In Connecticut, the Nutmeg State, you can experience quintessential New England through historic architecture, expansive farms, and traditional seaports. There is something here for everyone to enjoy, whether you are a nature lover, beach goer, or gamer. Enjoy all-day entertainment at the state’s two immense casinos, peruse historic homes and museums, and eat and drink through farm-to-table offerings and wine trail experiences.
Coastal cities, such as Mystic and Norwalk, offer Seaport museums and aquariums home to centuries-old ships and native marine life. Too often, visitors outgrow this small state, traveling en route to northern New England destinations. But slowing down and spending time in Connecticut can provide a complete vacation experience.
Connecticut Travel Guide
Entertain yourself in the casinos
Surprisingly, two of the largest casinos in North America are not in Las Vegas but in Connecticut. And you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy them, either. Add to that shopping, spas, comedy shows, and nightclubs – including one under a planetarium dome – and you never have to set foot in the game room.
Visit Mystic Seaport
Mystic Seaport ranks high as one of America’s top maritime museums, making it a fascinating place to spend a day. This attraction alone, complete with a stop at the historic Mystic, is worth the trip to Connecticut. Climb aboard massive ships, watch skilled artisans at work, explore a recreated 19th-century seaside village, check out displays of art and artifacts, and cruise along the Mystic River on a charcoal boat. A Day in Harbor tells the story of how the sea shaped America’s history and economy.
Have fun at Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut, is the oldest amusement park in the country. However, the facilities are not outdated. With a wave pool, a water park, and numerous roller coasters and attractions for young children, the whole family can have fun. The park operates from May to October with shows and carnival nostalgia alongside its interests. When October rolls around, the haunted cemetery, a scary Halloween-themed attraction, settles in and adds another dimension to your visit.
Relax at Hammonasset Beach State Park
The warm, gentle waves of the Long Island Sound welcome people to Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. And this beach, the largest in the state, is a popular spot, receiving more than a million visitors each year. When the summer crowds dissipate and the seaside camping season ends, the busy vibe in Hammonasset changes. This is a great time to take a scenic ride on the water and take in the natural beauty of the Connecticut shoreline.
Observe marine life at Mystic Aquarium
The Mystic Aquarium, neighboring the Mystic Seaport, has a world-class facility home to marine life ranging from fascinating jellyfish to playful penguins. But that’s not all they offer. Check out their 4-D theatre, sea lion shows, and whale feeding.
Explore Gillette Castle
You will be fascinated by the history behind this intriguing house, as well as the beautiful Christmas decorations. After that, spend the weekend afternoon enjoying outdoor activities like bonfires, Christmas carols, and a scavenger hunt for kids.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum
Connecticut is home to one of the best Native American museums in the country with history, art, and culture.
Thimble Islands Cruise
Off the coast of Connecticut, in Long Island Sound, is an archipelago of small islands with history. One of the Thimble Islands is so tiny that it only has one lookout point. You will hear stories of pirate treasures about the legend of the circus Tom Thumb, and you will listen to the retelling of the revenge of a newly married couple on a meddlesome mother-in-law. If you fall in love with Thimbles, why not buy one? That’s if you have a few million to spare.
Taste wine on the Connecticut Wine Trail
It’s a lovely way to support Connecticut’s drive to maintain its agricultural heritage while encountering some of Connecticut’s most picturesque scenery. Most members of the wine route offer tastings, and many also offer vineyard tours. Or, have a picnic and visit the Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen for seasonal live music on Sunday afternoons.
Go gourmet at Westport Farmers Market.
If you’re looking for organic produce, fresh fish, and artisanal farmers’ market finds, like handmade cheeses or homemade kombucha, Westport Farmers Market has it. This market is packed with produce grown by regional farms and is featured alongside gluten-free baked goods and vendors selling ethnic items for lunch. Head there on Thursdays during the growing season (May 23 through late fall) to pick up your weekend dinner. Or eat during your lunch break if you need a break from the office.
Experience New England cuisine at Chowdafest
The New English know how to make soup (regionally pronounced ” chowdah “). And at the Westport Chowdafest each fall, you can sample the best soups from up to 40 restaurants from Connecticut to Maine. Each restaurant enters its clam chowder to be judged in four categories: classic New England clam chowder, creative chowder, chowder or bisque, and vegetarian. The ticket gives you unlimited samples of all the soups at the festival and can be enjoyed alongside Wave Hill Breads, Little Leaf Farms salads, and ice cream and treats.
Yale University Tour
Learn about Yale University’s 300-year history by taking a tour of its New Haven campus. Guided tours, conducted Monday through Friday at 10:30 am and 2 pm and Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 pm, will take you through the central campus area and to the Gothic Sterling Memorial Library, the Book Library, and rare Beinecke manuscripts. Hear about student life, see 100 translucent marble panels at the Beinecke Library, and admire quintessential New England architecture. The tours are aimed at a broad audience and are offered in several foreign languages.
Smell the roses
Elizabeth Gardens in West Hartford offers more than 100 acres of formal gardens, green space, recreational facilities, and walking trails. Here, you can take various tours that teach you about the park’s history, native trees, thriving perennials, and rose gardens. Join the park in June for its annual fundraiser, Wine and Roses, complete with a cocktail, light meals, desserts, dancing, and a silent auction. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and the Pond House Cafe take-out window offers gourmet hot dogs, ice cream, cold drinks and hot weather snacks throughout the summer.
Enjoy Shakespeare in sound.
This trendy section of the city (known as Rowayton) is located near the Metro-North train station and features the best restaurants in the area (for eating before or after the show). Enjoy extraordinary performances of Shakespeare’s timeless tragedies and comedies as you relax on the lawn. The high-back chairs are reserved for the hillside, while the blankets sit in the front.
Go camping at the Getaway Club.
If you’ve never tried glamping, Club Getaway’s elegant cabins, complete with linens and daily housekeeping, will take you back to your childhood (but in an adults-only setting). This camp, aimed at adrenaline junkies and fitness fans, offers road biking, mountain biking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand-up paddleboarding. The gourmet camp dining room accommodates any special requests, and cocktail enthusiasts will love the hotel bar.
Hike to Waterfall
Tucked away in Connecticut’s Appalachians is Kent Falls State Park with its 250-foot waterfall and hiking trails. In the spring, a stream of water will kiss your face as you walk along the park’s main path past the falls. The waterfall becomes more of a trickle in the fall as the surrounding foliage takes over the main stage.