30 free things to do in Connecticut this summer

As the cost of living skyrockets due to record inflation, many individuals might be trying to cut back on their recreational activities to save a few dollars. However, the Nutmeg State has plenty of free activities for residents and visitors alike to take advantage of, including attending concerts, or scouting out a swimming or hiking destination without having to spend a single cent — aside from the gas to get there.

Here are some free events and locations to explore open in Connecticut: 

 

 

Elizabeth Park Conservancy Rose Garden
Hartford

The Elizabeth Park Conservancy in Hartford, Conn. July 2021

The Elizabeth Park Conservancy in Hartford, Conn. July 2021

Lisa Nichols

Spend an afternoon in a beautiful rose garden. According to the site, it's the "first municipal rose garden in the United States and the third largest rose garden in the country today." It features over 15,000 rose bushes and 800 varieties.

The park and conservancy is open from dusk to dawn every day and is completely free of charge.

Free shows Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun
Uncasville

UNCASVILLE, CT - OCTOBER 15: Entertainment icon LL Cool J performs inside the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun as part of the propertyÂ?’s 20th Anniversary celebration at Mohegan Sun on October 15, 2016 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Mohegan Sun)

UNCASVILLE, CT - OCTOBER 15: Entertainment icon LL Cool J performs inside the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun as part of the propertyÂ?’s 20th Anniversary celebration at Mohegan Sun on October 15, 2016 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Mohegan Sun)

Dimitrios Kambouris

The Wolf Den hosts free performances each week by various musicians. The stage has been visited by performers like Ludacris, Run DMC and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, according to Mohegan Sun's website.

Free beaches

In this Nov. 8, 2019 file photo, the boardwalk at  Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

In this Nov. 8, 2019 file photo, the boardwalk at  Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

File photo by Arnold Gold /Hearst Connecticut Media / File photo by Arnold Gold /Hearst Connecticut Media

Many town beaches require an entry fee, but there are a number of free beaches around the state too. Connecticut residents can explore Silver Sands State Beach in Milford, swim, fish and even visit Charles Island — which is rumored to be where Captain Kidd buried his treasure — free of charge, according to CT Visit.

In Westport, Sherwood Island offers swimmig, picnic areas, walking trails, a nature center and a large pavilion for hanging out.

The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Performances by the Elm Shakespeare Company
New Haven

New Haven, Connecticut - Thursday, August 8, 2019: Director Rebecca Goodheart during the rehearsal of the play "Comedy of Errors" as the Elm Shakespeare Company returns to Edgerton Park in New Haven this summer with one of Shakespeare's comedies. Celebrating its 24th season, Elm Shakespeare is free of charge and the production will start August 15th and run through September 1st Tuesday through Sunday beginning with live music beginning at 7:30pm.
New Haven, Connecticut - Thursday, August 8, 2019: Director Rebecca Goodheart during the rehearsal of the play "Comedy of Errors" as the Elm Shakespeare Company returns to Edgerton Park in New Haven this summer with one of Shakespeare's comedies. Celebrating its 24th season, Elm Shakespeare is free of charge and the production will start August 15th and run through September 1st Tuesday through Sunday beginning with live music beginning at 7:30pm.
Peter Hvizdak/Hearst Connecticut Media

The Elm Shakespeare Company puts on free, public performances based on Shakespeare's tales in Edgerton Park. 

This year's performance will be "The Tempest," which will run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4, according to the company's website.

Free events at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas
New Haven

New Haven singer Thabisa Rich, who was born and raised in South Africa, does a sound check while rehearsing on the New Haven Green before an International Festival of Arts & Ideas performance later that night on June 23, 2021.
New Haven singer Thabisa Rich, who was born and raised in South Africa, does a sound check while rehearsing on the New Haven Green before an International Festival of Arts & Ideas performance later that night on June 23, 2021.
Arnold Gold/Hearst Connecticut Media

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas offers weekly free events on the green at 195 Church St.

Some of these events include performances by musicians like Grammy-winner Gregory Porter and Air Temple Arts, who teach guests their circus tricks, according to the event's webpage. The festival runs from May 6 to June 26.

Hubbard Park & Castle Craig
Meriden

Views from Castle Craig observation tower, Meriden. The 1,800 acre park on West Main Street in Meriden offers hiking trails and panoramic views.
Views from Castle Craig observation tower, Meriden. The 1,800 acre park on West Main Street in Meriden offers hiking trails and panoramic views.
Michelle Tuccitto Sullo / Hearst CT archive

Guests can "storm" a real-life castle from the 1900s when they visit the park. 

The location is open weekly from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day from May 1 to Oct 31., according to the Meriden website. 

