Connecticut is a small state with unique attractions, natural beauty, flea markets, and museums. Hartford is recognized as the “Insurance Capital of the World” because of its many insurance companies. Still, there’s much more to Connecticut than Hartford. Fall colors bloom, and July weather is lovely. You’ll find much to do in Connecticut no matter the season, but Boston and New York are just a day trip away. These Connecticut travel ideas won’t take you far.
Hartford, the state capital, is one of the oldest settlements in the entire New England region. The Wadsworth Atheneum, America’s first public museum of art, is located there, as is Bushnell Park, the country’s first public park, and the Hartford Courant, America’s oldest continuously published newspaper. It’s a cutting-edge metropolis steeped in heritage, home to 40+ great restaurants and diverse communities.
The New England Dodge Music Center, the ever-popular Riverside Park, and the Riverside Cricket Club can all be found in the North Meadows, located just north of downtown. In addition to the XL Center, where you can see the Hartford Wolf Pack play hockey, Hartford is home to the Hartford Stage, a renowned modern theatre.
2. YALE University
Even if the halls of an Ivy League institution are busy with students, you shouldn’t miss out on seeing the sights. Visitors to the New Haven campus can participate in student-led tours of the campus visitor center, where they will learn about the university’s 300-year history. Visit the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History while you are here. The public can visit these museums, which are as well-known and respected in their own right as the university.
3. Kent Falls State Park
The easy but steep Kent Falls Trail is located roughly 4.5 miles from Kent and brings you past a beautiful covered bridge to the cool mist of the flowing water after approximately a quarter mile of hiking. The trail is located in the lovely Litchfield Hills. The crystal-clear water of a mountain stream drops an altitude of 250 feet into a pitch-black pool before entering the Housatonic River.
There are three locations to pause at and take in the scenery before you reach the waterfalls. Because the melting snow significantly boosts the amount of water that falls, the best times to view the waterfalls are during the spring and fall seasons.
4. Mystic Seaport
This seaside village has a beautiful atmosphere. Mystic is the only 19th-century seaport that still exists today. The harbor is filled with historic sailing vessels, and the surrounding shoreline is lined with beautiful shops and houses.
At the Mystic Seaport Maritime Museum, visitors can learn about the nation’s maritime history, including how Mystic became an important seaport. Located in the beautiful town of Mystic, where the Mystic River empties into Long Island Sound, the museum is open to the public year-round. Situated on 19 acres along the Mystic River, the museum was founded in 1929. It has a 19th-century seaside village that has been carefully rebuilt, a shipyard that is still in business, museum rooms, and storage areas for artifacts.
5. Gillette Castle State Park
Gillette Castle is a medieval castle located high above the coastline. William Gillette, who played Sherlock Holmes, acquired this stone home in 1919. The Seventh Sister is a residence between Lyme and East Haddam, Connecticut. The actor decorated his house and furnishings with pride. There are 24 rooms inside, and pathways, gardens, and vistas surround the property. It is constructed from the fieldstone found locally and has a hidden steel framework. The house’s interior has elements such as built-in couches, massive stone fireplaces, dungeon-like chambers, secret passageways, and 47 distinct doors, all of which make the situation even more outlandish.
There’s also a train station, vegetable cellar, and goldfish pond. The land is now a state park so that you may see the home’s artistry.
6. Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens
Elizabeth Park is a horticultural park that covers both West Hartford and Hartford, Connecticut. It has been open to the public since 1897. The park has a total area of 101 acres. It is known as the “Flower of New England Parks” because of its formal Victorian gardens, beautiful green spaces, walking trails, recreational spaces, the lovely Pond House Cafe, and the stunning rose garden at the park’s core. Elizabeth Park Rose Garden is the country’s third-largest and first municipal rose garden.
1904 marked the rose garden became the first public rose garden in the United States. Theodore Wirth, a landscape architect, born in Switzerland, was responsible for designing the park. He took inspiration from his time spent in Paris and London while creating the park, which is now a botanical garden with a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
7. Mark Twain House
You’ve heard of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and may have even read about them. Find your answer in this one-of-a-kind Hartford, Connecticut, home. Writing under the pen name Mark Twain, American novelist Samuel Clemens resided in this red brick house for most of his prolific career. The inside of this national landmark is as luxurious as the outside. Mark Twain penned several of his classic works in the billiards room, one of the 25 rooms at the hotel. If you’re a reader visiting Connecticut, you should stop by this museum and home.
