Whether it's getting out of the house in the winter, or filling massive amounts of free time in the summer, having somewhere to go that's free -- even better! A host of museums in Fairfield County and New Haven County have caught on to that fact, offering up free events in the coming days, and even year-round in some cases.
Stepping Stones, Norwalk
The crown jewel of kids' museums in lower Connecticut has offered it's 'Get Into It! FREE' program for quite some time. Every first Thursday of the month, Stepping Stones swings open its doors for a freebie evening of fun, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Mathews Park, 303 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850 203-899-0606
Bruce Museum, Greenwich
Children under 5 are always free at the Bruce, but on Tuesdays, their adult caregivers and older siblings are in for nothing, too.
In addition, the museum offers monthly "First Sunday Bird Walk at Greenwich Point Park", free with no registration required.
1 Museum Drive, Greenwich, CT 06830-7157 203-869-0376
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield
This independent art museum is the only one in Connecticut devoted to contemporary art. Admission is always free for children under 18, K-12 teachers, and military families. Anytime you visit, you can also catch a docent-led tour free of charge. On third Saturdays and school holidays from noon - 5 p.m., the Aldrich also offers free family art activities with the price of parent admission.
258 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877 203-438-4519
New Haven Museum, New Haven
Why not check out the Puritanical roots of this New England city on the first Sunday of every month -- it won't even cost you a nickel.
114 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06510 203-562-4183
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven
During the school year, you can pop into this world-renowned museum for nary a penny on Thursdays from 2 to 5 p.m. They also offer free admission on the Sunday and Monday of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend for the Martin Luther King Jr. "Festival of Environmental Justice", the last Saturday in August for "Summer's Last Roar," and during their annual "¡Fiesta Latina!" event, typically in October. That all being said, museum parking is very limited on weekdays, so bring some cash for that!
170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 203-432-5050
Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop
The site of the Eli Whitney Museum preserves the location of the inventor's first American factory, built in 1798. The museum is FREE and open on weekends to enjoy its permanent installations: The Factory Model, the Water Lab, The Marble Wall and the Gun Collection. For a small fee, kids can get hands-on in the Walk-in Program.
915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT 06517 203-777-1833
FREE FOR EVERYONE ... all.of.the.time.
The Barnum Museum
In June 2010, a rare-for-these-parts tornado devastated the historical building housing the iconic entertainer's collections. The historical building is in restoration for now. But you can take a look at how they evacuated the valuables during the storm, and how they're repairing others. Just enter through the back at the People's United Bank Gallery entrance. Thursdays and Fridays only, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
820 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06604 203-331-1104
Housatonic Museum of Art
If your kids are like mine, they whine when I mention an art gallery... then I can hardly drag them out once we get there! The Housatonic Museum of Art is the perfect venue for the whole family to take in art at your own pace. Free and open to the public all year long, except weekends (check the calendar before you go). Open until 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings. With a vibrant permanent collection and changing exhibitions, the HMA is a hidden gem in the center of Fairfield County.
Lafayette Hall, 900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport, CT 06604 203-332-5052
Fairfield University Art Museum (FUAM)
The FUAM opened in 2010, offer permanent rotation exhibitions in the Bellermine and Walsh Galleries. It boasts a collection of art that spans the globe and time. You and your brood can view pieces from the Bronze Age to the Baroque, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Walsh is also closed on Tuesdays. They do open on occasional Saturdays, and close on University holidays, so check their calendar before you go.
1073 North Benson Rd., Fairfield, CT 06824 203-254-4046
Yale University Art Gallery
Unlike the FUAM, you won't get through this one before lunch. The collection spans three buildings, so pick a continent or medium, and see what you find! Stop by the Information Desk first to gather supplies for self-guided family activities, including drawing materials, worksheets, and felt kits. The second Sunday of the month is Family Day, when they use unique storytelling to help children view art in new ways. They even provide drawing materials for older children. Their Annual Family Day is coming up Sunday, Jan. 26 from 1-3:30pm.
Hours: Tues - Fri 10am - 5pm; Thur (Sept-June) 10am - 8pm; weekends 11am - 5pm. Closed Mondays.
1111 Chapel Street (at York Street) New Haven, CT 203-432-0600
Photo courtesy of the Eli Whitney Museum.
Originally published on 1/22/13