27 Best Things to Do in Connecticut

Last Updated on April 25, 2022 by admin

The state of Connecticut appears unassuming at first. It’s wedged in between major metropolitan areas like New York and Boston, but there’s quite a bit to do in Connecticut! If you’re planning a trip to New England, definitely add Connecticut to your list of places to visit. The state has some of the oldest pizzerias in the country, miles of shoreline along the Long Island sound, and plenty of historical sites to explore. I lived in Connecticut for 3 years, and in this post, I’m sharing my picks for the 27 best things to do in Connecticut. Enjoy!

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About Connecticut

Connecticut was one of the original 13 colonies in the United States and it’s currently of 6 states that make up the region of New England. It’s one of the smallest states in the United States (up to 110 miles wide), and it shares borders with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York.

The original inhabitants of Connecticut were the Algonquian-speaking tribes. Europeans arrived in the 17th century. Connecticut was a colony of England and then became an official state in 1788. The capital of Connecticut is the city of Hartford.

Connecticut is known for its charming coastal towns, prevalence of pizzerias, and as home to the ivy-league institution Yale University. 


How to Get to Connecticut

 

The state of Connecticut is located in southern New England along the coast. 

If you’re traveling to New Haven from New York or Boston areas, it’s very convenient to take the train. Amtrak has stops in many cities in Connecticut, including Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Old Saybrook, and Mystic.

You can also fly into Connecticut. The primary airport in Connecticut is Bradley International Airport (BDL). There are also a number of smaller regional airports. 

Finally, you can drive to Connecticut. Both I-91 and I-95 run through Connecticut.


27 Best Things to Do in Connecticut

Tour Yale University

149 Elm St, New Haven, CT 06511

things to do in New Haven Yale University Tour

The city of New Haven is home to to Yale University, which offers the Yale Campus Tour. At the time of this writing, the Yale Visitor Center is only conducting virtual tours due to covid. However, as soon as they bring back the in-person guided tours, we highly recommend that you take one. I’ve been on the campus tour several times over the years. Whenever I had family or friends visiting from out of town, I made sure to sign up for the tour. It was always a hit! You’ll get to learn so much about Yale University’s history, and your guide will be able to take you to some of the most beautiful spots on campus. You can also access a free self-guided walking tour here

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

121 Wall St, New Haven, CT 06511

Beinecke Rare Books Library at Yale University in New Haven
Impressive book stacks at Beinecke!

 

*Please note that at the time of this writing, Yale Libraries are only open to individuals with a Yale ID. We hope that they re-open to the general public soon.*

This is one of my absolute favorite spots at Yale University. I might be a bit biased because I already love to hang out at book stores and libraries, but Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is truly a stunning library. The entire library is solely dedicated to rare books and manuscripts, and it’s one of the largest libraries in the world dedicated to rare finds. 

The library was built in 1963 and named after three brothers that attended the university (Edwin Beinecke, Frederick Beinecke, and Walter Beinecke). Inside the building, you’ll see a spectacular glass-enclosed tower of book stacks that’s six stories tall. On the main floor, you can see an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible. (There are less than 50 copies in existence today.) On the ground floor, you can find books from the 18th century that were part of the original Yale library. 

The library’s exterior is comprised of square marble panes. The marble filters light so that the rare books are protected from the sun. If you visit inside the building on a sunny day, the marble panes seem to glow.  

Visiting Beinecke is free. Public exhibitions do not have an admission charge.

Sterling Memorial Library

120 High St, New Haven, CT 06511

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University in New Haven
The entrance to Sterling Memorial Library.

 

*Please note that at the time of this writing, Yale Libraries are only open to individuals with a Yale ID. We hope that they re-open to the general public soon.*

Sterling Memorial Library is Yale’s largest library and one of the most iconic buildings on the campus. This gothic-style library looks more like a cathedral than a library. There are over 3,000 stained glass windows in the library! Each of the decorative panes was inspired by famous book sources from around the world. 

Sterling Memorial Library was built in 1930 and it was named after John William Sterling, a New York attorney and Yale alumni (Class of 1864) who left a sizable portion of his estate to the university. 