8. Dinosaur State Park and Arboretum
Digging for a new Rocky Hill, Connecticut building in 1966 revealed interesting animal tracks later recognized as having been left by a dinosaur called dilophosaurus, which lived 200 million years ago. A unique geodesic dome protects about 500 of these rails now, while the remainder has been left buried to preserve them. Early Jurassic era tracks are included in the park’s official opening in 1968.
Dinosaur State Park Arboretum has approximately 250 conifers, including katsura, magnolias, ginkgoes, and other plant groups that lived during the Age of Dinosaurs. There are two miles of magnificent pathways around the Exhibit Center through the Arboretum. Mesozoic floodplain with preserved animal tracks, dioramas depicting Jurassic and Triassic settings, substantial fossil collections, and various interactive exhibitions are on display at the Museum.
9. Old Saybrook
Old Saybrook, a charming riverside community on the Connecticut River’s Long Island Sound shore, dates back to 1635, when it was still a colony of the Saybrook Plantation. Founded as the Collegiate School of Yale University in 1854, Old Saybrook is a popular weekend destination for New Yorkers and Bostonians. They enjoy the vibrant marinas, beautiful beaches, and Main Street’s eclectic shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Kids will enjoy the mini-golf at Saybrook Point and the historic Saybrook Breakwater Light if you’re traveling with them. There are various activities here, such as attending one of many performances at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theater or sampling multiple fudge flavors on Main Street.
Stonington’s historic downtown district is home to several stunning Victorian mansions and a colorful harbor dotted with numerous ships of all shapes and sizes. Visiting the Old Lighthouse Museum is the most acceptable way to learn about Stonington’s maritime and agricultural history. Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer formerly owned a beautiful Victorian residence right next to the lighthouse.
Fishers Island Sound may be seen from Dubois Beach in Stonington, a small but beautiful beach. New England Science and Sailing can help you get out on the water. Visit the vineyards of Stonington and Saltwater Farm for a different perspective on Stonington.
Guilford is a popular tourist destination because of its historic architecture, tree-lined streets, contemporary art galleries, boutiques, and proximity to some of the top museums on Long Island Sound.
In the 1630s or earlier, built the 1660 Hyland House, 1803 Medad Stone Tavern, and 1840 Dudley Farm. To sample Bishop’s Orchard wines or choose your fruit, visit Bishop’s Orchard, Jacobs Beach, or Bittner Park. Walking along Guilford Harbor’s shoreline, you’ll catch a glimpse of the historic Faulkner Island Lighthouse.
Long Island Sound town Greenwich was established in the 17th century. While there are plenty of romantic B&B options, it’s also a great place to take kids to view sea turtles and otters at the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium.
The Bush-Holley mansion was formerly the center of American Impressionism and the first art colony in Connecticut. It’s an art and science museum, thanks to Bruce. At Greenwich Point Park, visitors may enjoy miles of trails, a beach, and a stunning view of New York City.
13. New Haven
New Haven is a historic, sophisticated, cultured, and green town. Founded in 1638 by a group of English Puritans, New Haven is the country’s first purpose-built city outside of Europe. Currently, the town now has a lot of mature elm trees, which were planted as part of the country’s first public tree planting initiative. New Haven is home to 59 properties on the National Register of Historic Places. It is common knowledge that New Haven is well-known for hosting a variety of festivals, the most well-known of which is the Jazz Festival.
Near Hartford, the city of Bristol is notable for two things: ESPN headquarters and Lake Compounce, the country’s first amusement park. Despite its long history as a significant chrysanthemum producer, the annual Bristol Mum Festival is still a big hit.
Just a few of Bristol’s cultural institutions include the American Clock & Watch Museum, the Bristol Historical Society Museum, and the well-known interactive Children’s Museum Imagine Nation. Harry Barnes Memorial Nature Center is a must-see in the city, with its 70 acres of beautiful forest, rolling hills and farmland, nature paths, and teaching center.
15. New Britain
It has been known as “Hardware City” since 1687 because of prominent manufacturers, including The Stanley Works, Corbin Locks, and North & Judd, all of whom are still in business today. Stanley Black & Decker’s corporate headquarters are located in New Britain, about nine miles from Hartford.
