From orangutans to Odeon cinemas; walking tours to trampoline parks; escape rooms to cycling routes, there are all manner of things to do in Colchester. Here, we’ve gathered some of the most popular options for you to peruse and pick the ones you find most appealing.
Top of the list of things to do is Colchester Zoo. It’s one of the finest zoos in Europe, and home to more than 5,000 animals of over 250 species. Take a look at its dedicated page to find out more about the wildlife exhibits you’ll find there, your food options, and how you can save money on your ticket.
Got any golfers in the house? Playgolf Colchester is just a few minutes’ drive from the town centre and offers an 18-hole course, private tuition, a sauna, restaurant, bar, and state-of-the-art gym. The Constable course is good all year round and features water hazards on a number of the holes, so while pretty, it can prove challenging.
If you want to try your hand, and test your balance, with a bit of paddleboarding then Zenith Kiting is based nearby and offers picturesque paddleboarding lessons on the calm river Stour, in the lovely village of Dedham. To get started you’ll be instructed on the glass-like stretch of water opposite the Boat House. Then, when you’re feeling comfortable you’ll paddle your way to the historic hamlet of Flatford Mill.
Splatkidz Paintball is a quarter of an hour away from our Colchester (A12) hotel and provides the perfect paintballing experience for kids. The paintballs and guns are specially designed so that they don’t hurt when you’re hit – so it’s good for children as young as eight years old.
Another great option for thrill seekers – although it caters less for kids – is Gunsmoke Karting. These aren’t your typical go-karts; they’re off-road karts powered by Honda V2 engines, with disk brakes, racing harnesses and a roll cage. You do as many laps as you want within a given time. And, as it’s a grass track, it’s perfect for a bit of drifting.
While we can promise plenty of great days out in Colchester, one thing that’s never guaranteed is the weather. If it takes a turn for the worse, and you’re looking for something to do indoors, there are still some great options to choose from.
We’ll get started with a bit of an oddball. Rollerworld is one of Europe’s finest roller skating rinks and home to the UK’s only perfectly flat, Olympic-standard maple wood floor. It hosts a roller disco every Friday and Saturday night, so dig out your flares, book yourself in for a perm, pop that collar, and pop on down to bust a move to some disco grooves.
If you’re staying at our Colchester Cowdray Avenue hotel there are a couple of fun options right on your doorstep. If you want to take part in the trampolining craze that’s taking the country by storm then head over to Jump Street Colchester. It’s a huge indoor park practically covered from floor to ceiling in trampolines. You can go for a casual jump around, or get competitive in a game of dodgeball, defy the rules of gravity and master the slam dunk, or take part in one of their exciting but exhausting fitness classes. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, your other Cowdray Avenue option is Tenpin Colchester. It has a fully licensed bar, plenty of lanes to choose from, free parking, pool tables, and an amusement arcade.
In the midst of the shops of the town centre is where you’ll find one of the most popular indoor attractions in Colchester. Escape Colchester is typical of the top end escape games that have emerged out of Budapest to become a worldwide phenomenon. If you’ve never tacked an escape room before, the premise is simple. You are locked in a room full of hints, puzzles and clues and given an hour to escape. Reckon you can cope with the pressure? There’s only one way to find out for sure.
Or, if you just want to go and see the latest blockbuster then you’ll find Colchester’s Odeon Cinema to the west of the town centre, just down the road from the Mercury Theatre. It boasts eight screens, premier seats, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and a Costa Coffee if you’re prone to dozing off during a film.
If you want to hire a bike during your stay in Colchester, Bike and Go is your best option. It operates out of Colchester Railway Station and allows you to rent a bicycle for less than a fiver.
In terms of where to go for a bike ride, there are a number of good routes we’d recommend. For a detailed run-through of Colchester’s cycling trails, Essex County Council has produced a map you can pick up from the town’s Visitor Information Centre which shows you where to go.
First of all, there’s the High Woods Cycle Route, which takes you through the woodlands and around the lake and ponds of High Woods Country Park. It’s picturesque, and pretty easy-going. The Ipswich Road Route splits off from the High Woods Route and takes a direct route towards the town centre along one of the busy main roads. Meanwhile, the Greenstead Route is a winding option that links up with the National Cycle Route 51.
Considering the number of historic buildings, attractions and Roman ruins you can find in Colchester, the best way to ensure you don’t miss anything is by exploring the town on foot. To help, you can pick up a self-guided Colchester Heritage Trail tour book from the Visitor Information Centre in the Castle Park. It only costs a couple of pounds and is invaluable if you plan on picking your way through the maze of lanes and alleys that form the Dutch Quarter.
Alternatively, you can book a place on the popular From Camulodunum to Colchester Guided Walking Tour that’ll take you on a 90-minute walk around town while a knowledgeable, fully qualified tour guide reveals all about Colchester’s Roman heritage all the way through to present day. It’s fascinating stuff for less than a fiver.
Whether you're coming to Colchester for a trip to the zoo, a tour of the castle, a visit to Firstsite, or an evening at the Mercury Theatre, stay with us at any one of our three Colchester hotels. They're perfect for exploring this most historic of Roman towns and all of its fascinating attractions.
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