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Everything you need to know when you visit Essex


Last updated: 23/01/2024


Essex attractions

There are so many things to do in Essex, with lots of old-fashioned seaside fun to be had! London is just 30 minutes away, making Chelmsford the ideal base to explore Essex and beyond to the max.

Our team of local experts at the hotel have put together this Essex guide for you. Time to start planning your trip!

A comfortable and stylish room awaits you at Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford when you return at the end of a day’s exploring, as well as access to a fully-equipped gym and a fantastic restaurant to tickle your taste buds.

Things to do with kids in Essex

There are so many places to visit in Essex with children, allowing them to run off enough energy to get a good night’s sleep. Leaving you with enough time to enjoy a spot of R&R!

Explore wildlife at Colchester Zoo

30 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Colchester Zoo
Dating back to 1963, Colchester Zoo is a great day out for all the family.

Your little ones will adore the wide range of animals they can wave hello to, including giraffes, chimpanzees and elephants, to name just a few.

If the weather takes a turn for the worse, there are wet weather activities to enjoy as well as a face painting station and a large dining area.

Enjoy a round of golf at Mr Mulligans, Basildon

30 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Mr Mulligans
Who doesn’t love a game or two of crazy golf? There are plenty of things to do with children in Essex, but few are as enjoyable as this! The other plus point is that it’s indoors, making it a perfect thing to do when it’s raining.

Mr Mulligans is suitable for children aged four years and upwards, and it has two themed 12 hole courses – ‘Fantastic Funfair’ and ‘Amazing Arcade’. There’s even an onsite restaurant if you want to grab a bite to eat.

This is without doubt one of the most fun things to do in Essex with kids. Or even without them!

Things to do in Essex for couples

From a spot of retail therapy in Chelmsford Shopping Centre to romantic walks, there are plenty of things to do in Essex for couples.

Float down the river at Dedham Vale

40 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Dedham Vale
Dedham Vale is where several rivers all converge together, meaning the ultimate in romantic and beautiful scenery to take in. Head to the Boathouse Restaurant for a meal, then hire a boat and make your way down the river for half an hour.

These boats have been available to rent since the 1900s and it’s one of the most peaceful ways to spend your time.

Watch a Show at Princes Theatre, Clacton-on-Sea

50 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Princes Theatre
Out of all the romantic things to do in Essex at night, there may be nothing more loved up than watching a show together at Princes Theatre. The theatre dates back to 1931 and is seriously impressive to look at.

There are countless shows throughout the year, including visiting celebrities. Be sure to check online ahead of your visit to see what’s on. You could even make a night of it and head for dinner and drinks before or after.

Try ice skating at Riverside Leisure Centre

8 minute walk from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Riverside Leisure Centre
You might be terrible at it, but it will be a fun night out with the special person in your life! Riverside Leisure Centre has a large ice skating rink, and there’s also a cafe upstairs which overlooks the beautiful River Chelmer, so you’re getting a romantic view at the same time.

Riverside Leisure Centre is less than half a mile from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford and it’s certainly one of the most fun things to do in Essex at night!

Enjoy a delicious meal at our Sapori restaurant

Sapori Restaurant
You might not feel like wandering too far, and in that case head to our on-site Sapori restaurant and enjoy a menu like no other!

Packed with delicious meals to make your mouth water and your nose wonder why it’s never managed to source out that amazing scent before, this will be a meal you won’t forget in a hurry.

Then why not enjoy a drink or two in the bar afterwards to finish off your night.

Unusual Places to Visit in Essex

Anyone who tells you that Essex is boring has never been! Packed with attractions, both mainstream and rather quirky, you won’t struggle to find something a little different to tell your friends about upon your return.

Travel back in time at Talliston House & Gardens

25 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Talliston House and Gardens
From the outside, Talliston House & Gardens looks like a normal, regular council house. Yet, when you go inside it’s a totally different story. Each room has been themed over a 25 year project to look like a different location or a different period of time.

Talliston means “The Hidden Place”, and it certainly is that! It’s a truly quirky experience, and a very unusual place to visit during your holiday.

Bounce around at Jump Giants Trampoline Park, Thurrock

35 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Jump Giants
Who said that bouncy castles were just for kids? Jump Giants is a 10,000 square foot bouncing indoor park which is suitable for all ages, so adults don’t have to miss out on the fun!

An unusual yet hilarious way to spend your time, this park has a cafe and restaurant on site. This is certainly one of the more obscure yet fun things to do in the evening in Essex, or even during the day!

Check out The Broomway – from a distance

50 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
The Broomway
Whilst we don’t recommend getting too close, The Broomway is certainly a very odd thing to see. This is a path which dates back to medieval times and when the tide is in, it disappears, completely cutting off Foulness Island.

Locally this area is called Black Grounds, for good reason. Whilst you shouldn’t head out there, simply because the tide comes in unexpectedly, it’s a great thing to see and the area around Southend-on-Sea is certainly worth an exploration in its own right.

