Connecticut’s public parks are great places to have a picnic and a cookout. There are beach, mountain and lake parks throughout the state, each with their own unique vistas, amenities and, when weather and fire warning conditions allow, visitors may bring their own charcoal grills, portable outdoor grills or propane or electric stoves for use at marked picnic shelters. Many of the larger shelters have permanent grills already in place. Here are five of the top parks with barbecues.

Hammonasset Beach State Park
1288 Boston Post Road
Madison, CT 06443
(203) 245-2785

Connecticut has a long and beautiful shoreline, and while much of it is private property, there are parks along the water where anyone can come to frolic in the surf, play in the sand and grill up a picnic lunch. Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison is the largest of these. Its two miles of beachfront include a boardwalk for easy strolling and four large shelters, each of which has two pedestal grills and a dozen picnic tables. Although none have running water or electricity, each pavilion has a public restroom within 100 yards or so, as well as a concession stand nearby. Pavilion Number Four at Meigs Point is especially popular as it has a public parking lot very close by.

Rocky Neck State Park
244 W. Main St.
Niantic, CT 06357
(860) 739-5471

With its salt marsh, bird watching and nature preserve, Rocky Neck State Park is one of the most popular beach destinations in the eastern part of the state. It is also a popular destination for those going crabbing or salt water fishing. Train spotters also flock to Rocky Neck as a rail line runs through it along the shore. Although located at 244 West Main Street in East Lyme, the staff for the park is based out of nearby Niantic and must be contacted at that address and phone number. The main pavilion has an unusually large cooking grill, as it is meant for group barbecues. This makes it ideal for an organization, company, club, church, scouting or other group event, or for a big family seeking a beach get-together. There are 10 picnic tables available as well, and the parking lot and restrooms are right there at the pavilion. Due to high demand, reservations for the pavilion must be made in advance, and there is a small rental fee.

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Sleeping Giant State Park
200 Mount Carmel Ave.
Hamden, CT 06518
(203) 287-5658

Sleeping Giant State Park is unique, as it is built around a mountaintop lookout tower, and one that resembles a medieval watchtower. The tower dominates the skyline and can be seen for miles and miles away as visitors approach. There are great hiking and nature trails all along the mountain, and the view is breathtaking. Sleeping Giant also offers stream fishing and camping. The park is especially popular for those who want to grill up a hot meal, as its pavilion has not only a pair of grills but also two working fireplaces inside – which means even if it rains there is a place to cook. The stone wall around the pavilion adds some charm as well, and while there is no running water in the pavilion, both parking and restrooms are within 100 yards.

Wharton Brook State Park
Route 5
Wallingford, CT 06492
(203) 287-5658

Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford is a popular place to hike, swim and fish. It also has two shelters, each with half a dozen picnic tables and a pair of standing grills – which are great for cooking up the catch of the day. Both have restrooms and parking lots within a few minutes’ walk, and each has access to potable water nearby. It is a quiet, smaller and more intimate park than many in the state, and unlike most others, does not have its own separate home office. However, information can be obtained by contacting the staff at Sleeping Giant State Park.

Burr Pond State Park
384 Burr Mountain Road
Torrington, CT 06790
(860) 482-1817

Burr Pond in the northwest corner is a quiet, serene place to get away from the day-to-day hustle and bustle of the small cities and large towns of Litchfield County. The man-made pond is as big as a lake and lovely to swim in, and anglers love it too as it is well stocked with fish. Canoes and kayaks can be rented, and there are hiking and nature trails for those who want to look at rather than play in the water. Burr Pond has a pond-side pavilion with 10 picnic tables and two grills. It is within 50 yards of the water on the main swimming beach, making it an ideal location for those who come to frolic in the pond. Restrooms are located about 100 yards away and parking is relatively close by – although lugging coolers and other items needed for a picnic will make it seem a lot farther.

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