While we always attempt to include the nutmeg state in our New England broad topics, it is true we haven’t written a Connecticut-focused article for awhile.
If there is one state in New England that is continuously under-estimated for its vacation and getaway opportunities, it’s the state of Connecticut.
Famous for its museums, casino entertainment, and the insurance capital city of Hartford, within its boundaries you’ll also find parks, forests, camping, hiking, kayaking, fishing, and the popular pastime of antiquing. Here we list our favorite destinations and attractions for the state that welcomes the maple syrup season first and says goodbye to fall foliage last.
Be aware some of these attractions may be seasonal so always check first before making them part of an itinerary.
The fact is despite its proximity to New York City the eastern part of the state contains an area known as The Last Green Valley. This is an area of Southern New England encompassing 35 towns and villages in south central Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut.
Also known as the Quinebaug and Shetucket Rivers Valley it’s an area best explored at leisurely pace to enjoy the historic sites, museums, natural areas, country fairs, festivals and other activities.
Other major destinations in the eastern region of Connecticut in an area known as Mystic Country include the casino and entertainment complexes at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, the world’s largest Native American museum at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and the town of Mystic and close by picturesque Stonington Lighthouse.
Mystic contains one of New England’s living museums at Mystic Seaport – a recreated 19th century whaling village – and the justly popular Mystic Aquarium.
The Florence Griswold Museum located in Old Lyme and the home of the Florence Griswold and considered the birthplace of American Impressionism painting, and in Canterbury is the Prudence Crandall Museum celebrating one of Connecticut’s heroines for her early stance on abolitionism.
Coastal Connecticut has long been a playground for beach and boating enthusiasts and the Thimble Islands near Branford provides great opportunities for close-to-the-coast sea kayaking. With the Lower Connecticut River and Housatonic River both draining into Long Island Sound Connecticut supports a feast of water activities for its residents and visitors, including fly-fishing, whitewater rafting and water tubing.
For one of the best scenic drives in New England follow Route 169 as it winds its way through the rural landscape finishing close to the Massachusetts border. This drive is particularly stunning during the fall foliage season.
More information and resources on Eastern Connecticut here >>>
The central Connecticut region includes Hartford – one of New England’s largest cities – and New Haven – the location for Yale University. Both these cities also have numerous museums to visit, and in Hartford you can visit the residence of the literary giant figures, and almost neighbors, Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe in the morning, and then do time shift in the afternoon when visiting dinosaur tracks at Rocky Hill Park, or take a cruise along the Connecticut River from the popular Connecticut River Museum.
At the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks you can visit the real planes located on the floor and marvel at the replicas hanging from the ceiling. Gauge your abilities as a pilot by engaging in the interactive exhibits.
New Haven invites with a collection of museums that includes the oldest operating trolley museum in America at the Shore Line Trolley Museum, and Yale’s famous Peabody Museum of Natural History.
More suggestions for activities and resources on Central Connecticut can be found here >>>
An entirely different Connecticut awaits vacationers in the Northwest region. Here you’ll discover the Litchfield Hills, the Appalachian Trail, a much photographed covered bridge in West Cornwall, and the Housatonic River offering seasonal whitewater sport.
This region is all about outdoor adventure and fun with numerousparks, forests and trails, the historic town of Litchfield, and if antiquing is one of your favorite pastimes then a few hours browsing along Route 7 will confirm why Connecticut is considered the antiquing capital of New England.
Shoppers can delight in the pottery of Guy Wolff located in Bantam – his pottery shop is much more budget-sensitive than you’d expect. And if you love to browse for book gifts it’s unlikely you’ll have more fun than you can find at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot.
More information and resources on Northwest Connecticut here >>>
Just a short commute from New York City is Fairfield County and packed into this small region are the destinations and attractions of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, and the town of Bridgeport, home to the Barnum Museum and Beardsley Zoo, and the Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton, and Stamford Museum and Nature Center in Stamford.
The Maritime Aquarium is a fun place to take the family with new and old favorite exhibits alike, and also houses an IMAX theatre with special events and festivals depending on the season. Close by Westport and Stratford are a shopper’s delight.
If you’re a wine lover then be sure to check out the Connecticut Wine Trail which is a great way of seeing the state. Southern Connecticut’s climate is not as severe in the winter as other New England regions and so wine has taken root in the state, and you can visit its nineteen winery over a two day tour.
More details and resources for the Fairfield County region here >>>
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