Lack of fun-money doesn't have to keep families stuck inside and bored during the best season of the year: summer! Even if you are tight on funds, there's plenty of great places to go and things to do right here in Connecticut. Mommy Poppins has assembled a block-buster list of free events and ideas for you and your family to have fun with this summer! Let's go!
1. Go on a Butterfly Hunt in Hartford on June 16. Come and see if you can spot one of the 20 different kinds of butterflies in residence around Cedar Hill Cemetery.
2. Take a trip to the Yale Peabody Natural History Museum in New Haven. This is one of the kid destination museums in Connecticut. Free for kids three and under during regular hours and pay what you want Thursdays, from 2pm to 5pm in June.
3. Experience nature at the Northwest Park and Nature Preserve in Windsor. Enjoy their hiking trails, the nature center, the butterfly garden, the organic garden, and the animals that live on site!
4. Check out the USS Nautilus Submarine Force Museum in Groton. Tour a submarine and learn about the amazing history behind the use of submarines in the military. This is the only submarine museum operated by the US Navy. Admission and parking are free.
5. Participate in the Simsbury Art Trail scavenger hunt of sculptures by Seward Johnson called "Celebrating the Familiar." See life-size sculptures created by Johnson that depict people doing everyday things such as mowing the lawn, watering the plants, and walking the dog.
6. See the stars at the Copernicum Observatory and Planetarium in New Britain. Free planetarium shows are offered, first come first serve seating. Summer dates include: June 17 and July 15.
7. See some of the most beautiful fine art in Connecticut at the Wadsworth Museum in Hartford. Free adult admission is offered Wednesday through Sunday, from 4pm to 5pm. In addition, kids ages 18 and under are always free!
8.Take a hike up to Hublein Tower at Talcott Mountain in Farmington. This is a family-friendly hike with beautiful scenery.
9. Go see a movie at Shady Beach in Norwalk. Choose from seven different movies on Saturday nights at about 5:30 pm.
10. Watch a free showing of the movie "The Greatest Showman" at Weed Beach on June 29.
11. Go to one of Connecticut's awesome inclusive parks such as Jonathon's Dream (West Hartford), Hannah's Dream (New Haven), Our Children's Place (Newington), The Sky's the Limit Playground (Ridgefield), Twin Meadows Boundless Playground (Stamford), and Mikey's Place (Wethersfield)
12. Check out the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz on July 20-22. Free admission and lots of music and fun! Bring the kids out with a picnic blanket and dance under the stars.
13. Check out a free movie at Bow Tie Cinemas. Every Wednesday a free kid-flick is shown all summer long. Choose from: Angry Birds, Emoji Movie, Trolls, Ferdinand, Captain Underpants, Boss Baby, Smurfs, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and Kung Fu Panda 3.
14. If you're near Ridgefield on a Tuesday or Thursday night bring a blanket and enjoy the free concerts offered by CHIRP.
15. Take a stroll through the beautiful rose gardens at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford. This is a great place to get a family photograph!
16. Take advantage of Connecticut Trails Days on June 2-3. There are 250 events statewide planned!
17. Get on over to the JCC of New Haven's Touch-a-truck event and let your little guy or gal see an ambulance, firetruck, police car, and dump truck up close.
18. Get on out to a Farmer's Market. There are dozens of them all over Connecticut and these are particularly friendly to kids.
19. Take the kids on a garden tour in East Windsor. Free for children ages 13 and under, see twelve different gardens.
20. Check out circus history and make a visit to the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport. Free all the time, the museum is open Thursdays and Fridays from 11am to 3pm.
21. Make sure you check out Taste of the Caribbean and Jerk Festival in Hartford when you are hungry, but even if you aren't, there's plenty to do for free such as listen to amazing music, see amazing costumes, and maybe play Caribbean games too. Lots of children's activities. August 4.
22. Is your family a fan of the Huskies? Go and check out the Husky Museum.
23. Have someone in the family who loves helicopters? Take a spin over to the National Helicopter Museum in Stratford. Always free, see two helicopters up close and personal.
24. Check out the Bruce Museum in Greenwhich where you can see contemporary art exhibits, and other exhibitions called: "The Earth's Minerals," "Formation of our Lands," and ""Life Between the Tides" which is all about Connecticut coastline. Free admission on Tuesdays.
25. In the mood to be in nature, come to one of the Open Farm days at the Common Ground. See the animals, take a walk around the learning garden, and take one of the family-friendly hikes.
26. Is diversity and cultural acceptance an important thing in your family? Then you probably want to check out the NICE Festival on July 7. There will be dancers, musicians, and vendors there to increase acceptance of diverse cultures.
27. Open House Connecticut on June 9 is the day when attractions, museums, galleries, and other places either offer free admission or a discounted admission. Here is a complete list.
28. Darien Sidewalk Sales and Family Fun Days are in July. Yes, there are things to buy, but you can also just come and have fun as a family and watch the pet parade, look at the collectible cars, listen to music, and watch the children's entertainment.
