Great Things To Do in Connecticut includes off-the-beaten-track fun
Connecticut is packed with great things to on a getaway for families, kids, or just adults, like scenic shoreline and country drives, antique shopping, world-class museums
, historic sites, pretty walks, and plenty of activities and attractions
for your vacation adventure.
Phone ahead or check the attraction's website before visiting, especially for outdoor activities.
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT, 06830
Electricity, through November 6, 2016
The Bruce Museum sizzles with excitement this spring and summer during our showing of Electricity. Electricity, a show developed by the Franklin institute, brings the science and history of electricity to life through engaging hands-on activities such as Plasma Tubes, Jumping Rings, Solenoid, and Jacob's Ladder. Examine the fundamental principles behind electricity and learn more about concepts like static electricity, attraction and repulsion, sparking, magnetic motion! Aside from fun activities, the exhibition also lays focus on the applications and uses of electricity including how electricity gets into your home, sustainability, and electrical safety.
One Railroad Avenue
Essex, CT, 06426
A Connecticut River adventure by train and boat
Gather family and friends for a sightseeing adventure aboard the only steam train and riverboat connection in the United States! This 2½-hour narrated journey explores the nature and beauty of the Connecticut River Valley, designated as one of “the last great places on Earth” by The Nature Conservancy. View historic sites such as Gillette Castle and the Goodspeed Opera House. Excursions begin and end at the historic 1892 Essex station. Rain or shine.
40 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT, 06511
World’s largest indoor ropes course now in New Haven
Explore over 100 rope elements on the 4 level It ropes courses that stand 5 stories high. Choose your own path and go at your own pace through each level on both courses. Then soar down each of the Zip It zip lines for a self-guided zip experience over 48-feet in the air! The zip lines stretch 180-feet long between the It ropes courses for your extra daring challenge. To exit the course, go on the Jump It for the ultimate free‑fall sensation as you are comfortably lowered to the ground from 48’ in the air. Kids under 48” tall can experience a ropes course just like the larger It attraction at a more comfortable height on the little it attraction. Participants can also continue the adventure on 4 climbing activities that challenge participants to climb over 29’ high on wobbly beams and twisted structures.
199 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT, 06840
A Different Kind of Home
The Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., is unlike any other house you've ever seen because it's really not a house at all. Architect Philip Johnson deconstructed the notion of what a house should be by building 14 structures on 49 rustic acres, with each structure having a different function. The Glass House itself, with no walls dividing the interior into rooms, is a pavilion for parties and for viewing the surrounding landscape. The Brick House was Johnson's bedroom, where he read and slept. The stucco Studio is a workplace and library. Today the entire property is a National Trust Historic Site, and serves as a museum to Johnson's work and the International Style of architecture. We're open for tours from May 1 to November 30.
32 Reeds Gap Road
Middlefield, CT, 06455
Get down on the farm for an authentic experience
Lyman Orchard presents the authentic, on the farm visitor experience. Now in its 275th year and one of the most popular family attractions in New England. Come pick your own fruit, stop in at the farm market for delicious food from fresh baked award winning pies to apple cider donuts, muffins, cookies, breads, pastries, all made in the Farm Kitchen Bakery. Savor Eco-certified fruit grown using old fashioned agricultural methods and leading edge technologies. Pick up a ready to go fruit and gift basket, play golf on championship golf courses, and hold your wedding or special celebration at two ideal venues, the Lyman Homestead and the golf pavilion. Check out the full calendar of events at this magnificent destination farm.
at the Ivoryton Inn - 115 Main Street
Ivoryton, CT, 06426
"The best barbecue allowed above the Mason Dixon line"
One bite and you'll swear Porky Pete's BBQ in Ivoryton, CT is the best barbecue allowed above the Mason Dixon line. We serve succulent pulled pork, beef brisket, St. Louis ribs, and chicken, all of it hickory smoked and covered in tangy sauce. Every part of the South has a different barbecue style - our standard secret recipe, developed by Mother Selene, is similar to the vinegar-based sauce found in & around Memphis, Tennessee. Our sweet Texas-style sauce is also available. We've got all the traditional sides, too -- baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, corn on the cob, pasta salad, three bean salad, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, corn bread, and more. Slake your thirst with lemonade or sweet tea. Grab yourself a meal, or order take out by the pound and feed your whole gang.Visit us in the Ivoryton Inn, or at our original location at 60 Plains Road in Essex!
A.W. Stanley Park - 2233 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT, 06053
Monkey around through the forest canopy at New Britain Park
Here’s a great adventure and a great way to support public parks. Go ape on the treetops at A.W. Stanley Park in New Britain. Get outfitted with harnesses, pulleys and carabiners, take a 30-minute safety briefing and training, then head off into the forest canopy and see the world below from a unique vantage point. The outdoor adventure course includes five individual sections that take you higher into the forest canopy and up to 40 crossings/obstacles including rope ladders, net bridges, Tarzan swings and zip lines. Plan for 2-3 hours of excitement and exercise. Children as young as 10 are welcome and instructors are always on hand to offer tips and pointers. Check out the special group programs and discounts.
1650 Hartford-New London Tpke. (Rt. 85)
Oakdale, CT, 06370
Big fun at The Dinosaur Place!
The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art Village offers a 60 acre outdoor adventure park with over 40 life-sized dinosaurs spread among a mile and a half of pristine nature trails. Children will love getting lost in a”MAZE”asaurus dinosaur-themed maze and playing on Monty’s playground featuring the custom-made SpaceNet, a 15 foot tall three-dimensional swinging, vibrating, climbing web. During the summer, cool off in New England’s largest SplashPad, a unique zero-depth water park. Indoor adventures await in Discovery Depot at Nature’s Art Village where guests can dig for gems, pan for “gold” and unearth dinosaur bones – each adventure comes with its own unique souvenir! Bring a picnic or enjoy great food at the Cobalt Café and locations throughout the village. There are special events, educational programs and amazing shopping. Plan an indoor or outdoor birthday party, scout, school or recreational group outing.
