Losing yourself in the peace and calm of the outdoors is one of the best ways to unwind.
A trip to Connecticut opens up a world of possibilities whether you are traveling in the winter, spring, summer, or fall.
Read on for the best outdoor activities in CT to enjoy year-round.
Outdoor activities in CT during COVID-19
The original inspiration for this article was researching what to do during the pandemic.
For much of 2020, before the advent of vaccines, things to do in Connecticut were largely limited to what you could do outside.
And that especially applied to the lockdown in the spring of 2020.
Outdoor activities that could not be easily closed (even when they officially were) were the only options for getting out of the house.
Fortunately, Connecticut is a deceptively diverse state, with plenty of things to do in any direction.
The Best Outdoor Activities in Connecticut
Ready to explore the lengthy list of outdoor attractions, activities, and things to do in Connecticut?
Then read on:
Outdoor activities in Greenwich, CT
Of course we’re going to highlight outdoor activities closer to home first!
Greenwich is one of the most unique places in the world for many reasons.
But for our purposes:
It’s one of the few places in the world where someone can be sitting on a beach and hiking hilly wooded trails within about 30 minutes of each experience!
Golfing near Greenwich, Connecticut
One of the more relaxed ways to enjoy a beautiful day is the most famous game invented in Scotland.
Some golf courses near us that welcome visitors include:
Griffith E Harris Golf Course
This golf course has the distinction of being the old public golf course in Greenwich, Connecticut. Its design by Robert Trent Jones has won awards since its construction in 1964. It hosted the 2018 Metropolitan Golf Association Public Links Championship, as well as a PGA event. Greenwich Magazine considers “The Griff” one of Greenwich’s hidden gems.
Pound Ridge Golf Course
The first and only design project in New York by World Golf Hall of Fame designer Pete Dye sits across the border from Connecticut. This 18-hole, public golf course is a par of 72 on 172 acres in Pound Ridge, New York. And the Pound Ridge Golf Club has a long list of accolades that you can read on their website.
Greenwich Polo Club
Because of course a town known for its wealth would have its own polo club.
And in fact, the Greenwich Polo Club is one of only three venues in the entire United States offering high-goal polo.
The above fact is more than this writer understands.
In reality, a polo match is really just an opportunity to dress outdoor-fancy (in line with a horse race) and have a picnic with champagne.
You never know who you’ll be picnicking next to here.
And walking through the field to stomp divots back into the ground is one of the most unique things to do in Connecticut.
Tournaments typically begin in the late spring and conclude in the early fall.
Beaches near Greenwich, Connecticut
Summer in Connecticut is synonymous with beaches.
That said, the winter months are a fantastic time to take a walk at the various beaches near Greenwich, CT:
- Greenwich Point Park (also known as Tod’s Point)
- Island Beach (also known as Little Captain’s Island)
- Great Captain’s Island
Added benefit to a winter visit is that Greenwich beaches don’t need a pass for non-residents.
Hiking in Greenwich, CT
Aside from the parks lining the Mianus River (more on that later), there are plenty more remarkable parks in Greenwich with great hiking trails:
- The Greenwich Audubon
- Babcock Preserve
- Montgomery Pinetum
Parks in Greenwich, Connecticut
A few more parks that are closer to downtown Greenwich that are more for relaxing and catching some sun include:
- Binney Park
- Bruce Park
- Roger Sherman Baldwin Park
Shopping in downtown Greenwich
And if you’re planning on spending some time in downtown Greenwich parks, you may as well take advantage of the shopping along Greenwich Avenue.
This is the main street after which outdoor malls were designed.
Stroll Along the Mianus River
While its mispronunciation gets a giggle or two, the Mianus River is protected along much of its course.
Mianus River Gorge Preserve
Mianus River begins flowing north near the Greenwich, Connecticut, border into Bedford, New York.
