This past weekend my youngest son (Alex, now seven) and I took advantage of the free museum passes open to Connecticut families this summer. We had a lot of fun, and it made me think about all the other fun and free things we like to do around the state. Especially with rising inflation, more and more families are seeking out free fun. For our family finding free fun things for our family to do was a big part of our original debt freedom journey. Sure, we could have sat around the house in the dark eating rice and beans, never going anywhere. But that wouldn’t have been fun at all.
The list of what’s free and what’s not changes frequently, so always be sure to check with the source for more details and the most current insights.
Free Connecticut Museum Admission For Kids
This is the second summer where Connecticut has sponsored free museum admissions for kids through the “Connecticut Summer At The Museum” program. Many places also have free admission for one (not multiple) accompanying adult as well.
This past weekend, my husband had to work Saturday so it was just the kids and I home all day. Hubby had to make up the time after took a day off Wednesday to help our little guy who needed multiple doctor appointments for an injured eye and ankle. The little guy had to stay indoors (to avoid aggravating his eye) but was already going stir crazy after being stuck at home for three days. Heading to some free museum fun was just the solution.
We choose to visit the West Hartford Children’s Museum (which closed at 2 PM) and then hopped over to the Connecticut Science Center. Both museums were free for children and one adult, although they’re geared towards younger children. So I didn’t take my older two boys (18 and 15), because even if they were admitted free, they wouldn’t have the best time. Although we did take along one of the little guys stuffed seals.
P.S. If you want to check out the seal’s adventures, including when various seals come along on my business trips, find me on TikTok. Yes I use TikTok on occasion – the editing capabilities make it fun and easy to put together videos. I also talk about personal finance and health sometimes.
Now free might not mean 100% free, it really depends. After all, kids like to visit the gift shop, you might need to pay for parking – and if you don’t bring food with you, you can get stuck paying high prices for museum food. In our case the cost for the afternoon total was:
- $7 for Science Center parking
- $2 for a button for the seal (a rainbow so he can “learn his colors” per Alex)
- $10.23 for waters and snacks from the gas station & the Riverfront
An afternoon of fun for under $20 was well worth it to us! Although next time I need to remember to bring water and snacks. The museum program is open until September 5th. So if you haven’t checked it it, be sure to do so in the next few weeks. And check back in next summer to see if they do it again.
Don’t forget about some museums that are always free like many of the Yale Museums and Galleries. And your local library may have free passes as well. Ours usually has a good selection of free – and discounted – passes to local museums. More about libraries later!
Free Festivals, Art Walks, Guided Tours & More
Connecticut is chock full of free festivals and other events – you just have to look for them. Honestly, a single list can be hard to find. Many of the festivals and free events are advertised through word of mouth, or it’s one of those things that’s been around forever you might have always known about. One of our families favorites is the Meriden Daffodil Festival in the spring – looking at all the beautiful daffodils after the long Connecticut winter is sure to bring you cheer.
Although they can sometimes be hard to track down, I do have a few resources I’d recommend checking out:
- The Visit Connecticut Events Calendar
- If you live near Hartford the Riverfront has many free events and festivals – calendar here
- Googles events calendar (searching Free Festivals in Connecticut) is another good resource
- Eventbrite has a list of Free Events in Connecticut
- I like to check out events at local colleges like the Connecticut State University system; Yale and UCONN. Many university events are free and open to the public
Of course festivals and the like are only as free as you make them out to be. You might want to budget for buying some food, drinks or souvenirs. But oftentimes festivals have plenty that’s fun to look at and do without spending a dime – like parades and exhibits.
State Parks, Beaches and Hiking Trails
Our family loves to head to state parks and hiking trails around the state, to explore, get some exercise, and spend time outdoors. There’s tons of cool trails with waterfalls, caves, old buildings, and more! Some state parks offer swimming in a lake (checked regularly for issues and closed as needed) – and then of course there’s the Connecticut beaches. Yeah, our ocean tends to be colder than down south, but July and August are the perfect months to enjoy them. Sometimes the beaches can be rocky. But that’s what aqua shoes are for!
Our families favorite beach is Hammonasset, where they not only have plenty of parking and space, but also a fun little nature center for kids to enjoy and a walking/bike path. They also have a campground where we’ve stayed on many Boy Scout family campouts. Although camping isn’t free, the cost is reasonable, when you can find a reservation.
Also recently we headed to a new to us state park, Wadsworth Falls State Park. We had a great time swimming in the lake and walking on the trail to see the falls. It would be a perfect park to enjoy with a picnic lunch. And Sleeping Giant State park is great on a cooler day for hiking to the top to see the castle.
The more popular summer state parks and beaches always fill to capacity quickly. If you want to spend time at them I highly recommend getting there right around when they open and planning to spend the morning.
For a full list of state parks and beaches, you can check out this list from the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Connecticut Library Fun
I already mentioned the free passes to museums, zoos, etc. that many libraries offer. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all the other wonderful free library offerings that are out there. Ours has board games; video games; a huge collection of movies; toys; and lots of events and activities. All for free! If you haven’t stopped by your local library – or a larger library at a nearby town – lately, be sure to give it a shot.
Fun and Free In CT – More Options & Details!
I have an entire page on my site where I go into more detailed offerings of various things that are fun and free in Connecticut. Some are repeats of what’s in this article but there are also plenty of new ideas. Stop by and check it out!
How About You?
If you live in Connecticut, I’m curious what your favorite fun & free tip is? And if you live in another state, I bet yours has something similar to the above. Let me know in the comments what your favorite free thing to do in your state is!