GREAT FAMILY ADVENTURES
What To Do and Where To Find It
in the State That’s Full of Surprises
Listings are cross-referenced by tourism district so that additional information can be found easily
in the Connecticut Vacation Guide, available free from 1-888-CT-VISIT (288-4748).
Old-Fashioned Fun Parks
Steam Train Rides
Fun and Games
History Comes Alive
Zoo and Nature Centers
Water Parks and Beaches
Native American History
Connecticut is very much a place for family adventures, with easy access to great diversity. An excellent resource is Family Adventure Guide by Doe Boyle, $9.95, a Globe Pequot Press book, in bookstores or call 1-800-243-0495.
- Bushnell Park Carousel, Hartford (Greater Hartford): 1914 Stein & Goldstein hand-carved merry-go-round with 48 horses and Wurlitzer band organ is located in Bushnell Park across for the Capitol.
- Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Antique carousel in beach pavilion overlooks Long Island Sound amidst 82 acres of beach and park.
- Mystic Carousel & Fin Center, Mystic (Mystic & More): Carousel with antique ban organ, plus pig train, indoor amusements.
- New England Carousel Museum, Bristol (Litchfield Hills) and Mystic (Mystic & More): The finest collection of antique carousel art in existence.
* Antique carousels are also located at Lake Compounce (see Old Fashioned Fun Parks) and Beardsley Zoological Gardens (see Zoo).
- Lake Compounce Theme Park, Bristol (Litchfield Hills): Wooden roller coaster, 1911 carousel, over 35 wet and dry attractions, entertainment.
- Maple Breeze Park, Pawcatuck (Mystic & More): Amusement park with bumper boats, go-cart track, mini-golf and water slide.
- Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury (Waterbury): Over 30 rides and games, entertainment, lake beach and boat rides on the lake.
- Connecticut Trolley Museum, East Windsor (North Central): Three miles of trolley rides on vintage trolleys from around the world.
- Shore Line Trolley Museum, East Haven (Greater New Haven): Nearly 100 classic trolleys and a ride on an original trolley line.
- Connecticut Fire Museum, East Windsor (North Central): Old-time fire trucks, models and the history of firefighting.
- Fire Museum, Manchester (Greater Hartford): Turn-of-the-century firehouse with steam and motorized equipment and exhibits.
- Railroad Museum of New England, Waterbury (Waterbury): The State has leased the 1849 Waterbury-Torrington line to the museum to run historic cars between the Waterville station off Rte 8 to Thomaston on weekends and holidays, plus special runs to Torrington.
- Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Ride, Essex (River Valley & Shoreline): Ride 1920s coaches and steam locomotive through the valley and connect with a Connecticut River riverboat. Also North Cove Express dinner train.
- Danbury Railway Museum (Housatonic Valley): Restored Union Station, vintage cars, locomotive, artifacts.
- Cinetropolis at Foxwoods, Ledyard (Mystic & More): Multi-media excitement includes the 1,500-seat Fox Theatre, Turbo Ride, and
- Cinedrome, all family-appropriate venues located within the largest casino complex in the world.
- High Scores Family Entertainment Center, South Windsor (Greater Hartford): Indoor amusement park with rides and games.
- Milford Amusement Center, Milford (Greater New Haven): Indoor/outdoor facility with 300-piece video and pinball arcade, mini-golf,
- kiddieland, kiddie rides, batting cages, bumper boats, bumper cars, Q-ZAR laser area, 26 pool tables.
- Putts Up Dock, Norwich (Mystic & More): The most challenging mini-golf course in New England, plus bumper boats.
- The Only Game in Town, North Haven (Greater New Haven): Mostly outdoor sports complex with go-cart track, two mini-golf courses, bankshot basketball, kiddie bumper boats, indoor batting cages.
- Allegra Farm, East Haddam (River Valley & Shoreline): Carriage/sleigh/pony/hay rides, antique carriage collection, Western chuckwagon events.
- Amy’s Udder Joy Exotic Animal Farm Park, Cromwell (River Valley & Shoreline): Petting zoo, rare, primitive, endangered species, pony rides.
- Bishop Farms, Cheshire (Central): 200-year-old working farm has farm animals, cider press, pick-your-own orchards, Christmas shop, antiques and more.
- Blue Jay Orchards, Bethel ( Housatonic Valley): Petting zoo, pony and Hay rides, pick your own apples and pumpkins, farm market, weekend entertainment.