Shortly afterwards, its banks are protected in the Mianus River Gorge Preserve. This unique park features one of the last stands of old-growth forest so close to New York City.
As its name suggests, the preserve also exists to protect and preserve a gorge. A hike along the steep (for here) walls of the gorge gives hikers a vibe similar to Colorado or other environs out West.
Mianus River State Park
Further down river, Mianus River State Park offers an impressive tract of deciduous forests interspersed with stone walls.
Those stone walls still mark the original farm long abandoned for over a century.
Straddling the Greenwich-Stamford border, this is a convenient spot for our entire area. After all, it is an easy drive when looking for outdoor things to do in Connecticut.
You’ll find it well worth the effort to enjoy a hike along the banks of this lovely river.
Outdoor activities in Stamford, Connecticut
Of the many attractions, activities, and things to do in Stamford, CT, this writer’s top outdoors pick is:
Visit the Gardens of Bartlett Arboretum
Open from dusk to dawn every day, the Bartlett Arboretum offers 12 gardens and hundreds of new species to discover.
This is not just popular for summer activities in CT, but a welcoming spot all year round. It is considered a “living classroom” where people of all ages come to explore nature.
Visitors are invited to step out of their comfort zones and experience nature in the “off-season”. In the winter months, Mother Nature paints the landscape in white and the entire world is transformed.
The quiet beauty of falling snow here is a wonderful way to experience winter and remain in contact with the outdoors.
Even when the temperatures dip.
However, it is equally as beautiful as the seasons change into:
- And fall
With ever-changing scenery that greets visitors with something new to admire every month.
This writer makes a point of visiting the Bartlett Arboretum each fall.
Even more outdoor activities throughout Fairfield County, Connecticut
Continue east along the Merritt Parkway from back Stamford to the next outdoor spots on the list.
Get Inspired at Weir Farm National Historic Site
This site is open from dusk to dawn every day, covering 153 wooded acres on the Ridgefield–Wilton border.
Art lovers get the best of both worlds here walking the acreage and exploring the original buildings and artist’s studio. Former home to America’s most noted Impressionist painter J. Alden Weir (1852–1919), you can take a ranger-led tour of:
- The Weir home
- And grounds
If you are familiar with his work, you might find some of the sights familiar.
After all, it is the spot where he set many of his paintings.
It is also a thrill to wander the same grounds where painters such as Childe Hassam and John Singer Sargent would congregate back in the day.
Because the site has a share of indoor and outdoor areas, you can warm up in the buildings if you are feeling a little chilly on cold or damp days.
Taste Wine at Aquila’s Nest Vineyards, Newtown
This vineyard is “experience-focused” in an idyllic location where you can sample wines overlooking a stunning vista.
Wonderful any time of the year, Aquila’s Nest Vineyards is particularly breathtaking in peak Connecticut fall foliage season, when the leaves are bursting with color. This is one of the most fun things to do in CT for adults where you can relax with friends, sip your wine, chat and enjoy some fresh air.
Take advantage of their fire pit service and cozy up to a blazing fire in the cold of winter, or enjoy that camping out feel in the warmth of the summer night air. Just be sure to reserve your spot, as it is one of their most popular attractions.
Discover Wildlife at the Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary
The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Center at Fairfield offers 155 acres at a stunning wildlife sanctuary.
If you want to experience local nature at its best, this sanctuary contains a diverse selection of habitats and wildlife with seven miles of trails. You can take in the views from the many observation platforms and bridges, and learn more about the local flora and fauna with the informative signs along the way.
There is also an Algonquin wigwam replica, and you can make the most of your self-guided hikes with a brochure from the center.
Regardless of the time of year, hundreds of species of birds flock to the area, with a variety of ducks that stop in on their migration south each fall.
There are also early spring visitors like the Eastern Phoebe and Eastern Bluebirds.
Mid-winter is the perfect time to enjoy a silent walk to spot other interesting species such as Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, and Brown Creeper. These species enjoy the area in the cold of winter because it offers warm microhabitats.
