Five free things to do in Connecticut

Connecticut's popular Hammonasset Beach State Park offers a boardwalk and more than 3.2 kilometres of beach. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user rickpilot_2000
Connecticut's popular Hammonasset Beach State Park offers a boardwalk and more than 3.2 kilometres of beach. Photo / Creative Commons image by Flickr user rickpilot_2000

Connecticut is a small state that can be crossed in a matter of hours, depending on traffic, offering relatively easy access for travellers looking to visit various corners of the state.

One compact area packed with attractions is the southeastern region, which includes Long Island Sound and a popular shoreline state park, Yale University's hometown of New Haven, sites related to New England's maritime and military industry, and the University of Connecticut in the eastern part of the state.

Here are five free things to do and see there.

SUBMARINE FORCE MUSEUM

The Submarine Force Museum on the Thames River in Groton is home to the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered vessel and first ship to reach the North Pole. It's the only submarine museum operated by the US Navy and is the primary repository of artefacts, documents and photographs related to the history of submarines in the military.

The museum traces the development of submarines, from the so-called Turtle, the first American submarine developed for use in the Revolutionary War, to today's Ohio and Virginia class submarines.

The museum's collections include tens of thousands of artefacts, documents and photographs. Its reference and research library holds 6000 volumes.

FORT GRISWOLD BATTLEFIELD STATE PARK

Connecticut is a destination for amateur historians. One of the 13 colonies, it played a key role in providing munitions to the fledgling US Army.

A visit to Connecticut's shoreline can include a stop at the Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton in southeast Connecticut. British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort in 1781 and killed 88 of the 165 defenders.

The Ebenezer Avery House that sheltered the wounded after the battle has been restored on the grounds and the Monument House Museum features displays of Groton's history.

HAMMONASSET BEACH STATE PARK

Hammonasset, Connecticut's largest shoreline park, offers a boardwalk and more than 3.2 kilometres of beach. Parking is free from mid-September to April 20. But even during the season when a parking fee applies, visitors can find parking in nearby downtown Madison for free and bike the 3.2-kilometre route east on Route 1 to Hammonasset.

Madison is known for Madison Art Cinemas, a movie theatre in downtown that opened in 1912, and R.J. Julia Booksellers, one of the better-known book stores in Connecticut.

YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART

The Yale Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. Admission is free, insisted upon by its benefactor, Paul Mellon, a 1929 Yale graduate.

The museum boasts paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings and a rare books collection, said Scott Wilcox, chief curator of art collections.

The building, which was the final design by architect Louis I. Kahn, is itself an attraction. Its exterior of matte steel and reflective glass is considered a landmark of 20th century museum architecture, Wilcox said.

While you're there, take a stroll around the campus of the famous university with its picturesque buildings, walkways and manicured lawns.

CONNECTICUT STATE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

The Museum of Natural History and Connecticut Archaeology Center at the University of Connecticut in Storrs boasts the single largest repository of Connecticut Native American, colonial and industrial artefacts.

The materials document more than 11,000 years of the area's past. Collections include a large sample of Connecticut Indian stone bowls, reconstructed pottery vessels, groundstone tools, a 3.6-metre-long dugout canoe carved from an American chestnut tree, Mayan and other Central American Indian artefacts such as stone tools, woven hammocks and skeletal remains.

- AP

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