The main entrance was designed to look like a nave, similar to a European cathedral. The nave is complete with cloisters, clerestory windows, and side chapels. Inside, there is a tall tower that contains 16 levels of book stacks. The main entrance hall tells the story of the history of Yale Library. Many of the rooms were also designed to reflect their reading topics. For example, the English Study room has window decorations depicting King Lear, Lady Macbeth, and Hamlet. 

Mystic Seaport

75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT 06355

Mystic Seaport in Connecticut

The Mystic Seaport Museum is home to historic vessels and a charming marina village. The seaport was constructed to appear as a 19th-century village. The buildings were not re-created, but rather original buildings that were transported to Mystic. I took my parents to the Mystic Seaport Museum during their visit, and it was one of their favorite things we did in Connecticut. The museum features a number of maritime exhibitions, the marina is filled with historic vessels, and there are numerous gardens. Children will especially enjoy the planetarium and the children’s museum. Be sure to check the events schedule prior to your visit. There are all sorts of workshops, tours, and experiences. We wrote all about our visit to the Mystic Seaport Museum here. At the time of this writing, a general admission ticket costs $27. You can purchase tickets here

Pez Visitor Center

35 Prindle Hill Rd, Orange, CT 06477

The Pez Visitor Center has a large collection of Pez dispensers. Take the self-guided tour through the 4,000 square building and learn all about this famous candy. 

Hammonasset Beach State Park

1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443

Hammonasset State Park in Connecticut

Hammonasset is Connecticut’s largest beach state park. During the summer, this is where I would often go for a beach day. The beach is located on the northern shore of Long Island Sound. The park contains over two miles of sandy shoreline. It’s the perfect place for beach walks, sunbathing, and picnics. You can even camp there. The campground has 556 grassy campsites, and there are 8 cabins that can be rented. You can make camping reservations here.

Mystic Aquarium

55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355

Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut

Mystic Aquarium is an aquarium that hosts a number of marine animal exhibits, including beluga whales, steller sea lions, penguins, sharks, and rays. At the time of this writing, advanced tickets are required.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

77 Forest St, Hartford, CT 06105

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is dedicated to preserving Stowe’s Hartford home and her legacy. The center is open 3 days a week at the time of this writing. During the interactive tour, you’ll learn all about her life and her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her home, which she lived in for 23 years, is a National Historic Landmark. At the time of this writing, a general admission ticket costs $20. 

Mark Twain House

385 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105

The Mark Twain House and Museum will teach you all about the life and writing of author Mark Twain. He lived in the house from 1874 to 1891, and it was at this house that he wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The home is a National Historic Landmark. We toured the home and would absolutely recommend it to others.

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

170 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT 06511

*Temporarily Closed*

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is currently set to re-open in 2024. Notably, it is expected that it will be open to the public with free admission in perpetuity (aka forever). The museum is currently undergoing renovations that will expand the gallery space by over 50%. They’ve also recently added a Wall of Glass that will bring significantly more natural light into the museum.

The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History was founded in 1866, and it contains over 14 million objects from 10 different collections. The museum is known for its Great Hall of Dinosaurs, where you can see the fossils of several different types of dinosaurs.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and I hope to return once it re-opens!

See our full guide to Fall in New England!

Louis’ Lunch

261 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06511

Louis' Lunch in New Haven Connecticut

Louis’ Lunch was established in 1895 and is thought to be the place where the hamburger was invented! If you’re a foodie, you have to visit Louis’ Lunch for its historical significance to American dining! Be sure to check their website for operating hours. 

The restaurant is one of the oldest family businesses in the United States, and is currently under 4th-generation ownership. The Liberty of Congress has officially recognized Louis’ Lunch as the Birthplace of the Hamburger Sandwich.

The hamburger got its beginning when a man in a hurry asked owner Louis Lassen for a meal on-the-go. Louis placed steak trimmings between two pieces of toast, and the rest is history! If you go to Louis’ Lunch, you’ll find that the burgers are still served on plain white toast. 