55 Coogan Boulevard
Mystic, CT, 06355
Sea more - do more at Mystic Aquarium
Explore the depths of our ocean planet like never before! Travel Mystic Aquarium’s indoor and outdoor exhibits and visit with thousands of creatures including beluga whales, African penguins, rescued seals, colorful fish and more. Be thrilled – or chilled – by the funky features of over 30 different species of frogs. Roll up your sleeves and touch a shark, stingray or even an exotic reptile. Our sea lions will take your breath away as they demonstrate exciting behaviors in the Foxwoods Marine Theater. Then step in to Exploration: Wild! and discover the most extreme environments found throughout the globe and get close to 6’ alligators. Plus, enjoy special events and appearances throughout the year. Sea more at MysticAquarium.org.
77 Forest Street
Hartford, CT, 06105
Don’t Miss the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford’s Nook Farm
Nineteenth century Hartford was an intellectual mecca for writers, publishers and social thought leaders. Harriet Beecher Stowe came to Connecticut’s capitol city as the most famous American women in the world. Her landmark novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, set the world on fire and helped to escalate an international groundswell of opposition to the enslavement of people in the United States. Stowe’s Hartford home was her residence for 23 years. The Stowe Center uses the story of Stowe’s life to inspire social justice and positive change, with a 21st century tour experience using the historic collections to “paint a picture” of the significance of Stowe’s impact and to engage visitors in connecting Stowe’s history to today’s headlines. Open year round, check website for tours, programs and events (Park once and visit both Stowe and Twain with a combination ticket).
Schooner Wharf - 15 Holmes Street
Mystic, CT, 06355
Explore New England's coast aboard a romantic sailing ship
Return to the romantic Age of Sail aboard the 81-foot schooner Argia. She is a US Coast Guard-inspected vessel and one of the last sailing ships in New England. We're docked in Mystic, Conn., and sail in Fishers Island Sound, a calm, protected body of water, from May 1st to mid-October. Bask in the sun on our spacious wooden deck while we explore the seafaring village of Mystic, the surrounding islands, and historic lighthouses. Pass through the Mystic River Drawbridge, which opens for the Argia with every cruise. We offer complimentary snacks and lemonade, but feel free to bring your own picnic and beverages as well. Wine and beer are permitted. Enjoy a half-day cruise, or experience the romance of the sea at twilight with a sunset cruise.
21 Prindle Lane
Danbury, CT, 06810
Bounce brings trampoline sports fun to Danbury!
This unique indoor trampoline park has folks of any age jumping, bouncing and flipping through the air safely and under supervision. Launch yourself from tumble mats and try out some tricks in the triple foam pit area. Slam dunk a basketball or jump into the next round of dodgeball. Dual Xtreme! Ninja Courses challenge your agility and strength with cargo net climbs, swinging rings, a rock wall, monkey bars, net bags, balance beam and more. Children ages 5 and under have their very own Bounce! Jr.® Zone with trampoline court, foam pit, and mini slam dunk basketball hoop. Enjoy the healthy snacks bar and spacious upstairs lounge with TV, WiFi and streaming capabilities. Great for kid’s parties and group activities.
Sailing from the Niantic Bay Marina
Niantic, CT, 06357
Spend a special day or evening on the water
Board a great party boat with an experienced skipper and fish for striped bass, bluefish, porgies, sea bass, blackfish and other delicious food from the sea. Serious fisherman sail on the "Captain's Choice," trips scheduled for the best fishing time and circumstances. Enjoy a night bass trip with no crowds or tangles or a special seal watch, sunset, fireworks and/or nature cruise with science field trips also on the menu. Plan a private day charter of 15 or more and night charters of 12 for your next party or celebration. You can bring your own gear or rent rod and reel. New to fishing? The experienced crew will ensure you have a great day on the water. But do bring your lunch. Then catch your dinner. Reservations are not required and the parking is free.
85 Lyme Street
Old Lyme, CT, 06371
A getaway that includes jazz, massage, and an historic destination
Old Lyme, Conn., is the perfect destination for a weekend getaway, and the Old Lyme Inn is the ideal place to stay. Old Lyme is the epitome of a small New England town, with wonderful museums, specialty shops, beaches and leisure activities. Our historic inn was originally built in 1856, and was recently restored. We've added all the modern amenities, while preserving the historic ambiance. Our comfortable rooms include gas fireplaces, flat screen TVs with cable, high-speed Wi-Fi, climate control air conditioning, hypoallergenic pillows, organic linens, bamboo bathrobes, Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, Keurig coffee makers, and more. In-room spa treatments are available. Enjoy delicious New England fare in our restaurant, and hear the top names in jazz in our Sidedoor jazz club.
950 Trout Brook Drive
West Hartford, CT, 06119
The learning place for fun and adventure
This creative community where learning and fun connect adds a healthy dose of whimsy, geared toward children 2 to 12 years old. Founded in 1927, it’s the fifth oldest children’s museum in the nation. Its various components offer hands-on, minds-open, child-centered interactive labs, workshops, multi-sensory exhibits and demonstrations. There’s a renown science-curriculum-based Preschool program and Connecticut’s largest public, digital, and full dome planetarium, and science camps during school vacations. Roaring Brook Nature Center in nearby Canton is our outdoor classroom, with hiking trails, bluebird boxes, and wildlife habitats on 165 acres of the State Wildlife Refuge. The Wildlife Sanctuary takes in unwanted and confiscated Illegal pets, and injured animals. Then there’s the mammals, turtles, tortoises, birds, lizards, amphibians, arthropods, snakes and fish. Oh My.
