State-wide there are 1,400 campsites and every single one of them is booked full for the Memorial Day weekend.
The most popular place to pitch a tent or pop up a camper is Hammonasset State Park, where you must make your reservation for Memorial Day weekend before the 4th of July the previous year.
“The competition to get a site is really tough,” said Linda Cull of New Hartford. “You have to be ready. You have to have a plan.”
Linda and her husband Richard said they grabbed their spot for their camper at Hammonasset 11 months ago. So did Bruce and Sheila Miner of Stonington.
“It’s sold out, probably in an hour,” Bruce recalled.
After several seasons of campground cuts due to state budget woes, the parks are fully operational again.
“We’ve been building back up after closures a couple years ago. Now, with the Passport to the Parks we now have the availability to staff and reopen all of our 14 campgrounds,” said the state’s Director of Parks Tom Tyler.
A $10 fee on your vehicle registration means as long as you drive up with a Connecticut license plate you don’t have to pay to park anymore.
“People think that’s there’s something that they need to buy and get and that’s not true. They’ve already done it,” Tyler explained.
Friday afternoon, campers were anxious to get to their sites and start their long weekend. Lines starting forming shortly after noon. Hammonasset had 491 reservations for Friday night and anther 50 guests arriving Saturday.
“We got here right about noon time but they did tell us the lines were going to be an hour long in about 10 minutes,” said Linda.
There were a lot of familiar faces in that line. Both the Culls and Miners have made camping an annual Memorial Day weekend tradition.
“It’s a great time. You get to see all the people that you met,” said Richard.
“We come with family and friends and the beach, the nature center, there’s a lot of the kids to do here,” added Sheila.
While Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start to summer, Tyler said Connecticut’s state parks see the biggest attendance on the 4th of July.