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Half-term fun - 20 free and cheap things to do around Norfolk, Suffolk and North Essex

PUBLISHED: 08:07 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 21:06 18 October 2018

Children getting up close to creepy-crawlies at a Suffolk Libraries event. Picture: JAMES POWELL/SUFFOLK LIBRARIES

Children getting up close to creepy-crawlies at a Suffolk Libraries event. Picture: JAMES POWELL/SUFFOLK LIBRARIES


Are you looking for fun things to do at half term which won’t cost a fortune? Here are 20 free and cheap activities to enjoy around Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex.

Free workshops are being held at Pets at Home stores across the area over half term. Picture: Peter Glaser Photography/Pets at HomeFree workshops are being held at Pets at Home stores across the area over half term. Picture: Peter Glaser Photography/Pets at Home

Coming up with ideas to entertain the family over the autumn half term isn’t always easy. Whereas in summer you can often rely on trips to the park and the beach, that may not be an option quite so often in October.

Here are 20 exciting things to do both indoors and outdoors, which won’t involve too much outlay just before you have to start thinking about Christmas! Many events are inspired by Halloween and have a scientific or magical theme to them. This is just a taster of what’s on offer, as many libraries, museums, garden centres and other venues across the area will be holding special events.

Science, potions and experiments

1. Nature Day: The Explorium, The Forum, Saturday, October 20, 10am-4pm: This drop-in event spotlights the world of animals, from tiny insects to giant mammals. There will be a chance to find out more about birds ranging from peregrines to pigeons, and you can also learn about reducing food waste with Norwich City Council’s Pumpkin Rescue. Part of Norwich Science Festival. For full details of the festival, visit the website.

A welly walk is being held at Needham Lake. Picture: PAMELA BIDWELLA welly walk is being held at Needham Lake. Picture: PAMELA BIDWELL

2. Science Tricks and Treats, Ipswich Museum, Wednesday, October 24, 10.15am, 11.15am and 2.15pm:

Budding scientists are invited to join in an interactive science workshop, to make their own ‘volcanic’ eruptions and create a delightfully slimy mess. The event is suitable for ages seven to 11, and parents and carers are asked to stay with their children. There is a charge of £3.30 per child and you need to book in advance via the museums website.

3. The Big Lego Build, Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, Tuesday, October 23, 11.30am-3.30pm: This is a drop-in event, but places will be limited, so it is worth getting there in good time! People of all ages can join in, taking part in fun challenges or designing and creating models with Lego. Part of Norwich Science Festival.

Norwich Science Festival 2018 - QI Guardians of the Gut. Photo: Norwich Science FestivalNorwich Science Festival 2018 - QI Guardians of the Gut. Photo: Norwich Science Festival

4. Science in the Park: Halloween Wellie Walk, Needham Lake, Needham Market, Tuesday, October 23, 11am-3pm:

Children and parents are invited to take a walk around Needham Lake and find hidden Halloween images and other activities. There is no need to book, and you can drop in any time during the day. Parents need to supervise children. The activity costs £3.50 per child, including all materials.

5. Insects in Depth - 30 Bugs, Millennium Library, Norwich, October 19-27, Monday to Friday 10am-7pm, Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday 10.30am-4.30pm: This drop-in event offers the chance to get close to some creepy insects, via a unique display of 3D close-ups created by scientific artist Alan Shaw. Part of Norwich Science Festival.

6. Kinetic Science Frankenstein Freaky Experimentation, Holywells Park, Ipswich, October 24, sessions start at 9.30am, 11.15am, 1.45pm and 3.30pm: Children aged from four upwards can take part in Halloween-themed science activities. This event is free, but booking is essential as places are limited. All children need to be accompanied by an adult. To book your place, call 01473 433990 or email holywells.reception@ipswich.gov.uk

Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

Magic and dreams

7. Hocus Pocus, Chelmsford Museum: Monday, October 22 to Friday, October 26, 10am to 5pm: With Halloween in mind, this exhibition is looking at whether there were really witches in Chelmsford and the history of the Essex witch trials. It will include spooky objects from the collection, fun interactive dressing up and a reading corner with books on a magical theme. Admission is free.

The museum will also host a relaxed session of the exhibition on Saturday, October 27, from 10am to 12 noon. This session will be specifically aimed at people on the autistic spectrum and their families, and will be adapted for those who prefer a quieter, less busy environment, with any objects that may cause distress. There are limited spaces available for the Saturday session, so please book in advance on 01245 605700.

Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

8. Catching Dreams, Ipswich Museum, Tuesday, October 23, with sessions at 10.15 and 11.15am and 2.15pm:

Children taking part will learn about dreamcatchers, which are used as protective charms in Native American culture, and will have the chance to make one of their own. The activity is suitable for ages seven to 11, and children need to be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are £3.30 per child.


9. My Pet Pals Workshops for Children, Pets at Home stores, dates and times vary: The store chain Pets at Home is holding a series of free pet workshops for children at all its shops in the region over half term. It has shops in locations including Bury St Edmunds, Colchester, Great Yarmouth, Ipswich, King’s Lynn, Lowestoft, Maldon, Norwich, Sudbury, Thetford and Wisbech.

Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL Youngsters taking part in Ipswich Museums holiday activities Picture: IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL

The “Creature Care” themed workshops will teach children how to care for lots of different pets, learning about needs including shelter, food and water, and good health. They will also get the chance to interact with some pets in-store. Sessions are free but need to be booked in advance via the Pets at Home website.

