Studies show that spending time outdoors is linked to cognitive benefits and improved mental health and emotional well-being. Just a few minutes spent outside can refresh both your body and mind – one recent study found that even the sounds of nature can have beneficial qualities. So why are most of us stuck at our desks all day?
It can be hard to take a break, but it’s more than necessary in today’s stressful world. One good way to make sure you’re spending time outdoors is to actually schedule it on your calendar.
Here are five great local parks to add to your agenda. Aim to visit one or two this month and bring family and friends. Notice how you feel afterward – did it help you relax? Ease your mind? If so, pick another park and remember to enjoy your summer safely.
1. Scalzi Park, Stamford, CT
Scalzi Park has everything you need for a mental health reboot. The park features tennis, basketball, volleyball, and bocce ball courts. There is also an area for skateboarding and a kids’ playground. Pack food for a picnic and enjoy the scenery!
2. Mill River Park, Stamford, CT
Mill River Park is located in the heart of downtown Stamford and is full of activities. On Saturdays and Sundays, the David & Marian Nissen Carousel is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and rides are $2 each. There is also a playground with a splash pad and murals created by local students. On summer Saturdays, they host family-friendly movies in the park starting at sunset. Check out their monthly calendar for other events!
3. Cranbury Park, Norwalk, CT
All hikers welcome! Cranbury Park has 227 acres of wooded trails – and an 18-hole golf course that winds in and out of the woods. Bring your four-legged friends along for the expansive dog park. Kids will love it here too – take advantage of the small playground area and sculpture gardens. Norwalk residents can park for free anytime, but others will pay a fee from May 15 to Oct. 15.
4. Earthplace, Westport, CT
Earthplace is a 62-acre nature and wildlife sanctuary. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk, and while it is a kid-friendly environment, dogs are not welcome. There are several hiking trails to enjoy – and their StoryWalk installation allows visitors with children to read a story page-by-page as they walk along a trail. While an outdoor visit is free to the public, there is an admission fee for the Animal Hall ($10 for adults; $5 for kids, students, and seniors), which features over 50 different kinds of animals like opossums, bald eagles, owls, and more.
5. Sherwood Island State Park, Westport, CT
Sherwood Island is Connecticut’s first state park and covers about 235 acres. Fishing is allowed at parts of the park from April 15 through Sept. 15, and the entire beach is open to fishing during the off-season. Swimming is also allowed here and the park offers bathrooms and showers. Just be sure to pack your water shoes! The terrain can be rocky. There is a nature center open seasonally which hosts a variety of displays and exhibits about plant and animal life. There is a daily parking fee for non-residents.