However, there is more than just birds to observe.
A big attraction is the Eastern Box Turtle. White-tailed Deer also will likely make an appearance. Other typical New England woodland mammals here include the American Mink.
The Roy and Margot Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary is the perfect way to encounter nature’s wonders throughout the year.
Explore Nature at the Grace Richardson Conservation Area
Are you looking for outdoor activities in CT this weekend?
Then why not explore 87.4 acres at this wildlife conservation area?
Ideal for cross country skiing in the snowy season, this sometimes rugged terrain is part of the Mill River watershed. Grace Richardson Conservation Area is also home to the “Congress Street Rock shelter” a prehistoric shelter for Native Americans dating back at least about 3,000 years. Some argue it dates back as far back as 8,000.
The area is quite steep but also features a former pasture as well as two dams built on the watercourse. The remaining walls from the 17th century add interesting elements to the landscape marking the boundaries of the original “Long Lots.”
You can enjoy activities suited to every season, whether it is:
- Cross country skiing on snow-covered trails
- Wildlife observation
- Or horseback riding
When the weather is fine you can enjoy a picnic near the North Pond.
Top outdoor activities in Litchfield County, Connecticut
With arguably more livestock than people, Litchfield County is typically where coastal Connecticutians go to feel quaint during Connecticut fall foliage season.
But there’s plenty to do in the Litchfield Hills, regardless of the time of year.
And outdoor activities just happen to be the area’s forte.
Litchfield County has:
- Some of the best hiking trails in all Connecticut
- Some of the best Connecticut wineries around
- One of the largest outdoor flea markets in Connecticut
- More than a few of the cutest towns in Connecticut
- Large CT state parks and forests to get lost in on a warm, sunny, day
Two of Litchfield County’s best parks are even on the list of the best free things to do in Connecticut.
If the above doesn’t warrant a visit for you, a few more outdoor points of interest in the area include:
Snap Some Selfies at the West Cornwall Covered Bridge
The West Cornwall Covered bridge maintains its appeal throughout the seasons.
Whether surrounded by:
- The snow-covered roof in the winter
- The lovely colors of the autumn leaves
- And from the breezy countryside of the summer
- To the bright green buds of early spring
This is the idyllic setting for some dramatic selfies. The lovely red boards and charming pitched roof span the expansive river forever flowing below.
The trees along the banks tell the never-ending story of the changing of the seasons.
This is also a wonderful way to capture history, as this is one of the last remaining covered bridges in Connecticut. The best way to get the full experience when the weather cooperates is to rent a bike and enjoy the local cycling trails along the Housatonic River.
After you’ve taken your selfies, of course.
Ride the Rails on the Historic Naugatuck Railroad, Thomaston
This vintage passenger car is more “outdoorish”. After all, you are technically inside a train.
However, it allows you to get a unique look at the impressive scenic vistas in Connecticut.
The tours are an homage to the area’s rich rail heritage and the scenic, historical train rides along the Naugatuck Railroad. The excursions leave from historic Thomaston Station and take you along a river, through stunning valleys, and sheltered woods offering changing views for every season.
So while the Historic Naugatuck Railroad is indoors theoretically, it provides one of the best ways to experience stunning natural scenery you wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
Even more outdoor activities in CT
Despite being one of the smallest states in the country, you’re likely starting to get the idea of how long the list of outdoor activities is.
The Thimble Islands
The largest archipelago in Connecticut clusters along the coast of Branford, Connecticut.
Like many New England islands, the Thimble Islands are dead in the winter.
But the summer months are ideal for boating, kayaking, and wildlife watching.
Take a Self-Guided Art Tour
If you love art, expand your horizons with a self-guided art tour.
