Connecticut State Capitol and Bushnell Park
210 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106
Taking a tour of the state capitol building may not sound like an exciting day out of the house, but the guides know all of the secrets and make the tour very entertaining. And besides, it is both educational and free. There are battered battle flags carried by regiments that fought in the Revolution and Civil War to see, along with a lot of quirky old artifacts to look at and some storied galleries to walk. Best of all, the golden-domed capitol building looms high above Bushnell Park – which is also free to visitors. The park is a miniature version of New York’s Central Park, and in the appropriate weather has a carousel to ride on and a fountain to splash in. There are lots of lawns to run around and picnic on, and there are hundreds of trees and bushes that form an arboretum of New England’s glorious fauna and flora.
Related: Connecticut’s Best Museums
335 Bloomfield Ave
West Hartford, CT 06117
Kids love playgrounds, and Jonathan’s Dream Playscape at the Mandell Jewish Community Center in West Hartford is a massive 25,000-square-foot playground – and it is open to the public and free. Jonathan’s Dream has lots of slides, towers and swings, along with sandboxes and balance beams, but it is also more than that. It was the first “Boundless Playground” in the nation and as such, was designed for all children, regardless of their physical abilities. Children who might have difficulty at other parks will find play spaces here that were made just with them in mind. It is a joyous, charming, heart-warming place where children can play and adults can either play along or just sit on a nice bench in the shade.
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
170 Whitney Ave.
New Haven, CT 06511
A day with dinosaurs for just $5 sounds like a good deal. But what if in addition to the dinosaurs, the kids get to go into rooms in a museum where people tell them “Please Touch”? The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is about as kid-friendly as a museum can get, with everything from prehistoric bones to space rocks on display. Children can walk through exhibit halls that show life in ancient Egypt or attend special events where scientists explain everything from nasty viruses and bloodsucking insects to exploring skeletons and coming face to face with mighty birds of prey. Adults are only $9 (less for seniors) and there are additional discounts for those who become members or arrange to come in a group.
1875 Noble Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06610
A day at the zoo is always a day well spent. The Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport is the biggest and best in the state, and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 362 days a year. There are hundreds of living creatures to see and learn about, and lots of places to stop and rest or catch a special program. The “pop up” walk where prairie dogs pop up out of their holes never fails to please, and little ones especially love the New England farm with its sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and cows. There are endangered species to see and even a carousel to ride. Admission is $10 per child, but little ones ages three and under are free.
Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT 06103
At $14 per child and $19 per adult, the Connecticut Science Center may not seem cheap, but considering how many hours children will spend there and the quality of that time, it is definitely a bargain. For not much more than the price of a movie (which is included in the price) and snacks, children can learn as they play (or play as they learn) about robotics, light, sound, weather and the human body. They get to touch, turn, twist and build things, push buttons, work on computers, become involved in experiments and even get to see a movie on a gigantic 30’ x 40’ screen in a theater equipped with advanced 3-D digital technology and an 18,000-Watt Dolby sound system. The exhibits and experiments are aimed at and for kids. Among the favorites are the Sports Lab where kids learn about muscles and biomechanics through sports, and the Sight and Sound Experience which is like being inside of a music video.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.