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT, 06105
Come and explore the beautiful home of America’s favorite author which was featured in 1000 Places To See Before You Die. Take guided tours through Mark Twain’s historical home, visit his personal library, the children’s rooms, the servants’ wing and his famous Billiard Room where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Enjoy informative exhibitions and documentaries held in the Museum Center, visit the museum store to discover one of a kind treasures, or grab a relaxed lunch in our Nook Farm Nook cafe. House tours run daily beginning at 9:30 A.M. with the last tour leaving at 4:30 P.M., while the Museum Center is open for self-guided visitation during regular hours.
One of the great places to serve the soul’s desires
What’ll it be today in the borough? In the morning a stop at a favorite restaurant or tea room, the newsstand to pick up a real paper and chat up the natives. There’s a beach to explore, an ocean to marvel at, and a great old lighthouse museum to discover. On weekend evenings it’s an exhibition at a favorite local arts venue or perhaps a concert on a lovely green. Sunday’s it’s a feature lecture from a worldly array of speakers open to the public. There’s always great shopping, delicious food, and the history of Stonington - in the homes and sites that have filled the borough for centuries - while sunsets over Stonington harbor are not to be missed.
Grape things to do and savor
In one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country, Connecticut’s winemakers work microclimates in this scenic little corner of the state to grow grapes and make the finest wines. Spend an afternoon, day or several visiting the vineyards and wineries here and all along the Connecticut Wine Trail and its 25 diverse destinations. You can explore the farms and fields as well as the historic homes, churches and shops around them while sampling reds, whites, fruit wines and others among an almost limitless range of varietals statewide. Set in the area’s scenic towns and rural havens you can travel the trail and learn about the distinct differences of each locale. Look for the Wine Trail’s blue signs. The wineries also remind you to please drink and drive responsibly.
103 Main Street
Ivoryton, CT, 06442
A full roster for great theater for 2016
The Ivoryton Playhouse is a unique theatre with a rich cultural history. Built in 1911, the Ivoryton Playhouse is the oldest, continuously running, self-supporting summer theater in the nation. Some of the great names of from the stage and screen have appeared at Ivoryton Playhouse including Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx and Tallulah Bankhead. Today, the Ivoryton Playhouse produces a year-round, professional season of award winning musicals, comedies and dramas as well as summer children’s theatre and many special events. The Ivoryton Playhouse roster of productions for the 2016 Season includes Back Home Again: On the Road with John Denver, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, The 39 Steps, Chicago, Rent, Man of La Mancha and Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Story!
Matthews Park - 303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT, 06850
Stepping Stones Museum makes the whole world look fresh
At Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Conn., we create an environment that inspires lifelong learning. Expanded in November 2010, our museum offers engaging and educational exhibits and experiences that give children, families and educators twice the space to discover, learn, and grow. Our energy lab includes hands-on exhibits that teach how the sun, the wind, the force of water, and the burning of fossil fuels produce energy. Tot Town is an imaginative world shrunk down to toddler level. Our Build It! exhibit lets children explore architectural design and construction. We've got tools they can use to pretend to finish walls, paint with brushes and rollers, apply carpeting, and more. After a visit, youngsters will see their world in a whole different way.
1080 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT, 06520
The best of British art in a celebrated edifice
The Yale Center for British Art is a public art museum that houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. Included are paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, rare books, and manuscripts from the Elizabethan period onward. The works of Reynolds, Stubbs, Gainsborough, Turner, Constable and others who lived and worked in Britain are on display. Enjoy a year-round schedule of exhibitions and programs as well as a Reference Library and Archives, conservation laboratories, a study room for examining works from the collection, and an online catalogue. The building, opened ain 1977 is the last to be designed by acclaimed American architect Louis I. Kahn and is near many of New Haven’s best restaurants, theaters, and shops. Free and open to the public.
Earn Your Rest on This B&B Bike Trail
Here is a helpful route for bicycling through several delightful coastal towns in the New Haven area, with a reward in the form of bed & breakfast inns where you can stop for an overnight. The B&B Bike Trail
travels over the Quinnipiac River via Route 1, then heads to the central Connecticut shoreline. It is 65 miles long, and only moderately difficult, traversing rolling hills. The payoff? An opportunity to stay at the trailside Farnam Guest House in New Haven, Thimble Islands B&B in Branford, or the Scranton Seahorse Inn or Tidewater Inn, both in Madison. This is pretty countryside, and towns are filled with neat restaurants and shops. Take two or three days to cover the route, if you like. You will earn it!
