Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Kelly
The state of Connecticut is small, but there’s tons to do! 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.
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. Connecticut is 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.
27 Best Things to Do in Connecticut
1. Tour Yale University
149 Elm St, New Haven, CT 06511
When I lived in New Haven, I visited the Yale University campus often. It’s a beautiful place to walk around. I recommend taking the Yale Campus Tour. I’ve done the tour twice, and both times I learned so much about Yale!
2. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
121 Wall St, New Haven, CT 06511
One of my favorite libraries at Yale University is Beinecke. This library has a tower of book stacks that are enclosed in glass. Beinecke Library focuses on rare books. There’s often public displays and exhibitions in the main foyer.
3. Sterling Memorial Library
120 High St, New Haven, CT 06511
Another beautiful library at Yale is Sterling Memorial Library. It looks more like a church than a library! The library contains tons of stained glass windows, cloisters, and “chapels”.
4. Mystic Seaport
75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT 06355
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.
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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. You can purchase tickets through Viator.
5. 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. I visited the Pez Visitor Center several times, and I always enjoyed looking through the hundreds of unique Pez dispensers!
6. Hammonasset Beach State Park
1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443
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.
7. Mystic Aquarium
55 Coogan Blvd, Mystic, CT 06355
Mystic Aquarium is an aquarium that hosts a number of marine animal exhibits, including beluga whales, steller sea lions, penguins, sharks, and rays. Our favorite exhibit at the aquarium was seeing the belugas!
8. 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.
9. 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.
Be sure to see all our posts about destinations in Connecticut!
10. Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
170 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT 06511
*Opening in 2024*
The Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History is currently set to re-open in 2024. The library has over 14 million objects! When I visited this museum, I especially enjoyed the Hall of Dinosaurs.
11. Louis’ Lunch
261 Crown St, New Haven, CT 06511
Louis’ Lunch is thought to be the place where the hamburger was invented! The Liberty of Congress has officially recognized Louis’ Lunch as the Birthplace of the Hamburger Sandwich. The hamburgers are still served the same… between two pieces of toast!
12. East Rock Park
41 Cold Spring St, New Haven, CT 06511
I used to live in the East Rock neighborhood, so I’d often go up to the top of East Rock Park. It has one of the best views of New Haven!
13. Eat New Haven-Style Apizza
One of the best things to do in Connecticut is eat the pizza…. or I should say, eat the apizza! The main pizza rivalry in New Haven is between Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana and Sally’s Apizza. You absolutely have to try some apizza while you’re in Connecticut!
14. Sleeping Giant State Park
200 Mt Carmel Ave, Hamden, CT 06518
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!
15. 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!
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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!
19. 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.
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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. Connecticut Wine Trail
Connecticut is also home to numerous wineries. You can view the map of the full wine trail. We highly recommend visiting Gouveia Vineyards – it was one of our favorites! (I even celebrated my birthday there one year!)
26. 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.
27. 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!
Bonus: 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.
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.
Hotel Recommendations in Connecticut
Below we share a few ideas for hotels in some of Connecticut’s most popular destinations.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
- 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: Things to Do in Connecticut
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!
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