The ballot has opened for this year’s Essex Big Weekend.

That’s the chance residents have to visit some of the county’s most popular tourist destinations for free.

Organised by Visit Essex, the Essex Big Weekend is designed to encourage residents to rediscover the amazing things to see and do in their home county - and to then spread the word about them.

To take part register at until March 17.

READ MORE: Essex Big Weekend 2019 - how to get tickets

Here is our pick of some of the best places to get tickets for.

1. Audley End House and Gardens, near Saffron Walden

One of the greatest houses of early 17th century England, it was transformed by Robert Adam for Sir John Griffin Griffin in the 1760s, while Lancelot “Capability” Brown remodelled the grounds, to create one of England’s finest landscape gardens.

2. RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Chelmsford

The gardens were first begun in 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to the former working farm.


Its location among rolling hills and fantastic panoramic views along with its brown hare population, not to mention the butterflies and birds, make it a jewel in the county’s horticultural crown.

3. Colchester Zoo

A popular attraction at all times of the year with an impressive collection of animals from tigers, bears, sealions, wide variety of monkeys and, of course, the zoo’s family of elephants and giraffes.

4. Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome

A unique place, with a unique history, which is the largest known surviving group of RFC buildings on a World War One aerodrome.

Originally opened in 1916 as home to B Flight of No 37(HD) Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, the aerodrome saw the birth of the air defence of Great Britain in response to the first raids by Zeppelins and Gotha bombers on London and the South East.

5. Adventure Island, Southend

An amusement park has occupied the area by the north end of the pier since 1976 when it was owned and run by the Miller family.


Previously known as Peter Pan’s Playground and later Peter Pan’s Adventure Island, it continues to attract thousands of families each year.