Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Stamford, CT

  • Published 2022/12/30

Known as the third largest city in Connecticut, Stamford brings a lot of surprises to your usual trip experience.

Incorporated in 1820, Stamford is known as “The City that Works” for its massive business and economic hub.

During the 18th century, it thrived in the export and import industry for its canal and harbor, which served as dropping-off points.

It was also popular for its successful electric dry-shaving industry.

Now, Stamford in Fairfield County is both a commercial and recreational destination.

With its pristine beaches, nature-side trails, and blossoming gardens, Stamford offers plenty of adventures for thrill-seekers and comfort-finders.

And most of all, it’s an affordable city with numerous free attractions.

Here are free things to do in Stamford, Connecticut, for your ultimate budget-friendly trip.

Relax and Connect with Nature at Mill River Park

The grounds of Mill River Park

James Andrews1 /

Mill River Park is a free public park that has served the community with its rolling greenery since 2013.

Spanning 30 acres, this park is also home to the biggest cherry grove in all of New England.

In Greater Stamford, this massive green space focuses on the charm of nature, so you can relax and play while enjoying the serene surroundings.

Aside from its recreational purpose, Mill River Park is also a nature conservation area with vast expanses of native habitat and diverse wildlife.

The waters of Mill River Park


It hosts various ecological and educational programs for STEM students and the like.

Within the site, there’s a playground for your little ones and a skating rink that opens seasonally.

There’s also a whimsical carousel, but it may come with a fee.

You can access Mill River Park from three entrances: West Main Street, West Broad Street, and Washington Boulevard.

Flowers at Mill River Park

James Andrews1 /

Watch a Free Performance at Curtain Call’s Shakespeare on the Green

Get in touch with your theatrical side by viewing Shakespeare on the Green.

Hosted by Curtain Call, this free event is open to all, but donations are highly appreciated.

Curtain Call, the longest-surviving theater company, produces a variety of live performances, from interactive murder mysteries to comedy skits.

But its most visited production is Shakespeare on the Green, which brings this much-loved classic to the outdoor setting!

Bring chairs and blankets to this annual event for a more immersive experience.

Head to Sterling Campus Home on Newfield Avenue to be part of this annual event you shouldn’t miss out on!

Spot Eagles While Hiking around Mianus River Park

Waters of Mianus River Park

Mad Hare Imagery /

The 391-acre nature reserve, Mianus River Park, is the ultimate place to be for some reflection and meditation while in the wild.

As part of the Mianus River Watershed, this nature escape offers a panoramic view of the stunning Mianus River and accompanying trails.

It got its name from the Siwanoy’s tribe leader, Chief Sachem Myn Miyano, whose name means “he who gathers together.”

With its admirable rock formations and wildflower gardens, it’s easily a great place to see native wildlife and precious flora.

Admire the wide variety of trees and plants, crops, and fruits, including blueberries and winterberries.

Migratory birds are also rampant within the area, so bring your binoculars to view them more clearly.

Mianus River Park is on Merriebrook Lane.

Explore the Lush Gardens and Landscapes at Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens

A bird at Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens

Piotr Polkowski , CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1966, Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens opened to the community on Brookdale Road.

Since then, it has become one of Stamford’s tourist favorites because of its beautiful wildlife habitats.

It’s home to walking trails that zigzag across woodlands and wetlands.

All 93 acres of Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens’ open space is also abundant with gardens and boardwalks.

From interesting culinary herbs from the Linda Nykaza Albanese Herb Garden to the visiting flowers sitting on top of sunflowers at the Sundial Garden, you have much to explore and admire.

A bit of historic significance brought by the Memorial Surviving Tree is also something you should check out.

Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens offers more for you and your preferred garden adventure, so add this to your itinerary!

Let Your Dog Play Around at Stamford Dog Park in Courtland Park

Traveling with a dog can be challenging, but at Stamford, you don’t have to worry!

Stamford Dog Park allows your furry friends to have fun outdoors and bask in the sun.

Within this public dog space in Courtland Park, there are two fenced areas: one for small dogs and one for bigger ones.

Inaugurated in 2009, Stamford Dog Park on Courtland Avenue is a tranquil paradise for your furry pet.

Go on a Peaceful Stroll along Fort Stamford

The grounds of Fort Stamford

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Situated along Westover Road, Fort Stamford mixes history with your usual nature excursion.

Spanning five acres, this park was famous for being a fortification site during the American Revolution.

Now, you can explore its grounds to learn more about this significant story in history through the markers and unchanged structure of the fort.

Garden pergola at Fort Stamford

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the same time, this fort overlooks the Goodbody Garden with its Italian balustrades and sunken gardens.

Admire the perfectly manicured lawn and its pergola made of stone pillars.

Breathe in the scent of native flowers, as well as classic blossoms and perennials.

It’s always a great time to cultivate your green thumb at Fort Stamford.

Daytime view of Fort Stamford

Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Celebrate Local Art and Handiwork at Stamford Art Festival

Meant to highlight local art for two days in July, the Stamford Art Festival is a yearly celebration worth checking out.

It features a variety of art pieces within the neighborhood of Harbor Point.

Amid the ceramics and decorative fibers, exhibitors also step forward and conduct demonstrations.

Bring the whole family for an afternoon of art discoveries and a quality bonding experience you won’t forget for years to come.

You can also look forward to complimentary art supplies to accompany your art learning.

Stamford Art Festival is a waterfront community event along Harbor Point Road.

Admire the Unusual Architecture of the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford

Exterior of the First Presbyterian Church

quiggyt4 /

The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford is not only a religious sanctuary but also a massive architectural piece with an interesting history.