Connecticut is home to wonderful outdoor art walks throughout the state. You can combine fresh air with the chance to discover the inventive expression of local artists. Some areas you can enjoy these free outdoor activities in CT include:
Donald M Kendall Sculpture Garden, Purchase, NY
Did you know that the world headquarters of Pepsi are just over the border from Greenwich, Connecticut, in Purchase, New York?
Yes, not the most interesting tidbit, but a major local attraction is situated right on the grounds of their headquarters.
The Donald M Kendall Sculpture Garden features 45 installations of outdoor sculptures in a beautifully-designed arboretum.
Former CEO and board chairman Donald M Kendall imagined and executed the park-like setting, starting in the 1960s.
Here, you’ll find works from major modern sculptors as:
- Auguste Rodin
- Henry Moore
- Alexander Calder
- Alberto Giacometti
New London Mural Walk, New London
This six-block Hygienic Art Galleries tour takes you through a collection of outdoor murals inspired by a wide variety of “muses.”
From community portraits to underwater spacemen and colorful mosaics to exotic shells, you will discover a different take on art than you would see in typical galleries.
If the weather is chilly, bundle up, or pick up your pace to a brisk walk.
Lincoln Financial Sculpture Walk, Hartford
These murals depict the life of Abraham Lincoln in a series of outdoor sculptures along the Connecticut River.
There are 16 works by various artists who collaborated with famed historian and presidential biographer, Doris Kearns Goodwin. She shared information about Lincoln with each artist. And in hand with selected excerpts from her writing, the information provides a unique insight into Lincoln, as a man.
Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, Old Lyme
The Sculpture Grounds feature a collection of over 100 sculptures cleverly dispersed through the gardens and courtyards.
This “en Plein air” art experience brings you into the community, allowing you to experience the way the art interacts with its environment throughout the changing seasons.
The outdoor gallery covers 4.5 landscaped acres with large-scale exhibits that you are encouraged to explore.
Shopping in Chester, Connecticut
You won’t be stuck in a mall when you shop the charming streets of Chester.
There is something cozy about this charming Connecticut town that allows you to slow down and enjoy strolling along the quaint streets. Straddling the Pattaconk Brook and Chester Creek, you’ll discover pleasant spots to enjoy:
- A meal
- A glass of wine
- Or a cup of coffee
Close to the lovely Connecticut River, you’ll find 19th-century-era buildings that speak to the lovely town’s rather rough and tumble history.
Everything is impeccably maintained, adding to the allure and charm of the area. However, beyond the aesthetic appeal of the town, you’ll also find your shopping excursion quite practical, encountering artisan studios filled with one-of-a-kind pieces to add to your collection.
Connecticut River Valley
And quite frankly, any opportunity to explore the Connecticut River is worth taking.
Due to its swampy terrain, it’s one of the most “wild” river mouths in the world. National Geographic even awarded it the accolade of being one of the last great wild places on Earth.
The little towns nestled in the marshes along it are adorable, some spots to visit aside from Chester include:
- Old Saybrook
- Gillette Castle
And it’s an easy drive to all of the top attractions, activities, and things to do in Mystic, CT; much of which are outdoors.
Discover even more things to do in Connecticut
Exploring the outdoors make up most of this writer’s travel activities. But it barely scratches the surface of the attractions in Connecticut.
For guides to the best outdoor places to visit depending on the season, click over to our guides on:
- The best places to visit in Connecticut in the spring
- The top places to visit in the summer in Connecticut
- All the best places to visit in the winter in Connecticut
Keep exploring our guides to find even more about:
- Indoor activities in Connecticut
- Connecticut in the spring
- Winter in Connecticut, including the best winter outdoor activities in Connecticut
- Beaches in Connecticut
- Fall in Connecticut
- Connecticut in the summer
And be sure to read the most unique attractions in Connecticut, and download a free copy of the Connecticut Travel Guide.
Or learn more about our corner of the state, Greenwich, Connecticut. Our site is full of resources on attractions, activities, and things to do in Greenwich, CT; including a free Greenwich Visitor’s Guide.