Regarding innovation, New Britain is noted for its wire coat hanger and the development of basketball dribbling at the city’s YMCA, which was established in 1869. Additionally, the city has a sizable Polish community. The New Britain Symphony Orchestra and the historic Repertory Theatre are both based in the town.
Stamford, approximately 30 miles from Manhattan, has long been a popular vacation spot for New Yorkers looking for a peaceful, green, and elegant getaway. While some New Yorkers still travel to Stamford to work, the city’s four Fortune 500 and nine Fortune 1000 corporations have all made Stamford their new home.
Among the many attractions in Stamford are the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, Stamford Observatory, 91-acre Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, Stamford Symphony Orchestra, and Stamford Center for the Arts, all of which present annual performances in the Palace Theatre.
17. Stonington Borough
An administrative center for Stonington Borough, a city in the state of Connecticut, was created in 1801. Historic Little Narragansett Bay has been preserved thanks to the conversion of many of the area’s ancient mansions into vacation or summer residences for tourists. At the Manana Cafe on Water Street in the borough, you can have some of Queens’ most famous margaritas every day. The street is surrounded by various businesses, art galleries, restaurants, and cafes like these. In Cape Town, South Africa, visitors can climb a preserved 1840 lighthouse and explore the home of Antarctica’s first captain.
18. Silver Sands State Park, Milford
One of the most popular things to do in the Silver Sands State Park on Charles Island is to go on a treasure hunt to find some of Captain Kidd’s lost loot. In 1699, a scumbag captain buried his fortune on the shore and disappeared without ever returning for them. The sand bar that links the island to the mainland is wholly buried when the water is exceptionally high.
In 1955, the island was hit by a terrible hurricane, and as a result, it became entirely uninhabited. This former Catholic retreat center, which operated until the 1930s before closing its doors, has been reduced to nothing except its ruins.
19. Wadsworth Falls State Park
Connecticut’s Middletown and Middlefield are located in the state of Connecticut. The park encompasses 285 acres in total and has some of the best places for hiking and mountain biking. It runs along the beautiful banks of the Coginchaug River and is surrounded by deep hemlock and oak forests. This river has an abundance of fishing opportunities.
One route leads to a small bridge and then to the Wadsworth Falls, which are thirty feet high and have water flowing back the sandstone that forms the trail for another fifty-two feet. This helps to keep the air cool and makes the trek more enjoyable. There is also a swimming pool and a picnic area in the park.
20. West River Memorial Park
One of three parks that surround the West River as it flows through New Haven, Bethany, and Woodbridge is West River Memorial Park. Parkland and marsh cover more than 200 acres of the site, which has been conserved in its natural state. The park’s West Haven end contains a boat launch and is connected to Edgewood and West Rock State Parks by pedestrian easements.
Hikers, birders, fishermen, and crabbers flock to the park when the weather is nice. Educational opportunities are also available to park visitors nearby Barnard Nature Center and Barnard Environmental Magnet School. Toward the end of World War I, the city of New Haven decided to build a park in remembrance of its fallen soldiers.
21. Saville Dam
An embankment dam built on the Farmington River in Barkhamsted in Connecticut is the Saville Dam, formerly the Bill’s Brook dam. It has a height of 135 feet and a length of 1,950 feet. The Barkhamsted Reservoir, which has a total capacity of 36.8 billion gallons in the United States, was created by the dam’s construction.
Hartford, Connecticut’s capital city, relies on it heavily for its water supply. The Barkhamsted Reservoir was built in 1940, although it wasn’t filled for another eight years. Located on Route 318, a picturesque parking lot provides stunning views of the spillway and reservoir and access to several excellent hiking trails.
22. Enders Falls State Park
Enders Falls is a series of five distinct waterfalls located in the Enders State Forest in Connecticut. Approximately 2,000 acres are in the forest. Some waterfalls within a half-mile of each other are cascading, sliding, plunging, or horsetail. The trailhead and the lowest part of the climb, the waterfall, are separated by only 150 feet in elevation. Of the waterfalls, the tallest is roughly 30 feet high.
Water falling in all directions creates a stunning visual effect. Thanks to a well-maintained main trail, you won’t have a hard time getting to the waterfalls. The main hiking trail is across Route 219 from the parking lot. The area becomes crowded with tourists and photographers when the weather is nice.
