5 local outdoor spots to visit for free this summer

With New England temperatures finally beginning to warm, it may be time for you to head out to explore and reconnect with the great outdoors! Here’s a few ideas of some central Connecticut activities that are local, fun, full of fresh air and free! (All locations featured are ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible and open to the public.)

Wharton Brook State Park (675 US-5, North Haven, CT 06473)

This expansive 96-acre state park boasts fishing, swimming, and picnicking as its main activities for visitors to enjoy. Regarding picnicking, Wharton Brook State Park offers multiple pavilions to provide shelter from rain or sun days with particularly inclement  weather. This is a great spot for an impromptu family gathering or a beginner’s fishing experience. 

Harbor Park (80 Harbor Dr, Middletown, CT 06457)

For a waterside experience, pop over to Harbor Park in Middletown! This popular boating/fishing spot is open 24/7, and offers a view of the Arrigoni Bridge over the Connecticut River unlike any other! Whether enjoying a meal on the picnic benches or taking a stroll down the boardwalk, Harbor Park is one of those spots that make you feel like you’re farther from home than you really are (in a good way)! This is the place for those who are nautical at heart. 

The Meriden Green (77 State St, Meriden, CT 06450)

This relatively new development can be enjoyed in a plethora of ways. What used to be a city conundrum has been lovingly transformed into a point of pride; the leaders of Meriden struggled with flooding on the land, until they creatively solved the issue. By reassigning the space to be one for public enjoyment and encouraging the natural stream within the space, the flooding issue was resolved, and an exciting new gathering spot was created in central Connecticut! Since it’s official grand opening in September of 2016, the Meriden Green has been host to pop-up markets, the Meriden Farmers Market, music events, dance recitals, concerts and more. Additionally, countless visitors have relaxed on the benches or enjoyed a picnic on the beautiful grounds or spacious amphitheater stairs. 

Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail (Red Bridge) (Quinnipiac Trail, Meriden, CT 06451)

The historic Red Bridge in Meriden, Connecticut is just one of the beautiful sights visitors can expect to come across when exploring all that the Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail has to offer! This location is less about lounging, and more about enjoying the beautifully paved trail which welcomes bikers, roller skaters, strollers, and dogs! Quinnipiac River Gorge Trail is just one of many Connecticut  riverside trails that run adjacent to the Quinnipiac River; perhaps a trip to this spot will inspire you to visit its sister locations! 

Elizabeth Park (1561 Asylum Ave, Hartford, CT 06105)

Another nationally recognized historic place, Elizabeth Park offers the most activity diversity of the list. Despite being best known for the formal rose gardens and paths, Elizabeth Park offers much more than pretty views. Serving as a cultural hub and gathering place within the community, the 102 acre park offers visitors tennis and basketball courts, ball fields, a playground and lawn bowling, and expansive walking trails for those looking for activities. Complete with unique art pieces and plenty of seating, Elizabeth Park is the perfect spot for a day of fun in the sun!

While these are just a select few of the many outdoor adventures Connecticut has to offer, hopefully one inspires you to go out and explore! You’ll never be bored on the Eastern seaboard!

Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she's not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School, she's either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@east_side_vibes_ on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach . Email Francesca at eastsidevibeswithcess@gmail.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi! 


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