18 Awesome Things to Do in Connecticut

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whaling ship mystic ct
See historic whaling ships at the Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Despite its small size, Connecticut is packed with exciting attractions. Once a Dutch colony, the state is home to many historic sites and world-class museums. With sandy beaches and sprawling parks, Connecticut invites travelers to swim, hike and bike while enjoying the state’s beautiful natural scenery. Plus, its location makes it an ideal stop on a Northeast road trip or weekend getaway from New York City or Boston.

Whether you’re traveling with kids, on a couple’s retreat or going solo, you won’t run out of fun things to do in this charming New England state. Head to an open air museum, shop at a flea market or take a castle tour. In the mood for an outdoor adventure? Rent a boat, have a beach day or tour a state park. No matter your preference, here is our list of the top things to do in the state.

Exterior of Gillette Castle in Connecticut, one of the top places to see
The Gillette Castle. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

1. See the Gillette Castle

Spearheading our list is the Gillette Castle. Located in East Haddam, this stunning stone castle was designed and built by actor William Gillette, most famous for his stage appearances as Sherlock Homes. He purchased this 184-acre estate and transformed it into a mansion resembling a medieval castle. Completed in 1919, the castle is comfortably furnished with built-in couches and moveable tables built onto tracks.

The castle, as well as the surrounding area, is part of the Connecticut state park system. Take a stroll through the castle grounds and enjoy beautiful views of the Connecticut river. If you work up an appetite, grab a bite to eat at the “Sherlock’s Grill” food concession or shop at the castle’s gift shop. The castle is currently closed for tours but will reopen in May 2023. Tours cost $6 per adult and $2 per child.

Exterior of the Mark Twain House, one of the best attractions to tour in Connecticut
The Mark Twain House & Museum. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

2. Tour the Mark Twain House & Museum

From 1874 to 1891 Mark Twain and his family lived in a 25-room Victorian mansion in Hartford. The home’s decor draws inspiration from a variety of cultures including India, China and the Middle East, and the rooms are ornately decorated with chandeliers, tufted furniture and embossed wallpaper. The author called this house “the loveliest home that ever was,” and said he spent the best years of his life here. Now a National Historic Landmark, the mansion invites visitors to take a guided tour of the home.

In the visitor’s center there is also a café, a gift shop and a 23-minute film about the author. The museum is open seven days a week and tickets for a one-hour guided tour sell for $24. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance, as tickets sell out quickly and walk-ins are often unavailable.

Read More: What to Do When Visiting Hartford CT

3. Stroll through Downtown Mystic

A trip through Connecticut would be incomplete without a visit to Mystic, located in Groton and Stonington, Connecticut. Once a significant shipbuilding center, this small town maintains much of its historical maritime charm.

The city’s historic downtown area features a 100-year-old drawbridge in addition to award-winning restaurants and more than 80 independently-owned shops and boutiques. Give in to your sweet tooth at the Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream shop or enjoy some New England seafood at the Oyster Club. Outside of the downtown area, but certainly still worth a visit, is the B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill. Sample both sweet and hard apple cider made fresh at the only steam-powered cider mill in the country.

Boats on the water at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut
The Mystic Seaport Museum. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

4. Visit the Mystic Seaport Museum

The Mystic Seaport Museum spans a whopping 19 acres, making it the largest maritime museum in the US. Founded in 1929, the museum also boasts the nation’s largest watercraft collection, including four National Historic Landmark vessels. One of these, the 1841 Charles W. Morgan, is the world’s last wooden whaleship.

The museum also features a recreated 19th-century seaport village complete with a school, a church, a fire engine and a number of trade shops operated by blacksmiths, printers, carvers and riggers.

In addition to the ship collection and the seaport village, visitors are invited to tour art exhibits, watch a planetarium show and get out on the water. Take a cruise of the Mystic River, book a private charter, sail on a catboat or rent your own rowboat or sailboat. The museum is open Thursday through Sunday and general admission tickets are $27 for adults, $23 for teens and $19 for children.

Kids watching penguins swim at the Mystic Aquarium, a great place to visit in Connecticut
The Mystic Aquarium. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

5. See Belugas at the Mystic Aquarium

Another Mystic must-see is the city’s aquarium, which features thousands of sea creatures in addition to a number of interactive and educational experiences. Here, you will have the opportunity to befriend a seal, pet a stingray, pose with a penguin and meet a beluga whale. In addition to these animal encounters, the museum’s indoor gallery displays eels, jellyfish, pufferfish, sharks and more. Go on a virtual reality adventure, watch a sea lion presentation or stroll down a 234-foot boardwalk over a man-made marsh. The museum is open daily and ticket prices range between $26 and $39, depending on the date and time. Book ahead for discounts.

6. Tour Yale University

Yale is one of the most prestigious universities in the US and is certainly worth a visit if you’re touring Connecticut. Located in New Haven, Yale’s history goes back more than 300 years. Head to the visitor center and take a one-hour guided tour of the historic campus. Learn about the University’s history and architecture, while visiting sites like the Gothic Sterling Memorial Library and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Note that the tours offered by the Visitor’s Center are geared towards the general public and separate tours are provided to prospective undergraduates.

After touring the campus, spend some time in the Yale University Art Gallery. This is the oldest university art gallery in America, and it features nearly 300,000 objects from all different time periods and across the globe. Open Tuesday through Sunday, the gallery is free to the public.

