The Great Connecticut Summer Staycation

Columnist Kellyanne Koemp has some great ideas for close-to-home adventures this summer.

Gas prices have you worried? Airline tickets are astronomical? Is a cruise a bit out of reach for the family this year? What’s a parent to do?

In a few weeks, the kids will be home for the summer and maybe you have been able to get a few days (or a week) off of work yourself. Now is the time to plan out that vacation to maximize the fun without blowing your budget for the rest of the year. 

How will you craft an inexpensive summer vacation in this economy? A “staycation” is most likely the answer! Staycations are an old idea, but the concept has been around for at least 33 years…trust me, my mother was the queen of the staycation long before it became cool.

You see, sometimes my family had tough times and our household couldn’t take vacations out of state. So my mother found activities close to Woodbury.  

Does a staycation really save you money? Well, you don’t have to pay for a hotel, you can cook and bring your own meals, and transportation costs are at a minimum. The only thing you really need to pay for is admission… and sometimes, some activities are FREE! I compiled a few of my favorites here, and still have tons of ideas left over. There is a lot around to discover.

Both the Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium are great, but you may need to choose one or the other depending on your budget. Just down the road is the Submarine Force Museum in Groton which is FREE! A good link to them is http://www.ussnautilus.org/. I last went in April with some friends we made in Guam, they had many free activities for the kiddos. My son Chris’ photo is even on their website, showcasing the decorated “Sonar Dome” he made.

In Niantic, CT you will find Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, where your kids will find two outdoor places and five different scavenger hunts for different age levels! Children from 1 through adult are $6. With an advance reservation, a group of $10 or more gets you an admission fee of only $4.75. Check out their website for further information: http://www.childrensmuseumsect.org/hoursdirection.html.  

New London County has a lot else to offer, although I might be a bit biased; I taught at Stonington High School for 3 years, and this area is very close to my heart for another reason: it’s also where I met my husband and had my son.

The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat and the Gillette Castle are all located along Route 9. The Steam train is wonderful especially for young children, who have notorious fascinations with trains. Some upcoming events to note are: the Hot Steamed Jazz Festival June 24-26, and riding the circus train July 23-24, 2011 and July 30-31, 2011. Their website has all the details: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/events.html. The Gillette Castle state park includes hiking trails, picnic areas and a museum – and makes for a nice and interesting day out. Built by 20 men from 1914-1919, William Gillette (an actor best known for his original portrayal of Sherlock Holmes) was the eccentric owner until 1943, when the state of Connecticut purchased the property and made it into a state park. Admission to the grounds is free, but to tour the castle it will cost those 13 and older $6, but children 6-12 are $2.

The Military Museum of Southern New England in Danbury has “Open Turret” days from April-October, with specific dates listed on their website. On these days they open the tanks and vehicles for you and your children to sit in and explore. See http://www.usmilitarymuseum.org/openturret.php for more. While in Danbury, head over to the Danbury Historical Society Museum. I know, I know, and how exciting can dear old Danbury be? Well, Danbury had a fantastic history: it was the center of the hatting industry! Also, your daughters will be interested in the story of Sybil Ludington, in 1777 a 16-year-old farm girl rode 20 or 40 miles to muster militia men shouting, "The British are burning Danbury--muster at Ludington's!" I can remember being about 13 and my mother taking us to this museum, I fought her at every turn, but I truly found it all very interesting. I also ended up majoring in History at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury… Coincidence? Probably, but you can check out their website at http://www.danburymuseum.org/danburymuseum/Home.html for more. 

Quassy Amusement Park is local and they have a terrific new wooden roller coaster, The Wooden Warrior! In addition to the amusement park Quassy also features a beach and a “saturation station”. The best deal has always been the all day ride wrist band. Taken all together it makes for a pleasant day out for sure. 

There is still a tremendous amount of things to do in our state that I haven’t brought up … none of which require money for hotels or food.  Of course, since you will be saving so much money on fuel, you can stay at one of the local hotels for a night, and take the family out to dinner at a local restaurant. Sometimes you have to take a step back to see how truly amazing your local region is. Just see it as a tourist would, and you and your family will gain a new appreciation for sure!


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