I was born and raised in Southeastern Connecticut and moved to the central shoreline area in my mid-twenties. I have many fond memories of my childhood on the southeastern shoreline. While I may not have appreciated it then, it truly was an amazing place to grow up.
So if you ever find yourself looking for things to do in Connecticut with your kids on vacation or if you are new to the area, here are just some of the places you could visit. The really nice thing about Connecticut is that no matter where you’re staying nowhere is more than a (relatively) quick drive away.
Things to do in Connecticut
Southeastern, CT – Mystic, Stonington, Groton, Waterford, East Lyme
Stonington Borough – this quaint little fishing village is where I spent most of my time growing up. It has changed a lot since then and gone are the days of buying candy at Camacho’s and great food at The Harbor View, but just going for a stroll through town is a fun day out.
While you’re there be sure to stop at Dubois Beach on Stonington Point where you can take a swim or watch the many boats go by or visit the Lighthouse Museum located across from Dubois Beach. Also be sure to stop for breakfast at Noah’s which is a Borough institution that has been there for as long as I can remember.
Mystic Seaport – There is quite a bit to do in Mystic. Like The Borough, it is a nice place to take a walk downtown where you will likely catch the drawbridge going up, but The Seaport is a must.
Mystic Aquarium – The beluga whales, sea lions, and penguins are a lot of fun to watch in their outdoor habitats. You can also pet rays and see all of the colorful fish and other sea critters inside.
Olde Mistick Village – located next to the aquarium, Olde Mistick Village is a fun place to walk, shop, and eat. Grab a pizza at Mango’s, a frozen chocolate banana at Munson’s, or shop for fun and unique souvenirs.
Harkness Park – Harkness is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors and make your own fun. Pack a picnic, bring some kites or a badminton set and have some good old-fashioned outdoor fun in beautiful surroundings.
USS Nautilus – Bring your kids on a real life submarine! Located near the US Naval Base in Groton, the Nautilus has a small museum about submarines and then you can go take a tour of the first nuclear-powered submarine.
Waterford Speedbowl – Do you have older kids that are into car racing? Then the speedbowl will be right up their alley!
Rocky Neck State Park – Go swimming, hiking, and fishing at Rocky Neck.
B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill – In the fall, there is no place like Clyde’s. Get fresh cider from the only remaining steam powered cider mill in the US. Don’t forget to also grab some cider donuts and pumpkin bread!
Book Barn – This may seem like an odd suggestion, but I’m a book lover and love to know where all of the amazing used book stores are. Book Barn in Niantic is an experience more than a store. Plus, they have goats! That right there is reason enough to stop in.
Eastern Connecticut – Ledyard, Voluntown, Montville
Foxwoods Resort Casino – This may not sound child-friendly and is somewhere that you may prefer to go without the kids but if you do find yourself there with rugrats in tow, there are great places to eat and you could bring them to visit the Pequot Museum. Please note that children are NOT allowed on the gaming floor under any circumstances so keep that in mind if planning a trip with the kids.
The Dinosaur Place – For the young dinosaur lover in your family, they will have a blast at Dinosaur Place walking the dinosaur trails, exploring the maze, playing at the dino themed playground, and more.
Central Shoreline – New Haven, Madison, East Haddam, Essex
Pizza – When in New Haven you MUST get a pizza or five. Really, it is that good! I dare say that it’s the best in the country, even better than New York City pizza in my opinion. I miss it dearly now that we live in Colorado. Pepe’s gets all of the press and is most certainly a great pizza but personally, my favorite is Modern Apizza. BAR is also said to have a decent pie though I have never tried their pizza. They are there is a lot of buzz around their mashed potato pizza.
Peabody Museum – Take your kids to see dinosaurs, mummies, and other fun stuff at the Peabody. It’s a small museum, but it packs in a lot of fun!
Hammonasset Beach State Park – Have a picnic, go swimming, fishing, boating, or take a hike. Hammonasset is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park.
Gillette Castle – The quirky home of William Gillette is a fun place to visit. The grounds are beautiful with lots of hiking trails, photo opps, and views of the Connecticut River.
Essex Steam Train – What kid doesn’t love to ride trains? Go for a ride on a real old-fashioned steam train just like Thomas the Tank Engine.
Shoreline Trolley Museum – Visit the museum and ride a real trolley on the last remaining track segment of the Branford Electric Railway. This attraction is registered with the National Register of Historic Places
Central Connecticut – Hartford, Rocky Hill, Middletown, Bristol
Mark Twain House – From the website: The Mark Twain House & Museum, a National Historic Landmark in Hartford, Connecticut, was the home of America’s greatest author, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) and his family from 1874 to 1891. It is also where Twain lived when he wrote his most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Connecticut Science Center – If your kids like science then this is the place for them. The fairly new science museum is in downtown Hartford.
Lake Compounce – When I was a kid I always thought its name was Lake Compounds. Opening in 1846 it is the oldest, continuously-operating amusement park in North America. Lake Compounce is home to Boulder Dash, which has been voted the world’s #1 wooden roller coaster, as well as Connecticut’s largest water park.
Dinosaur State Park – There aren’t really any dinosaurs here or even bones for that matter. What they do have is fossil dinosaur tracks, beautiful walking trails, and a nice place for a picnic.
KidCity Children’s Museum – A really fun and creative place for kids to play, explore, and pretend. With many handpainted, creative, and artsy exhibits it’s a place that your kids will want to visit again and again.
Southwestern Connecticut – Norwalk, Middlebury, Bridgeport
The Maritime Aquarium – While I prefer the Mystic Aquarium, if you find yourself in the southwestern part of the state then it is definitely worth a visit with the kids.
Stepping Stones Museum – A great museum for kids to explore and have fun.
Quassy Amusement Park – Quassy is small and older, but a fun day trip to keep the kids entertained for a few hours. Admission is relatively cheap, too. You can buy a day pass for $24. 50 (45″ or taller) and $20.50 (under 45″) or you can buy individual ride tickets for $3.50 each if you aren’t much of a ride person.
Beardsley Zoo – A small zoo with tigers, a petting zoo, wandering peacocks, and a carousel. Your kids will have a blast.