Connecticut Museum Guide

For the final installment of LowDoughTrips’ guide to cheap activities in the Nutmeg state, we bring you a look at museums and some of the characters behind the scenes.

Steve Wood runs CTMuseumQuest.org which catalogs more than 600 museums in Connecticut. He currently spends a few hours each weekend trying to get to as many museums as possible, to date he has visited more than 150.

Wood’s unique hobby has been chronicled in Connecticut Magazine and NBC30 among others.

For those on a tight budget Wood suggested spending a day going to the various Yale museums such as the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale Center for British Art.

“Talk about cheap those things are free and they are on par with any museum in the northeast,” Wood said.

Like the rest of the state there are an astonishing number of museums crammed into New Haven, “there’s like 20 things in New Haven alone,”‘ Wood said, including an old crypt and a rare book museum.

Wood said that the Peabody Museum is a sure to please just about everyone,  “The Peabody is always fun, I mean everyone likes dinosaurs right?” Admission ranges from $5-$7 depending on age and student status.

Peri Rachel, a senior psychology major at Quinnipiac University, raved about her experience at the Peabody Museum. For her the Egyptian section was most memorable, “it’s fascinating to see a body that died over 2000 years ago.”

“There’s lots of kids running around, its very family friendly,” said Katie Becker, a senior media production major at Quinnipiac.

“Thats the one that sticks out in peoples minds in terms of fun,” Ron Gagliardi said. He holds a plethora of museum and history related positions including  Official Municipal Historian of Cheshire, Director of the Lock 12 Museum, member of Cheshire Historical Society Board of Directors and a employee at the Barker Character Comic & Cartoon Museum.

“[The Peabody] is probably not geared to young kids, but kids in middle school, high school and seniors, ” Gagliari said. He added that visitors shouldn’t make judgments about the museum based on its location, “ the Peabody is like a large city museum experience.”

Gagliardi suggested those looking for a change of pace from the traditional historic and art themed museums stop by the  Barker Character Comic & Cartoon Museum.

“The museum features over 80.000 items in the collection,” Gagliardi said.

Pieces include the original set for the television show Gumby, complete with Kangaroo Express Station and Pokey, upwards of 550 Pez dispensers and memorabilia from just about every fad or hit TV show since the 1940s.

“The ideal age would be maybe 8 through 80,” Gagliardi said.

According to Gagliardi, the Barker museum is a great location for a date, “From what I’ve watched when people come in they really enjoy sharing the experience of what they used to watch on television with someone else.”

Those who don’t have much money to spend on their date can rest easy, admission to the Barker is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

A larger than life Hulk action figure at the Barker Character, Comic & Cartoon museum in Cheshire

Still not sure where to head this weekend? Check out a map LowDoughTrips put together of some notable museums in the area:

Evolution of Staycation

Today we examine the relatively young word, “Staycation”.

Although coined sometime in the early 00’s the word didn’t see much usage until the summer of  2008. At a time when the dreaded $4 gallon of gas seemed poised to strike at moment, many American’s reassessed how they would spend their summer vacations (sounds like a boring fourth grade essay).

The answer was simple, stick it to the oil companies by staying close to home and only using petrol during emergencies, a minor exaggeration but bear with me. Take a look at the timeline below to get a better sense of how the “Staycation” evolved.

Staycations on Dipity.

Weather Widget

Yahoo's Weather Widget

Yahoo’s weather widget will let you plan your weekend excursion appropriately. The  widget can be easily be placed on a user’s desktop allowing them to quickly glance at the weather before leaving the house.

“I usually just step outside the house for a second before I leave and make an assumption about what the weather will be like for the day,” said Bill Richman, a Quininpiac senior majoring in broadcast journalism.

“Most of the time my laziness doesn’t cause any problems, but every couple of months I find myself at the beach shivering because I didn’t bring  a sweater or caught in a downpour with out an umbrella.”

“Having something directly in front of me would definitely reduce the amount of times I leave the house unprepared.”

The widget offers users a quick view of the five day forecast and current conditions for the region. There is a link at the bottom of the widget which takes users to an extended and more  in-depth forecast courtesy of Weather.com

Spare yourself from the fate Richman often encounters by downloading this widget today.