History, Art, and Natural Beauty Indoors and Out
Enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors on 118 woodland acres at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center
on Newfield Avenue in Stamford
. The property includes a New England working farm, hiking trails, picnic area, Nature's playground, boardwalk, galleries for interactive exhibitions with hands-on area for children, two stores, special events, planetarium. Lots of special events, including Spring Family Festival, wine tastings, antique car shows.Phone:203-322-1646
Come and Stomp to the Music
The town of Putnam is in Connecticut’s northeastern “Quiet Corner,” but if you are itching to hear or make some sound on a trip there, visit the Stomping Ground
, at 132 Main Street in Putnam, a young restaurant-bar with live music five nights a week. It was opened by an artist and a musician who decided to more their frequent living room-based musical evenings into a business establishment. Crafts beers, good food, made from scratch in a tiny kitchen, loads of music. Phone: 860-928-7900
Art and Science Explorations for Families
The Bruce Museum
at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich
kicked off 2016 with expanded learning programs for families and kids age 4 to 10. These drop-in programs (no registration needed) include Science Sundays, where kids and parents may explore simple science concepts through experiments and activities. Art Adventures provides the creative spark and supplies for art and craft projects inspired by the Museum’s exhibitions. Programs are from 1 to 3 p.m. and are included in the Museum admission fee. Bruce Moose Activity Packs are designed for the family that would like to explore the Museum’s galleries on their own in a fun, hands-on way. 203-869-0376
Beach, Boardwalk, Playground, Pool... This Place Has It All –
Ocean Beach Park
in New London boasts Connecticut’s most beautiful beach – a half-mile crescent of sugar sand beach with an interesting shallow lagoon at the far end. Back at the center of the action is a spacious boardwalk, a nature trail, picnic area, playground, spray ground, a pool and waterslides, a gift shop, miniature golf, and plenty of classic, fun, summertime foods and beverages. At the amusement rides, young kids will enjoy old-time kiddy rides. Live music is scheduled many nights of the week. This is old-fashioned family beach fun of the highest caliber.
The Shops at Yale Are Just the Start of Your Exploration
With more than 50 unique boutiques and shops in Chapel Street Historic District and Broadway, Shops at Yale
at 255 Crown Street in New Haven
has the perfect mix of browsing, shopping, dining and people-watching to fill a weekend. The Shops at Yale are rich with boutiques alongside national retailers like Apple, J. Crew, and Urban Outfitters; bluestone sidewalks and beautifully restored architecture; award-winning restaurants and theaters; and world-renowned museums. Near at hand are public spaces that host lots of fun cultural events (one example among many is the sidewalk chalk art festival in August). Mix your pleasures with a visit to ancient beauty at the Yale Center for British Art, the Peabody Museum, Yale School of Architecture Gallery, and the historic Shubert Theater.
Rodeo Drive on the Right Coast
Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich
has been nicknamed after Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles because of its beauty, charm, and fabulous shopping
, from daily products to upscale goods. On the Avenue (not counting the many shops just a block off-avenue) you’ll find names like Lily Pulitzer, Club Monaco, Baccarat, Gabby, and Marmot. We happen to love Roundabout, offering new and resale high couture, just off The Avenue on Route 1. Spend a full day browsing and shopping; there are places to enjoy lunch or dinner on all sides. It helps to visit the street with some money to burn, but the attraction of strolling and peeping in shop windows is open to everyone.
Treasures From the Past
With about 200 antiques dealers under one roof, the Stratford Antique Center
on Honeyspot Road is a place where antiques buffs can become blissfully lost. The center is located off I-95 in Stratford
and is locally known as the “big blue building.” It houses 16,500 square feet of antiques and collectibles. Whatever you are looking for in antiques or collectibles you can probably find it here. Browsers will enjoy the numerous dealer floor spaces and display cases, making this a great shopping attraction for anyone looking for things to do on an afternoon or weekend. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except holidays. Phone: 203-378-7754.
For Motivation, Try the Sundae Drive
Connecticut’s Sundae Drive trail with an accompanying brochure and map sends you off on a tasteful adventure along some of the prettiest roads and vistas of the Mystic region of this lovely state.
The drive’s “Tasty Ten” hot spots of creamy flavor includes dairies and ice cream shops in Storrs, Pomfret, Mystic, Plainfield, Old Lyme, New London, Griswold, Salem, and Sterling. A winner for both adults and kids! Brochure and map.
Jiminy Cricket Hops
The comic book and cartoon characters from your childhood and earlier are hopping around in their original styling at the Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum
at 1188 Highland Avenue in Cheshire
. Archie and Jughead dolls? Roy Rogers Lunch Box? Charlie McCarthy Puppet? If you remember these icons wouldn’t mind visiting them again, the museum probably has them. Enjoy the collection of 80,000 antique toys and collectibles as well as a cartoon theater. Open year-round, Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Phone: 203-272-2222.
Take Your Appetite for a Walk in SoNo
SoNo, the south of Norwalk district along South Main, South Water, and Washington streets in South Norwalk attracts visitors for its waterfront ambiance, nearness to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and – our point here – for the awesome dining.
Especially along Washington Street, you can find a fabulous array to tastes: Greek, Japanese, Mexican, Irish, craft beer, steaks, seafood, chocolate, pizza – wow. Check out this website and pick a Friday or Saturday evening to treat your taste buds. Delightful!
Cool, Classic Home Styling
Stylish, classic, and comfortable. L.C.R. Retail
is a design firm that, in addition to construction and consultation, operates a retail shop 981B Farmington Avenue in West Hartford
. The shop has a tasteful collection of furniture and accessories by Anna Weatherley, Kosta Boda, Michael Wainwright, Tamara Childs, Mottahedeh, and J. Fleet Designs. Cool resource for your own home or for gift shopping. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and weekends by appointment, Phone: 860-231-7742
For Your Reading Pleasure
During a visit to this relaxed and postcard-pretty Litchfield county town, people who love books should visit Johnnycake Books
, 12 Salisbury Street in Salisbury
, offering 8,000 titles and soft seating to browse them. The shop is housed in a 19th-century farm cottage and surrounded by perennial gardens. A place to soothe the spirit and feed the mind. Open Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. , Sunday, noon-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday by chance or appointment. Phone: 860-435-6677
Artwork Down on the Farm
Weir Farm National Historic Site
on Nod Hill Road in Wilton
is one of two national historic sites that preserves and displays a place for the visual arts. (The other is the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.) From 1882 to 2005, Weir Farm was the home and workplace of three generations of painters, starting with J. Alden Weir. Visitors today can view the Weir home and studios, take guided walks of stone walls and painting trails, and enjoy the rotating art exhibits. The grounds are open year-round; hours at the Visitor Center vary seasonally. Phone: 203-761-9945
Covered Bridge Is the Hidden Jewel in This Serene Forest
Comstock Covered Bridge in East Hampton, one of Connecticut’s last remaining covered bridges, crosses the Salmon River and is limited to pedestrian traffic. The bridge is located within the Salmon River State Forest
, which covers over 6,000 acres in Hebron, Colchester, East Hampton
, and Marlborough
. The forest includes the Airline Trail, which follows an old railroad bed and features the 137-foot-high Lyman Viaduct, providing a wonderful view of the Dickenson Creek valley; a handicap accessible fly-fishing area; and a letterbox hike. The hike is less than a quarter of a mile on easy terrain. There is a solitary grave on this forest – a memorial to a soldier. The gravestone is weathering away, but you can still see the soldier’s name, the date, cause of death, and his age. Phone: 295-9523
Drive New Haven’s Charmed Shoreline
Set aside a day to drive part of the shoreline of Greater New Haven. This strip of land along Route 1 contains historic homes, stylish restaurants, nature preserves -- all within a few miles of the Long Island Sound. Start on Route 1 in Branford
's elegant downtown. Walk around the Green or veer off onto the many hiking or bird watching trails. The scenic Route 146 takes you into Stony Creek
, a tiny former fishing village. The Thimble Islands are visible from Stony Creek's harbor. Next up, Guilford
has a truly grand town Green, a lengthy, well-shaded block that's lined with charming storefronts.
's quiet, walkable downtown includes the much-loved R.J. Julia Booksellers and many other small shops. Outside of town is Hammonasset Beach State Park, Connecticut's largest shoreline park.
Bushnell Park on Trinity Street in Hartford
is a wonderful public sanctuary that merits a full-day visit. The park is home to a carousel
that dates from 1914 – the golden age of these structures that combine artistry, magic, and simple fun. Created by Russian immigrant craftsmen, the carousel is notable for the horses’ flamboyant faces and real horsehair tails. Besides the 48 horses, there are two lovers chariots, 800 twinkling lights, 24-sided pavilion houses, and a Wurlitzer band organ. A dollar will buy you a three-and-a-half minute ride of dreams. Hours: Friday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rides are $1.
Tasty Lessons at Cheese School
Fairfield and Greenwich Cheese Company
, with locations (at 2090 Post Road in Fairfield
and at 154 East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob
) wants to help you know and love cheese (even more). You are invited to taste and shop, or course, and also to attend weeknight evening classes to learn about topics like goat cheese, wine and cheese pairings, beer and cheese pairings, cheeses of France. Presenters are sometimes stars of the New England cheesemaking world. It’s a fun date night for cheese hounds! 203-292-8194 or 203-340-9227.
Meet the Outdoors at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
at 109 Pequotsepos Road in Mystic
is a nature preserve and learning center with lots of hiking trails and a delightful nature store. Bring your favorite someone or the whole famil for a day of walking, birdwatching, nature photography and a picnic. On the 10 miles of hiking trails through woodlands, wetlands, and meadow, you can search for bluebirds, painted turtles or bullfrogs, admire a summer wildflower garden or simply enjoy a peaceful walk in the woods. Several hawks and owls that cannot be released live in outdoor flight enclosures on the sanctuary. Wander the Butterfly House and enjoy the tree house. ” are available for your enjoyment. See “Night in the Meadow” in the small theater. Open daily, year-round Trail map.
Asteroids Are Just the Opening Act at Leitner Observatory
Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium
at Yale University opened in early 2009 to the delight of star lovers and planet chasers in New England. Located at 355 Prospect Street, the observatory and planetarium is open to the general public on Tuesday nights (October-March at 6 p.m.; April-September at 8 p.m.). The shows will include a live presentation highlighting planets and constellations visible in the night sky, as projected onto the planetarium's 30-foot dome, followed by Passport to the Universe, a digitally projected tour through the solar system, galaxy and beyond. Shows will last approximately 35-40 minutes and, weather permitting; telescopes will be set up for observing afterwards. Phone: 203-285-8840.
Located in Northwest Connecticut, Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy at 20 Main Street in Salisbury is one of those purely delightful stores with merchandise far beyond what the name might imply. Located in bucolic Litchfield, the town is a gateway to the Berkshire Mountains region. In addition to local folk looking for prescriptions and Band-aids, the store welcomes visitors, tourists, hikers, and shoppers looking for gifts. The store stocks specialty soaps and spa products, unique gifts, toys, crafts, cards and party goods, wooden kitchenware like cutting boards, and textile arts. The store features the work of local artisans; one recent month it was promoting scrapbook note cards by a local woman. Hiking supplies too! 860-435-9388.
Cruise the Thimble Islands
The Thimble Islands, just off the shore of Stony Creek
, was first seen by Europeans in 1614 and, by legend, served for a time as a hideout for the pirate Captain Kidd. Once called The Hundred Islands, the islands have a long history of use from farming to quarrying. Three boat captains can take you on cruises around these beautiful islands. They are Captain Bob Milne on the
Captain Mike Infantino on the
Sea Mist I
Captain Dave Kusterer on the
. Lots of dates, times, and perks to enjoy.
Sports in All Seasons
The SportsCenter of Connecticut
on River Road in Shelton
doesn’t give a darn about the weather. This covered and weather-protected facility offers numerous activities such as a golf practice range, 18-hole miniature golf course, baseball and softball batting cages, laser tag arena, bowling, and the world’s only double-decker ice arena. You like sports? Now, inclement weather doesn’t need to slow you down and you will have plenty of things to do with friends and family. Phone: 203-929-6500.
Bees, Hawks, and Other Wild Sights
The Audubon Center
at 613 Riversvile Road in Greenwich
offers indoor and outdoor attractions and fun by people who are experts on nature and wildlife. The 295-acre sanctuary has miles of trails near a hardwood forest, fields, a lake, streams and ponds, stone walls, and homestead buildings. If the weather invites you indoors, the Kimberlin Nature Education Center building has many entrancing exhibits. Other offerings at the education center include the Kiernan Hall Nature Art Gallery with its wildlife viewing window and honey bee hive exhibit, and a Nature Gift Store. 203-869-5272
You Bring Lunch; Gouveia Supplies the Wine
For the folks at Gouveia Vineyards
, producing first-rate wines is clearly a labor of love. Joe and Lucy Gouveia planted their first vines ten years ago and to today visitors can sample wines made from the eight different types of grapes that thrive there. Set on top of a hill overlooking the vineyard, the Winery Building boasts a large stone fireplace, panoramic views, woodlands and sunsets, making this the perfect romantic getaway for couples looking for things to do. Guests are invited to bring their own picnic lunch to enjoy as they sip on Gouveia’s award-winning Stone House Red, Whirlwind Rose, or Oaked Chardonnay. Open Friday to Sundays. Live music events Saturday evenings. Phone: 203-265-5526.
Knowledge. Experience. Teamwork. Street Smarts
Here’s an intriguing indoor activity for you and your smartest friends.
at 282 Main Street Extension on Middletown
offers a simple challenge: escape from a closed room in less than 60 minutes. You and your teammates will find yourselves in an unfamiliar environment, where you have to rely on common sense and each other to escape the room. You work together to gather objects, find clues, decipher codes, open locks and solve puzzles to find the key that will lead you to freedom. Are you part of the 30 percent who escape? Advance registration is required. Typical group is two to eight people and typical cost is $27 to $30. 860-358-9130.
Grande Dame of Art Deco Theaters Is Alive & Dynamic
The Warner Theatre
at 68 Main Street in Torrington
-- opened in 1931 and revived in 2002 -- is an Art Deco gem: eye-popping designs, murals, rich mahogany, and vintage etched glass chandeliers. Since its revival in the 21st century, the theater continues to grow and improve. Some highlights of the 2015 season include “The Addams Family,” “The Lightning Thief,” “Hello, Dolly!,” "Charlotte’s Web," and more. The theater hosts the MetOpera Live in HD, bringing high-brow classics on film. Keep an eye on the theater’s schedule; you’ll be glad you did. Phone: 860-489-7180.
The Flower of Connecticut Parks
Known widely for its magnificent large rose garden, comprising about 15,000 bushes, Elizabeth Park
at the corner of Prospect and Asylum avenues in Hartford
encompasses 102 acres and boasts many garden areas, pathways, greenhouses, lawns, a picnic grove, a pond and recreation areas. Because of its gardens, it has been called the, “Flower of New England Parks.” The rose garden is the heart and soul of the park . Keep an eye on the park’s website for special events
like the annual Rose Show, garden tours, and live music.
Dazzling Display of Worldwide Art at Wadsworth
The art treasure house known as Wadsworth Atheneum
at 600 Main Street in Hartford
is the oldest public art museum in the United States. Setting aside for a moment a discussion of its collections, the place itself is a joy to visit. The museum is composed of five connected buildings. Their styles are the original (1844) Gothic Revival, followed by Tudor Revival, Renaissance Revival, and modern International Style. The museum’s nearly 50,000 works of art span 5,000 years, from Greek and Roman antiquities to American contemporary art. The Wadsworth has refurbished sculpture garden and many fine paintings of the Hudson River School of art. Its calendar has brilliant family programs, lectures, and films. Open Wednesdays to Sundays. Phone: 860-278-2670.
Winery Offers the Best of California and Connecticut
Located in the beautiful small town of North Stonington
, Jonathan Edwards Winery,
at 74 Chester Main Road, is situated on a 48-acre hilltop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan Edwards creates premium California and Connecticut wines to highlight each coast’s climate. The two diverse product lines complement each other and allow guests to sample delicious wines that showcase what each area is known for. Wine lovers are welcome to stop in, taste the wines, tour the winery and vineyards, enjoy a picnic, and browse the gift shop for wine items and local treats. Each season in the vineyard has its own unique charm. Phone: 860-535-0202.
One Park, With Lighthouse, Beach, Carousel
Lighthouse Point Park
at 2 Lighthouse Road
in New Haven
, the jewel of New Haven’s park system, is home to Five Mile Point Lighthouse. Its spiral granite staircase leads to the lantern loft where the lighthouse lens was mounted. The second gem of this park is the Lighthouse Point Carousel. Built in 1916, the carousel has 69 horses, one camel and two dragon chariots. The outer rim of the carousel contains original oil paintings of local scenes of New Haven as well as various boats, trains, mermaids and lighthouses. Open for rides, Memorial Day to Labor Day, weekend and holiday afternoons. Also, this park is one of the most popular spots for bird watching along the East Coast. 203-946-8019.
Farm Makes Wishes Come True
on Shetucket Turnpike in Griswold
began as a dairy operation a little more than 30 years ago, and its history has continued to evolve. The farm’s home-made ice cream is served daily from noon or 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. from a modest storefront on the farm. The waffle cones are made from scratch on the farm, too. The farm plants hundreds of thousands of sunflowers and created its “Sunflowers for Wishes” program. The farm gives a bouquet of sunflowers to anyone in exchange for $10 donation, which goes directly to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In 2016, sunflowers are sold July 23 to 31. 860-376-4081.
