Exploring Essex’s museums as a family is a great way of understanding the world in a new way. Modern museums are filled with hands-on exhibits that are great for children, and many run regular family-friendly events and activities.

Here’s our guide to the best museums in Essex and their facilities.

Essex Museums

Colchester Castle Museum
Castle Park, Colchester CO1 1UG
Colchester Castle features interactive displays and historical exhibits, like the Colchester Vase and Fenwick Treasure. Visitors can have a go at building a Norman archway, excavating a Roman doctor’s grave or steering a chariot. Special events for children also run in the school holidays. Accessible lifts and toilets, baby changing facilities, lunchroom available for packed lunches (at weekends), vending machines, audio guide description facilities, tactile/braille maps, and gift shop.
Opening times: Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm, Sunday 11.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: Adult (inc. Seniors) £7.75, Child (aged 4-16) £4.80, Conc £4.80 each, Family Saver ticket (2+2 or 1+3) £21.00

Hollytrees Museum, Colchester
Castle Park, Colchester CO1 1UG
Hollytrees is a grand 16th Century home that has since been converted into a museum that takes a look back at Colchester’s past. Kids love looking at the old toys, particularly the impressive dolls house. The museum is located in the grounds of Castle Park; perfect for those who want to blow off some steam on the large play area just two minutes’ walk away. Workshops for children also run in the school holidays.
Opening times: Monday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Natural History Museum, Colchester
Natural History Museum, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1DN
This small museum, housed deconsecrated church, makes a handy break for children during shopping trips. The museum features exhibits that examine the natural history of Britain, focusing primarily on north-east Essex. Find out about wildlife habitats, climate change, and what lie beneath your feet! Also free to use is the resource trolley containing books, magnifying glasses, etc., and an interactive microscope. Workshops for children also run in the school holidays.
Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm; Sunday 11.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

East Anglian Railway Museum, Wakes Colne
Station Road, Wakes Colne, Essex CO6 2DS
Get up close and personal to our wide collection of steam trains, diesel locomotives and vintage carriages. The site features the Victorian buildings, restored trains and working signal boxes. The museum is based at the Chappel & Wakes Colne Railway Station, a working station through which trains pass every half an hour. Special events run throughout the year. A miniature railway is open for visitor rides on most Saturdays, some event days and some museum days. Disabled access is available to all Museum buildings, but transport will be needed to visit both sides of the museum as the two sides are separated by a footpath over the railway line. Free parking and gift shop.
Opening days: Open every day apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Opening times: 10.00am – 4.30pm daily
Cost: General admission – Adults £6.00, Seniors £5.50, Children (4-15yrs) £3.00, under 4s FREE. Event day admission prices – Adults £9.50, Seniors £8.75, Children £4.75

Colne Valley Railway
Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ
A heritage railway based at Castle Hedingham, near Halstead. This railway consists of a pretty 1 mile long line, with a fully reconstructed station, signal box and railway yard. The venue cares for a large collection of vintage steam and diesel engines, carriages and wagons. As well a museum featuring exhibition of artifacts and visual displays, the site also has a garden railway, a 650m long miniature railway, a working signal box, travelling Post Office, and a model railway. The railways hosts regular events, including Days Out with Thomas. Sidings Buffet Car is open every day the trains are running. Free car parking, toilets, accessible toilets, baby changing facilities and a picnic area.
Opening days: Open days throughout the year. Check website for details of upcoming events.
Cost: Adults £8.00 – £12.00, Concessions (age 60+) £6.00 – £9.00, Child (age 3-16) £4.00 – £6.00, Family (2 Adults + 2 Children) £22.00 – £33.00, Student (Valid ID must be shown on arrival) £6.00 – £9.00, Dogs £2.00

Braintree Disctrict Museum
Manor Street, Braintree, Essex CM7 3HW
Opened in 1993, the museum celebrates the history of Braintree and the surrounding areas, focusing on the District’s industrial and cultural achievements, and notable personalities. The museum puts on a range of activities and crafts during school holidays. Full disabled access, toilets, and gift shop.
Opening days: Tuesday – Saturday
Opening times: 10.00am – 4.00pm
Cost: Adults £4.00, Conc £3.00, Children £2.00, under 5s FREE when accompanied by a paying adult.

Chelmsford Museum, Chelmsford
Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 9AQ
Chelmsford Museum is filled with information ranging from prehistoric times to industrial and social history. You will find exhibits of fine and decorative arts, coins, natural history including a live beehive! Set in landscaped gardens, there are two large children’s play areas nearby catering for kids of all ages. The museum host events and activities throughout the year.
Opening times: Monday – Thursday 10.00am – 5.00pm; Saturdays 10.00am – 5.00pm; Sundays 1.00pm– 4.00pm; Friday (school holidays only) 10.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Essex Police Museum, Chelmsford
Essex Police Headquarters, Springfield, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 6DA
The Essex Police Museum covers the history of policing in Essex from its Victorian origins to the modern day. In the museum you will find displays of artefacts, information on past criminal cases, an old jail cell, a handling collection and children’s activities, like trying on police uniforms. The Police Museum also runs a monthly toddler group and kids workshops on Saturdays, as well as Wednesdays during school holidays (small fee applies).
Opening times: Saturday 10.00am – 4.00pm (last entry is 3.30pm); Wednesday 10.00am – 4.00pm in school holidays
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Combined Military Services Museum, Maldon
Station Road, Heybridge, Maldon, Essex CM9 4LQ
Discover the secret world of spies, their weapons, gadgets and disguises. Learn about the WW2’s Special Operation Executive (S.O.E) and about British Special Forces and their brave and daring operations. Dress up in armour; carry equipment of today’s soldiers. See tanks, swords, uniforms, firearms, armour, and a wide range of period items. Free parking, refreshments, baby changing facilities, wheelchair access, and gift shop.
Opening days: Wednesday to Sunday and every Bank Holiday Monday. During school holidays the museum is open every day, with last admissions at 4pm
Opening times: 10.30am – 5.00pm
Cost: Adult £5.75, OAP/Concession £4.75, Child £4.00, Family 2 adults and up to 3 children £18.00

Maldon Museum
47 Mill Road, Maldon, Essex CM9 5HX
Located at the former Park Keeper’s Lodge near the main gate to the Promenade Park, the Maldon Museum features a collection of artifacts from Maldon’s history.  Gift shop on-site. Nearby in Promenade Park you’ll find baby changing facilities, public toilets, refreshments and a picnic site.
Open days: April – October, on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sundays and Bank Holidays (check website for exact opening dates)
Opening times: 2.00pm-5.00pm Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 11.00am-5.00pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Cost: Adults £2.00, Child 50p. FREE admission for children when accompanied by a paying adult, when visiting on a Bank Holiday Monday, and during school holidays

Stow Maries Aerodrome, Maldon
Hackmans Lane, Purleigh, CM3 6RN
Stow Maries is a WW1 military aviation museum based at an aerodrome in Maldon. It celebrates the importance of the early air forces in the Great War of 1914-1918 and runs regular events, from Living History days to book festivals. There is a monthly activity day at Stow Maries for 8-14 year olds based on the theme of ‘flight’. Free parking, Mess Hall Cafe, baby changing facilities, disabled toilets, wheelchair access to most areas, and gift shop.
Opening days: Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Opening times: 10.00am – last entry 4.00pm
Cost: Non-event days – Adults £8.00, Children (9-16 years) £2.50, Children under 8 FREE, Concessions (over 65) £6.00. English Heritage Members – 2-for-1 on regular adult tickets on non-event days only. Essex Pass Members – 2-for-1 on regular adult tickets on non-event days only. Event days – Entrance fees for special event days will be as advised. Currently serving members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, and one guest, will receive free entry on non-event days, upon production of an ID card.

Mangapps Railway Museum, Burnham-on-Crouch
Southminster Road, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex CM0 8QG
Mangapps Railway Museum is a privately owned working railway and museum established on a farm at Burnham on Crouch.  It features a ¾ mile standard gauge passenger carrying line, with restored stations, signal boxes, ancillary equipment and memorabilia from various sites throughout East Anglia and beyond.  The Railway has 18 steam and diesel locomotives and over 80 carriages and wagons. Light refreshments served in a vintage carriage. Baby changing facilities and gift shop. Dogs welcome.
Opening days: Open each weekend and Bank Holidays from March to October inclusive and every day during August.
Opening times: 11.30am – 5.00pm (last entry 4.00pm)
Cost: Diesel Days – Adult £8.00, Senior citizen £7.00, Child £3.50, Under 3 years free. Steam Days  – Adults £9.00, Senior citizen £8.00, Child £4.00, Under 3 years free (all tickets include museum, lineside walk & train rides).

