens on July 24 and features tranquil watercolour landscapes of the garden at Feeringbury Manor, created by the artist during the imposed lockdown. Whilst shielding, Sonia Coode-Adams took the opportunity to return to painting after a hiatus of many years, and through this series of artworks she celebrates the garden and explores the soothing influence of nature as the landscape transitions from spring to summer.
Tell Me The Story Of All These Things which was due to open in late March prior to lockdown, now opens on Friday July 24, and runs until October 11. It brings artworks by some of Britain’s most celebrated artists, including Turner Prize nominees Tracey Emin and Cornelia Parker and Turner Prize-winner Gillian Wearing CBE, to Colchester in this new exhibition presented by Firstsite and the Arts Council Collection.
Firstsite is also hosting Holiday Fun, a variety of safe, socially-distanced activities for children. Coaches from Colchester United, will be leading a series of physical games and challenges. Free nutritious lunches will be available to any family who feels they will benefit from this service and all children attending either activity will receive a free creative activity to take home at the end of the day. While all activities are free, booking is essential.
High St, Ipswich IP1 3QH
Admission: Free but timed entry essential
The museum has now re-opened but visitors will have to book in advance. You can book your visit up to seven days in advance, either online or by calling 01473 433100 between 9.30am and 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.
Once inside, there are new one-way systems in place with plenty of arrows and signage to help show you the way and hand sanitising stations have installed throughout.There are no areas for waiting, so visitors are requested not to arrive more than five minutes before their start time.
Due to social distancing and safety guidelines, some seating has been removed and interactive displays and some areas of the museum may be inaccessible. Toilets will be available but will have a limited capacity.
Soane St, Ipswich IP4 2BE
Admission: Free but timed entry essential
Christchurch Mansion and the Wolsey Gallery, has reopened and the critically acclaimed Ed Sheeran exhibition: Made in Suffolk has been extended until November. Timed entry visits are simple to book, just pick a time between 10am – 4.30pm (Tuesday – Saturday) and 11am – 4.30pm (Sundays). You can ask our team any questions or discuss special requirements when you phone.
You can book your visit up to seven days in advance. Tickets can be booked online or by calling 01473 433100 between the hours of 9.30am – 5.30pm (Monday – Friday). Subject to availability you may be able to visit the same day as booking. Entrance to the mansion is through the backdoor and the main entrance onto the front lawn is being used as the exit.
You can book up to six people from the same household/bubble per timed entry. Your contact information will be held on record for 21 days from the date of your visit to assist with Test and Trace if required.
Please note that your ticket will not allow you re-entry all day. Your visit will be concluded once you exit the museum. There is no time limit for your visit, but visitors are asked to follow the one-way system.
Tranmer House, Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 3DJ
Admission: Adult: £5; Child: £2.50, Family: £12.50
The estate walks at Sutton Hoo, home of Saxon Kings, along with the Keepers’ Café have reopened and you’ll need to book your tickets by 3pm the day before your visit. Members can book for free, while non-members will need to pay when booking. Please note: people who haven’t booked will be turned away.
Tickets can be booked on the National Trust website.
The Rotunda, Horringer, Bury St Edmunds IP29 5QE
Admission: Adult: £8, Child: £4, Family: £20
Ickworth house with its classical Rotunda, East and West Wings forms the centrepiece of the Ickworth estate. It reflects its former owners, the Hervey Family’s tenacious spirit and has been preserved by the custodianship and influence of unconventional men and women over successive generations.
While the house remains closed, the park and gardens are reopening and visitors will need to book tickets by 3pm the day before your visit. Members can book for free, while non-members will need to pay when booking. Tickets will be released every Friday. People who haven’t booked will sadly be turned away.
Tickets can be booked on the National Trust website.
Colchester Castle Park, CO1 1TJ
Admission: Adult: £10, Child: £5.95, Student & Concs: £6.95
After many months with its historic doors closed to the public, Colchester Castle iwill re-open on Thursday, July 23.
However, when its doors are swung open things may look a little different, but this is to ensure everyone is kept and feels safe. Visitors to the castle are asked to call ahead and book a timed slot. This is to make sure that the Castle doesn’t have too many people in the building at any one time, and that everyone has plenty of opportunity to enjoy the exhibits.
The new timed entry slots are easy to book, simply pick a time between 10am and 4pm (Mon-Sat) or 11am and 4pm (Sun) and call the booking desk on 01206 282939. You will still need to call if you have a Resident Pass, just make sure you have your pass details handy.
Arrive no more than five minutes before your booked time. Markers will be in place and you will be asked to abide by social distancing rules to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone.
Once inside the Castle your journey through history will be directed by a new one-way system. Don’t worry, you will still have plenty of time to stop and look at the exhibits as always but do be mindful of other visitors and remember to socially distance.
Some interactive exhibits may not be available, but the team will be trying to keep things as normal as possible. Hand sanitiser stations will be available along the way, too, and new signage will guide visitors safely through their time exploring the museum.
The Castle’s Escape Experience is also back running for private groups of up to six people. These bookings must be a ‘bubble’ or family group from the same household. There are a limited number of dates and times available. Please call 01206 282939 for more details. Cost £60 per session.
Church St, Framlingham, IP13 9BP
Admission: Adult: £2.50; Child: £7.50; Concs: £11.30; Family: £32.50
Framlingham Castle has now re-opened. You now need to book your timed tickets in advance. English Heritage have introduced limits on visitor numbers to help keep everyone safe, and you won’t be able to visit without your booking confirmation. If you’re a member, your ticket will be free, but you still need to book in advance. There are other new steps in place to ensure everyone’s safety, so your visit will be a little different.
