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24 exciting things you should do in Sussex for 2024

Charleston in Lewes <i>(Image: Charleston in Lewes)</i>
Charleston in Lewes (Image: Charleston in Lewes)

A new year means new bucket list items to tick off in Sussex - and here are Sussex Life's guide to 24 top attractions to enjoy in 2024...

Fontwell Park 100th anniversary

Steeped in horse racing history since it was founded in 1924 by racehorse trainer Alfred Day, this year the course situated between Chichester and Arundel celebrates its centenary. Fontwell Park is unique as it’s the only remaining figure of eight jumps track in the UK. Originally designed to make the best use of the available land, the layout provides spectators with a fantastic view of the action. There is a year-round programme of afternoon and evening race meetings.

Fontwell Park, race meetings January 11 to December 26, from £17,

Explore the night sky

The Beachy Head Story is a free exhibition centre on the namesake cliffs which also runs family-friendly events and activities throughout the year. These include complimentary stargazing sessions using the Eastbourne Astronomical Society’s telescopes and specialised cameras to glimpse features of planets and stars that can’t be seen with the naked eye, including craters on the moon and constellations. Following an introductory talk, society members are on hand to answer questions and help people discover the Sussex sky at night.

The Beachy Head Story, January 27, 5pm to 7pm, and February 24, 6pm to 8pm,

Charleston in Lewes 

Experience Charleston and the avant-garde Bloomsbury group of liberal artists, writers and philosophers in a new cultural hub. Highlights during 2024 include the first-ever exhibition exploring the story behind the artistic and romantic partnership between painters Dorothy Hepworth and Patricia Preece. The expansive space in former council offices includes a cafe and shop showcasing contemporary designer makers, plus a programme of learning and community projects. Combine a visit with a trip to Charleston’s house, garden and galleries at nearby Firle.

Opening hours Weds to Sun: 10am to 5pm, exhibitions from £7.50,

Royal trail 

Stretch your legs along the newly opened stretch of the King Charles III Coast Path running through West Sussex. The 44-mile section, which starts at the sand dunes of West Wittering beach and finishes at Shoreham-by-Sea, will eventually become part of the 2,700 mile long coastal walking route which is England’s newest National Trail. The Sussex segment takes in sweeping coastal plains, long beaches and seaside villages including Rustington, Ferring and Goring-by-Sea and the wildlife haven of Medmerry RSPB reserve.

Ukrainian art

Talented Ukrainian refugees and immigrants living in Sussex showcase their homeland and culture in this colourful and insightful exhibition Ukrainian Renaissance. Art. Craft. History. Modern works by 16 local artists include photographs and paintings, with artistic heritage displayed through icons, traditional national costumes, headbands, and handmade jewellery. Visitors also have the opportunity to learn about Ukraine through art workshops, lectures, documentaries and music. The exhibition has been organised by the museum in collaboration with the Worthing-based Ukrainian Friends Network charity.

Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, now until February 11,

Trees and bees

We think of bees and insects buzzing around flower beds, but pollen and nectar also come from trees. Wakehurst, the 500-acre Sussex outpost of Royal Botanic Garden Kew, is inviting visitors to join a citizen science project and help discover what trees pollinators like best. From spring to autumn use an app or worksheet to walk through different habitats to see what you can spot. Photographs and data will be collected to help the work of Kew’s botanists.

Wakehurst, Ardingly, March 1 to August 31, £16.50/£8.25 children,

Star-struck stroll

Follow in the footsteps of Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley who star in the film Wicked Little Letters released in cinemas on February 23. Set in the 1920s, it’s based on a true story about a series of scandalous letters circulated in Littlehampton. Much of the filming took place in Arundel high street where shop fronts were transformed to reflect the period. Afterwards visit magnificent Arundel Castle which doubled as Windsor Castle in the film The Madness of King George.

Arundel Castle and Gardens, March 28 to November 3, from £29/£12 children,

Sound Matters

Great Dixter House & Gardens, the family home of the late great gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd, has a fascinating new attraction to encourage visitors to tune into the sounds of gardens. Sound Matters, inside the Great Barn, features soundbite recordings of birdsong and insect life in the flowers and shrubs to highlight the bio-diversity of gardens, however large or small. The six-acres at Great Dixter include orchards, meadows, a topiary lawn and a variety of different gardens.