Mersea Island Museum
12 High Street, West Mersea, Mersea Island, Essex CO5 8QD
Opened in 1976, this independent museum focuses on the traditional local activities of fishing, oystering, wild fowling and boat building. The exhibition in the main hall is changed each year and features a number if different displays. Children are welcome, with puzzles and quizzes available.
Opening days: May – September (check website for exact opening dates)
Opening times: 2.00pm – 5.00pm
Cost: Adult £1.00, Child £50p

Museum of Power, Langford
Hatfield Road, Langford, Maldon, Essex CM9 6QA
Located in a former Water Pumping Station, the museum contains a broad collection of ‘powered’ items, ranging from a working overhead machine shop to a petrol powered iron. On NON event days there is a small charge for entry to the museum, but for FREE you can explore the riverside walks and observation platform. Snacks and cream teas available in the Steam Pump Tea Room. The Astaria Model Village opens on the FIRST SUNDAY of the month when entry to the site and tearoom is FREE (charge to enter the Museum applies). Out in the grounds, the 7¼” gauge miniature railway carries passengers on a journey of over one quarter of a mile through the seven acres of mature woods and meadows – currently costs £1 per ride or six rides for £5 (check website for scheduled running days). Regular events held throughout the year.
Summer opening times: 1st April – 31st October – Wednesday to Sunday 10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Last entry 3.30 p.m.
Winter opening times: November – March – Wednesday to Sunday 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Last entry 3.00 p.m. Closed over the festive period (check website for exact dates).
Cost: Adults £5.00; Senior citizens and students £4.50; Children 5 to 15 incl £2.00; Children 4 and under FREE

Saffron Walden Museum
Museum Street, Saffron Walden, Essex CB10 1JL
An award-winning, family-friendly museum set in an enclosed grass meadow, beside the ruins of the twelfth-century Walden Castle. Filled with a varied collection and plenty of interactive items. The museum has a choice of four activity sheets and a Kids Museum Map that you can download prior to your visit. During the school holidays they run activities for families that are inspired by the collections.
Summer opening times: March – October – Tuesdays to Saturdays 10.00am to 5.00pm; Sundays and Bank Holidays 2.00am to 5.00pm
Winter opening times: November – February – Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 4.30pm; Sunday & Bank Holidays 2.00pm-4.30pm
Cost: Adults £5.00; Senior citizens and students £4.50; Children 5 to 15 incl £2.00; Children 4 and under: FREE

Brentwood Museum
Lorne Road, Warley, Brentwood CM14 5HH
The Brentwood Museum brings to life a collection of everyday objects from previous generations dating from the 1870s to the 1970s. Located in a 19th century cemetery lodge, once home to the sexton, his wife and six children,the museum is packed with the history of the home, a well as archaeological finds from in and around Brentwood.
Opening days and times: Open between April and October on the 1st Saturday and Sunday of the month from 2.30pm-4.30pm, and the 1st Monday 10.30am-12.30pm.
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome.

Essex Fire Museum, Grays
Grays Fire Station, Hogg Lane, Grays Thurrock, Essex, RM17 5QS
The Essex Fire Museum offers a fascinating look at how the fire service has changed over the decades. You find lots of historic equipment on display – from WWII tools to uniforms and fire engines – as well as old photographs and various documents. All visits to the museum are by appointment only and must be booked in advance on: Tel 01376 576847 or by email: museum@essex-fire.gov.uk
Opening times: Open days and Tour dates are available throughout the year. Contact for details.
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Central Museum and Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend
Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, Essex, SS2 6EW
Central Museum and Beecroft Art Gallery lie in the heart of Southend on Sea, located in the former library building. The small but charming museum is home to collections of archaeological finds and local and natural history, and there’s a programme of exhibitions and events. The art gallery displays several exhibits a year ranging from paintings and sculptures to the photographic history of the area. The first floor of the museum also houses the Southend Planetarium, which offers various talks throughout the year. The museum is free but pre-booked tickets to these planetarium talks have to be purchased for £16 per family of up to 5 (2 adults / 3 children).
Opening times: Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Prittlewell Priory, Southend
Priory Park, Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, Essex, SS2 6NB
Located in Southend’s Priory Park, Prittlewell Priory’s 900 years of history is brought back to life through numerous artefacts and exhibits, including interactive activities for children. The priory museum recently underwent a £1.8 million renovation, making it a wonderful place to visit with family members of all ages. The park offers good parking facilities and there is also a café and visitors centre adjacent to the museum. However, please note that buggies are not permitted in the Priory.
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm; Bank Holidays 10.00am – 5.00pm
Winter opening: Saturday & Sunday 10.00am – 3.00pm; Bank Holidays 10.00am – 3.00pm inc. Easter weekend
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Southchurch Hall Museum, Southend
Southchurch Hall Gardens, Park Lane, Southend on Sea, SS1 2TE
Southchurch Hall a medieval moated manor house located a short walk from the seafront, High Street, and Southend East Station. The building is free to visit and contains a handful of period rooms, including the main hall set out as when it was first built, a Tudor kitchen and a Victorian bedroom. The surrounding grounds are pleasant, with a duck pond containing koi carp and terrapins. There is also a gift / snack shop and toilet facilities on site. Despite being quite a small attraction, Southchurch Hall well worth a visit if you are planning a day out in Southend.
Opening times: Wednesday – Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm; Bank Holidays 10.00am – 5.00pm
If you are planning to visit between 10.00pm – 2.00pm please call ahead to avoid disappointment.
Winter opening: Saturday & Sunday 10.00am – 2.00pm; Bank Holidays 10.00pm – 2.00pm inc. Easter weekend
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Rayleigh Windmill
Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh SS6 7ED
The Rayleigh Windmill is a 200 year old Grade II listed building and award-winning tourist and educational attraction. Inside you can learn all about can learn how the mill worked, have a go at the quiz, and dress up in period costumes. Parking at Mill Hall Car Park, which is FREE on Saturdays from 1pm and all day on Sundays.
Opening days and times: April – October (check website for exact opening dates). Wednesday 10.00am – 1.00pm; Saturday 1.00pm – 4.00pm; Sunday 1.00pm – 4.00pm
Cost: FREE – but a minimum £1 donation per person is encouraged.