Visit the oldest hotel in Colchester

35 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Rose and Crown Hotel
The Rose and Crown Hotel is the oldest hotel in the oldest recorded town in England – Colchester. Built over 700 years ago, it’s a truly historic building which has retained all of its 14th century charm.

Relax in the oak-beamed Tudor Bar Brasserie in front of a real log fire. There aren’t many better things on a chilly, winter’s evening.

Most unusual of all though has to be the 700 year old prison in the basement. You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s no longer a working prison, but you’re able to wander down to take a look. Or it’s available to hire out for private functions.

Things to do in Chelmsford

Chelmsford has plenty of its own top class entertainment and attractions. Sure, there are lots of fun things to do in Essex overall, but if you want to stay local, you don’t have to look too far for things to entertain your mind.

Check out the ‘Second White House’ at Hylands Estate

10 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Hylands Estate
Famous for being the White House double during the film Chasing Liberty, Hylands Estate is packed with plenty of space to roam and get some fresh air.

The park is FREE to enter and you can walk around the 574 acres of parkland and gardens, have a picnic, then sit and get a coffee at the on-site cafe.

There are plenty of things for children to enjoy including a castle themed adventure playground which features a four metre high castle battlements with portcullis and a drawbridge entrance!

Stare in Awe at Chelmsford Cathedral

5 minute walk from Atlantic Hotel, Chelmsford
Chelmsford Cathedral
Chelmsford Cathedral is nothing short of jaw-dropping in its beauty and architecture. It’s also over 800 years old!

The cathedral is surrounded by lush greenery and has that kind of wonderful stillness you associate with buildings of this type. A visit to Chelmsford wouldn’t be complete without heading here for a walk and exploring inside.

Chelmsford Cathedral is a stone’s throw from Atlantic Hotel and on a warm summer’s day, the gardens are a great place to spend some time. Of course, there are regular services that take place but the cathedral is open to the public throughout the year.

Explore Admirals Park

20 minute walk from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Admirals Park
Whether you’re travelling with children or not, getting plenty of fresh air is a good thing. You’ll certainly be able to do that at Admirals Park, which is packed with space to roam, trees, greenery, flowers, rivers, bridges, and lots of space for picnics.

If you are travelling with children, there are several play areas, but a quaint walk around is just as much fun.

Understand local history at Chelmsford Museum

30 minute walk from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Chelmsford Museum
Located in the beautiful grounds of Oaklands Park, Chelmsford Museum is the ideal spot for culture vultures and history buffs. Here you can learn about the role Chelmsford played in the war at the Essex Regiment display, and walk around the park afterwards to take in all that you’ve learnt.

This is definitely one of the best things to do in Chelmsford.

Free things to do in Essex

If you want to save a little cash, there are plenty of cheap things to do in Essex and some of them are even free. You don’t have to scrimp on fun, you simply need to know where to look for a fantastic day out without breaking the bank.

Step Back in Time and Enjoy The View at Hadleigh Castle

30 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Hadleigh Castle
There are many free things to do in Essex but few can match the history and natural beauty of Hadleigh Castle. Dating back to the 13th century, the castle may be in ruins but the views are certainly far from that!

Overlooking Hadleigh Ray and Leigh-on-Sea, Hadleigh Castle is a top spot for Insta-worthy snaps. The countryside around the castle is also ideal for walking and cycling, with water activities also on offer around this beautiful coastal area. Grab a picnic and spend the day in the great outdoors.

Go for a stroll along Southend seafront

40 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Southend Beach
One of the most popular attractions has to be the many beaches around the area, ideal when you’re looking for free things to do in Essex.

Who doesn’t love the feel of the ocean air on their skin and the sound of the fairground in the background? Head to Southend-on-Sea and enjoy the seaside vibe. Of course, if you want an ice cream you’ll have to pay, but walking around is a fun, free activity which everyone will enjoy.

Enjoy the atmosphere at Clacton Pier

55 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Clacton Pier
A great seaside location to enjoy is Clacton Pier. You’ll love the feel of the pier, with a fun-filled vibe you can’t help but notice. You’ll also be able to take plenty of Insta-worthy photos for your feed and have a great day out for very little cash.

There really are so many things to do here – amusements, rides, mini golf, go karting, tenpin bowling and even an aquarium. Clacton Pier is the perfect day out for families, couples and groups. And it’s open all year round.

Check out local art at Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend

35 minute drive from Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford
Beecroft Art Gallery
If you’re in the Southend area, check out Beecroft Art Gallery. If you love local art or art in general, this is a great way to spend an hour and it’s a totally free thing to do!

There are many different exhibits to enjoy and they have lots of events throughout the year. Check out what’s on during your visit ahead of time.

Is Essex your next destination?

Now that you know what to do in Essex, you’re probably keen to get booking and start planning your visit! Great choice! Choosing to rest your head at Atlantic Hotel Chelmsford is another great choice, with a range of rooms and suites to choose from.

Simply knowing that you can return somewhere stylish, comfortable and cosy at the end of your day means you can head out and explore the best places to visit in Essex with abandon!