- Diamond A Ranch, Dayville (Northeast): Trail rides, lessons, Wild West cookouts, overnight rides.
- Fieldview Farm, Orange (Greater New Haven): Oldest family-owned farm in Connecticut; produces fresh, pasteurized milk and ice cream, mills flour and cornmeal. Also seasonal flowers and vegetables.
- Fish Family Farm Creamery & Dairy Farm, Bolton (Greater Hartford): Tour one of the state’s four remaining dairy farms that milks cows, pasteurizes and bottles its own milk.
- Flaming Farm, West Simsbury (Greater Hartford): Farm animal petting zoo, hay / sleigh / carriage and pony rides year round.
- 4-H Farm Resource Center, Bloomfield (North Central): America’s only 4-H working farm; informal visits, pick-your-own fruit, cider, mums, Christmas trees.
- Meadowbrook Farm, Woodbury (Litchfield Hills): Farm animals, nature trails, petting pen, hay and pony rides, plants, produce, recreation area.
- Rose’s Berry Farm, South Glastonbury (Greater Hartford): Pick-your-own fruit, Christmas trees, country store, hayrides, fall weekend entertainment, Christmas shop.
- Schreiber’s, Oxford (Waterbury): Farm animals, hayrides, perennial gardens, pumpkin picking, mountain biking.
- Silverman’s Farm, Easton (Coastal Fairfield): Animal farm with petting zoo, pick-your-own produce, working cider mill, cut-your-own Christmas trees.
- Stew Leonard’s, Norwalk and Danbury (Coastal Fairfield and Housatonic Valley): The world’s largest dairy stores feature petting zoos, produce, plants.
- Wright’s Mill Farm Tours, Canterbury (Northeast): Antique farm and recreation complex, carriage rides, crafts, plants, Christmas shop, cut-your-own Christmas trees, much more.
- Barnum Museum, Bridgeport (Coastal Fairfield): Collections related to life of impresario P.T. Barnum focus on the circus. Changing exhibits.
- First Company Governor’s Horse Guard, Avon (Greater Hartford): Drills on horseback every Thursday evening and special weekend events throughout the year.
- Historic Ship Nautilus & Submarine Force Museum, Groton (Mystic & More): Board the world’s first nuclear-powered sub, plus exhibits on history of the U.S. Submarine Force.
- Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic (Mystic & More): World-famous recreated 19th-century fishing village tells the story of America and the sea. Historic ships, period homes, working craftspeople in costume, seasonal actiities and special events. Also, important Connecticut Freedom Trail site, including ongoing construction of freedom schooner Amistad through 1999.
- New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks (North Central): Largest indoor display of historic aircraft in northeast; 75 classic and commercial craft form 1909 to WW II. Open cockpit Sundays throughout the year.
- Old New Gate Prison and Copper Mine, East Granby (North Central): Explore underground caverns of America’s first chartered copper mine and the dungeons of a colonial prison.
- Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, Storrs (Northeast): Natural history exhibits, 20 life-size virtual reality Videoplace, greenhouses, workshops and six annual Family Days programs.
- Copernican Space Science Center, New Britain (Central): One of the largest public telescopes in country; children’s shows, special programs.
- Discovery Museum, Bridgeport (Coastal Fairfield): Interactive science and art museum includes hands-on exhibits, planetarium with daily shows, Challenger Learning Center with computer-simulated space missions.
- Millstone Information & Science Center, Niantic (Mystic & More): Nuclear energy exhibits, computer energy games, aquarium.
- Science Center of Eastern Connecticut, New London (Mystic & More): River basin ecology and history, reptiles, touch tank, nature trail.
- Science Museum of Connecticut, West Hartford (Greater Hartford): Hands-on science, nature, technology exhibits, planetarium with daily star and laser shows, mini-zoo, computer lab, marine touch tank.
- Beardsley Zoological Gardens, Bridgeport (Coastal Fairfield): North American mammals, New World Tropics Building, children’s zoo, antique carousel. Adjacent park is excellent for picnicking, strolling. Theme days for families offer activities, special rates.
