When you’re in Connecticut you’re in the home of the prestigious Yale University, some historic houses & one of the oldest amusement parks. You can revisit history by visiting a 19th-century seaside village, the first nuclear submarine and an 18th-century New England Village. You can go to the beach, go on scenic train rides & even cruise in a riverboat. Here are the Top 10 Things to do in Connecticut.
1. Step into a 19th-century whaling village
One of the most famous attractions in Connecticut is the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic. Established on the banks of the Mystic River, this museum is one of the largest maritime museums in the US. Another thing that draws people to this museum is the look of it. Re-created here is a whole 19th-century seafaring village!
It’s one of the best places to learn about things like whaling, oystering & ancient trades that prevailed in coastal settlements. That’s not all! It’s known for its collection of some historic ships & boats too. A celebrated exhibit here is Charles W Morgan, a whaleship that dates back to 1841. It’s now a National Historic Landmark, and when you visit, you can actually go aboard it and take a look inside. Other vessels to see include a training ship that was used in the 1800s, a fishing schooner built in the early 1900s & a replica of a slave ship.
To make the 19th-century experience complete, walk into the Henry Dupont Preservation Shipyard to watch people make use of old tools & processes to restore wooden boats.
2. Take a look inside the first Nuclear Submarine
Another maritime attraction — also a designated National Historic Landmark— to see while in Connecticut is USS Nautilus. Nautilus is the first nuclear submarine in the world and to see it you’re going to have to visit Submarine Force Library and Museum by the Thames River in Groton. You’re allowed to get into the submarine built in 1965, peep through its periscope, look around the vessel, and see things from the crew’s perspective. There’s even a self-guided audio tour you could opt for to better understand these underwater vehicles.
The Submarine Force Library is managed by a division of the US Navy that preserves Navy history & heritage. And it has a lot of other exhibits that will take you through the history of submarines.
3. Take a close look at Gillette Castle
This is a state park that most visitors to the state make it a point to go see. The centerpiece of the park is Gillette Castle, the home of actor & playwright William Gillette, who was born in Connecticut and resided here in the early 20th century.
The architecture and oddity of the building are what stand out most. Built in Medieval style, this castle has 24 rooms and many unique features that were put together by several different local artisans and some, by the actor himself. One other thing that cannot be downplayed is the view of the Connecticut River.
The 184-acre site on which the mansion stands allows visitors to hike & picnic. You can even camp in this state park.
4. Be awed by the works at Wadsworth Atheneum
Those with an interest in art are not going to want to miss the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. The reasons to visit here are many. First of all, it’s said to be the oldest continuously operating public art museum in the country. Secondly, this art museum is spread over an area of 50,000 sq ft and showcases around 50,000 pieces of art. And some of the works go back to 5000 years.
Also, you can hope to see so many different kinds of art spanning from Baroque to modern decorative arts and everything in between. There are works of American Impressionism, surrealism & contemporary art. There’s also ancient Greek & Roman pieces and more modernist works from Europe & the Americas.
There are permanent exhibits & moving shows. And the museum sometimes conducts other events like talks, music & films.
5. Head to Yale University
To see some art in what is said to be the country’s oldest university art museum, you can visit Yale’s art museums. The galleries are spread over a space of a block and a half and they have in them works from different parts of the world and several different eras.
This is also an opportunity to see Yale University up close. You can take student-led tours to see and learn about the architecture of one of the oldest universities in the United States. You can even walk into a couple of libraries on campus.
While you’re at Yale University, you might also want to visit the Peabody Museum of Natural History another important museum in the state of Connecticut.
6. See where Mark Twain lived
When you’re in Connecticut, you’re also where one of America’s greatest authors resided. Samuel Clemens — better known by his pen name Mark Twain — lived here in the later part of the 1800s.
The Mark Twain House is in Hartford, and it’s here that the writer penned some of his greatest works like Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn. The building he called home can be toured daily and visitors are taken through a collection of furniture, books, photographs & paintings that go back to the author’s days here.
Visiting the Webster Bank Museum Center there is quite an opportunity to learn more about the author through talks, temporary exhibits & a film.
7. Stroll through Olde Mistick Village
Olde Mistick Village is a re-creation of a New England Village of the 18th century. In it is a building that’s made to look like a meeting house, walkways made of bricks, ponds & water wheels to give it an old-world feel.
And the charming village is a shopping complex with some shops & eateries, and often has performers putting up shows in the form of music & dance. It’s a fun place to shop for souvenirs & gifts all year round. And at Christmas time, it’s all decked up for the holidays.
8. Spend some time at Hammonasset Beach
Hammonasset Beach State Park gets its name from the 2-mile sandy beach it protects in Madison. Situated beside the Long Island Sound, it is also the largest public beach in the state. Millions visit this east coast beach every year to sunbathe, swim, surf, fish & hike the area. You can also camp at this popular state park.
This beach is also a place to see the plant & animal life of this coastal region and watch the sunset. Make sure to stop at the turtle habitat at Meigs Point Nature Center.
9. Ride the Essex Steam Train
Add Essex Steam Train to your itinerary and you will explore the Connecticut River Valley in an exciting way. From the picture windows of the train cars, you’ll be able to catch scenic views accompanied by narration. The ride starts at a 19th-century station and then you’re taken on a ride by the river, through small towns, a state park & nature reserves.
For the train and boat tour, you’ll be transferred onto the Becky Thatcher riverboat at Deep River Landing, and you’ll catch more sights like the Gilette Castle, Haddam Swing Bridge, marches, coves & the shoreline before boarding the train again to complete the round trip.
There are dinner tours too!
10. Lake Compounce Amusement Park
Go to Lake Compounce Amusement Park in Bristol for a ride on a wooden roller coaster and to try a 6-floor-high water-slide. It’s also the oldest continuously operated amusement park in the US.
The park is open from May to October and has a lot of other features like wave pools & several easy rides. And in the fall, there come a host of fall & Halloween-related activities & attractions.