Great Dixter House & Gardens, Northiam, March 26 to October 31, from £13/£4 children,

Food, glorious food

This year’s Brighton Foodies Festival promises to be the biggest yet with top chefs, live music, entertainment and, of course, tasty food and delicious drinks. Watch MasterChef champions, Michelin-starred and top local chefs cooking their signature summer recipes in the Chefs Theatre, learn how to make show-stopping sweet treats in the Cake & Bake Theatre, savour street food from around the world and meet artisan producers. Youngsters can join the fun at the Kids Cookery Theatre.

Brighton Foodies Festival, Preston Park, May 4-6, from £19/£3 children,

Glyndebourne 90th anniversary

The iconic rural opera house has a dazzling line-up to celebrate its milestone 90th anniversary season. The 2024 Glyndebourne Festival opens with a new production of Bizet’s Carmen, directed by Diane Paulus, a giant of American theatre making her UK opera directorial debut. The second new production of the season will be Franz Lehar’s operetta The Merry Widow, a work that has never been fully staged at Glyndebourne before. Pack a picnic for the UK’s most quintessential opera experience.

Glyndebourne Festival 2024, Lewes, May 16 to August 25, bookings open in March, from £25,


A grand celebration of canine companions, Goodwoof will feature a fantastic line-up of activities to entertain dogs, their humans and all the family in the beautiful surroundings of Goodwood. There are demonstrations, competitions, entertainment and fun for dogs of all shapes and sizes - and their two-legged companions - including the fastest dog competition, fido’s lido, chill-out yoga zone, the latest in kennel designs and the have-a-go area which is the best place to teach an old dog new tricks.

Goodwood, Chichester, May 18-19, from £30/under-12s and dogs free,

All-inclusive luxury 

On the doorstep of Camber Sands near Rye, the boutique adults-only property The Gallivant has pioneered luxury all-inclusive staycations. The new Gallivant Unlimited package includes accommodation, breakfast, elevenses, English wine at five, dinner, all drinks and a ‘sleep happy’ tea tray. Guests can also book a range of unique experiences including a ‘drinks in the dunes’ hamper, with cocktails, nibbles and a cosy beach blanket, morning yoga overlooking the beach or a treatment in the beach hut-style spa cabin.

The Gallivant, Camber, rooms from £395 for two people, per night,

Swashbuckling fun

Channel your inner Blackbeard and Jack Sparrow at Hastings Pirate Day. In the record books as the pirate capital of the world for hosting the largest number of buccaneers and swashbucklers, it’s a weekend of fun for everyone across the town’s pubs and attractions. The main event is on Sunday when the procession leaves the town centre at noon heading for the Old Town, with live music at the Stade along with pirate acts, storytelling games and treasure hunts. Argh!

Hastings Pirate Day, July 20-21,

Walk 360 

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping challenge, take a walk on top of Brighton i360, where the experience is now open to plucky youngsters aged 10-plus. Much more than your average seaside stroll, you’ll travel up 138m in the glass viewing pod at the landmark Brighton attraction before being clipped into a harness to step outside and take a 360-degree walk around the tower. Daredevil participants are rewarded with stunning coastal and city views from a totally new perspective.

Brighton i360, from £40,

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company

Recently celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Sussex-based outdoor theatre company brings its circus tent to Eastbourne for its main annual production. The Dressing Book is an original play and a poetic and tender comedy set in the 18th century but plays games with time and has a twist in the tail. It follows the social life of Maybelline who records which dresses she wears in her dressing book, and the men she encounters while wearing them.

The Dressing Book, Helen Gardens, Eastbourne, August 7-11, 7.30pm, from £20,

Labyrinth Challenge

One of the biggest annual events at Leonardslee, the Labyrinth Challenge is an exciting festival of summer fun. It boasts one of the world’s most impressive inflatable obstacle courses, measuring over 1,000 feet in length, and is divided into five different challenge zones for the young and young at heart. There is also a mini challenge suitable for smaller children. For adult visitors Leonardslee now includes a vineyard, with the first release of its sparkling wine in 2024.

Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens, Lower Beeding, August 8-11, from £10.50,

Into the Trees

Connect with nature on a two-night camping weekend in the Ashdown Forest. Now in its fifth year, a packed programme of family-friendly events includes outdoor activities, crafts, storytelling, magic, foraging, tree climbing, bat spotting, campfire singing, cookery and more. There’s even a tranquil forest spa where adults can unwind. Bring your own tent, caravan or camper van, or hire a beautiful pre-pitched bell tent to camp out under the stars. Day tickets are also available.

Into the Trees, Nutley, September 6-8, weekend tickets from £60/£35 children,

Great British Life: The reenactment of the Battle of HastingsThe reenactment of the Battle of Hastings (Image: visit hastings)

Battle of Hastings

In one of English Heritage’s biggest annual events, hundreds of re-enactors recreate the drama of the epic battle between King Harold and Duke William. Watch the battle unfold on the exact spot where the Saxon and Norman armies fought in 1066. Then venture into the encampments to meet the soldiers and learn about their weaponry and battle skills and discover the clothes they wore and the food they ate during one of the most important dates in English history.

Battle Abbey, October 12-13, from £12.70/ £7.70 children,

Flower power 

Turn over a new leaf and join a workshop to learn how to make artificial flowers using vintage fabrics and other materials. The Shirley Leaf & Petal Company, a family business dating back over 110 years, is based at the Flower Makers’ Museum in Hastings Old Town. Tucked inside an old pharmacist building, despite its size the company has a global reputation as a leading supplier of artificial flowers for film, theatre and television, including Frozen the Musical and Gladiator.

The Shirley Leaf & Petal Company, Hastings, workshops from £25, 01424 427793

Pooch-friendly breaks 

On a Sussex staycation with Pets Pyjamas there’s no need to leave your four-legged friend at home. The dog-friendly travel company offers pet packages at a number of hotels in Sussex which are hand-picked for their access to beaches and walks. They include Bailiffscourt Hotel at Climping, Goodwood Hotel near Chichester, The White Horse in Chilgrove and Beachcroft Hotel Beach Huts at Felpham. Pet perks include a bowl, biscuits, ball, walks guide and a dog drying coat to keep.

Bailiffscourt Hotel, from £445 per night for two people and one dog,

Sea Lanes Brighton 

Embrace the outdoor swimming craze without the cold or open water at the UK’s first National Open Water Swimming Centre. The former Peter Pan site on Brighton seafront has been transformed into a six-lane 50m outdoor swimming pool with a year-round temperature of 19 degrees. With a cafe, bar and shops, family and friends relax in between dipping into the hour-long swimming sessions against a seafront backdrop. Annual memberships are also available for dedicated and competitive swimmers.

Sea Lanes Brighton, Mon to Fri: 6am to 9.30pm, Sat: 6.30am to 7pm, Sun: 6.30am to 8pm, from £11/£7 under-18s,

Take off 

You’ve probably spotted them soaring high in the sky out of a train or car window so how about joining them this year? If you want to see Sussex from a thrilling new perspective Mile High Paragliding offers tandem paragliding flights across the Downs and Beachy Head from sights including Mount Caburn, Firle, Bo-Peep and High and Over. After a full briefing you’ll be strapped into the harness with your pilot and before you know it your feet will have left the ground.

Mile High Paragliding, from £249,

Great British Life: Beachy Head marathon.Beachy Head marathon. (Image: visit eastbourne)

Beachy Head Marathon

From humble beginnings in 1981, when 182 intrepid walkers and 68 runners set off on the former Seven Sisters Marathon, the Beachy Head Marathon has grown into one the UK’s biggest off-road marathons. It’s one of the country’s most scenic races as well as the most challenging. If the marathon is a step too far, the weekend includes a half marathon, 10k and is a great focus for runners, joggers and walkers looking to get fit in 2024.

Beachy Head Marathon, Eastbourne, October 26-27,

Contemporary country house 

Entertain friends and family in a unique new-style English country house nestling in the South Downs National Park. Designed to evoke the ruins of a Roman villa, Cadence’s dramatic exterior made from brick and concrete using recycled materials, opens into a modern haven sleeping up to 10 on a self-catering basis. Guests get a key to a private gate leading to the neighbouring stately home Petworth House, where the owner grew up, and can explore the 700-acre deer park and gardens.

Cadence, Petworth, from £6,295 per week,


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