50 Free Things to Do in Connecticut This Summer with Kids
Lack of fun-money doesn't have to keep families stuck inside and bored during the best season of the year: summer! For those on a budget, there are plenty of great places to visit right here in our state. This blockbuster list of free things to do in Connecticut has plenty of ideas for having fun while bonding and making memories during summer vacation.
Free Things to Do in Connecticut
2. The first Sunday of every month is dedicated to family fun days Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue. Families are invited to the farm for tours and activities. In addition to meeting all the horses, children have the opportunity to meet and pet Mr. Marshmallow, watch a horse grooming demonstration, sit on tractors, play on hay bales, and learn about horses and farm life.
3. Experience nature at the Northwest Park and Nature Preserve in Windsor. Enjoy hiking trails, a nature center, a butterfly garden, an organic garden, and 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 U.S. Navy. Admission, and parking is free, too.
5. Bring blankets and chairs and enjoy a picnic while listening to live music on the lawn of the Pardee-Morris House in New Haven.
6. Take a hike up to Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury. This is a family-friendly trek with beautiful scenery.
7. Go to one of Connecticut's awesome inclusive parks such as Jonathan's Dream (West Hartford), Hannah's Dream (New Haven), Our Children's Place (Newington), The Sky's the Limit Playground (Ridgefield), Devon’s Place (Norwalk), and Mikey's Place (Wethersfield).
8. Every Wednesday evening after sundown, visitors can enjoy their favorite films under the stars in downtown New Haven.
9. Take a stroll through the beautiful rose gardens at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford, a great place for family photographs.
10. Visit a Farmer's Market. There are dozens of them all over Connecticut and these are particularly welcoming of kids.
Teach kids art and culture. Photo courtesy of the Wadsworth Atheneum
11. 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.
12. Make sure to check out the Sunset Screenings at various parks throughout Hartford.
13. Is your family a fan of the Huskies? Check out the Husky Museum and taste your local sports trivia knowledge.
14. Have someone in the family who loves helicopters? Take a spin over to the National Helicopter Museum in Stratford. See two helicopters up close and personal. Admission is always free.
15. Is diversity and cultural acceptance important to your family? Then you'll probably want to check out the NICE Festival on July 6. Dancers, musicians, and vendors strive to increase the acceptance of diverse cultures.
16. The Town of East Hartford hosts six free, family-friendly concerts each summer, so pack a picnic dinner and bring the whole family.
17. The Lachat Farmer’s Market offers more than your average farmer’s market. There's live music, children’s entertainment, and so much more. The market takes place on the last Friday of each month from 4pm-8pm from June through September.
18. Admission is free to the annual Milford Oyster Festival. More than 40,000 oysters & clams are brought to visitors by East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. This year’s musical headliner is Jersey-based rock band, South Side Johnny & the Asbury Jukes.
19. Walk the grounds and trails at the New Canaan Nature Center and explore the acres of land including a pond, marshland, and wooded areas.
20. Explore the urban oasis of Mill River Park in Stamford. The park opened in 2013 and has quickly become a pastoral oasis in the otherwise urban downtown.
21. Admission is currently on a “pay as you wish” basis at Greenwich’s Bruce Museum. Make sure to reserve a ticket in advance through their website.
22. Expose the 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.
Connecticut College Arboretum. Photo by Maggie Redfern
23. Do your children love nature? 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.
24. From the rocky coast of Milford to the forest of the Quiet Corner, spend a day explore one of Connecticut’s Audubon Centers.
25. 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.
26. Check out the mostly free event at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. This Festival is a celebration of performing arts, lectures, storytelling, music, and conversations that take over theaters, town green, and open spaces in New Haven.
27. Three unique preserves make up the Steep Rock Preserve. Located in Washington Depot, this paradise has a wide variety of recreational activities.
28. Breathe in the fragrant air at Lavender Pond Farm in Killingly. Stroll the grounds and take in the beauty of hundreds of lavender plants in beautifully manicured gardens.
29. Check out Old New-Gate Prison and Copper Mine in Granby. Free admission is offered to the public on July 21 and August 18.
30. 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 Fairfield, New Haven, Eastern CT, and Hartford counties.
31. Visit animals who have been given a second chance at the Ray of Hope Animal Sanctuary. These donkeys and horses are loved and cared for at the sanctuary. Admission is free, but pony rides are $10.
32. Go fishing! Though you have to buy a fishing license, there are many free places to fish in Connecticut.
33. Go spend some time getting familiar with the works of the Bard during the Let’s Play Shakespeare program at Shakespeare on the Sound.
Kids are inspired by the art they see at the Aldrich. Photo courtesy of the Aldrich Museum
34. Visit the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum on the third Saturday of the month for free admission. Kids are able to participate in family-friendly activities in The Studio.
35. Bring a lawn chair to the relaunching of the popular Levitt Pavilion’s Children’s series. Joanie Leeds kicks things off for the season on June 30th.
36. Stamford Downtown’s yearly outdoor sculpture exhibit is always fun to explore, but this year’s Piano Project is a fun mix of art and music. This fun and interactive exhibit features 25 upright pianos on display all around town.
37. This beloved event can be placed in the "practically free" category. The Little Folks Fair in Guilford on June 2 offers lots of activities to entertain little ones. Admission is $2 for kids and $3 for their grown-ups. There is no charge for ages 2 and younger.
38. Choose a family-friendly bike path and explore beautiful settings throughout the state.
39. Charming Stonington hosts an annual fair with free admission on August 3. Enjoy the small-town feel and the ocean breeze.
40. Make a visit to one of Connecticut's National Historic Sites. Weir Farm is open from dawn to dusk. Though it was once a rambling farm, now visitors can wander through the unused barns and absorb nature. Admission is free year-round.
41. Experience some Hands-on-History at Windsor Historical Society on June 8. See costumed actors and actresses and ask them questions about their historical lives. See the refurbished Strong-Howard House and live open-hearth cooking.
42. Head to Ansonia Nature Center. Along with a welcoming visitor's center with nature exhibits (including some animals), there are miles of trails and a beautiful playground.
Animal interactions are always a hit with kids. Photo courtesy of Ansonia Nature Center
43. Participate in the Governor's Summer Reading Challenge. Called "A Universe of Stories," the reading challenge allows students to keep track of how many books they read and fill out a response page in their journal.
44. Enjoy a day trip and free admission to any Connecticut state park, beaches included.
45. Explore Hubbard Park in Meriden. Hike to Castle Craig, take a stroll around the lake, or let the children explore the large playground.
46. Do you and your family have a thing for shiny rocks? Check some out at the Antique Machinery Museum in Kent.
47. Head to the New Britain Museum of American Art where admission is free Saturday mornings. Take a family art class, play, peruse masterpieces, and admire the outdoor sculptures.
48. Peanut Butter and Jam is more than just a sandwich! Kids enjoy interactive, musical foot-stompin' performances on the Sherman Green every Wednesday this summer. Pack a picnic and journey down for a children's musical celebration!
49. The SoNo Switchtower is open weekends May-October. Admission to this small museum is always free and will delight any budding train enthusiasts.
50. Westport Library’s Library of Things contains over 100 items families can use. From board games to musical instruments, all visitors need is a library card to check out these items.
This post was originally published on June 7, 2019.