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June 8 marks a big day in a small state.
That's when nearly 200 venues in Connecticut will host a collective open house in an effort to showcase the state's notable artistic, historical, natural and quirky destinations.
Coordinated by the Connecticut Office of Tourism, Connecticut Open House Day offers tourists and residents free or discounted admission and/or special activities and free gifts at dozens of museums, parks, galleries and other attractions throughout the state. This is the state's 9th annual push to bring in tourists and remind residents of the "revolutionary" and eclectic nature of the Nutmeg State.
A full listing of Open House Day participants is at www.ctvisit.com. To get you started, we present here a list of free events in southeastern Connecticut.
Chester/Hadlyme Ferry: Ride the circa-1949 Selden III across the river from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 54 Ferry Road. The Chester/Hadlyme Ferry has been operating since 1769. Visit www.ct.gov/dot and select "Ports and Ferries" from the "Travel Resources" menu for more information.
Gillette Castle State Park: 67 River Rd. Visit the homestead of actor, director and playwright William Hooker Gillette, located on 184 acres. The mansion is modeled after a medieval castle. Free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.ct.gov/deep/gillettecastle.
Goodspeed Opera House: 6 Main St. It's the 50th anniversary year for this musical-theater powerhouse. Free tours of the Victorian theater, built in 1876, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. www.goodspeed.org.
Nathan Hale Schoolhouse: 29 Main St. Learn from costumed interpreters and enjoy musket demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. www.connecticutsar.org/sites/eh-schoolhouse.htm.
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat: 1 Railroad Ave. Kids age 11 and younger ride free when accompanied by a ticketed adult with a valid Connecticut driver's license. Claim children's tickets at booth on June 8. Departures at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. www.essexsteamtrain.com.
Avery-Copp House: 154 Thames St. Free admission from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the house will offer old fashioned children's games and complimentary refreshments. (860) 445-1637; www.averycopphouse.org.
Ebenezer Avery House: Fort Griswold State Park, 57 Fort St. From noon to 4 p.m., join Joseph Potter, a Colonial American magician, as he provides educational magical entertainment. (860) 446-9257; www.averymemorialassociation.com.
Museum of Fife & Drum: 62 North Main St. Free admission from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. View drums, fifes, military swords, music, uniforms, medals, awards and photographs from the Revolutionary War to the present. (860) 767-2237; www.companyoffifeanddrum.org.
Denison Homestead Museum: 120 Pequotsepos Rd. Free admission from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. (860) 536-9248; www.denisonhomestead.org.
Custom House Maritime Museum: New London Maritime Society, 150 Bank St. Free admission from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. (860) 447-2501; www.nlmaritimesociety.org.
Fort Trumbull State Park: 90 Walbach St. Free admission from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (860) 444-7591; www.ct.gov/deep/forttrumbull.
Hempsted Houses: 11 Hempstead St. Free admission from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., highlighting special activities for children and the new Colonial garden at New London's oldest house (1678). (860) 443-7949; http://www.ctlandmarks.org.
Nathan Hale Schoolhouse: 19 Atlantic St. Open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., with costumed interpreters and musket demonstrations. (860) 916-1804; www.connecticutSAR.org/sites/nl-schoolhouse.htm.
Thomas Lee House: West Main St. (Rte. 156) From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., experience Colonial activities including firearms demonstrations, tours of the Lee House and Little Boston Schoolhouse, farm animals, and more. (860) 739-6070; www.eastlymehistoricalsociety.org.
Faith Trumbull DAR Chapter House: 42 Rockwell St. Open from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.; visitors will receive a packet that includes a U.S. Constitution booklet, U.S flag code and bookmark with the Pledge of Allegiance. Docents will take questions about the packets, DAR fundamental goals of education, preservation and patriotism. (860) 887-8737; www.faithtrumbull.org.
Slater Memorial Museum: Norwich Free Academy; 108 Crescent St. Free admission from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. (860) 887-2506; www.slatermuseum.org.
Florence Griswold Museum: 96 Lyme St. Free admission to GardenFest activities. View the new outdoor sculpture. Museum open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with garden-related, hands-on crafts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. www.flogris.org.
Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds: 80-1 Lyme St. Meet the artist and artist-in-residence from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with complimentary refreshments and tour of the 4.5-acre grounds. www.gilbertboro.com.
General William Hart House & Gardens: 350 Main St. Free admission with book signings, poetry reading and complimentary refreshments from noon to 4 p.m. www.saybrookhistory.org.
Roseledge Country Inn & Farm Shoppe: 418 Route 164. Open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., with Garden Tea with a tea cup craft (bring your own tea cup). Complimentary wine tasting from noon until 2 p.m. of the new Preston Ridge Vineyard. (860) 892-4739; www.roseledge.com.