The Peabody Museum of Natural History is another popular on-campus museum, but it is currently closed for renovation and won’t open until 2024.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Greenwich CT

7. See the Glass House

Located in New Canaan, the Glass House is a fascinating architectural structure designed by Philip Johnson. Completed in 1949, the home blends seamlessly into its surroundings. Pick from a variety of tours, ranging from one to three hours, and learn more about its history and architectural significance.

The house also sits on a 47-acre estate which features 13 other historic structures, including an underground painting gallery, a sculpture garden and an outdoor pavilion located in a man-made pond.

8. Explore the Stamford Museum & Nature Center

A museum of art, nature, history and science, the Stamford Museum & Nature Center appeals to all. Explore over 80 acres of nature trails, make new furry friends at the Heckscher Farm, tour the Bendel Mansion and see more than 200,000 objects displayed in the Stamford Museum Galleries. The museum is open every day year-round. Admission is $14 for adults and $8 for children and teens.

Read More: Fun Things to Do in Stamford CT

Interior of the Wadsworth Atheneum, an art museum in Connecticut
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

9. Check out the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Another Connecticut art museum, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art has been open since 1842 and is home to more than 50,000 works of art. The museum’s collection includes American Art, Contemporary Art, European Art, and costumes/textiles. There is also a selection of temporary exhibits as well as traveling works, such as a Van Gogh painting, that belong to the museum but are loaned out to other museum across the world. There is an on-site café as well as an art library. Tickets are $15 for adults, and free for youth under 17. There is a free admission “happy hour” from 4-5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

A rollercoaster at the Lake Compounce amusement park in Connecticut
A rollercoaster at Lake Compounce. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

10. Rest at Lake Compounce

If you need a break from the museums and historical sites, head to Lake Compounce, the oldest amusement park in North America. With thrilling bumper cars, a swing ride, a Ferris wheel and lots of thrilling roller coasters, this park appeals to adrenaline junkies of all ages. Lake Compounce is also a water park. Bring your bathing suits and enjoy an afternoon at the wave pool, plummeting through water slides and drifting along a lazy river.

11. See the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center

This museum preserves and promotes the history and culture of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Spanning 308,000-square-feet, the museum includes galleries, videos and exhibits that display maps, photographs, traditional crafts, archival materials, art and archeological collections. Life-size dioramas help bring to life the story of the Pequot tribal nation. Tickets are $22 for adults and $13 for youth. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturday.

12. Relax at Hammonasset Beach State Park

Located in Madison, this State Park includes a two-mile beach where visitors can stroll along the boardwalk, explore one of the park’s hiking trails, sunbathe on the sand or go for a swim. More adventurous travelers can also go camping, snorkeling, boating or kayaking.

Within Hammonasset Beach State Park you’ll also find Meigs Point Nature Center, a learning center dedicated to preserving the environment through education. This center is home to a number of native animals, including turtles, snakes, salamanders, crabs, birds and fish and there is a touch tank with animals brought in from the sea.

A helicopter at the New England Air Museum, a fun thing to do in Connecticut
A helicopter at the New England Air Museum. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

13. Explore the New England Air Museum

Dive into aviation history and experience the New England Air Museum. Spanning a total of 90,000 square feet, this museum is home to over 80 aircraft, displayed in three exhibit hangars. The museum also features a collection of engines, uniforms and aircraft parts. Hands-on exhibits and attraction make the museum ideal for all ages.

Located next to the Bradley International Airport, this museum is also a convenient stop-over from the airport. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and tickets are $21 for adults and $13 for youth.

14. Swim at Silver Sands State Park

Silver Sands State Park is the place to be for some adventurous outdoor fun. Located in Milford, this park has hiking trails, picnic tables and swimming opportunities. Wade between sandbars when the tides are low and stroll along the 3/4 mile long boardwalk. The park is also offers great bird watching, as the area is home to more than 200 bird species.

Carousel horses at the New England Carousel Museum in Connecticut
The New England Carousel Museum. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

15. Visit the New England Carousel Museum

Located in Bristol, this museum displays over 100 years of carousel art and history in its 33,000 square-foot building. Learn about the evolution of carousels, ride the museum’s indoor carousel and be wowed by the collection’s 200+ antique wooden horses. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children.

16. Ride the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Travel back in time during this 12-mile journey through the Connecticut River Valley. The adventure starts at the 1892 Essex Train Station, where travelers board the Essex Steam Train on a two-and-a-half hour train journey. Here, passengers will get a get a glimpse of the Pratt Cove and Chester Creek wetlands, as well as the New England towns Deep River and Chester.

The train journey ends at Deep River Landing, where passengers will then board the the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a relaxing 75-minute journey along the Connecticut River. After returning to Deep River Landing, the steam train return passengers to Essex station. Food and drink is available for purchase aboard the train and riverboat. A combination train and riverboat coach tickets costs $40

17. See the Museum of American Art

This museum is all about American art. The collection represents over three centuries and contains about 8,274 works of art by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle and Maxfield Parrish. The permanent collection exhibits American impressionism, social realism, contemporary art, early modernism and more.

The Mohegan Sun Hotel & Casino at sunset in Connecticut
The Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino. Photo credit: Courtesy Connecticut Office of Tourism

18. Be Entertained at Mohegan Sun

Operated by the Mohegan tribe, this casino and entertainment resort includes a spa, a golf course, a nightclub, a comedy club, more than 80 shops, delicious eateries and a 10,000-seat entertainment venue. There are also indoor go-karting, a trampoline park and two kid-friendly arcades. Spanning 185 acres along the Thames River, this destination offers endless entertainment activities.

Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
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