Architect Wallace K. Harrison designed this impressive structural art piece that resembles a fish; hence, its label is “Fish Church.”

At the same time, this design changed the approach of usual churches with its blend of American architecture and modern construction technology.

Interior of the First Presbyterian Church

John9474, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Inside, the walls burst in colors with slanted plane windows made from various gemstone glass.

The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford also rises at 60 feet, giving the impression of an enclosed but high-cornered inside of a sapphire, which was what the architect originally intended.

You can visit this stunning church on Bedford Street.

Marvel at the Music and Murals at Stamford Murals’ Off-Main Experience

When it comes to murals and public art, Stamford is one city that always goes all out.

Stamford Murals’ Off-Main Experience is an art-based event that started in 2021 and has been a great source of art entertainment within the community.

Partnering with RiseUP for Arts, it occurs every September in the Mill River Park area.

Even if you can’t catch this event while you’re in Stamford, you can see the murals from the event.

Among Stamford Murals’ Off-Main Experience’s artworks are “Blaze Your wn Trail” by Alissa Siegel and the colorful paintwork outside Carmody Law Office by Lauren Clayton.

Enjoy Live Entertainment at Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular

Mr. Potato head giant balloon at Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular

ApinBen4289 /

Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular is one of the city’s well-known festivals every November.

This officially kicks off the holiday season and brings together the community in the downtown area of the city with pleasant sights and entertainment.

Expect larger-than-life balloons of popular cartoon characters parading around, accompanied by live band music and marches.

Bob the builder giant balloon at Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular

ApinBen4289 /

The likes of Mr. Potato Head and Scooby-Doo are one of the most awaited balloon sights.

Extravagant floats also grace the streets, attracting the attention of your little ones.

As a lovely finish, Santa greets everyone with a merry holiday celebration.

Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular starts from the intersection near Hoyt Street and ends on Atlantic Street, just before reaching North State Street.

Elmo giant balloon at Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular

ApinBen4289 /

Explore Downtown Stamford with a Ride on the Harbor Point Trolley

The best way to explore Stamford is always on foot, but if your feet hurt from all the exploring, riding the Harbor Point Trolley is a close second best.

Running every day at a 30-minute interval, this free trolley stops at major tourist destinations, providing a quick tour of downtown Stamford.

This transportation project aims to promote safe and efficient travel for residents and tourists alike.

Go past UConn, Ferguson Library, and Stamford Town Center.

Harbor Point Trolley is a great way to acquaint yourself with the city and its offerings.

You can get on the trolley at any of its stops, including Harbor Point Square and Columbus Park.

Take Your Kids to the Imagination Station during Arts & Crafts on Bedford

People at Arts & Crafts on Bedford


On Bedford Street, Stamford ensures the celebration of local art and jewelry with its annual Arts & Crafts on Bedford.

This one-of-a-kind annual event takes place once in June and September.

Bringing together exhibits of varying kinds, this event aims to celebrate local and regional art.

Vendor at Arts & Crafts on Bedford


Arts & Crafts on Bedford features various artworks, from ceramics and woodwork to photography and painting.

For kids who may be a part of the celebration, there are imagination stations that offer free activities.

A petting zoo and face painting platforms are only some of the many activities you and your little one can anticipate.

Ceramics for sale at Arts & Crafts on Bedford


Admire Art in Public Places Outdoor Sculpture

Sphere-shaped sculpture at Public Places Outdoor Sculpture

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Every summer, Stamford offers a pleasant art surprise to its residents and travelers.

Public Places Outdoor Sculpture brings new art pieces to the city annually for the summer festivities.

And it’s not a one-time occasion, either!

You can view the public artworks from June to September in various parks and public spaces.

Pyramid-shaped sculpture at Public Places Outdoor Sculpture

Ritu Manoj Jethani /

In 2017, Public Places Outdoor Sculpture brought together ART SHAPES, which was a unique interpretation of geometric shapes using fiberglass.

In 2019, 2021, and 2022, the city brought to life themes of space invasion, piano music, and topiary art, respectively.

Ever since its first exhibit in 1994, Stamford has succeeded in promoting its tourism with art and using its platform to spread art in a diverse community.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Explore the Rotating Exhibitions at Flinn Gallery

In the nearby city of Greenwich, Flinn Gallery is a free-for-all art gallery that presents art in an educational manner.

With over five curated exhibits from September to June of the following year, it highlights local and national artists and their impressive artworks.

The gallery first served the community in 1928 through the efforts of librarian Isabelle Hurlbutt.

It moved to its current spot on West Putnam Avenue in 1960 and underwent renovations in 1999.

Now, it’s home to different art mediums, from sculptures to canvas paintings.

Flinn Gallery is only 11 minutes away from Stamford.

Pose in Front of the Monoliths at Montgomery Pinetum Park

If you’re looking for outdoor recreation with a dash of natural art creations, Montgomery Pinetum Park is the best place to go.

Only an 11-minute drive from Stamford, this public park in Greenwich features paved and unpaved trails for optimum nature exploration.

With its 1.9-mile loop trail, be on the lookout for birds and monoliths that are common all over the place.

You can also visit the Greenwich Botanical Center onsite, where admission is free!

Montgomery Pinetum Park is within the Cos Cob neighborhood in Greenwich.

Final Thoughts

Stamford’s array of outdoor recreational opportunities makes the city a desirable place for a vacation for the weekend or longer.

Whether you prefer a lazy stroll outdoors or a more immersive experience with free events and interactive sites, this city has it all!

This list of the free things to do in Stamford, Connecticut, will help you with your travel plans.

Keep this article bookmarked on your next trip to Connecticut and its wonderful cities!

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