See our full article on things to do in New Haven here!

East Rock Park

41 Cold Spring St, New Haven, CT 06511

things to do in New Haven

For one of the best views of New Haven, head to East Rock Park. If you drive up the hill to the upper parking lot, you’ll have a sweeping view of New Haven, Yale University, and New Haven Harbor. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and has picnic facilities.

The summit of East Rock is approximately 350 feet higher than the Mill River below it. The Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the top of the rock can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The monument serves as a memorial for soldiers that died in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War.

Eat New Haven-Style Apizza

New Haven style apizza

New Haven is one of the biggest pizza cities in the United States and can hold its own against cities like Chicago and New York. New Haven pizza is often called apizza (pronounced ah-beets), to stay close to its Italian roots. New Haven pizza is known for a chewy thin crust, simple tomato sauce, and just a bit of cheese. The pizzerias in New Haven are some of the oldest in the country!

The main pizza rivalry in New Haven is between Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza. They’re located on the same block in Wooster Square in the Little Italy district.

It’s believed that Frank Pepe, an immigrant from Italy, is the inventor of New Haven’s style of pizza. He topped his signature pie with olive oil, crushed tomatoes, pecorino romano cheese, and herbs. If you visit Pepe’s, be sure to try the White Clam Pizza and the Frank Pepe’s Original Tomato Pie. The white clam pizza was invented in the 1960s and it’s one of their most popular pizzas! The pizzeria is still a family-owned business. There’s often a line out the door, so get there early and enjoy!

Sally’s Apizza made me question everything I ever knew about pizza. Their classic pie has tomato sauce and toppings, but I was surprised to learn that melted cheese is not necessarily a staple ingredient. And you know what? I didn’t even miss it! The pizza I tried was delicious, and our server was absolutely hilarious. The restaurant was established by Sal, Frank Pepe’s nephew, in 1938.

See our full article on New Haven pizza here!

Sleeping Giant State Park

200 Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, CT 06518

Sleeping Giant State Park in New Haven

If you’re looking for a hike near New Haven, check out Sleeping Giant State Park. The profile of the mountain resembles a “sleeping giant.” The Sleeping Giant Tower Trail will take you to the top of Mount Carmel where you’ll find a concrete tower. The trail is about 3.1 miles long out-and-back, with about 600 feet of total elevation gain. This was my husband and I’s first trail together!

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

1 Railroad Ave, Essex, CT 06426

One of the best ways to explore Connecticut’s countryside is by taking the Essex Steam Train. One of their historic trains has a dining car and you can make reservations for their dining train. You’ll be served a 4-course meal and you’ll be able to take in the spectacular views. I highly recommend that you take this train ride during the fall, where you’ll be able to see Connecticut’s impressive fall foliage!

Gillette Castle State Park

67 River Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423

If you want to see a medieval-looking castle in Connecticut, head to Gillette Castle State Park. Tours of the castle resume May 28, 2022 through September 5, 2022. The castle was built under the direction of WIlliam Hooker Gillette, who was an actor, novelist, and playwright. Gillette was heavily invested in the creative process of its construction, and as a result, he included a movable table on tracks and built-in couches. There are also numerous trails surrounding the estate. We visited on a warm spring day and really enjoyed strolling around the property.

Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

110 Pequot Trail, Ledyard, CT 06338

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center is dedicated to preserving Native American history and culture. The museum has over 85,000 square feet of indoor exhibitions, one of which is a 16th-century Pequot village. At the time of this writing, the museum is open 4 days a week and a general admission ticket costs $17.

Foxwoods Resort Casino

350 Trolley Line Blvd, Ledyard, CT 06338

Foxwoods Resort Casino is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. The entertainment enter has 6 casinos and 4 hotels. There are numerous restaurants, bars, spas, retail shops, and theaters. We visited Foxwoods several times while we lived in Connecticut and always had a blast!