29. Sailfest (July 13-15) is huge even in the southeast corner. It's free admission, but you may have to pay for parking. See the tall ships, fireworks, amusement rides, and 200 vendors.
30. Don't miss Riverfront Dragon Boat Race in Hartford on August 18. This will be the 18th year of this fun cultural celebration. Watch 90 different teams compete.
31. Do your kiddos love crafts? At Lakeshore Learning in Hamden every Saturday kids can make a free craft.
32. On Father's Day weekend check out the Dinosaur Place in Oakdale. Dads get into the Dinosaur Place free on June 17 when accompanied by another paying ticket holder. Dinosaur Place is a 60-acre outdoor park with hands-on activities and a museum.
33. Does Dad or Grand-dad love trains? Then check out the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor.
34. Is you family filled with book-lovers? Barnes and Noble stores statewide offer free story times for kids like this one based on the book "Pete the Kitty and the Groovy Playdate" on June 30.
35. File this one under the "practically free" heading. The New Britain Youth Museum has a full art program which costs only $2 per class. Meanwhile admission to the museum is also only $2.
36. Love outdoor movies? Then make sure to hit at least one of the Sand Jam Family Movie Nights at Jennings Beach. Parking stickers required.
37. For Father's Day J.C. Penney at the Danbury Fair Mall is offering a free craft. Head out on June 16 to customize a tie for Dad.
38. More outside time needed? Take an easy preschooler friendly hike.
39. Learn about Nutmeg history at the Museum of Connecticut History. Visit the Colt Collection of firearms, the Mitchelson Coin Collection, and see portraits of all of Connecticut's governors.
40. In love with beautiful waterfalls? Don't miss some of Connecticut's gorgeous cascades.
41. Learn about the religious history behind the Knights of Columbus at the free KOC Museum in New Haven. This is a state-of-the-art facility with amazing exhibits.
42. Expose your family to fine art at the Yale Art Gallery. Admission is free. The permanent exhibitions include sculpture, Asian art, American paintings, photography, and ancient art.
43. Do your children love nature like mine do? Then make a trip to the Connecticut College Arboretum. The Arboretum is open daily from dawn to dusk and is free. Tours are offered May through October.
44. Where can you see 200 cows, 50 ewes, 85 horses, and 800 chickens? University of Connecticut in Storrs of course. The animal barns are open daily to visitors.
45. With 40 miles of trails, ponds, and a nature trail, the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield is a great place to be with the family.
46. The New Britain Industrial Museum collects and preserves all the things that recall the industrial advances of Connecticut's own. Names like Stanley and New Britain Machine are all part of the industrial history of "Hard Hittin' New Britain." The museum is open limited hours Wednesday through Saturday and is always free.
47. New Canaan Nature Center offers "Crafternoons" on Wednesdays all summer long. Each week preschoolers can stop in and make a new craft to take home.
48. Enjoy free music in Farmington with their weekly concert series on Thursdays starting at 8:30pm.
49. Simsbury Public Library will be offering Yoga for Young Men on June 4. Stretch and learn relaxing breathing techniques. Boys in grades 5-9 invited.
50. The Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens in Stamford is a beautiful destination for some family time. Bring your family dog and explore 12 different gardens on the grounds. Open 9-4pm, Monday through Friday.
51. Father's Day Fort Building sound fun? Simsbury Public Library has a morning of fort building for daddy and the kids from 10 am to 12 pm.
52. Come to the Windsor Public Library because the Connecticut Science Museum will be stopping by on July 18 for a free program called "Good Vibrations!". For children ages 6-10. Call ahead to register.
53. If you are on the shoreline, enjoy the Madison First Congregational Church Strawberry Festival on June 9.
54. If you are near South Windsor on June 9, head to the Strawberry Festival. There are lots of things for kids to do like hay rides, face painting, live music, and balloon art.
55. Do you love big balloons? Then blow on over to Mohegan Sun for the Heart of America Balloon Festival. Admission is free for kids 10 and under and all military personnel. Three days of big balloons and tethered rides.
56. Lots of fun things for kids to do at the Rowayton River Ramble. There will be a petting zoo, a bounce house, games, pony rides, and more. The event is held July 14 at Pinkney Park.
57. Another don't-miss balloon event is the Plainville Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival. Free admission but there are vendors and food available for purchase.
58. Did you know that North Branford has a Potato and Corn Festival? In fact, this is it's 17th year. Fun events like potato sack races, corn shucking contests, a tractor pull, live music, and a classic car show.
59. Is someone in your family a fast and furious fan? Ocean Beach has a classic car cruise car night weekly throughout the summer. Listen to DJ music. Parking and admission are free.
60. Support the Special Olympics by attending Dream Ride. At several locations throughout Connecticut, you can see motorcycles, cars, and even run a 5k to support the Special Olympics.
61. When the temperatures get really cooking, a great destination is a splash pad to cool off. Check out Mommy Poppins' lists of splash pads in Connecticut in Fairfield, New Haven, Eastern CT, and Hartford.
63. Check out the SoNo Arts Festival in South Norwalk in August. View the work of over 100 juried artists, listen to music and make sure to see the amazing puppet parade on August 5.