10. Creepy Crawlies and Potion Making, Ipswich County Library, Monday, October 22, 2-3pm and 3.30-4.30pm:

These sessions are aimed at children aged five and over, who need to be accompanied by parents. There will be the chance to meet animals including snails, stick insects, a scorpion, a frog and a snake, as well as duprasi and a bearded dragon. The events, staged by the Little Scientist Comopany, also include spell-writing and potion making. This events do have a £5 charge, and can be booked in advance from the ground-floor desk.

Halloween and Pumpkin patches

11. Pumpkin Carving, Halloween Fun Day and Pumpkin Trail, Peter Beales Roses, Attleborough, Friday October 26, 10am-3pm:

With this half-term falling just before Halloween, many events have a Halloween theme, including this pumpkin day at the roses centre. Children are invited to come in fancy dress, and there will be a prize for the best one. Activities include games, a story-telling trail, Halloween-themed crafts, face-painting and pumpkin carving workshops. Admission and parking are free, but there is a small charge for face painting and pumpkin carving. Children need to be accompanied by an adult. The pumpkin trail is also open all through half-term week.

12. Halloween Trail at Nowton Park, Bury St Edmunds, October 20-28, 10am-3.30pm: A spooky trail has been laid around Nowton Park, so finding the clues will be entertaining and also give some exercise. You don’t need to book, but there is a £1 charge per ticket. Start off by collecting a quiz sheet from the Grounds Cafe.

13. Jazz Up your Jungle Pumpkin, Urban Jungle Suffolk, Weston, Beccles, Thursday, October 25, and Urban Jungle Norfolk, Old Costessey, Friday, October 26, 10am to 4pm: These two plant nurseries are each holding a popular pumpkin-themed event. Claree Fairy will be on hand to help children design and decorate pumpkin centrepieces for their homes and gardens. These event do have a £5 charge, but that includes the pumpkin, paints and accessories. You can book in advance or pay on the day. For more details, visit their website, www.urbanjungle.uk.com


14. Tales of Mystery, Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, Tuesday, October 25, sessions at 10.15, 11.15 and 2.15: Listening to stories is a perfect activity for autumn in the historic setting of Christchurch Mansion. Youngsters are invited to gather around a storyteller who will weave magical and mysterious tales, using unseen artefacts from the Mansion’s stores. These sessions are free with no need to book, and best suited to children aged five and over.

15. Young @ Arts Festival, Feast of Stories, Great Yarmouth Library, Wednesday, October 24, 11am onwards: As part of Visiting Arts’ programme to promote contemporary Iranian literature and culture in the UK, this special day will invite people to share stories and food. The day starts with a reading event from 11am to 12 noon in the Rumbelow Gallery where artists, writers and local people will share stories of family crisis, home, food, love and the food that brings them together. then from 2pm to 4pm there will be a storytelling workshop for 11 to 19-year-olds with performer and writer Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambahksh. The events are free but you need to sign up in advance. For more details and to sign up, see the event website: http://www.visitingarts.org.uk/event/feastofstories/

16. Rib-Tickling Tales, Colchester Natural History Museum, Wednesday, October 24, sessions at 10.30am, 11.30am and 12.30pm:

Science and nature are among the themes for this weird and wonderful storytelling session, which promises to “Tickle those funny bones”. The event is suitable for all ages and free, but you need to book in advance by calling 01206 282941

History and heritage

17. Sutton Hoo Roadshow, times and venues vary: The famous Sutton Hoo site might be shut at the moment, but it could be coming to you this half term! A series of Sutton Hoo roadshows are taking place, organised by the National Trust together with Suffolk Libraries. The free events will include the chance to see the replicas of the iconic Sutton Hoo helmet, buckle and shoulder clasp and other treasures. There will also be themed activities for children.

Over the week, the roadshow will be visiting libraries in Bury St Edmunds, Glemsford, Lavenham, Long Melford, Sudbury, Beccles Library, Southwold, Haverhill and Gainsborough Community Library in Ipswich. For the full schedule, visit the National Trust website or your local library’s website. No booking is needed.

18. First World War Family Day, Lynn Museum, King’s Lynn, Thursday, October 25, 10am-1pm: To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, the museum is holding a special day with costumed characters and the chance to handle real historical objects and learn a new craft. The museum also has an Animal ABC exhibition running all through half-term week. No booking is needed and the event is free. Admission to the museum is also free on all its opening days from October to March.

19. Viking and Dragon Events, Beccles Library, dates and times vary: Many libraries are holding special events over half term, and Beccles has a whole range of events on dragon and Viking themes, including the chance to make a giant longboat, make some Viking-inspired jewellery, paint some runestones, create Viking helmets and shields and make peg dragons and longboats. Some events are free, while others have a £2 charge, and spaces are limited so you need to book in advance. See the libraries events page for full details: https://www.suffolklibraries.co.uk/events-activities/

For older children and teenagers

20. NessFest, Lowestoft, Tuesday, October 23, times and venues vary: For ages 11 to 19, the first-ever NessFest is taking place this week, with activities including a gaming design workshop at Lowestoft Library, a 3D model making session, a drama games challenge, graffiti games and more. The events are free for 11 to 19-year-olds and tickets are not needed, but some events do have limited numbers so it is advisable to turn up early. See the NessFest Facebook page for more details.

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