Yale University Art Gallery

1111 Chapel St, New Haven, CT 06510

At the time of this writing, admission to the Yale University Art Gallery is free to the public Tuesday through Sunday. There are a number of exhibitions and collections that display more than 4,000 pieces of art. The museum contains a wide variety of artworks, including international pieces, historic pieces, and modern art. The museum also has a rooftop terrace and a sculpture garden.

Guilford

248 Old Whitfield St, Guilford, CT 06437

The town of Guilford is located along the coast. The town is home to a number of historic sites, including the Henry Whitfield State Museum, which is the oldest house in Connecticut (built in 1639). We visited this home while we lived in Connecticut and we really enjoyed learning about its early history.

New England Air Museum

36 Perimeter Rd, Windsor Locks, CT 06096

The New England Air Museum is dedicated to sharing the history and future of aviation. When you visit the museum, you’ll be able to see plenty of aircraft and engines. The museum features exhibits that showcase military aviation history, innovations, and underrepresented groups. 

Connecticut Science Center

250 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103

The Connecticut Science Center is a 9-story museum that contains a plethora of exhibits. The museum contains over 165 exhibits! Some of the permanent exhibitions include an engineering lab, butterfly encounter, and forces in motion space.

Lake Compounce

185 Enterprise Dr, Bristol, CT 06010

Lake Compounce is an amusement park located in Bristol, Connecticut. The amusement park contains a number of attractions, including a wooden roller coaster that has been voted World’s #1 Wooden Coaster five separate times, waterslides, and plenty of kids rides.

Old Saybrook

Old Saybrook is another one of Connecticut’s charming coastal towns. You can visit Fort Saybrook Monument Park, Essex Village, and Harvey’s Beach.

Connecticut Wine Trail

Connecticut is also home to numerous wineries. You can view the map of the full wine trail here. We highly recommend visiting Gouveia Vineyards – it was one of our favorites! (I even celebrated my birthday there one year!)

IT Adventure Indoor Ropes Course

40 Sargent Dr, New Haven, CT 06511

IT Adventure Indoor Ropes Course is the perfect activity for a rainy day in Connecticut. It’s the world’s largest indoor ropes course. There are 4 levels of courses that have dozens of challenges.

Visit an Orchard

There are lots of orchards in Connecticut. During the summer you can pick blueberries and during the fall you can pick apples. Several of the orchards have fun activities like corn mazes and food carts. We particularly enjoyed our visit to Bishop’s Orchards, which also has a winery. We definitely recommend apple-picking in the fall!

Seasonal Activities

Depending on the timing of your visit, there are a number of fun seasonal activities offered in Connecticut. Our favorite season in Connecticut is the fall, and we highly recommend taking a drive to enjoy the fall foliage. During the winter, you can head to Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort and try snow biking. 

 

 


Where to Stay in Connecticut (Best Hotels)

Below we share a few ideas for hotels in some of Connecticut’s most popular destinations.

Booking.com  

New Haven

  • Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale: While I was living in New Haven, I observed that this was the most popular hotel for visiting guests. I even stayed there myself when I interviewed for my position! The hotel is within walking distance to Yale University, the New Haven Green, and Union Station. Be sure to grab breakfast on the weekend at John Davenports at the Top of the Park. The restaurant is located on the 19th floor and has sweeping views of the city!
  • The Blake Hotel: This boutique hotel is also centrally located to Yale University’s campus. The hotel was named after Alice Blake, who was the first woman to graduate from Yale Law School. The Blake Hotel also has a cool rooftop bar (High George) that is open seasonally.
  • The Study at Yale: This 4-star hotel is located near the Arts Campus, which is where you can find many of New Haven’s museums and libraries.
  • Courtyard New Haven at Yale: This Marriott property is located within walking distance to the university campus. 

For a full list of hotels in New Haven, click here.

Mystic

  • The Whaler’s Inn: The Whaler’s Inn is located near the Mystic Seaport Museum of America and has a restaurant on-site.
  • Hilton Mystic: This hotel is located directly across from the Mystic Aquarium. It has an indoor pool and is about a mile away from Olde Mystic Village.
  • House of 1833 Bed and Breakfast: This charming Greek revival mansion was built in 1833. The rooms are uniquely decorated and the property has a beautiful English garden. The bed and breakfast also has a seasonal outdoor pool. 
  • Hyatt Place Mystic: This hotel is close to Mystic’s main attractions and has a seasonal outdoor pool.
 

