17 great family days out in August for free - or nearly!
PUBLISHED: 19:00 02 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:37 05 August 2019
We're now a week into the summer holidays - and, if you've already forked out for pricier attractions, you may now be looking for entertainment that is cheaper. While admission for most of these is free or low-cost, there may be charges for parking or extra activities.
One of the biggest free days out in the region is Clacton Airshow, taking place this year on August 22-23. Official opening times are 11am to 9pm on the Thursday and 11am to 5pm on the Friday. The event is centred on the West Greensward, Marine Parade West. Among flights confirmed so far for this year are the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Tigers Parachute Team and OTTO the helicopter. There will also be fireworks on the Thursday evening. While this is a family event, some of the louder, faster jets can be noisy, so organisers advise that you may want to take ear defenders!
Elmer's Big Parade Suffolk, Ipswich
You can spend a great day out finding the 55 colourful elephants around Ipswich, based on the much loved children's character. There are also 84 Young Elmers grouped in their Learning Herds. A parade map showing where they all are is available from locations around the town, with a suggested donation of £1, in aid of St Elizabeth Hospice, The parade is running until September 7. For full details, visit the website.
One of Suffolk's biggest carnivals will be held over the weekend of August 17-19. Carnival Day is the Monday, with the procession, food and craft stalls and a firework display and lantern procession in the evening. Saturday is Music Day, with varous acts performing in different venues across the town, and Sunday is sports day, including children's races. There are also lots of other events all through the three days.
Ipswich Maritime Festival
This free event returns over the weekend of August 17-18, with all sorts of activities and fun on Ipswich Waterfront. There will be pirates and sailors, historical re-enactments, street entertainment, live music and much more. A firework display will be held on the Saturday night.
Beccles Harvest Moon Festival
The popular music festival takes place on August 10 this year, running from noon to 9pm. There is a £1 admission charge, and a £2 all-day parking charge. Acts set to appear include the Coral Cross Band, Jake Aldridge, Lisa Jane and Coronation Kings. The event will include food and craft stalls and family fun activities, including slime-making.
Bourne Fun Day, Ipswich
This family fun day will be held in Bourne Park, Ipswich, from 12noon to 4pm on Wednesday, August 7. Activities include Rocky's Animals interactive animal display, a dinosaur experience, a Nerf game and vintage vehicles. It will all be free except for a funfair, which will charge for rides.
Thorpeness Regatta and Fireworks
You can catch the annual regatta on Thursday, August 22 and Friday, August 23. There will be fireworks and decorated boats on the Friday from 8.30pm to 10.30pm, but it's advisable to arrive early as this is a very popular event. A one-way system will be operating from 6pm.
Crabbing at Walberswick
Walberswick is Suffolk's capital of crabbing, and a great place to go for a fun and inexpensive day out. Just remember to look out for the crabs and treat them gently! Adding rocks and seaweed to your bucket will help replicate the crab's environment.
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Summer Reading Challenge
Suffolk and Essex Libraries are both running Reading Challenges on the theme of Space Chase. Children can join in free, collecting stickers and rewards for the books they read, and receive certificates and medals when they finish.
Thetford and Rendlesham Forests
If you're looking for somewhere with some shade on a hot day, a visit to the forest is ideal. Both Thetford and Rendlesham have large outdoor play areas, picnic sites, cycling and walking trails and other activities. At Rendlesham, you can discover sculptures in Tangham Wood and take a walk around the UFO trail. Some of the forest car parks do charge.
Needham Lake, near Stowmarket
This countryside site is completely free to visit, including its car parks. Enjoy seeing the ducks and wildlife, have a game of Poohsticks on the bridge over the river and take a walk round the lake. Older children can tackle the den-building area, and there's play equipment suitable for younger ones.
East Anglian Dragon Boat Festival, Oulton Broad
Up to 40 crews are expected to do battle in the charity dragon boat festival, which this year takes place on Saturday, August 31, running from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the event, in Nicholas Everitt Park, is free for spectators. As well as the races, there will be family entertainment and food stalls.
Bury St Edmunds Food and Drink Festival
This year, the free two-day foodie feast will be held on Sunday, August 25 and Bank Holiday Monday, August 26. As well as appearances by celebrity chefs Nick Nairn and Dean Edwards, the festival also has lots of activities lined up for children, such as the always popular man-made beach, street entertainment and a mini farm, plus fairground rides.
Family Heritage Treasure Trail, Colchester
Discover the town's historical highlights this summer by picking up a trail map from Visit Colchester HQ in Hollytrees Museum, or downloading it from the Visit Colchester website. There is a choice of two routes, a longer version or a shorter one in the town centre. When you return a completed map, you will receive a prize. Along the way, all the town centre's museums and art galleries are free to visit, except for Colchester Castle.
If you're heading to Southwold, be sure to visit the pier. Admission is free, and there are attractions including Tim Hunkin's eccentric Under the Pier Show, with various bizarre interactive machines. There are also little brass plaques to admire, with wonderful memories from visitors who love the town.
Clare Castle Country Park
This varied country park near the Essex border includes the remains of a 13th-century stone castle keep, which is an ideal area for a picnic. There is also a playground and there are plenty of interesting footpaths to explore, along the old railway line.
Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds
The whole area is full of beautiful parks where you can spend the day out, but Bury's Abbey Gardens have everything, including the ruins of a Benedictine abbey. As well as the excellent play area, there is an aviary including canaries, budgies, ducks and finches. The park's many attractions include the rose garden, riverside area, sensory garden with scented herbs and plants, and water garden, plus a special wildlife feeding area.