Gallop Poll

When people think of Generation Y they most likely conjure up images of lethargic, computer addicted, consumers of media. But a recent LowDoughTrips poll showed that  26.8 percent of students 18-29 spent more than 5 hours per week outdoors for recreational activities.

The finding is significant because A 2007 study by the Center for Disease Control found that 25.6 percent of girls and 43.7 percent of boys in high school averaged one hour of physical activity per day. Further, the study notes that physical activity tends to decline as people get older.

Most importantly LowDoughTrips found that 15 percent of respondents don’t think state, local or national recreational areas are a cheap day trip or vacation. “You have to pay for parking  most of the time and the really great beaches or parks generally are in isolated areas,” Brian Donnelly said, a Quinnipiac University senior criminal justice major.

He equated long travel times with high expenditures on gas. But he felt the need to qualify his  statement, “it is generally pretty cheap once you get there since you can bring your  food, beverages. And you can split the cost among friends which makes it more manageable.”

Donnelly said that he prefers a cost free alternative, “I have a hammock in my backyard, couple that with a basketball hoop and I can keep busy for a whole day without dropping a dime.”

Randy Horn, a junior majoring in geography at University of Colorado-Boulder, said “If you look at how much you spend on a trip to a national or state park it does seem like its a pricey endeavor at first glance.” He cited the need for food, water and gas as the potnential costs. “But really, in any given day you need to eat, drink and probably will drive, so its really money you’d have spent if you just stayed home.”

Patrick McNerney, Randy Horn and Ian Swallow in Canyon Land National Park Courtesy of Randy Horn

Horn recently travelled to Canyon Lands national park in Utah and estimates that not counting the two hour drive from Boulder, he actually saved money on the trip. “We brought only canned food which means we spent like $2 per meal, we collected water in the park so that was free. Then obviously I didn’t spend any money on electricity and all those other utilites that a person generally uses in a day.”

Horn continued, “Realistically, if I chose to live like I do when I go camping year round I’d save myself a pretty penny, but at the same time one week in the desert is more than enough in my book.”

National Parks charge an admission fee which is used to help maintain the park and educate visitors. Those planning to visit multiple parks this year should consider purchasing an annual pass, $80, which allows the pass holder and 3 adults to enter any federally managed park in the country.

A few notable statistics:

  • Not a single respondent averaged one hour per day in a public park, beach or forest per week.
  • 38% of respondents plan to visit or have visited a National park this year
  • On a completely unscientific note, roughly 7 out of 10 respondents contacted via e-mail, AOL Instant Messanger, or Facebook chat replied, “donezo” after completing the survey.

Early Bird’s Catching Some Worms…and Rays

Jon Pantano takes a rest

I took a quick hike on the Quinnipiac Trail this morning which is part of Connecticut’s Blue Blaze Trail System. After hiking on Sleeping Giant yesterday it was nice to be on a trail that had no traffic. We caught a glimpse of another hiker at the trail head but our paths diverged and we never saw him again.

Jon Pantano, a Quinnipiac senior, showed me the path he found behind his house in Hamden and showed me a few notable spots he had stumbled on during previous hikes.

Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of the Blue Trail System and some new places to check out. Hopefully the weather we’ll be just as nice next weekend so those of you who didn’t get a chance to explore Connecticut this weekend will have another opportunity.

Chatting With Veteran Hikers

This past week Low Dough Trips spoke with David Roberts, Chairman of the Excursions Committee of the Appalachian Mountain Club: Connecticut Chapter,  and Len Berton, Hike Leader for Farmington Continuing Education and member of the Sleeping Giant Park Association.

Berton suggested that hikers visit American Legion State Forest in Barkhamsted which has over 11 miles of hiking trails. You can download a  Peoples State Forest Trail Map for free. Berton noted that state parks and forests are not charging for parking right now, i.e. all you need for a great hike is gas money.  Take a look at some the places Berton has hiked in the area.

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Roberts recommended that novice hikers tag along with the Appalachian Mountain Club in order to get some experience, they offer hikes almost daily, check them out here. These hikes are free and open to the public.

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Before heading out take a peek at what the AMC recommends you should bring along

Sleeping Giant State Park: A Visual Tour

Watch this slideshow of images of Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, Conn. and pick up a few tips on what to see from other visitors.

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The images were taken between October 2008 and January 2010 and are property of David Hartman