With its postcard perfect frozen ponds and snow-covered hillsides, winter in Connecticut offers a slice of classic New England paradise. Add in the ice skating and the sledding and you've got yourself a real life Currier & Ives painting. But, let's face it, winter can seem never ending. Come Groundhog Day we're all just counting down the days until summer. So, to help you shake the winter blues, we've rounded up 25 FREE things to do this month across the state. For even more ideas, check out our CT Winter Fun Guide.
1. Check out Winterfest on the east side of Bushnell Park for some free ice skating, seven days a week. Winterfest has free skate rentals and free lessons are available on Saturday too.
2. Got a bookworm? Barnes & Noble offers free regularly scheduled story times on Saturday mornings at 11am. This month, Barnes & Noble will feature “What Do You Do With a Chance?,” “Paddington,” “You!,” and “Fancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens,” as the selected stories.
3. The Eli Whitney Museum's annual hands on exhibition of American Flyer Trains is running through mid-January. The classic toy trains produced by New Haven's A.C. Gilbert Company that still run beautifully after half a century. The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays is entirely free. Children may build wooden model trains for an additional cost.
4. Calling all kids ages 8 and up: The Westport Library invites you to check out their new HTC Vive headset, a new kind of Virtual Reality interactive experience. This is a drop-in program.
5. On the first Saturday of the month, Home Depot offers free projects for kids at all locations. This month, kids will build a wooden block calendar—perfect for starting the new year!
6. Enjoy free admission on Tuesdays to the Bruce Museum and discover impressive collections of art, textiles, science, history, and ethnology. The museum offers a special program geared for children ages 2.5 to 5 on Tuesdays called Bruce Beginnings where families are invited to explore the museum through picture books and hands-on activities.
7. On Sunday afternoons, concerts at the Stamford Symphony are free for anyone under 18. Kids are also invited to attend MusiKids, the symphony’s pre-concert interactive program starting at 2pm in the upstairs lobby of the Palace Theatre.
8. Head outside and take in the sparkling views that only a winter walk can offer.
9. Third Saturdays at The Aldrich are totally free for everyone, and include family workshops from 10am to 3pm. Note: Children 18 and under are FREE at The Aldrich any day, with an admission-paying adult.
10. Visit the discovery center and an impressive live birds of prey exhibit at the New Canaan Nature Center.
11. The Fairfield University Bookstore offers free children's programming with a story and simple craft for ages three and up on the weekends. This month, check out the Pinocchio Kids Story Time with the crew of the Downtown Cabaret on Friday January 19th and enjoy a story, photos, and freebies.
12. Enjoy free admission on the third Thursday of the month at KidCity, between 5 and 7pm.
13. Enjoy free crafts for kids each Saturday at Lakeshore Learning in Hamden from 11am to 3pm. Children age three and older are invited to participate. This month, craft a winter wonderland snowglobe, STEAM plane, melting snowman, and bobsled.
14. Ever been inside a submarine? Well, head to the Submarine Force Library and Museum, the only submarine museum operated by the United States Navy, and your kiddos can descend into the USS Nautilus and explore its many rooms. TIP: check the website before you go and download an interactive scavenger hunt to take along with you.
15. Stargazers Delight. Head to the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium for the (mostly) free planetarium shows presented Tuesday nights at 7 and 8pm. Entrance into the planetarium is on a first come basis and is free for kids age 13 and under.
16. One of the only state parks with a designated skating area, Pickett’s Pond in Osbornedale State Park offers a perfect setting for skating. When the weather allows for thick enough ice (decided by park rangers), skaters can be found gliding across Pickett’s Pond. Warm up next to the roaring fire in the pavilions fireplace and don’t forget to bring your marshmallows and hot chocolate. Bright lights illuminate the night for skating after dark.
17. Marvel at the gigantic dinosaurs, artifacts from ancient Egypt, and impressive dioramas filled with everything from Polar Bears to Hawks. Enjoy free admission to the Peabody Museum on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 5pm, September through June.
18. On the first Thursday of every month between 5 and 8pm, head to Stepping Stones to explore exhibits like Energy Lab, ColorCoaster, Build It!, and Express Yourself, the newest addition.
19. Enjoy miles of trails, a beautiful newly-constructed playground, and a nature center that is home to snakes, lizards, crustaceans, an owl, and more at the Ansonia Nature Center. Joining forces with the Peabody Museum, the nature center will offer a free educational two-day program in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King on January 14 and 15..
20. Sled down the huge hills at Page Park in Bristol, or check out other places to go sledding in the Hartford or Fairfield areas.
21. Explore nature indoors or out at Milford Audubon Center.
22. Bird Count for Kids - Join the White Memorial Conservation Center on Saturday, January 6, for the longest-running citizen science project in history, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This bird survey is held around the world between the second weekend in December and the third weekend in January every year. There will be pizza and hot cocoa afterwards for all the participants. Bring your own binoculars if you have them!
23. The Knights of Columbus Museum is exhibiting an expansive collection of creches from around the world, celebrating the diversity of cultures that created them. The display features everything from Hummel figurines to handmade stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. Free admission and parking. Exhibit runs through mid-February.
24. The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa's Fire & Ice Festival is free and open to the public and fun for all ages, hosted on the waterfront at the Waterfront Terrace and Grand Ballroom. Enjoy winter-themed festivities and demonstrations all day, including ice sculpting.
25. Go Ice Fishing. Check out The Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education Program’s free in-depth ice fishing class at Winding Trails in Farmington or the DEEP’s free Family Ice Fishing class at Patriots Park to brush up on ice fishing techniques.