J. Robert Donnelly Husky Heritage Sports Museum
Storrs

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - DECEMBER 18: The Connecticut Huskies logo on a chair before the game against the Providence Friars at XL Center on December 18, 2021 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - DECEMBER 18: The Connecticut Huskies logo on a chair before the game against the Providence Friars at XL Center on December 18, 2021 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

G Fiume / Getty Images

This museum brings together a century of Husky sports history filled with memorabilia like jerseys, equipment and trophies. Admission is free, according to its website.  

It is open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Submarine Force Library & Museum
Groton

The Submarine Force Library & Museum in Groton

The Submarine Force Library & Museum in Groton

Google Maps

The Submarine Force Library & Museum documents the history of the Navy's submarine force with exhibits featured around the crews and ships. 

When docked, visitors can also explore the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. The ship is currently departed but will return during the summer, according to its website.

The museum is open from May 1 to Oct. 31 every day of the week except for Tuesday.

SoNo Music Fest
Norwalk

With the Lillian August sign long affixed the the northwest corner of the SoNo Collection mall in South Norwalk, Conn., the furnishings and decor store is finally open in April 2022 months after the company closed its flagship showroom a few miles away.

With the Lillian August sign long affixed the the northwest corner of the SoNo Collection mall in South Norwalk, Conn., the furnishings and decor store is finally open in April 2022 months after the company closed its flagship showroom a few miles away.

Alexander Soule / Hearst Connecticut Media

Each Saturday until Sept. 24, various musicians will be performing a free concert at the SoNo Garden roof terrace. 

Upcoming musicians include Drew Angus & Band, Baked Shrimp and Annie In the Water, according to the event's Eventbrite page.

 

SoundWaters Coastal Education Center
Stamford

Dianne Selditch, director of the environmental education organization SoundWaters, shows off an aquarium at the SoundWaters Coastal Education Center on Thursday. Selditch is retiring on Friday.
Dianne Selditch, director of the environmental education organization SoundWaters, shows off an aquarium at the SoundWaters Coastal Education Center on Thursday. Selditch is retiring on Friday.
Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

This center has free admission and offers an aquarium filled with animals native to the Long Island Sound including horseshoe crabs and Diamondback terrapins, according to its website.

The center is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except for Tuesday. 

Evolve Yoga on the Boardwalk
Stamford

Shannon Carlin of Bridgeport, along with 50 yoga enthusiasts participate in the 5th annual Yoga Jam 2017 at Harbor Point Boardwalk on Friday, July 21, 2017 in Stamford, Connecticut. The event was co-sponsored by lululemon Greenwich and Exhale Spa, where Carlin is an instrutor.

Shannon Carlin of Bridgeport, along with 50 yoga enthusiasts participate in the 5th annual Yoga Jam 2017 at Harbor Point Boardwalk on Friday, July 21, 2017 in Stamford, Connecticut. The event was co-sponsored by lululemon Greenwich and Exhale Spa, where Carlin is an instrutor.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

Participants can "reenergize, build strength and achieve a state of serenity and awareness" with this free yoga class, according to its Eventbrite description.

The class is held at 1 Harbor Point Road on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.

Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
Storrs

In this Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 photo, the costume of Jonathan, the Husky, mascot of the University of Connecticut, is displayed at the The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017 photo, the costume of Jonathan, the Husky, mascot of the University of Connecticut, is displayed at the The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn.

Pat Eaton-Robb/Associated Press

This museum, which offers free admission, has a collection of over 3,000 puppets and has archived information about puppet history, according to its website. 

The institute is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Museum of Connecticut History
Hartford

Museum of Connecticut History

Museum of Connecticut History

Google Maps

The Museum of Connecticut History features exhibits about the Nutmeg state's government and military history, according to its website. The museum says admission is always free.

The museum is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

 

Cool down at a splash pad
All across CT

Joel Whyte, 7, plays at the Beardsley Park splash pad in Bridgeport, Conn., on Friday July 31, 2020.
Joel Whyte, 7, plays at the Beardsley Park splash pad in Bridgeport, Conn., on Friday July 31, 2020.
Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media

Splash pads across the state have turned their sprinklers on and offer a way for kids to cool down for free. 

More information about the splash pads here.

Tarrywile Park
Danbury

Tarrywile Mansion in Danbury. Photographed on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

Tarrywile Mansion in Danbury. Photographed on Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

Jason Rearick / Jason Rearick

This 722-acre park is filled with hiking trails, scenic views and picnic areas. It also features the Tarrywile Mansion which is listed on the National Register for Historic Preservation.

The city of Danbury says most events at the park are offered free of charge. 

The park is open every from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hike the Talcott Mountain State Park
Simsbury

The Hublein Tower
The Hublein Tower
Friends of Heublein Tower

Guests who hike the free trail can find the 165-foot Heublein Tower, which contains a museum of local history.

The park is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to CT Visit.

UConn Animal Barns
Storrs

UConn Animal Barns

UConn Animal Barns

UConn Department of Animal Science/Michelle Lewis

For animal lovers, UConn's Storrs campus is open to the public and is home to over 1,000 critters including dairy and beef cows, poultry, sheep and horses, according to the farm's website. The barn is popular for school trips and has a "follow the animal trail" activity for visitors to play.

Guests can see cows get milked by a Voluntary Milking System. 

 

Make Music Day
Norwalk

The Wall Street Theater, on Wall St. in Norwalk, Conn. June 15, 2022.

The Wall Street Theater, on Wall St. in Norwalk, Conn. June 15, 2022.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Wall Street Theater will be hosting a free concert to celebrate music on June 21. 

The musicians performing include  B.A.S.I.C., Ricki Stevens and The Swaye, according to the event's Eventbrite page.

Knights of Columbus Museum
New Haven

At 120-square-feet, this Neapolitan creche fills an entire gallery at the Knights of Columbus Museum and is viewable from all four sides.
At 120-square-feet, this Neapolitan creche fills an entire gallery at the Knights of Columbus Museum and is viewable from all four sides.
Knights of Columbus

This museum, which is free for all guests, features Catholic artwork tracing Father Michael J. McGivney's life and his founding of the Knights of Columbus, as well as a Papal Gallary and 9/11 memorial, according to the museum's website. 

The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz
Hartford

Percussionist Doc Gibbs performs at the 2010 Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, which returns to Bushnell Park July 15-17. (Photo by Steve Sussman)
Percussionist Doc Gibbs performs at the 2010 Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, which returns to Bushnell Park July 15-17. (Photo by Steve Sussman)

Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz's lineup this year includes musicians like Spyro Gyro, Boney James and Fiery String Sistas.  The festival is free for all visitors and takes place on July 16 at Bushnell Park. 

 

Steep Rock Preserve
Washington Depot

Now: Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve.

Now: Shepaug River in Steep Rock Preserve.

Carol Santoleri photo / contributed /

Steep Rock Preserve spans nearly 1,000 acres and features a river, a railroad tunnel from the 1800s, an 18-mile trail and summit views. 

The park is free for visitors and has free parking, however, groups of 15 or more will have to fill out a permit to use the park, according to the website.

 

 

Connecticut College Arboretum
New London

Connecticut College Arboretum

Connecticut College Arboretum

Courtesy Of Connecticut Office of Tourism

Guests can explore the 750 acres of plant collections and gardens the site has to offer from dawn to dusk everyday.

The site also offers free guided tours for guests on the first and second of each Sunday from May through October, according to the location's website

 

Free events at the Westport Astronomical Society
Westport

The Westport Astronomical Society is trying to raise enough money to install a new dome.

The Westport Astronomical Society is trying to raise enough money to install a new dome.

Submitted /ShannonCalvert

The public can stare into the stars every Wednesday at 8 p.m. night using a 25-inch obsession telescope at the Westport Astronomical Society.

The organization also offers free monthly meetings with astrology experts, according to its page on the NASA website.

FCP Euro Sunday Motoring Meet at Lime Rock Park
Salisbury

Race fans gather around the FCP Euro Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT4 during a pit stop demonstration at Lime Rock Park.

Race fans gather around the FCP Euro Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT4 during a pit stop demonstration at Lime Rock Park.

Lime Rock Park

The car meetup, which is themed around Mercedes-Benz, aims to bring together automotive enthusiasts at Lime Rock Park. 

Guests who register for free can attend the event on July 10, according to its Eventbrite page.

Lake Mohegan Recreational Area
Fairfield

A rain puddle reflects the trees in the Lake Mohegan Recreation Area along the Mill River in Fairfield, Conn. on Thursday, June 27, 2013.
A rain puddle reflects the trees in the Lake Mohegan Recreation Area along the Mill River in Fairfield, Conn. on Thursday, June 27, 2013.
Brian A. Pounds

Parking is free for this 2.1-mile loop trail around Lake Mohegan. The area is a popular location for bird watching and for people to bring their pups for a day, according to All Trails.

The trail is open every day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park
Groton

This undated photo provided by the State Parks Division of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection shows the Groton Monument at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, Conn. The monument was erected around 1830 to commemorate a 1781 Revolutionary War battle in which British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort and killed 88 of the 165 defenders. Visiting the park is one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Parks, Paul Duarte)

This undated photo provided by the State Parks Division of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection shows the Groton Monument at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, Conn. The monument was erected around 1830 to commemorate a 1781 Revolutionary War battle in which British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort and killed 88 of the 165 defenders. Visiting the park is one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Parks, Paul Duarte)

Paul Duarte / Associated Press

This fort was the site of the largest Revolutionary War battle fought in Connecticut history, according to its website. The site also features a museum filled with history about the location.

The park is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM from Memorial Day through Labor Day.