15 of the Best Free Things to do in Connecticut!
Looking to have a budget-friendly weekend in the Nutmeg State? Luckily, Connecticut has numerous indoor and outdoor activities that can all be enjoyed for free. Explore these 15 excellent, wallet-friendly activities Connecticut!
1. State forests
State forests are a wonderful public resource that aid in both conservation and personal recreation in nature. At Connecticut’s many state forests you can often enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and birding. Just bring your own gear, take advantage of ample free parking, and get out to enjoy nature.
2. Free museum days
Museums can be great fun for kids and adults alike to visit, but the admission fees can often come with a hefty price tag. However, if you still want to enjoy a museum—but on a budget—check museum websites for times where they offer free admission. For example, the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven offers admission with a “pay as you wish” donation on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. from September to June and on other select days throughout the year.
Fort Trumbull is an important Revolutionary War site that was attacked by the notorious General Benedict Arnold in 1781. The current fort that you can see today was built between 1839 and 1852 as a defense for the New London area. You can visit the grounds of Fort Trumbull for free and it is a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic, go for a walk, or fish on one of the piers.
Across the Thames River from Fort Trumbull is Fort Griswold, an important Revolutionary War site under the command of Colonel William Ledyard. This site was the location of a very bloody battle that took place on Sept. 6, 1781, thus today you’ll find ruins of the former fort and numerous plaques and memorials. Enjoy a free, educational visit to Fort Griswold and the on-site museum and monument.
Mention Connecticut to anyone from out-of-state and they are likely to have heard of or visited the casinos. Though many activities at both casinos come at a cost, Mohegan Sun frequently holds free concerts in their Wolf Den. Add free parking to that and you’ll have yourself a budget night out. Just keep in mind that to enter the area surrounding the Wolf Den, you need to be 21 or over and have a valid ID.
The Connecticut College Arboretum is a beautiful natural area just outside of downtown New London. The arboretum features 770 acres of manicured gardens including native plants and trees. This is the ideal place to come with a book or to take photos.
This hidden gem in Connecticut is located in such an unexpected location near downtown Norwich. Indian Leap Falls is a stunning waterfall located near old railroad tracks. It is completely free to visit this park and there is a small parking lot available next to an informative sign about how Indian Leap Falls got its name.
This former railroad that spanned from Boston to New York City has long been abandoned, but is now open for walking, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. With several entrances across the state, this is a great place for outdoor exercise.
See submarine artifacts, documents, and photographs and learn about the United States’ submarine history at the Submarine Library and Museum. Their crowning jewel is the historic Nautilus submarine, which you can tour and learn about during your visit. Parking and admission to the Submarine Library and Museum is always free.
This seasonal event is fun for the whole family! Visit B. F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, which is the only steam powdered cider mill in the U.S., from September to December to watch apple cider being produced. While you’ll certainly be tempted to buy some cider or delicious apple snacks, watching the cider-making demonstration is free.
Wander the grounds of the old Essex Steam Train Station and River Boat for free. Kids will love seeing the old station building and the numerous trains parked on nearby tracks. Bring your camera for photos with the trains. There are also paid options for visiting the Essex Steam Train Station including rides on the steam trains and dinner trains. Check their website to learn more.
The Yale Center for British Art is home to the largest collection of British Art outside of the United Kingdom, making it a wonderful place to visit for a taste of the Old World. Collections include 2,000 paintings, 250 sculptures, 40,000 prints, and 20,000 drawings and watercolors that are all housed in a beautiful building with impressive natural light. Visit the Yale Center for British Art for free. Hours vary depending on the day of the week and academic calendar, so do be sure to check their hours online before planning your visit.
Self-guided and free one-hour guided tours are available to the public on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding state holidays. Learn about the history of the capitol building and the rooms within the capitol during a tour using the printable PDF pamphlet available online. Check the website for specific times for guided tours.
Located on UCONN’s campus, visit the William Benton Museum of Art, which features exciting visiting exhibitions as well as a permanent collection. The collection features over 6,500 art works from the 15th through 21st centuries. During your visit to the William Benton Museum of Art, consider taking advantage of one of UCONN’s free campus tours or other free events.
15. Public libraries
Often overlooked, public libraries are one of the best public services across the United States. Of course, you’ll find books, magazines, and DVDs to borrow with your free library card, but did you know that libraries also have free events, activities, and discounted passes to use at state museums and parks?