Best Free Indoor Play Places for Connecticut Kids

There's hands-on fun at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Photo courtesy of the museum
There's hands-on fun at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Photo courtesy of the museum

Sure you can always play at home, but on some rainy or cold days, it's nice to get out of the house, make some new friends, and interact with ingenious children's exhibits—especially for free! There's no need to pay a dime during select or all open hours at these Connecticut indoor play places, where kids can get their energy out while also seeing live turtles, playing in a pretend kitchen, or even earning passports to distant lands while you sneak some shopping in.

Some of these spots appear in our roundup of 50 free indoor activities, too. And don't miss our complete Connecticut Indoor Play Guide and Free Fun Guide: They have even more sweet and budget-conscious ideas for entertaining kids when the weather doesn't cooperate. Have fun out—er, in—there!

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You don't have to look far to find fun, indoor learning activities at the Barnes Nature Center. Photo by author

Free Indoor Play in Hartford and Central Connecticut

Barnes Nature Center - Bristol
The playroom here offers many hands-on learning opportunities for little ones. Between puzzles, toys, and games, preschoolers will be entertained for a couple of hours. The center is open Thursday through Sunday. While in town, you can also check out the Bristol library, another free place to play.

Buckland Hills Mall - Manchester 
Adventurers under 42 inches tall will enjoy the little slides and tunnels in this carpeted play area located in the back of the food court, next to the carousel (not free). Kids will also enjoy climbing different creatures, such as a turtle, ladybug, and bunny. 

Northwest Park Nature Center - Windsor
This is a huge outdoor park, but the inside nature center and play area is also a great destination. Indoors you can watch the bird-next camera, see live turtles, learn about geothermal heat, and play in the play area. The Nature center has a lookout, books, puzzles, and more interesting things to see. Open daily until 4 pm.

Yale Peabody Museum - New Haven
One of Connecticut's oldest and best museums. Check out the Discovery Room on the 2nd floor for hands-on fun and live animals. Free admission for children under 3, and pay-as-you-wish on Thursday afternoons from 2-5 p.m. Closing to the public in July 2020 for renovations.

Westfield PlaySpace - Meriden
​Kids can climb and explore in a bright, colorful area filled with animal characters and large puzzles. PlaySpace is located on the upper level, near Best Buy.

Free Indoor Play Spots in Fairfield and Western Connecticut

Camp Sono - South Norwalk
Our recent review says it all: This newly opened shop and play place is a gem for Fairfield County parents! With free interactive play areas, arts and crafts programs, and even a canteen to satisfy kids' cravings, CAMP is a place where kids can have a blast while you sneak in some shopping.

Danbury Fair Mall - Danbury
Children can ride a pretend train, climb animal sculptures, and crawl and slide. The enclosed area is carpeted and offers abundant seating for parents. A nearby carousel (not free) will add to the excitement.

The Bruce Museum - Greenwich
An amazing museum full of nature exhibits, the Bruce offers free admission on Tuesdays. Also on Tuesdays is the Bruce Beginnings class for children ages 2.5 to 5. Offered twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon), Bruce Beginnings offers children a chance to explore exhibitions through picture books and hands-on activities.

Stepping Stones Children's Museum - Norwalk 
Children can play for free on the first Thursday evening of every month. Exhibits including Express Yourself, Toy Town, and Energy Lab will make for a fun and educational evening. 

Free Indoor Play in East Connecticut

New Britain Museum of American Art - New Britain 
Admission is free on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. The play area offers books, Legos, a pretend kitchen play area, and a puppet theater. Check to see if your local library offers free museum passes, good for any day of the week. Adjacent to the museum you will find Stanley Quarter Park, featuring trails, open fields for ball games, and a playground.


Winterfest at Bushnell Park in Hartford
Bushnell Park - 11:00 AM Pick
The Essex North Pole Express
Essex Steam Train - various times Pick
The Wood Library & Museum's Annual Gingerbread House Festival
The Wood Memorial Library & Museum - various times Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides