With warmer weather and longer days on the horizon, many people want to take advantage of the outdoors. This might include a weekend outing to the beach or amusement park. However, these trips can be expensive and crowded (especially on the weekend), plus waiting in lines might cause more stress than it’s worth.
So, skip the tourist attractions, grab a picnic basket, and head outdoors instead. In fact, many of our state parks in Connecticut are free to enjoy and offer a variety of things to do.
Here are just a few wonderful places to visit this year:
Located in East Haddam, this park may be a bit of a drive for some, but it’s definitely worth it. There are tons of beautiful sights to see, from ponds, fountains, the Connecticut River, and of course, the castle. You can actually tour the castle and go inside, however, there is a fee and it’s only open to the public from 11 AM to 5 PM Thursday to Sunday. There is ample parking and free admission, so feel free to bring the whole family! Gillette Castle also has a free visitor’s center that talks about the history of the area.
The park grounds are huge, so you won’t be able to cover everything in one day. However, there are a variety of hiking and scenic areas here. Additionally, for a small fee you can take a ferry across the Connecticut River.
Bigelow Hollow is a great place for a picnic. Located right in Union, you can enjoy your lunch by the pond and then take a small walk around the woods. There are plenty of things to do at Bigelow Hollow such as, boating, hiking, swimming (if it’s warm enough), and fishing.
Picnic areas also have grill stations and clean rest rooms for use.
There is also parking fee on holidays and the weekend, so it’s best to go during the week if you can.
Located on the line of Manchester and East Hartford, Wickham Park is a popular venue for weddings and other events. However, the best thing about this park are the themed gardens. The park has acres of unique plants and trees and is very well maintained. There are also plenty of picnic areas to eat at, as well as a playground for the kids and sports courts for use.
Wickham also has a beautiful aviary and nature center in the park.
There is an entrance fee of $5 during the weekend and $7 during the weekend and holidays, however, it is definitely worth visiting and spending the whole day at. Watch the sunset over Hartford from the hills and enjoy the relaxing sound of the birds here.
Indian Well State Park located in Shelton is a pretty unique spot to enjoy! Whether you want to be surrounded by nature or have a day by the water you can pretty much do it all right here. There aren’t many hiking trails, but there are picnic spots for you to enjoy the river view and see some stunning waterfalls. There’s also a great beach area to relax in the sand or go for a nice swim.
To learn more about the state parks in your area, the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection has a list of everything in our state.
Of course, no picnic is complete without the food! Looking for an easy lunch for the kids? Try lunch kabobs. Take some wooden skewers and put some cut up vegetables or fruit on them. You can also skewer lunch meat with olives, cheese cubes, and other ingredients.
If your family prefers sandwiches, this recipe that uses hawaiian rolls is great! It’s perfect for a big outing with the family, you’ll have plenty of sandwiches to feed everyone, and reusing the roll packaging makes it very convenient to bring along.
So, why not make your next family trip a perfect picnic? It’s a great way and inexpensive way to enjoy the day. Do you have any favorite spots or recipes you enjoy outdoors? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!