For a full list of hotels in Mystic, click here

Hartford

  • Goodwin Hotel: This brick-red boutique hotel has been a part of downtown Hartford since 1881. The hotel features a bar and is within walking distance to a variety of Hartford attractions. 
  • Hartford Marriott Downtown: The Hartford Marriott Downtown is located near the convention center. The hotel has a restaurant and a cafe.
  • Hilton Hartford: The Hilton Hartford has a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Hartford: This hotel offers a shuttle for attractions within 5 miles. 

For a full list of hotels in Hartford, click here


What to Pack for a Visit to Connecticut

Here’s a few things you might want to pack with you to enjoy the state:

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking around town and campus, so make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes. I’ve been wearing Brooks brand shoes for years and have loved them. I’ve linked them here for women, and here for men.
  • Power Bank: We always keep a fully-charged power bank with us while we’re out exploring. That way, if our phone battery is running low, we can easily plug it in and re-charge on the go. We rely on our phones heavily for navigation and photography, so this product is a must for us.
  • Water Bottle: We prefer to bring an insulated re-usable water bottle when we are out exploring. 
  • Travel Guides: When I moved to Connecticut, I brought a travel guide and it gave me so many ideas for weekend adventures. It also provided good historical background to the places I visited. I’ve linked a couple here.
  • Yale Gear: Pack a Yale hoodie and make sure you visit the campus during your trip.

 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information!)


Foods to Try in Connecticut

During your trip to Connecticut, we recommend that you try the following dishes:

  • Connecticut-Style Lobster Roll: The lobster rolls served in Connecticut are served with warm with melted butter on top. (In comparison, lobster rolls in the rest of New England are served cold with mayonnaise.) The lobster rolls in Connecticut are out of this world!
  • Apizza: As mentioned earlier in this article, be sure to head to New Haven and try their signature apizza. The dough is crispy yet chewy, and the the pizzerias consistently win awards. You can read all about New Haven-style apizza here.
  • Hamburger: Also while you’re in New Haven, head to Louis’ Lunch which claims to be the birthplace of the hamburger. They still serve their hamburgers on plain white toast!
  • Apple Cider: If you visit Connecticut during the fall, you absolutely have to stop by one of the many orchards for some freshly-pressed apple cider. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there anything fun to do in Connecticut?

There are plenty of fun things to do in Connecticut! Some or our favorite things to do include visiting Yale University’s campus, eating apizza in New Haven, visiting coasting villages like Mystic Seaport, and enjoying the many beaches such as Hammonasset. 

What is Connecticut famous for?

Connecticut was one of the original 13 colonies and is known as the Constitution State because of its adoption of the Fundamental Orders in 1639, which some scholars believe to be the first written constitution. Connecticut is also home to Yale University, some of the oldest pizzerias in the country, and the restaurant that claims to have invented the hamburger. 

Why should I visit Connecticut?

It’s easy to visit Connecticut as part of a day trip from New York or Boston, and it’s also a great place to visit for several days. When you visit Connecticut, you’ll be able to visit the Mark Twain House, Yale University, the Harriet Beecher Stowe house, and plenty of pizzerias.

What’s the best time of year to visit Connecticut?

I lived in Connecticut for 3 years and my favorite time of the year was early October. I’d recommend that you visit anytime between late September and early November. The fall foliage will be at its peak and it makes the whole state incredibly picturesque.


Summary

When I first moved to Connecticut, I wasn’t sure if there would be much to do in the state. However, I ended up staying there for 3 years because I loved it so much! There were plenty of beaches, excellent restaurants, and historical sites to see. I also enjoyed many weekend trips to New York and Boston. Connecticut was the perfect home base for exploring the rest of New England. I hope this article was helpful in planning your own trip to Connecticut!

things to do in Connecticut
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