- Nature Centers, Audubon Centers, Arboretums are numerous throughout the state, although many are located near each other in the Coastal Fairfield area. Nature trails, exhibits and museums are featured. These are especially suitable for family visits:
- Ansonia Nature and Recreation Center, Ansonia (Greater New Haven)
- Audubon Center in Greenwich, Greenwich (Coastal Fairfield)
- Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield)
- CT Audubon Birdcraft Museum, Fairfield (Coastal Fairfield)
- CT Audubon Center at Fairfield (Coastal Fairfield)
- CT Audubon Center at Glastonbury (Greater Hartford)
- CT Audubon Coastal Center, Milford (Greater New Haven)
- CT College Arboretum, New London (Mystic & More)
- Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic (Mystic & More)
- Devil’s Den Preserve, Weston (Coastal Fairfield)
- Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury (Litchfield Hills)
- H.C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center, Bristol (Litchfield Hills)
- Nature Center, Westport (Coastal Fairfield)
- Oak Grove Nature Center, Manchester (Greater Hartford)
- Sessions Woods Wildlife Area, Burlington (Greater Hartford)
- Sharon Audubon Center (Litchfield Hills)
- Stamford Museum and Nature Center (Coastal Fairfield)
- Tomasso Nature Park, Plainville (Central)
- West Rock Nature Center, New Haven (Greater New Haven)
- Wethersfield Nature Center (Greater Hartford)
- White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield (Litchfield Hills)
- Woodcock Nature Center, Wilton (Coastal Fairfield)
Connecticut has two major attractions devoted to the study of dinosaurs, which inhabited the state 200 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
- Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill (Greater Hartford): A giant geodesic dome houses Jurassic dinosaur tracks, related exhibits and interpretive programs. Visitors can bring plaster and supplies for making casts of the tracks. The park also contains a butterfly garden and nature trails.
- Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, New Haven (Greater New Haven): In addition displays on natural history and ancient cultures, the focal point of this museum is the great Dinosaur Hall with reconstructed fossil skeletons and wrap-around murals.
- Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, Niantic (Mystic & More): Interactive exhibits and programs for kids up to 12 on topics of science, arts, culture, history, health and safety.
- Connecticut Children’s Museum, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Role-playing for parents and young children (up about 7) in a neighborhood outfitted with grocery, post office, restaurant, etc.
- Kid City Museum, Middletown (River Valley & Shoreline): Velcro Build-It Room, Main Street, The Ship, The Farm exhibits.
- Lutz Children’s Museum, Manchester (Greater Hartford): Hands-on activities and exhibits, live animals, outdoor playscape.
- New Britain Youth Museum, New Britain (Central): Hands-on activities and exhibits on Americana, other cultures, toys.
- Stepping Stones Children’s Museum, Norwalk (Coastal Fairfield): State-of-the-art children’s museum scheduled for Fall, 1999 opening.
- Gardner Lake Park, Salem (Mystic & More): Swimming, rafts, wave runner rentals, paddle and bumper boat rentals, kiddie rides.
- Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison (River Valley & Shoreline): State’s largest shoreline park, two-mile beach, plus camping, scuba, boating saltwater fishing, hiking, nature center.
- Lake McDonough, Barkhamsted (Litchfield Hills): Swimming, rowboats and paddleboats to rent, boat launch, fishing, hiking.
- Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Swimming, picnic grove, nature trails, antique carousel.
- Ocean Beach Park, New London (Mystic & More): Major recreation area offers saltwater and pool swimming, bathhouses, triple water slide, playground, boardwalk, mini-golf, arcade and more.
- Rocky Neck State Park, Niantic (Mystic & More): Half-mile crescent beach with bathhouses, boardwalk, camping, hiking, fishing.
- Sandy Beach, Morris (Litchfield Hills): Secluded cove on Bantam Lake with bathhouses, raft/slide, canoe launch.
- Sherwood Island State Park, Westport (Coastal Fairfield): 1.5 mile beach, two picnic areas, fishing, scuba, interpretive programs.
- Williams Beach Park, Mystic (Mystic & More): Shoreline beach with playground, pavilion grills, sports field, free summer concerts.
- EnviroLab, Groton (Mystic & More): Sail on a lab-outfitted vessel with marine scientists for a 2-1/2 hour oceanographic expedition.
- Mystic Marinelife Aquarium, Mystic (Mystic & More): Completely renovated in 1998: fifty exhibits, 3,500+ specimens, Seal Island, Penguin Pavilion, Marine Theater with dolphin and whale demos. Coming in 1999: Institute for Exploration under direction of Dr. Robert Ballard.
- Quinnipiack, New Haven (Greater New Haven): Long Island Sound ecology cruises aboard gaff-rigged wooden schooner.