Castle Point Transport Museum, Canvey Island
105 Point Road, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 7TD
Got a little one who loves buses, trucks and other big vehicles? This free museum houses a collection of over over thirty preserved commercial vehicles, many of which are fully restored. There is also a model railway and a gift shop selling transport souvenirs and die-cast models.
Opening days and times: First and Third Sundays of each month between April and October, and every Sunday in the month of August, 10.00am – 5.00pm
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

Royal Gunpowder Mills, Waltham Abbey
Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 1JY
The Royal Gunpowder Mills is an interactive museums that’s geared towards families. It’s exhibits explore the history of gunpowder, explosives and rocket propellants. Attractions include the ‘Mad Lab’, armoury, land trains, miniature railway and the narrow gauge railway. Regular activities for children, as well as special events in the school holidays. Free parking, cafe, baby-changing facilities in the unisex toilets at the cafe, picnic tables, disabled access and wheelchair hire. Allow 3 to 4 hours for your visit.
Opening days: Check website for open and event days.
Opening times: 10.00am – 5.00pm (3.00pm)
Cost: Adults (16-60 years) £10.50, Children (3 to 15 years, under 3 Free) £8.50, Concessions (over 60 years or full-time student) £9.00, Disabled & Carers (per person) £9.00, Family Ticket (2 adults & 2 children) £34.20, Family Ticket (2 adults & 3 children) £41.85, Single Parent Family Ticket (1 adult & 2 children) £24.75, Single Parent Family Ticket (1 adult & 3 children) £32.40

Epping Forest District Museum, Waltham Abbey
39 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 1EL
Epping Forest District Museum is located in a Grade II listed Tudor building in Waltham Abbey. Revamped in 2016, the museum has six galleries, the opportunity to see behind the scenes, and a beautiful garden where activities are held in the summer months. They offer a programme of events and activities for all ages. Baby changing facilities, fully accessible, ground floor and first floor toilets, lift,  and gift shop. The nearest car park is Quaker Lane, which is a 2 minute walk away.
Opening days and times: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm; Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm. Closed Good Friday and from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day (inclusive).
Cost: FREE – but donations are welcome!

House on the Hill Toy Museum, Stansted 
Castle Visitor Center, Lower Street, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP
A fantastic open air museum, this award winning medieval Castle and Norman Village will transport you back to England of 1066. Explore the many houses, smell the log fires burning, and meet the tame Fallow deer and other rescued animals that roam freely throughout the 10 acre site. Special events run during school holidays, such as Easter egg hunts. Cafe, toilets, baby changing facilities, gift shop, and a picnic area. Allow around 2 hours for your visit.
Opening days: March – November (check website for exact opening dates)
Opening times: 10.00am-5.00pm including all weekends and Bank Holidays, last admission 3.45pm
Cost: Adult £11.00, Children (3-13yrs) £9.00, OAPs £10.50. 2018 admission price includes entrance to House on the Hill Toy Museum and the Dinosaur Encounters.

House on the Hill Toy Museum, Stansted 
Castle Visitor Center, Lower Street, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP
Created by enthusiast Alan Goldsmith, this fascinating museum has over 70,000 individual toys on display ranging from homemade toys, Victorian toys, up to the 1970s and 1980s. Set inside the Mountfitchet Castle complex, it’s well worth a visit. Cafe, toilets, baby changing facilities, gift shop, and a picnic area. Allow around 2 hours for your visit.
Opening days: March – November (check website for exact opening dates)
Opening times: 10.00am-5.00pm including all weekends and Bank Holidays, last admission 3.45pm
Cost: Adult £11.00, Children (3-13yrs) £9.00, OAPs £10.50. 2018 admission price includes entrance to Mountfitchet Castle and the Dinosaur Encounters.