Must-See Activities and Attractions
The following are some of the must-see attractions in Connecticut. One of the beauties of touring this compact state is that you can most likely fit two or three appealing sites into one day's adventure.
Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport
Connecticut's only zoo is home to nearly 300 animals including endangered Siberian tigers and red wolves that are being raised as part of the Species Survival Plan. While you're there, be sure to stroll through the indoor re-creation of a South American jungle in the Tropical Rainforest Building. Children will be delighted by the zoo's carousel museum, working carousel, and New England Farmyard.
Peabody Museum of Natural History
170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven
Dinosaur State Park
400 West Street, Rocky Hill
Nature's Art & Dinosaur Crossing
1650 Route 85, Oakdale
Connecticut offers three fun destinations for young dinosaur enthusiasts and their families. Marvel at the size of the extinct beasts as you amble through the Great Hall of Dinosaurs at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University. Dig for dino bones and encounter twenty-five life-size dinosaur replicas along one-and-a-half miles of easy walking trails at Nature's Art & Dinosaur Crossing, one of the state's most eclectic attractions. Then, make tracks to Hartford County's Dinosaur State Park, where one of North America's largest collections of fossilized dino tracks, imprinted 200 million years ago, is housed under a dome.
67 River Road, East Haddam
Yes, there is a castle in Connecticut. The fieldstone “castle” built by Connecticut actor William Gillette, known for his stage portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, is now a state park. Walk the picturesque grounds overlooking the Connecticut River, and then venture inside Gillette Castle, where you'll find creative décor including a table that moves on tracks, wooden light switches, and forty-seven distinctly different doors with intricately carved latches.
271 Enterprise Drive, Bristol
Connecticut is home to America's oldest amusement park, Lake Compounce. This 325-acre historic family attraction that dates to 1846 seamlessly blends the old and the new. You'll find a 1911 carousel, a vintage trolley, and a classic wooden roller coaster alongside modern bumper cars, thrill rides, and the Splash Harbor Water Park.
The Maritime Aquarium
10 North Water Street, Norwalk
More than 1,200 marine animals native to Long Island Sound and its watershed, including oysters, lobsters, sea stars, fish, sharks, sea turtles, and river otters, call the Maritime Aquarium home. You may have a difficult time getting the kids to leave when they discover the Ray Touch Pool, Jellyfish Encounter exhibit, Seal Pool, and larger-than-life IMAX movies. If you're looking for adventure, the aquarium offers a chance to see the animals in their natural habitat on summertime study cruises, fall foliage cruises, and winter creature cruises on Long Island Sound.
RAINY DAY FUN
At The New England Carousel Museum (95 Riverside Avenue, Bristol, 860-585-5411,
Mystic's Aquarium and Seaport
Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration
55 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic
75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic
A shipbuilding and whaling center from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, Mystic is now home to several popular sights including Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, featuring thousands of water-loving creatures from around the world such as African penguins and the only captive whales in New England, and Mystic Seaport, a seventeen-acre living-history museum that recreates maritime life in the 1800s. A combination ticket will save you money when you visit both attractions.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center
110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket
In 1998, the Mashantucket Pequots opened the nation's largest museum dedicated to Native American culture. The 308,000-square-foot multimedia museum tells the tribe's story from prehistoric to present times in fascinating detail. Allow three to five hours to explore its life-size displays, interactive learning stations, and changing exhibits.
New England Air Museum
36 Perimeter Road, Route 75, Windsor Locks
Located near Bradley International Airport, this museum has one of the world's largest collections of antique aircraft and aviation artifacts, including planes dating from 1909 to the present, helicopters and gliders, and exhibits on such fascinating themes as the Flying Tigers and Connecticut's role in aviation history. For a real treat, visit on one of the museum's regularly scheduled Open Cockpit Days.
Take your kids to a trashy place … The Children's Garbage Museum in Stratford (203-381-9571,
Tubing and Skiing in the Farmington Valley
Farmington River Tubing
Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area, Route 44, New Hartford
126 Ratlum Road, New Hartford
If your family is fond of outdoor recreation, you'll want to know about two cool activities in the Farmington River Valley. When hot and humid summer days arrive, try tubing on the river; it's exhilarating for ages ten and up. When winter sets in, Ski Sundown's gentle slopes are a great place for young ones to learn to ski or snowboard, and there are enough challenging runs to keep skilled parents and teens entertained, too.
One Crystal Lake Road, Groton
The Submarine Force Museum is the permanent home of the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS