I moved to Connecticut in 1996, and I still haven't run out of things to do--and I do things for a living! From non-stop entertainment at the state's two immense casinos to museums and historic houses to quirky attractions to memorable food and wine experiences, Connecticut offers more than many travelers expect. Far too often, the interstates are all visitors see as they race through Connecticut en route to more far-flung New England destinations. Peruse this list of the state's top things to do, and you're bound to decide to slow down and discover some of the must-see attractions in CT.
Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut, is America's leading maritime museum, and it's really a fascinating place to spend a day: an attraction that alone is worth making the trip to Connecticut. Climb aboard historic ships, watch skilled craftsmen at work, explore a recreated 19th-century coastal village, see exhibits of art and artifacts, cruise along the Mystic River in a coal-fired boat and learn about how the sea has shaped America's history and economy.
Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut, is the nation's oldest amusement park: a distinction that will be lost on your kids, who will only care that this enduring attraction has a cool water park and even cooler roller coasters. If you are visiting Connecticut with your family during the park's mid-May through October operating season, you owe it to the entire clan to carve out a day to spend enjoying the rides, shows and nostalgia at this lakeside amusement zone. When October rolls around, the Haunted Graveyard adds another--terrifying--dimension to your visit.
The relatively warm and gentle waves at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Connecticut, make the largest beach in the state a popular place for families to spend sweltering summer days. More than one million visitors head for this Connecticut attraction each year. When summer's crowds dissipate and the seaside camping season ends, Hammonasset is still a scenic place to stroll and to observe the natural beauty of the Connecticut shoreline.
Mystic, Connecticut, is also home to another top attraction: Mystic Aquarium. This world-class facility is not only home to sea life ranging from mesmerizing jellyfish to playful penguins, its new Titanic - 12,450 Feet Below installation showcases the work of famed marine scientist and Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard, whose underwater archeological expeditions have spurred technological development and led to wondrous findings. Add to your aquarium experience by reserving your spot in an animal encounter program. My time in the tank with a beluga whale is still one of the most memorable things I've ever done in Connecticut. Penguin Encounters are fun, too!
It still boggles my mind a bit that touring a castle is one of the things you can do in Connecticut. Gillette Castle in East Haddam is an architectural anomaly, and it is quite lucky that the quirky home of actor William Gillette has been preserved as a Connecticut state park. The grounds alone, with their Connecticut River views, will take your breath away. Venture inside the castle for a self-guided tour, and you'll be fascinated by the story behind this intriguing home.