64. Go to a free movie at the Marquee Cinemas in Westbrook. Movies are offered Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 9:30 am.
65. Check out an Apple class for kids. These computer/technology based classes are held at every Apple store in the state and all you have to do is reserve your spot.
66. Go on a family bike ride on one of the Hartford-area rail trails or paved bike paths in Connecticut. Check our Mommy Poppins' list here.
67. Take your tweens/teens skateboarding or biking at one of these awesome locations in Fairfield.
68. Visit animals who have been given a new lease on life at the Ray of Hope Animal Sanctuary. These donkeys and horses are loved and cared for at the sanctuary.
69. Go fishing! Beyond the fishing license there are many free places to fish in Connecticut.
70. Head down to the Connecticut Family Festival held at Waterfront Park in New London. This free event has tons for kids to do including: storytelling and appearance by children's authors, arts and crafts, music, free water taxi rides, and free sailing lessons.
71. Take a nature walk in Bloomfield. June 2, beginning at 1:30 pm, there will be a nature walk at the Auer Farm State Park Scenic Reserve.
72. Support the Make-a-Wish Foundation and attend the Fun at the Farms free event in East Granby on June 2. There will be field games, face painting, and bounces houses.
73. Check out the New Gate Prison in Granby. There will be free admission offered to the public on July 22 and August 16.
74. Come to Enfield's Fourth of July Weekend event of the year which annually draws thousands. There is free admission with concerts, a parade, fireworks, and free events for kids and teens.
75. Visit the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum on the third Saturday of the month for free admission. Kids will be able to participate in family-friendly activities in The Studio.
76. Kids eat free at certain restaurants during the week. Check out our list of places in Central Connecticut but make sure to confirm before you go.
77. Do your kids enjoy puppets? UCONN has a puppetry major and many of their students create their own. The Ballard Museum of Puppetry is open Tuesday through Sunday. There is a suggested "donation" for admission.
78. Come and see history through the eyes of technology at the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum in Windsor.
79. Have you been wanting to try geocaching? Here is a great opportunity to try it for the first time at Mill River Park.
80. This one, too, will be placed in the "practically free" category. The Little Folks Fair in Guilford on June 2. Tons of things for little kids to do, admission is $2 for kids and $3 for their grownups and of course, under 2 is free.
81. For a little down-home fun, head to the Seymour Founder's Day Celebration on June 3.
82. Beautiful Stonington hosts an annual fair with free admission on August 4. Enjoy the small-town feel and the ocean breeze.
83. Do your teens love anime and manga? Bring them down to the New Haven Public library for the Anime and Manga club which meets all summer.
84. Make sure to enjoy Connecticut's vast shoreline. Some of these beaches charge for parking, but the fun is free! Here are some beaches in Fairfield and Eastern Connecticut too.
85. Do you prefer fresh water to salt water? Check out one of the free ponds or lakes in Central Connecticut.
86. Have you ever gone letterboxing? In each state park, you follow directions to a stamp and mark off the location in a notebook. You need your own unique stamp too. So much fun! Here are some trails in Fairfield to try.
87. Make a visit to one of Connecticut's National Historic Sites. Weir Farm is open dawn to dusk. Though it was once a rambling farm, now you can wander through the unused barns and absorb all the nature around you. Free admission year round.
88. Free Hands-on-History at Windsor Historical Society on June 9. See costumed actors and actresses and ask them questions about their historical lives. See the refurbished Strong-Howard House and live, open-heart cooking.
89. All summer long, local churches are offering Vacation Bible Schools...many of which are free. Here is an example of one in Middletown.
90. Check out MakeHaven in New Haven for their retro-video game event on June 28.
91. Is your teen interested in politics? Have them stop by the Controversy Corner at the New Haven Public Library anytime this summer.
92. Would a child in your house like to learn about Chess? Ives Main Library in New Haven has a Chess club that meets weekly. Ages 6 and up.
93. On Wednesdays this summer, the Imagination Playground at Grace Farms is open to kids ages 3-10. This unique playground will have a bunch of different kinds of blocks for kids to free-play with.
94. Participate in the Governor's Summer Reading Challenge. Called "Libraries Rock" students keep track of how many books they read and fill out a response page in their journal. For more information and to print out the journal, click here.
95. Many town libraries are also running reading programs this summer as well. Here are links to just some of the programs in the state: Newington, Bridgeport, Branford, Canaan, Monroe, and Pomfret.
96. Why not try a new playground or playscape that you have never been to before? There are hundreds all over Connecticut. Here are some in the New London and Hartford areas.
97. Do you and your family have a thing for shiny rocks? Check some out at the Antique Machinery Museum in Kent.
98. Sunday, June 3, Tolland Recreation Department is holding a Trail's Day Social Run. For children ages 12 and older.
99. In Naugatuck, there is a fun kids program called Gunntown Kids. This takes place at Gunntown Park and is FREE for kids 3-7 and 8-12.
100. In Putnam, enjoy Main Street for the Car Cruise on August 12. See some amazing cars!
Photo Credit: The Nice Festival