History of the Textile Mills in Willimantic
The Windham Textile and History Museum
, located in the former home of the American Thread Company at 411 Main Street in Willimantic,
, preserves the history of the textile industry and how it affected the economy, culture, and lives of New England people from the 1800s to the present. Nineteenth century working conditions were often harsh in America’s mills. Later, advanced technological change and labor unrest roiled life in the textile mills. This museum displays the workplaces and the people whose lives centered upon the textiles of New England. Guided tours on Sunday at 2 p.m.; self-guided tours during hours of operation. Hours of Operation: Friday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Phone: 860-377-7755.
Concerts in the Garden Surrounded by Art
Coastal Connecticut’s history as a hub of American Impressionist painters (a la the Florence Griswold Museum) is alive and active at Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery
at 1 Spring Street in Chester.
In addition to its artwork on display the studio hosts a monthly concert series called Concerts in the Garden
. Musicians and singers performing every style from cool jazz to blue grass and beyond entertain for listeners seating outside in the garden amphitheatre (or inside the gallery, in colder weather). It’s a BYOB and picnicking scene. Monthly concerts happen year-round; check the schedule! 860-526-2077.
Craftsmanship in the Shadow of the Berkshires
During the past 21 years, Heron American Craft Gallery
at 16 Main Street in Kent
has become a destination for people who are searching out the dynamic, ever changing work of American crafts. This shop presents an explosion of color, wit, and whimsy in the form of unusual playthings, ceramics, jewelry, glass work, sculpture, rugs, and clothing. This shop in the foothills of the Berkshires honors the spirit of handmade goods. Come for the best in contemporary crafts, music, and just plain fun.
Open daily 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Phone: 860-927-4804.
Go Climb a Rock
During the chilly seasons or on rainy days, are you and your kids climbing the walls? Come of the place where this activity is a fun, challenging indoor sport (for all ages)! Prime Climb
is an indoor rock-climbing gym at 340 Quinnipiac Street in Silversmith Park in Wallingford
, next to Walco Park. For fun and physical training, rock climbing is the next big thing, and indoor clubs are springing up everywhere. Good for children, teens, and adults. Prime Climb offers specials and kid-oriented activities. Phone: 203-265-4006
Luxury Shopping in Central CT
shopping center at 1500 New Britain Avenue on the border of West Hartford and Farmington
is an upscale shopping place with style and kick. The enclosed center is anchored by New England’s first Nordstrom along with Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney, and two Macy’s locations. Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, two of the great luxury brands, came to the center in 2008. Westfarms has two signature dining restaurants, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Brio Tuscan Grille, both a pleasure for dinner or lunch during a festive shopping day. Come, browse, and enjoy. Phone: 860-561-3024.
A Paradise for Serious Cooks
One fine way to soothe and encourage the gourmet cook in your family is through a gift-buying trip to Weekend Kitchen
at 6 North Main Street in Essex
. Founders David and Nancy Smith have created a shopping environment that is beautiful, eclectic, and old worldly. The cookware and kitchenware is a mix of traditionally styled and often hand crafted items along with more contemporary design oriented products. The shop’s faux finished walls, serene mural, and antique fixtures create an inviting setting in which to shop for yourself or a special gift. Come find everything from sculpted copper coffee scoops to panini pans. Phone: 860-767-1010.
Fairfield History From Garden to Battlefield
Fairfield Museum and History Center
to explore the history of this community, through the lens of world wars to ordinary daily life. The museum offers exhibition galleries, a family education center, a theater overlooking the Town Green, and a museum shop. Exhibits have looked at baseball in America, golf, witchcraft in Connecticut, traditional crafts, the Pequot tribe, and the stories behind everyday objects. The museum’s 1750 Ogden House has a Colonial-period garden and a bee keeping project. Open daily except major holidays. Phone: 203-259-1598
Barns, Books, and Time for Browsing
Old books, old maps, old postcards. People who can browse for hours among this type of treasure should beat a path to Whitlock's Book Barn
on Sperry Road in Bethany
. The business is, in fact, a barn and a former turkey house stuffed with many thousands of used books, maps, and prints. Much of the material comes from estate sales and people reducing their libraries. The business has been operating since 1948, receiving a steady stream of buyers and sellers of books, maps, and ephemera. Fans of maps will savor the selection of maps from the 1800s, including hundreds of maps by town and by county from 21 states. The collection includes maps by Mitchell, Colton, Tilden & Baker, and the Beers family. There also is a selection of international maps. The barns are open Tuesdays through Sundays. Phone: 203-393-1240.
A Bookstore With a Serious Love of Reading
R.J. Julia Booksellers
at 768 Boston Post Road in Madison
opened two decades ago as an independent bookstore whose mission was, and is, to be a place where words matter and where writers meet readers. The store hosts more than 200 events a year. Authors from all over the country visit the store to inspire, educate, and entertain. A knowledgeable staff, opinionated book selections with shelf-talker tags help book lovers find books that are just right for them. Open daily, Phone: 203-245-3959.
