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.

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City Guide: Sag Harbor, New York

The village of Sag Harbor, located on the northern part of the South Fork of Long Island, is typically home to under 3,000 year round residents but swells during peak summer months, as the area is a popular vacation spot. Considered part of “The Hamptons” (which includes the towns and villages of Westhampton, South Hampton, Sagaponack, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Amagansett, and Montauk), the area is under two hours from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan (or a short ferry ride from Fairfield County, Connecticut). Sag Harbor became a US port of entry in 1789 with a growing population involved in servicing whalers and West Indian trade ships. and became a thriving whaling industry in the 1800s. There are many historic homes, museums, outdoor recreational areas, and dining and retail options throughout Sag Harbor and the surrounding towns that the whole family will enjoy.

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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. 

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10 Ways to Explore the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center in the Hamptons

One of the highlights of our recent trip to the Hamptons was the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center in Bridgehampton, New York. What started as a small space to protect the Eastern Tiger Salamanders, now an endangered and protected species that were found to have inhabited the area, the center opened in 2006 on three acres of property on the 1100 acre Long Pond Greenbelt Preserve. While most of the 1100 acres is protected, untouched land, the museum and nature center also include three ponds (one of which is a “teaching pond”), and walking trails.

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10 Ways to Explore the Long Island Aquarium in New York

One of the most popular attractions on Long Island, New York (less than 90 minutes from Manhattan), the Long Island Aquarium is home to 565 species and over 5,000 individual animals. The aquarium opened in 2000 and has expanded across three acres with over 100 indoor and outdoor exhibits and 48 aquatic habitats. Some of the most popular attractions include one of the largest all living coral reef displays in the Western Hemisphere, the Penguin Encounter, a 120,000 gallon shark tank, and shows featuring sea lions, African penguins, and Marmosets.  The entire aquarium is designed to recreate the Lost City of Atlantis, and little children will LOVE all of the hidden spots and tunnels to crawl through and explore throughout the exhibit spaces.

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10 Ways to Explore the Museum of Math in New York City

YES! There is actually a museum to celebrate math; a museum filled with dozens of hands-on, interactive puzzles, challenges, and activities that celebrate all facets of mathematics. Located across the street from Madison Square Park, the National Museum of Mathematics opened in 2012 and welcomes visitors of all ages through daily family friendly activities, field trips, after school programs, enrichment workshops for teachers and students, and a museum that is open all year.

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