The Wall Walk will be open with a one-way system for you to enjoy while social distancing. The Poorhouse will remain open but the indoor exhibition will remain closed. The cafe will be open for takeaway light refreshments of hot and cold drinks as well as cakes with a one way system.
This summer, from July 18, families have the opportunity to take part in a free fun adventure with a historical twist. A trail has been set up through the castle grounds and youngsters are invited to track down the clues - crack them all to claim an adventurer’s certificate. Kick off this knight’s quest at Framlingham Castle every day of the school holidays. Standard admission applies.
More details about booking can be found on the website
Castle Hill, Orford, Woodbridge IP12 2ND
This site will be open from early August. There will be new limits on visitor numbers, so you’ll need to book your timed ticket before you visit. Tickets will be available to book soon.
View Point Rd, Felixstowe IP11 3TW
Landguard Fort will re-open later in the summer but an exact date has yet to be decided.
Flatford, East Bergholt, Suffolk, CO7 6UL
The car park at Flatford is open. There is no need to book but parking space is limited. The tea room is also open, however the gift shop, boat hire and exhibition remain closed.
There are limited toilet facilities including one of which is adapted for disabled use.
The walking trails are fully open, but please respect the government’s social distancing advice. Fen Bridge, which crosses the river Stour between Flatford and Dedham, is currently closed because of structural problems. However, the walk to Dedham beside the river is still open.
Dogs are most welcome at Flatford but should remain on a lead at all times. There are ground nesting birds and the area is extensively used for livestock grazing.
People often find riverside places to eat their picnic. However, the fields beside the river at Flatford are not owned by the National Trust and access should be limited to the public footpath. Please take your litter home with you.
Munnings Art Museum
Castle Hill, Dedham, Colchester, CO7 6AZ
The Munnings Art Museum, former home of the renowned artist Alfred Munnings remains closed at present. Plans are being developed to allow it to re-open later this summer, although no date has yet been fixed.
East Anglian Railway Museum
Chappel Station, Colchester, CO6 2DS
Admission: Adults & Seniors: £7, Child (4-15): £4, Under 4’s: FREE
The East Anglian Railway Museum, with its atmospheric Victorian buildings, restored trains and working signal boxes, is open to visitors again from July 17 – on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. New stringent cleaning regimes have been put in place as well as additional hand sanitising units and social distancing measures, signage and one-way systems. The 17 acre museum site enables easy social distancing and there is plenty of space for picnics as well as outdoor seating and take-away service in Platform 2 Cafe.
The heritage centre allows visitors a hands-on close up look at the people who built and ran the railways in East Anglia. There is something to interest all ages, including interactive signal panels and hands-on exhibits for children to engage with. Big button telephones are located throughout the site so you can listen to audio recordings about a range of topics.
You can also visit the Restoration Shed to see work being carried out on vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock and get close to some vintage memorabilia in The Goods Shed.
Steam Experience Days are currently suspended because of the social distancing regulations.
Book tickets online here
Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens
Low Rd, Diss IP22 2AA
Admission: Adult: £14.53, Concs: £13.63, Child: £9.08
The Gardens and Steam Museum have now re-opened for pre-booked visitors only. The museum is now operating at least two narrow gauge railways and The Gallopers, the exhibition hall and outside play areas are open too. Snacks and hot drinks are available from the play area as take away. Face coverings must be worn to travel on the trains and the Gallopers.
The Fire Rally and the East Anglian Garden Rail Show events have been cancelled but the Steam in Miniature Weekend on Saturday and Sunday August 8-9 is going ahead and the Steampunk Weekend has been moved to Saturday and Sunday August 29-30.
You can book online for day visits and weekend events at Bressingham’s website
Colne Valley Railway
Yeldham Road, Castle Hedingham, CO9 3DZ
Admission: Adult: £8, Concs (over 60): £6.50, Child (3-15): £5
The railway has limited re-opening from Sunday July 26 with 1960s heritage diesel trains running. The Colne Valley Railway is to re-open with a special train service protecting the health of passengers and staff with socially distanced seats being booked on-line and the compulsory wearing of face masks.
Trains will be cleaned after every journey, surfaces wiped, while also being sanitised with a long-lasting spray proven to kill the virus. Seating on trains will be limited to ensure that social distancing can be maintained.
All seats will be pre-booked in family groups of up to six to prevent overcrowding. Booking slots will be at 10 minute arrival intervals – visitors will then get on the next available train once they are on site. There will be a one way system around the site and in buildings.
To protect the health of passengers and staff, there will be no toilets on the trains but the toilets will be open at the reception building.
Some facilities will not be open to protect the staff working in them (e.g. the Signal Box), but most are expected to be open including the new Brewster Centre and Museum and Model Railway. Subject to weather conditions, the miniature railway should also be open.
Catering facilities will be limited to take away only with open air seating at picnic tables. Unfortunately, to protect staff, the trains will temporarily not be able to accommodate wheelchair users.
Tickets can be booked on the website.
Mid-Suffolk Light Railway
Brockford Station, Wetheringsett, Stowmarket, IP14 5PW
The Mid-Suffolk Light Railway is Suffolk’s only standard gauge heritage railway, offering steam open days and events to the general public. Services are normally steam operated on both standard open days and special event days. However, the heritage railway is closed until further notice because of the Coronavirus outbreak.