summer in connecticut

20 Things To Do in Connecticut Under $20

budget wise

There’s lots more to Connecticut than picturesque fall foliage and charming small towns (although we do love it for that, too.) The Constitution State has so much to offer to both out-of-state visitors and locals alike – and all within a budget, too.

These are our top 20 things to do in Connecticut for $20 or less.

Harkness Memorial State Park Price Varies

This park’s 237 acres of pristinely maintained gardens, beaches and historical buildings can be enjoyed all year round. Walk the stunning grounds, have a picnic, tour the Roman Renaissance Revival-style mansion or simply take in the panoramic views of Long Island Sound. Free for in-state registered vehicles. $15 for out-of-state on weekends and $10 on weekdays.

Avery’s Beverages $13.50

Just like its founder 100 years ago, Avery’s is still handcrafting and bottling small-batch craft soda in the trademark red barn on Corbin Avenue. Try one of its classic flavors like cola and ginger ale or test your bravery with a “Totally Gross” flavor like Toxic Slime. You can even make your own flavor on a visit to the mixing room. If you’re looking for a fun, cheap thing to do in Connecticut, this is it.

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B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill Free

Every Sept. 1, B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill opens just in time for the fall season. Good thing, too – it’s the perfect autumn activity to experience. As the last remaining steam-powered cider mill in the country, you can watch an apple pressing demonstration while you eat an apple cider doughnut and sip on either iced or hot apple cider. Is there anything more fall coded?

The Book Barn Free

The tagline for The Book Barn says it all: “A bibliophile’s bliss.” We’d have to agree, seeing as you can browse more than 500,000 books between their three locations. If it’s your first time, we recommend visiting the Main Barn as your introduction. From the multiple buildings with books stacked to the ceiling to farm animals, roaming cats, water features and more, there’s enough to keep any book lover happy to stay for a lifetime.

Buttonwood Farm Sunflowers $3 donation

The Sunflowers for Wishes event held at Buttonwood Farm is an annual tradition with lots of heart. Every year, 14 acres of sunflowers are planted for guests to pick for a $3 donation – 100% of which goes to the Make A Wish Foundation of Connecticut, which grants wishes to children with critical illnesses.

Coventry Farmer’s Market Free

Beginning at the start of June, the Coventry Farmer’s Market sets up shop each week on the grounds of the Nathan Hale Homestead and offers an enormous array of locally grown, locally produced and locally made goods. Every week has a different theme – like Strawberry Fest, Farm-to-Table, Dog Day, Sweet Treats and many more.

Cruise to Thimble Islands $18

The Thimble Islands weren’t named so for their small size, but it’s fitting, anyway. An archipelago of 365 tiny islands in Stony Creek Harbor, the Thimble Islands are both beloved for their beauty and seclusion and revered for their folklore – namely, the claim that the infamous Captain Kidd buried his treasure there. Take a 45-minute cruise around the Thimbles to see them all up close.   

Dinosaur State Park $6

See where dinosaurs literally walked 200 million years ago. As one of the biggest sites for dinosaur tracks in North America, Dinosaur State Park acts as life-size diorama of the Jurassic age and offers an up-close look at footprints, fossils, interactive exhibits and over 2 miles of trails for hiking and exploring.

Gillette Castle State Park $6

A castle in Connecticut? Yes, really! Built in 1919, Gillette Castle was the home of William Gillette, an actor best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Today, you can take a guided tour of the castle’s unconventional interior, walk the beautiful grounds and check out the quarter-scale railroad that circles the 122-acre property.

Liuzzi Gourmet Food Market

Liuzzi Gourmet Food Market is a fifth-generation family-owned marketplace, better known as an Italian wonderland. Besides all the delicious sights and smells, visitors can enjoy browsing the high-quality products, including cheese, meats, grocery items and – perhaps best of all – the bakery where fresh focaccia comes steaming out of the oven.

Lobster Landing

As a Connecticut staple, Lobster Landing is beloved for a reason. Enjoy a variety of delicious fresh seafood set against the most charming, no-frills seaside hut as a backdrop (complete with an askew “o” in “Lobster.”) Admittedly, the lobster rolls are more than $20, but the rest of the menu stays under budget, from a $4 hot dog to lobster bisque for $9 and change.

Norwalk Oyster Festival $15

The 46th annual Norwalk Oyster Festival is happening Sept. 6 to 8 at Veterans Memorial Park. The event is sure to be a hit with carnival rides, an arts and crafts sale and plenty of food offerings for every taste. That’s right, you don’t have to be an oyster fiend to attend; the International Food Court serves up a variety of cuisine that includes Mexican, Columbian and Italian.

Olde Mistick Village Free

A perfect activity for families (including the furry members) is a stroll around Olde Mistick Village. It’s one of the best free things to do in Connecticut. Chock full of quaint shops and restaurants, the village offers plenty to do from exploring a “haunted” book shop, to trying some homemade fudge or even picking your wizard house.

Pratt Street Salsa Socials Free

It’s time to get your salsa on! Happening once a month through September, the Pratt Street Salsa Socials are events where everyone gets in on the fun. The music will be playing – you just have to start dancing!

Saville Dam Free

Looking straight out of a storybook, Saville Dam sits at the top of the Barkhamsted Reservoir and is surrounded by picturesque tree-dotted hills. The castle-like structure is a great place to take in the views, have a photo op or hike the 22-mile scenic trail loop that encircles the sparkling reservoir.

Talcott Mountain State Park Free

Hikers will enjoy the moderately difficult climb to the summit of Talcott Mountain where they’ll be greeted by the impressive Heublein Tower. From the top, 360-degree views include Mount Monadnock, the Berkshires and even Long Island Sound.

Terrain

As a cafe and garden shop, Terrain is a plant-lover’s paradise. Wander through the incredibly curated space that inevitably distorts the line between indoor and outdoor. Cafe fare boasts seasonally inspired dishes, coffee and tea, sweet treats and more.

Try the famous local pizza Price Varies

A visit to Connecticut simply wouldn’t be complete without sampling some New Haven-style ‘za. Famous for its extremely thin crust and coal-fire bake, you can’t go wrong. Make a trip out to Wooster Street to try both Sally’s Apizza and Frank Pepe’s where small pizzas go for about $18 on average.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art $20

Prepare to be wowed by the almost 50,000 works of art here at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. As the oldest operating public art museum in the country, the museum houses many collections from Greek and Roman antiquities to African American arts and textiles. Works are distributed among five connected buildings, so we recommend reserving a good chunk of time to see it all.

Yale Peabody Museum Free

After four years of major renovations, Yale’s natural history museum is back and open to the public once again. Enjoy exhibits all about our world’s past and present, including the halls of dinosaurs, minerals, earth and space.

Find more things to do in the Northeast for under $20.

Need a ride? Rent a car.

What are some of your favorite activities in Connecticut under $20? What did we miss? Tell us in the comments!

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