Connecticut is probably the most overlooked state when it comes to things to do in New England. I’m guilty of that myself as most of my posts cover areas other than this beautiful state. So let’s fix that! Here’s a great big summer guide for things to do in Connecticut for both indoor and outdoor activities.
Everyone’s number one activity in the summer is spending some time relaxing on a beautiful beach. Connecticut has a huge coastline and some top-notch beaches.
Hammonasset Beach State Park located on 1288 Boston Post Road in Madison consistently ranks as one of the best beaches in Connecticut. It’s a beautiful, mile-long stretch of sand that is great for relaxing, picnicking or taking the dog for a walk.
Some other top rated beaches in CT are Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme and Silver Sands State Park in Milford. Rocky Neck is a great spot for kids; it boasts white, fine sand, skim boarding, lazy river floating, crabbing and so much more. Silver Sands has free parking and free access as well as a long boardwalk with great scenery.
Connecticut has a lot of great, historic monuments and landmarks. Summer is the perfect time to check these out.
The Charles W. Morgan in Mystic is the world’s oldest surviving merchant vessel. Originally built in 1841, it used to be a prominent whaling ship and now serves as a historic landmark. New England has always had important ties with the ocean and relics like this are a great way to help connect you with the area’s important history.
Fort Shantok Archeological District in Montville was the principal site of the Mohegan tribe in the 1600’s. Today the area has been preserved and is now part park and part cemetery. There are a lot of interesting monuments and archaeological pieces for you to view. It makes for a great day trip.
Did you know that Connecticut is home to many great vineyards? Exploring these pristine rows of delicious grapes (and getting a taste of the final product) is a great way to spend a day.
Stonington Vineyards, located on 523 Taugwonk Road in Stonington, is one the first Connecticut wineries and the most commonly recommended vineyard. They are open 11am – 5pm every day, they offer tours, allow you to picnic in the vineyards and offer tastings ($12 for 6 wines). In the nicer weather, they hold free concerts on the weekends.
Another highly recommended vineyard is Share Hill Vineyard in Pomfret. Time and time again, people mention how beautiful the grounds are (even better than the pictures on their website). The tastings are only performed on weekends; you can do the $10/6 wines or do $15 for the full tasting experience. There is also a fantastic restaurant on site.
Testing Our Luck
I hate to admit this, but when I think of Connecticut, I think of casinos. This is one of my favorite things to do in the summer, grabbing some friends, jumping in the car and heading down to the inviting lobbies full of blinking lights and free drinks.
The only casinos in CT are Native American owned, they are Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort. They both feature tribal themes and lots of great table games and machines.
Foxwoods is the larger of the two, over the last few years they’ve pushed to become a resort/spa and have a lot of great shopping, restaurants and leisurely activities like golf. They also have the bigger casino.
Mohegan Sun is a little more upscale with higher minimums and more smoke-free areas. Personally, I’ve found the slots to be a little looser at Mohegan Sun as well.
I’ve always enjoyed betting on the races. There’s nothing quite like that thrill when your lucky horse rushes toward the finish line and at the last second overtakes its opponents and finishes first. The great news is that now you can do it online with MyWinners – you no longer need to trek all the way down to the casinos. You can enjoy the races anytime you want in real time.
Under the Sea
One Connecticut activity that often gets overlooked is going to the aquarium. CT has two fabulous aquariums, one at each side of the state.
Mystic Aquarium in Mystic is great fun for everyone. I went here a few years ago with my husband and had a blast, my favorite part was the sea lion show. There are also a ton of interactive exhibits like the Beluga whale exhibit – where you can interact with the whales – and the touch tank – where you get up close and personal with stingrays. The whole place has a great ambiance and does a good job at creating a sense of magic.
The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk is on the other side of the state and just as good. This aquarium also has its fair share of interactive exhibits like the jellyfish touch tank. It also features some amazing seasonal displays like the butterfly garden and the dragon exhibit. To finish it off, catch a stunning show at the IMAX theater.
One of the coolest shopping plazas in all of New England is Olde Mistick Village in Mystic. It’s an outdoor shopping plaza that’s modeled after colonial, New England life. It features many independently owned shops that sell everything from specialty candy to unique gardening tools to new age supplies. It’s open year round.
In Westbrook, you’ll find the big Tanger Outlets. With over 50 stores, you’re bound to find what it is you need at a deep discount. I can always find something great at outlet malls.
The next time you’re looking for something to do in New England during the summer, don’t be so quick to overlook Connecticut. There’s a lot that this great state has to offer. From beaches to historic sites to casinos, there’s something for everyone.
What’s your favorite summer activity in Connecticut? Comment below and let me know.