Artistic Works in a Stone-Walled Landmark
Connecticut River Artisans
, at 4 Water Street in Chester
, is inside a 1909 stone building so delightful looking from the outside that you itch to go inside, regardless of what you might find there. In fact, what you find there is original, artist-made pottery, stained glass, fine art, jewelry, handbags, and cards are among the beautiful items we carry. There is always something new from the workshops of local and regional artists. It’s an adventure in beauty and gift shopping. Open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. 860-526-5575
Reach for Adventure at Prime Climb
Stretch your muscles, winter and summer. Climbing is always on the schedule at Prime Climb and Mountain Fun
at 340 Quinnipiac Street
. The two sister businesses include Prime Climb, for beginner, intermediate, and advanced climbers, and Mountain Fun, which focuses on kids, birthday parties, and beginning climbers. The company provides all the gear for your first try a climb. No appointment or reservations required. More advance climbers can sign up for a climb that includes all gear and a staff belayer to assist you. Why not try it? Facility is open daily; check website for hours and fees. Phone: 203-265-4006
Animals of the Forest, Explained by Experts
The White Memorial Conservation Center
at 80 Whitehall Road in Litchfield
is a place to enjoy the great outdoors and also to learn more about it. The 4,000-acre preserve includes a Nature Museum. Plan a visit here with the amateur biologist of the family. The museum takes has dioramas and fine works of illustration to help tell the story of this wild place. Huge photo murals and animal mounts illustrate the marshes, fields, and forests on this preserve. A special exhibit on the Art of Taxidermy tells the secrets of this craft. A children's room has a live snake home, a beaver dam, a fluorescent rock cave, a bird sculpture garden, and other awesome stuff of the great outdoors. Open year-round, daily. Phone: 860-567-0857
Grove Street Cemetery Historical Tours
Come for the historic interest or come for the beautiful, peaceful walk and the stone carvers’ art. Grove Street Cemetery
at 227 Grove Street in New Haven
offers guided tours of the ancient cemetery Saturdays (11 a.m.) and Sundays (noon) through August 31. The Grove Street Cemetery is the first chartered burial ground in the United States. The first burial, of Martha Townsend, took place on November 9, 1797. The stone art is fascinating. Phone: 203-389-5403.
Fair Trade Art Makes Great Gifts
Browsing beautiful handmade artwork from all parts of the world is a fun way to find a special gift. Ten Thousand Villages
store at 1054 Chapel Street in New Haven
presents fair-trade folk art, ceramics, textiles, baskets, jewelry, wall hangings, pillows, rugs, mirrors, vases, incense, candleholders, and furniture by artists in developing world. Each product reflects the traditions of its maker. Enjoy the international music, smell the gourmet coffee, and taste rich chocolate. Your fair trade purchase helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Phone: 203-776-0854.
Cabaret and Off-Broadway at the Fairfield Theatre
Fairfield Theatre Company
is a place to watch for an astounding variety of live stage events and entertainment. Since the company's Stage One location opened at 70 Sanford Street in Fairfield,
Fairfield Theatre Company has presented over 200 performances of eight theatrical plays directly from their original Off Broadway runs. It's sister venue is the Klein Auditorium in Bridgeport. Among the performers slated to appear in 2016 are
Sister Sparrow cherry Popping Daddies, 10,000 Maniacs, Ballroom Thieves, Livingston Taylor, Ana Popovic, Marcia Ball, Leaon Russell, Spyro Gyra, Delbert McClinton and more more.
Old State House is Showplace of Connecticut Achievements
From the earliest days of the Hartford settlement, the site of the Old State House
at 800 Main Street in Hartford has served as the magnetic center of the region we know today as Connecticut. The earliest colonists were drawn here, nurturing ideas of freedom and self-government. A beautifully-restored architectural marvel, the Old State House welcomes visitors for guided and self-guided tours. Days of operation vary seasonally; check website. Phone: 860-522-6766.
Food, Brews, History, and HA!
City Steam Brewery Café
at 942 Main Street in Hartford
has so many enticing qualities it is hard to know where to begin. It is in a glorious Romanesque style building built in 1877 to house the state’s biggest department store; now it serves an upscale casual menu throughout a cool, multi-level floor plan, where guests are embraced by the cast iron railings and millwork salvaged from the store. The 23-barrel brewery is powered by the Hartford Steam Company -- you can see the steam when the staff blows its antique steam-whistles. Maybe best is is the in-house Brew HaHa Comedy Club
, a 200-seat room that showcases professional and innovative comedy acts. The Brewery is just steps from the Hartford Stage and The Bushnell, great for pre- or post-theater libations. Phone: 860- 525 - 1600
Funky, Fashionable, Fascinating…
After only a year in operation, The Past Antiques Market
at 1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike in Oakdale
was chosen in 2014 as Best Antique Stop in New England by Yankee Magazine.
The magazine's Travel Guide to New England stated: "The Past Antique Market has two floors of carefully arranged funky, fashionable, and fascinating antiques." An antique shopper's delight and a collector's showcase, The PAST Antiques Market features historic American and other fine collectibles by a variety of artisans. The market is part of Nature’s Art Village a shopping area and dinosaur nature theme park founded originally in 1991. Adults who love unusual, nature-inspired gifts can browse the shops while kids enjoy visiting the world of the dinosaurs. Phone: 860-437-3615.
Cool Tunes and Comedy at the Bridge
Bridge Street Live
, is an art deco-style club and restaurant at 41 Bridge Street in Collinsville
. The club’s bar room, lounge, and huge wrap-around decks overlook the Farmington River and Sweetheart Mountain. Lots
of cool, live entertainment and events are scheduled for the months ahead at this concert venue and comedy club. Collinsville is an antiquated turn-of-the-century industrial village that has been revitalized and now supports many activities and artists. In 2009, Arthur Frommer named it “one of the top 10 coolest towns in America.” Phone: 860-693-9762.
Dig Into Science at This Riveting Museum
Fly to Mars. Forecast a blizzard. Play with solar energy. Turn yourself into art. Manage brainwaves -- maybe your own! Build a wind machine. Diagnose injuries. See what it’s like to live in a 4-dimensional world. This is a list of experiments you can learn and try at the Connecticut Science Center
on Columbus Boulevard in Hartford
. This dynamic place is a whirl of learning in action. Consider the titles of some of the exhibits: Sight and Sound, River of Life, Exploring Space, Invention Dimension. Wow. Come and enjoy. Phone: 860-SCIENCE.