- Soundwaters, Stamford (Coastal Fairfield): Long Island Sound ecology cruises aboard replica of 19th-century schooner.
- The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, South Norwalk (Coastal Fairfield): Explores marine life, maritime culture of Long Island Sound. Shark and seal aquarium, IMAX theater, interactive exhibits. Expeditions on R/V Oceanic to explore ecology of the sound and on R/V Conservator to study river ecology.
Connecticut’s name comes from Quinnehtukut, which means beside the long tidal river, the Connecticut River. when colonists arrived, about 20,00 Native Americans from several tribes inhabited the state. Their heritage is reflected in place names statewide and several cultural centers
- EVENT: Annual Connecticut River Powwow, Farmington Polo Grounds (Greater Hartford): Every August, the state’s oldest Native American gathering features native village, music, dance, crafts, foods, storytelling, displays, competitions and more. 860-684-6984
- EVENT: Schemitzun – Annual Festival of Green Corn and Dance, Wintechog Hill, North Stonington (Mystic & More): Annual September event in its 7th year in 1998. Elaborate presentations of traditional dance and Native American festival ritual. Camping permitted. Hot Line: 1-800-244-CORN.
- LANDMARK: Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Ledyard (Mystic & More): World’s pre-eminent cultural center and museum celebrating Native American history, culture art. Library sets new world standard for Native American collections
- Day-Lewis Museum, Farmington (Greater Hartford): Yale-owned Native American archeology museum housed in last of Tunxis Indian homes, a post-and-beam building that houses artifacts found on site.
- Indian Burial Grounds, Norwich (Mystic & More): Resting place of the great Mohican chief, Uncas, who gave land for settlement of Norwich.
- Indian & Colonial Research Center, Old Mystic (Mystic & More): Research library, artifacts, rare photographs.
- Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington (Litchfield Hills): Algonkin artifacts and art, furnished longhouse, outdoor simulated archeological site, 17th-century Algonkin village, native plant trails.
- Somers Mountain Indian Museum, Somers (North Central): Native American artifacts form across North America.
- Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum, Uncasville (Mystic & More): Eastern Woodlands Indian life and lore exhibits, crafts displays of Northern Plains and Southwestern tribes.
The tradition of country fairs thrives in Connecticut, July through early October. They offer a chance to turn back time and experience square dancing, bake-offs, livestock displays, midways, tractor pulls, pig races and more.
- RESOURCE: Connecticut Agricultural Fairs is an annual brochure that provides dates, locations, descriptions and map of fairs. Send stamped, self-addressed legal-size envelope to CT Dept. of Agriculture, Marketing Division, State Office Bldg., 165 Capitol Ave., Hartford, CT 06106.
- RESOURCE: Directory of Agricultural Fairs provides more details on each of the fairs in above brochure. Send 75 cents and stamped, self-addressed legal-size envelope to Association of CT Fairs, Box 753, Somers, CT 06071.
- Lime Rock Park, Lakeville (Litchfield Hills): Professional and amateur road racing, car shows, festivals, pit access, family camping on grounds.
- Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs (North Central): NASCAR racing on half-mile oval track. Special events.
- Thompson International Speedway, Thompson (Northeast): Racing on 5/8-mile-high banked track.
- Waterford Speed Bowl, Waterford (Mystic & More): Stock car auto racing.
- EVENT: Pilot Pen International Tennis Tournament, New Haven takes place every August at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University. This prestigious event features a purse and the top names in men’s tennis. 1-888- 99-PILOT
SPECTATOR SPORTS: BASEBALL
- Bridgeport Bluefish, Harbor Yards, Bridgeport/203-334-TIXX (Coastal Fairfield)
- New Britain Rock Cats, New Britain Stadium/860-224-8383 (Central)
- New Haven Ravens, Yale Field, New Haven/1-800-RAVENS-1, 203-782-1666 (Greater New Haven)
- Norwich Navigators, Dodd Stadium, Norwich/800-64-GATOR, 860-877-7962 (Mystic & More)
SPECTATOR SPORTS: HOCKEY
- The Beast of New Haven, New Haven Coliseum/203-777-7878 (Greater New Haven
- Wolf Pack, Hartford Civic Center/860-246-PUCK (Greater Hartford)
For a free Connecticut Vacation Kit call:
1-888-CT-VISIT, 1-888-288-4748 (net)