It is hard to find something fun to do with a small, reasonable budget. We sent Blue Muse writer Tessa Stack to find cheap thrills and hidden gems in the Nutmeg State that won’t break the bank.
Right off Route 9 in Niantic resides a huge, brown wooden barn off the main road where booklovers go to get their fix. The Book Barn entices readers with complimentary coffee, thousands of discounted used books, and notably, CATS! The three cats rescued by the Barn’s owners roam around the property, lying on chairs, sunbathing, and frolicking in the flower garden while you shop. It makes the Barn less like a store and more like a home. Have too many books crowding your shelf at home? Sell them to the Barn for a check or store credit. The popularity of the main barn required the owners, the Stack family, to build two more locations: a storefront downtown by the Niantic Boardwalk, and an uptown barn. The Book Barn has cornered the Niantic book business. Upfront Costs: $0. Potential: Priceless.
Middletown is home to the famous Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park. This is the perfect day trip for any family or group. They offer fun water activities like bouncing on a water trampoline, rope swinging, fly boarding, paddle boarding, and more. Pretend you’re on the show Wipeout with their water obstacle courses. Jump off two cliff options into the water below: the fourteen-foot drop for beginners and the forty-foot for the risk takers. Get strapped into safety harness gear with your GoPro and soar fast, zipping across the lake and straight into the water. Brownstone also has gear available for rent, making your day even more entertaining. Adventure-seekers, families, and water park enthusiasts love Brownstone for all it offers because you can’t find these options at other waterparks like Six Flags. If it’s a nice, sunny day, grab your swim trunks and head on over. Upfront Costs: $26-$46. Potential: A fun adventure.
In the heart of Enfield off Powder Hill Road is Collins Creamery, a farm well-known to the locals and surrounding towns. It’s a decent-sized farm, with a section for guests to eat ice cream and pet the cows who leave their red barn and graze up to the fence. Everyone who orders any of the dairy products can sit outside on the benches, between the fence and the tilled dirt road that lead you in. Stay long enough and the very morbidly obese, possibly diabetic, grey tabby cat will waddle about looking for a lick of the homemade ice cream. Collins Creamery has a variety of twenty different flavors. They don’t just sell the basic vanilla-chocolate-strawberry, but have flavors like Cotton Candy, Collins Mud, Grapenut, Peppermint Stick, Tiramisu, Cow Chip, and more. Ice cream is not the only option. You can order milkshakes and malts, root beer floats, ice cream sandwiches, strawberry shortcake, and sundaes, with options for a classic banana split, a brownie, or a raging bull sundae. Most importantly, take home your favorite flavors in a pint, quart, or half gallon. If you have a canine at home, bring them a puppy cup: vanilla ice cream topped with a Milk-Bone biscuit. Give into your sweet tooth and head over to the local Creamery for a nice afternoon or weekend snack. Upfront Costs: Single scoop. Potential: Sweet tooth satisfied.
Tucked in the corner of the Meriden Mall is a little pet store with very expensive animals. They have big pups like huskies, golden retrievers, and German shepherds. Then there are the small pups: maltese, pugs, and terriers. In this jungle, they also have small, furry, wet, or scaly animals—rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, fishes, snakes, and hermit crabs—all cheap if you buy a cage in the store. Playing with all the animals in this gentle jungle is a great therapeutic method to release stress after the workweek. It may be in your favor to go on a weekday because weekends are busy. The animals are not always able to get out for exercise and having people come to play with them brings smiles across the animals’ faces. Upfront Costs: $0. Potential: Friend for life.
Lake Compounce is a great place for thrill-seekers, and is best known for its thrill ride Boulder Dash, which was awarded the World’s Best Wooden Coaster Award in 2013. Boulder Dash leads you along the tracks through the deciduous woods of Bristol, Connecticut at high speeds. The second-best ride is Wildcat, a huge, white wooden rollercoaster that is surprisingly similar to Six Flags’ Thunderbolt. One of Compounce’s newer rides is Thunder and Lightning: two giant yellow pendulum swings on a royal blue base. Unlike its competitor, Lake Compounce is also known for offering free sodas and cheaper prices to its guests. But this park is more than just free soda and cheap thrills—a day pass offers entertainment options between a day on rides and sliding down epic water slides. For a bit extra, you can camp overnight with your RV, or rent a Native American-style tepee or a cozy cabin. Getting a pass will provide thrills for every age. Upfront Costs: $46. Potential: A natural blowout for your hair.
Tessa Stack is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.