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5 free things in Connecticut, from art to parks

  • This undated image provided by Yale University shows a gallery with a painting by J.M.W. Turner at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn. The center houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. It’s one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Yale University, Michael Marsland)

    This undated image provided by Yale University shows a gallery with a painting by J.M.W. Turner at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn. The center houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. It’s one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Yale University, Michael Marsland)

  • This undated photo provided by the Connecticut Office of Tourism shows a path at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn. Hammonasset is the state’s largest shoreline park, with a boardwalk and more than 2 miles of beach. Parking is free from mid-September to April 20. (AP Photo/Connecticut Office of Tourism)

    This undated photo provided by the Connecticut Office of Tourism shows a path at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn. Hammonasset is the state’s largest shoreline park, with a boardwalk and more than 2 miles of beach. Parking is free from mid-September to April 20. (AP Photo/Connecticut Office of Tourism)

  • This undated photo provided by the State Parks Division of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection shows the Groton Monument at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, Conn. The monument was erected around 1830 to commemorate a 1781 Revolutionary War battle in which British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort and killed 88 of the 165 defenders. Visiting the park is one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Parks, Paul Duarte)

    This undated photo provided by the State Parks Division of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection shows the Groton Monument at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, Conn. The monument was erected around 1830 to commemorate a 1781 Revolutionary War battle in which British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort and killed 88 of the 165 defenders. Visiting the park is one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Parks, Paul Duarte)

  • This undated image provided by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History shows the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Human Nature: Looking Closer at the Relationships between People and the Environment.” The museum, located at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, is one of a number of free attractions in the region.  (AP Photo/Connecticut State Museum of Natural History)

    This undated image provided by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History shows the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Human Nature: Looking Closer at the Relationships between People and the Environment.” The museum, located at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, is one of a number of free attractions in the region. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Museum of Natural History)

  • This undated image provided by the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Conn., shows the Nautilus, which is on exhibit at the museum and was the first nuclear-powered vessel as well as the first ship to reach the North Pole. The submarine museum traces the history of submarines. It's one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Submarine Force Museum, Benjamin Amdur)

    This undated image provided by the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Conn., shows the Nautilus, which is on exhibit at the museum and was the first nuclear-powered vessel as well as the first ship to reach the North Pole. The submarine museum traces the history of submarines. It's one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Submarine Force Museum, Benjamin Amdur)

  • This undated image provided by Yale University shows a gallery with a painting by J.M.W. Turner at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Conn. The center houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. It’s one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Yale University, Michael Marsland)
  • This undated photo provided by the Connecticut Office of Tourism shows a path at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn. Hammonasset is the state’s largest shoreline park, with a boardwalk and more than 2 miles of beach. Parking is free from mid-September to April 20. (AP Photo/Connecticut Office of Tourism)
  • This undated photo provided by the State Parks Division of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environment Protection shows the Groton Monument at Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, Conn. The monument was erected around 1830 to commemorate a 1781 Revolutionary War battle in which British forces, commanded by Benedict Arnold, captured the fort and killed 88 of the 165 defenders. Visiting the park is one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Connecticut State Parks, Paul Duarte)
  • This undated image provided by the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History shows the museum’s permanent exhibit, “Human Nature: Looking Closer at the Relationships between People and the Environment.” The museum, located at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, is one of a number of free attractions in the region.  (AP Photo/Connecticut State Museum of Natural History)
  • This undated image provided by the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Conn., shows the Nautilus, which is on exhibit at the museum and was the first nuclear-powered vessel as well as the first ship to reach the North Pole. The submarine museum traces the history of submarines. It's one of a number of free things to see and do in Connecticut. (AP Photo/Submarine Force Museum, Benjamin Amdur)

Connecticut is a small state that can be crossed in a matter of hours, depending on traffic, offering relatively easy access for travelers 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 U.S. Navy and is the primary repository of artifacts, 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.

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 U.S. 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.

Hammonasset Beach

Hammonasset, Connecticut’s largest shoreline park, offers a boardwalk and more than 2 miles of beach.

Parking is free from mid-September to April 20.

But even during the season when a parking fee applies, visitors can park in nearby downtown Madison for
free and bike the 2-mile route east on Route 1 to Hammo-nasset.

Madison is known for Madison Art Cinemas, a movie theater 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.

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 artifacts.

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 12-foot dugout canoe carved from an American chestnut tree, Mayan and other Central American Indian artifacts.

Legacy Comments1

Hammonasset is more than just a sandy beach. There's camping, bird watching, fishing, guided nature walks, guided canoe and kayak adventures, a nature center, educational (yet fun) lectures, spear throwing lessons, and still there's more. Each year the park hosts a myriad of special events from a Kite Festival,to the Annual 5 Mile Turkey Trot, to a 5 K Obstacle Race. If you happen to be in the area this October 5th and 6th, the Friends of Hammonasset will once again host the Hammonassett Festival which will feature a variety of Native American musicians, dancers, and other performers. Admission to the Festival is $5.00. Please visit http://hammonasset.org to learn more about the Hammonassett Festival or about other events at HBSP.

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