23. Campbell Falls State Park
Campbell Falls State Park was established in 1923 by the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut as a collaborative effort to protect the area’s beautiful scenery and surrounding forest. A 100-foot drop occurs in the park before the Whitney River enters Connecticut. During its passage through a small gorge, the river makes two zigzag turns, once to the left and once to the right.
The New England region is home to no other waterfall quite like this one. Spring is the time of year when snow begins to melt and become drier. The surrounding forest’s gradual growth over the soft ground astounds visitors. The park, which has been left in its original state, offers no tourist facilities.
24. Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce, Bristol, Connecticut, is the oldest park in North America. From the time it opened its doors in 1846 until now, there has been no end to the excitement. The park’s 332 acres include a beach on the lake and a water park. Even though it was established in 1927, the park’s wooden roller coaster is still used today. In the garden, there are more than 50 rides and other attractions.
Connecticut’s most popular water parks are Crocodile Cove, Boulder Dash, and Bayou Bay. You can surf waves and splash in whirlpools. The Dino Expedition, which includes a fossil-digging area and a route through Jurassic woodland, is popular with children. One of the park’s newest additions, Phobia, is New England’s first triple-header roller coaster experience. It goes upside down and does 600-foot-high turns.
25. Roseland Cottage
Roseland Cottage, built in 1846 for Henry Bowen, his wife Lucy, and their children as a summer retreat in Woodstock, Connecticut, is hidden among the roses and thick boxwood hedges. This house was built in the Gothic Revival style, which featured steep gables, elegant barge boards, and decorative chimney pots.
The home’s extravagant interior design contains rich wall coverings, intricately patterned carpets, and stained glass windows made at no expense. Fortunately, much of it has been preserved. Visitors may see it today as a reminder of the Victorian era’s penchant for excessive consumption. It was in this cottage that the Bowens hosted friends and political figures. Four former presidents of the United States were present.
26. Hammonasset Beach State Park
Hammonasset Beach State Park is Connecticut’s largest and most popular coastline park. A stone breakwater at Meigs Point was constructed in 1955 after the park opened in 1920. Two miles of fine sand and 3/4 mile of magnificent boardwalk are available. During the summer, Hammonasset’s 550 grassy campsites fill up rapidly.
A few of the most popular pastimes are swimming, boating, fishing, and camping. Launching from Meigs Point Jetty is easy, thanks to a boat launch in the park. During the summer weekends, the park can get packed with picnicking families and children running around, so it’s not the best place to find some peace and quiet.
27. Iwo Jima Memorial
The Iwo Jima Survivors Association, Inc. built the US National Iwo Jima Memorial in Newington, Connecticut. To remember the 6,821 American service members who died defending Iwo Jima before the Japanese invasion, the memorial was dedicated to the 50th anniversary of raising the American flag on Iwo Jima, on February 23, 1995.
The second flag-raising photo on Iwo Jima inspired this memorial, which is comparable to the one in Washington, DC. The names of the 100 Connecticut troops who perished in the battle for Iwo Jima are written at the foot of the monument.
28. Weir Farm National Historic Site
Alden Weirbought, an American impressionist painter, established the Weirbought farm in 1882 as a rural hideaway for himself and his family and visiting painters to paint Ridgefield and the surrounding countryside. There are 16 buildings on the farm, which spans 60 acres and includes a beautiful hiking track.
National Park Service rangers lead tours of the farm. Childe Hassam, Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, and John Twachtman are just a few artists that called Weir Farm home and worked there. The Weir Farm Art Center runs an artist-in-residence program located at Weir Farm. The serene setting has inspired more than 150 artists to spend a month there.
29. Litchfield Hills
The Litchfield Hills in northwest Connecticut offers a classic New England atmosphere. You can find some of the most peaceful landscapes in this region, complete with waterfalls, covered bridges, and quaint little settlements. The fall is stunning when the leaves change and the hills become awash in color.
Located in the center of Litchfield’s historic district, the Litchfield Congregational Church is one of New England’s most often photographed churches. The region’s highest waterfall is located in Kent Falls State Park. The Appalachian Trail passes through this area, so you can hike a section of it if you’d like. The Connecticut Wine Trail is an alternative to the state’s many hiking trails.