Nine ideas for free days out in Suffolk and north Essex this summer

PUBLISHED: 17:01 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:57 01 August 2018

The Red Arrows at Clacton Airshow. Picture: PETER CUTTS

The Red Arrows at Clacton Airshow. Picture: PETER CUTTS


Do you want to get out and about with your family over the summer without spending a fortune? Here are some ideas for free days out around the area.

Crowds at Clacton Airshow. Picture: PETER CUTTSCrowds at Clacton Airshow. Picture: PETER CUTTS

Clacton Airshow, August 23-24

One of the most spectacular free events of the summer in the area is Clacton Airshow, which will welcome around 250,000 people this summer. Star attractions include the RAF Red Arrows, the Bremont Great War Display Team, an RAF Typhoon on the Thursday only, Fireflies Aerobatic Display Team, and many more. There will also be varied on-site entertainment at the West Greensward on the seafront, including appearances by Titan the Robot, as well as exhibition stands and a food court. Twilight flights will take place on Thursday, followed by a major fireworks display at Clacton Pier. Although the event is free, there are charges for the main event car park or park and ride.

A Holywells Park fun day. Picture: ROSS HALLSA Holywells Park fun day. Picture: ROSS HALLS

Holywells and Chantry Park Events, Ipswich, August 1-31

A number of free family fun days are being held in Holywells Park. On Wednesday, August 1, enjoy a Summer Cinema Fun Day with showings of two films on a giant cinema screen, The Secret Life of Pets from 12-1.30pm and Moana from 2.30-4pm. Then on Wednesday, August 8, it’s time for an Active Fun Day with inflatable obstacles, outdoor activities and sports equipment, and on Wednesday, August 29, there will be a Vehicle Fun Day with vintage cars and advice on how to mend a bike puncture. Then on August 31, Chantry Park Fun Day will include funfair rides and an afternoon of free activities. All these events run from 12 noon to 4pm.

Tilly,Poppy and Elsie Hinton at Foxburrow Farm in Melton.
 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNTilly,Poppy and Elsie Hinton at Foxburrow Farm in Melton. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Foxburrow Farm Nature Reserve, near Woodbridge

Foxburrow Farm is just one of a number of 52 nature reserves across Suffolk, which are all free to visit. This is a great place for spotting birds, butterflies and insects, as well as grazing sheep and other farm animals. Facilities include a picnic area and toilets. There are laminated trails available in the car park, including one trail which is accessible for buggies and wheelchairs. Dogs are not allowed. Although it is free to visit the reserve, there are various activities for families and children over the summer which do make charges and need to be booked in advance. For more details of these, visit the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website, where you can also find out about the trust’s other reserves.

Southwold pier. 

Picture: CLIFFORD HICKSSouthwold pier. Picture: CLIFFORD HICKS

Southwold Pier

You can of course enjoy a free day out at any of the resorts along the wonderful East Anglian coast - just take along a picnic rug or a deckchair, settle down on the beach and relax. However, Southwold also has the added bonus of its pier, which offers free admission. The water clock and under the pier show, featuring eccentric machines designed by Tim Hunkin, are well worth seeing - be aware that the machines are coin operated, though. There will be Punch and Judy shows at the pier on many days over the summer.

Beccles Harvest Moon 2017.
Picture: NICK BUTCHERBeccles Harvest Moon 2017. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Beccles Harvest Moon Festival, August 11

One of the most popular local music festivals in the area is Harvest Moon in Beccles, held at Beccles Quay in Fen Lane, which runs from noon to dusk (around 8.30pm.) Acts set to appear include Owl & Wolves, Monroe and One More Shot UK. There will be food and craft stalls and a beer tent. Although the event is free, this year there will be a £2 parking charge.

Felixstowe beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFelixstowe beach Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Science on the Sand, Felixstowe Beach, August 6, 13 and 20

If your children are looking for summer hands-on activities, they can join in a series of fun science activities on the beach on Mondays in August. The sessions are being run by Kinetic Science, who are keen to get young people enthusiastic about science. The drop-in sessions run from 10am to 3pm, and will include ideas like looking at how to turn shells into fossils or see why objects float in salt water. For a great day out, combine your trip with enjoying a walk round the resort and relaxing on the beach.

Hollytrees Museum, Colchester. Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGEHollytrees Museum, Colchester. Picture: ANDREW PARTRIDGE

Hollytrees Museum, Colchester

This popular museum in Colchester’s Castle Park offers free admission. It is very attractive to children because its collections includes toys from the past 300 years, as well as a fascinating new clock gallery, with a large collection of clocks and watches dating from the 17th century onwards. Many of the clocks still tick and chime, although they may not tell the right time! The surrounding parkland also includes a children’s play area and sensory garden. Although admission to the museum is free, you can book special activities which do make a charge. It is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 5pm daily.

Bury St Edmunds Food and Drink Festival. Picture: ANDY ABBOTTBury St Edmunds Food and Drink Festival. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

Bury St Edmunds Food and Drink Festival, August 26-27

This varied two-day event will take place at venues around the town. It includes plenty of entertainment for children, with a balloon modeller, stilt walker and magician, a golden beach in Charter Square, a mini-farm in Abbeygate Street, and a Punch and Judy show and fairground rides in the Arc shopping centre. There will also be cookery demonstrations, celebrity chef James Tanner, cookery demonstrations, cocktails and children’s cake decorating workshops. Admission to the festival is free.

Hedgehog numbers have been on a decline in both rural and urban areas Picture: ALAN BALDRYHedgehog numbers have been on a decline in both rural and urban areas Picture: ALAN BALDRY

Hedgehog Lantern Parade and Party, Holywells Park Conservatory, Ipswich, September 1

This family evening event at the end of the summer holidays will celebrate Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s work to turn Ipswich into a hedgehog-friendly town. You are invited to make your own hedgehog lantern before the event, or create a small lantern with the organisers on the day. There will be nibbles and drinks, a chance to share hedgehog stories, and a night lantern walk along the Waterfront. The event runs from 6 to 10pm. Although admission is free, a 50p donation is requested for an LED tea light for your lantern. You will also need to book your space by visiting the Suffolk Wildlife Trust website.

Would you like your free attraction or event included in this list? Send us an email.

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