Editorial: Free museum days a chance to explore CT

The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. It features three large hangars, outdoor exhibits and more than 100 aircraft ranging from early airships and flying machines to supersonic jets and helicopters.

The New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. It features three large hangars, outdoor exhibits and more than 100 aircraft ranging from early airships and flying machines to supersonic jets and helicopters.

Contributed photo

These so-called dog days of summer are, in reality, the perfect time to introduce children to some of Connecticut’s hidden treasures.

For the next few weeks, ending on Labor Day, children 18-and-under can get into many of the state’s museums for free under the Connecticut Summer at the Museum program funded by the American Rescue Plan.

Yeah, yeah, we know. If you’re a kid, the word “museum” just sounds like a grownup’s excuse to chase you off another afternoon of Roblox. “Museum” is to any computer game what “broccoli” is to ice cream.

So, if you’re an adult, you may need to do a little extra work to demonstrate that there are actually a lot of tasty flavors out there in Connecticut’s museums. They not only offer views by land, sea and air, but will take visitors into space as well.

So get on board and consider a sample of some of the stops you can make over the next four weeks.

For starters, Connecticut offers several rail showcases, including the Danbury Rail Museum, (where legendary director Alfred Hitchcock filmed scenes for “Strangers on a Train”), and the Connecticut Trolley Museum in East Windsor.

Or perhaps you favor a “one if by land, two if by sea” approach at the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat.

If you’d rather stick to the water, Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium hosts 7,000 animals of some 363 species. Some kids may prefer to check out the spider monkeys and red pandas at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo

As for the “air” offerings, consider the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. If that’s not far enough on the horizon for your child, gaze instead at the stars at the Discovery Science Center & Planetarium in Bridgeport.

Connecticut’s youngest residents might prefer EverWonder Children’s Museum in Newtown, Stepping Stones in Norwalk, or West Hartford’s Children’s Museum.

Older children with more patience, and an interest in local history, can explore historical societies that deserve more attention in so many communities, including Greenwich, Stratfield, Norwalk, Stamford, Bristol, Avon, Glastonbury and Simsbury. There’s also the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.

Budding artists might consider different perspectives available at the Alridge Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, while wannabee fashion designers can seek inspiration at the Victorian exhibit at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk.

Many state residents are likely unaware of some offerings, such as the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association Museum in Kent. And mobile devices have already become so ubiquitous as timekeepers that kids of a certain age might be shocked by centerpieces at Bristol’s American Clock and Watch Museum.

A few offerings can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Consider the Boothe Memorial Park and Museum in Stratford, which has unique structures the Boothe brothers built on their 32-acre homestead before donating their unusual collections and estate to the Town of Stratford.

Only Connecticut residents are eligible for the program, so remember to bring an ID, and check first in case online reservations or masks are required.

And while this can serve to reveal treasures to kids, it can also remind a lot of adults that the Nutmeg State is really just one big museum.