15 Free Things to Do with Kids throughout Connecticut this Summer
We officially moved to the Nutmeg State back in 2002 and have enjoyed exploring dozens of its 169 cities and towns, many of which border New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the Long Island Sound. We’re working on an updated master list of all the places we’ve visited and all of our travel tips for later in the summer, but this index, this list, and this list are good places to start. You might also like our City Guides featuring Mystic and Coastal Connecticut. As summer nears and temps rise, we wanted to share 15 FREE things to do this summer (really, all year, but summer offers some additional perks and better hours) and a few bonus spots we’re hoping to check out ourselves this summer.
Playing “I Spy” at the Connecticut State Capitol
Visiting state capitol buildings is one of the first things we do when visiting the capital city. It’s a little ironic that it took our family, who has lived in Connecticut for almost 20 years, this long, but we recently, finally made it to the CT Capitol for a tour. Connecticut was founded in 1662 and is known as the Constitution State, as it was the first state to adopt a constitution. Built in 1878, the Connecticut Capitol building, located in downtown Hartford, was designed by Richard M. Upjohn to replicate a Victorian Gothic style. The building overlooks Bushnell Memorial Park’s 41 acres in the heart of Hartford and was restored in the 1980s to the original colors and design. The addition of the Legislative Office Building (LOB), which opened in 1988, allowed for office space for Connecticut’s 151 Representatives (each representing approximately 25,000 constituents) and 36 State Senators (each representing approximately 90,000-100,000 constituents). The “LOB” also allows for more public meeting spaces and opportunities for state officials to meet as committees and with public interest groups. The first and second floors of the LOB and the first floor of the Capitol are both open to the public; upper level floors house private offices and chambers and guests must be accompanied by officials.
10 Things to Do at the Institute for American Indian Studies
Located in Washington, Connecticut in the heart of Litchfield County, the Institute for American Indian Studies celebrates the largely unknown Indigenous history of New England. Opened in 1975, the 15 acre complex includes indoor exhibits, an outdoor replicated Algonkian Village, hiking trails, and even a Wigwam Escape Room experience. The Algonkian people inhabited much of the northeastern United States up until the 1700s and includes over 100 distinct groups and communities. The museum is very hands on and docents are eager to share anecdotal stories and explain the significance of artifacts on display. (Definitely ask for an atlatl demonstration!)
5 Reasons I Love State Parks
This past weekend Connecticut celebrated Connecticut Trails Day with almost 200 events in and around many of the 142 state parks, forests, and beaches. Overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, state parks, forests, and beaches cover 255,000 acres of public space and thousands of trails for hiking and biking. One perk of 2020 and 2021 has been our family’s focus on spending more time outdoors, exploring many of these public spaces. To date, we’ve visited about 30 state parks and you can read about our adventures (and trail recommendations and travel tips) in this post focused in Fairfield County, this post focused in western Connecticut, this post focused on central Connecticut, and this post focused on the Mystic area. We’ve also started to amass proper hiking equipment (headline: you’ll want more than just sneakers) and you can read about our hiking supply post here.
City Guide: 20 Ways to Have Fun in Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic, Connecticut is a quick, hour long drive along the coast from our home that our family enjoys making several times a year. The seaside town is home to many popular family friendly spots, and the nearby towns and cities of Stonington, New London, East Lyme, Norwich, and Niantic offer plenty more to see and do. Mystic was one of our first City Guides back in 2018; we have recently discovered some new-to-us places and thought we would update our guide.
12 Ways to Explore the New England Air Museum in Connecticut
Located in the same area as Bradley International Airport and the National Guard base, the New England Air Museum has 90,000 square feet of exhibition feet spread across 3 hangars, and an additional outdoor space, to display 60 of the 110+ aircrafts in the museum’s collections. The museum library includes a collection of over 6,000 aviation related books, over 10,000 aviation manuals, and thousands of pieces of artwork, drawings, blueprints, and photographs.
The museum has tons of open space to spread out and explore the 60+ aircrafts at a leisurely pace. Guests are able to peer through, look under, and sit in many of the aircrafts. However, what is most impressive, and truly priceless, are the docents, many of whom are veterans who flew the aircrafts on display. They are eager to share their adventures and explain how the aircrafts work, and they are incredibly patient with children.