Visit these Great Connecticut Destinations
Quassy Amusement Park
Even after happily entertaining families for over a century, Quassy is still adding new attractions. This year, it’s Splash Away Bay Water Park, which includes the Saturation Station water play zone, the Tunnel Twister waterslides, the BulletBowl water raft ride, the FreeFALL Extreme Bodyslides and Fish Pond splash pad. Plus, there’s the award-winning Wooden Warrior roller coaster and other thrill rides as well as dozens of kid-friendly activities that make for a memorable day by the lake.
(800) FOR-PARK, quassy.com
When you’re looking for aquatic entertainment, it’s hard to beat beluga whales, sea lions and African penguins—just a handful of the hundreds of amazing sea creatures who call Mystic Aquarium home. Visit with sharks, seahorses, jellyfish and other denizens of the deep, explore Titanic—12,450 Feet Below (which showcases the work of renowned oceanographic explorer Dr. Robert Ballard), or enjoy an interactive film experience at the awesome 4-D Theater. (860) 572-5955, mysticaquarium.org
New England Air Museum
Let your imagination take flight at the New England Air Museum, just north of Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. Three enormous hangars house more than 70 vintage aircraft, from 1920s biplanes to World War II bombers to Vietnam-era choppers. Visitors can also test their piloting skills in flight simulators, sit in the cockpits of actual fighter jets, enjoy interactive flight demonstration and hands-on “build and fly” activities, and much more.
(860) 623-3305, neam.org
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
If there’s a better way to see the countryside of Southeastern Connecticut, then we don’t know it! A vintage steam-powered locomotive pulls you along on a 12-mile rail trek through meadows, farms, fields and forests—all part of one of “the last great places on Earth,” according to The Nature Conservancy—followed by an optional cruise aboard the Mississippi-style riverboat Becky Thatcher amid the splendor of the Connecticut River.
(800) 377-3987, essexsteamtrain.com
Connecticut Science Center
You’ve been singing it for years—now isn’t it time to blind your kids . . . with science?! Okay, maybe not blind them, but with 150 hands-on exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3-D digital theater, four educational labs and tons of daily programs, movies and events, you and they will be exposed to a wide array of science, from physics to forensics and geology to astronomy. You also might just discover that discovery is downright fun!
(860) SCIENCE, ctsciencecenter.org
The Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum
With more than five acres of aerial ladders, zip lines, cross bridges and other treetop challenges, the Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum has thrills aplenty. Featuring eight different self-guided “trails,” adventurers can set their own pace and level of excitement, from beginner right on up to expert. Warning: Although safety is of prime concern, there is no protection from having an awesome experience!
(203) 690-1717, discoveryadventurepark.org
Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea
Nowhere is Connecticut’s integral role in the early history of America’s seafaring efforts better chronicled than at Mystic Seaport. From visiting with historical interpreters in a re-created 19th-century village to trying hands-on sailing activities to setting foot aboard the last wooden whaleship in the world (the recently refurbished Charles W. Morgan), visitors can immerse themselves in a learning experience like no other. In addition, there are plenty of great events ahead, including Lobster Days (May 24-16), the Sea Music Festival (June 12-15) and the Moby-Dick Marathon (July 31).
(860) 572-0711, mysticseaport.org
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
With more than 300 different creatures dwelling at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, chances are that you’re going to see something you’ve never seen before. From endangered animals like a Siberian tiger and Andean condor to more common critters like prairie dogs and pronghorn, the zoo brings the wild of the world together in one family-friendly environment that also offers tons of special events and activities. Just watch out for the majestic peacocks that openly roam the zoo’s grounds—they may seem docile, but they can get their feathers up in a hurry if you venture too close!
(203) 394-6565, beardsleyzoo.org
Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Center for British Art & the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Yale’s trio of world-class museums offer countless opportunities to experience some of the finest art and science discoveries the world has ever known. Recently renovated and expanded, the Yale Art Gallery’s permanent collection boasts African, American, European and Asian art with works by the likes of Picasso, Rubens, van Gogh, Kandinsky and John Trumbull. The YCBA features the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, with a roster of artists including John Constable, J.M.W. Turner, Sir Joshua Reynolds and William Blake. Tens of thousands of scientific objects comprise the Peabody’s collection, from meteorites and fossils to mummies and a full-sized, 150 million-year-old, 60-foot-long apatosaurus. In short, Yale’s offerings are monstrous!
Mark Twain House & Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that two of America’s literary giants of the 19th century were next-door neighbors, yet Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) made their homes adjacent to each other in the Nook Farm neighborhood of Hartford. Even better, fans of literature and history can tour both dwellings—the Twain house, a stunning 25-room Gothic edifice, also offers a separate museum dedicated to the Twain story (and his stories), while visitors to Stowe’s Victorian Gothic Revival home can also check out the Katharine Seymour Day House and historic gardens.
Twain House: (860) 247-0998, marktwainhouse.org
Stowe Center: (860) 522-9258, harrietbeecherstowecenter.org
Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park
Thrill-seekers, here is paradise: zip lining, cliff jumping, rock climbing, scuba diving, wakeboarding, hiking, kayaking, swimming, biking—all happening around a stunning 100-foot-deep quarry lake. And don’t forget about the obstacle course, waterslide and giant water balls for “walking” on water. For those who enjoy less-intense outdoor activities, Brownstone has volleyball courts, walking trails and a beach perfect for sitting back and just watching all the action!
(866) 860-0208, brownstonepark.com
Fun-seekers have been traveling to Lake Compounce in Bristol since before Abraham Lincoln was president—a pretty good indication that it’s the go-to place for summer excitement and thrills. In addition to wild rides like Boulder Dash (repeatedly voted the world’s No. 1 wooden roller coaster), visitors can cool off at Splash Harbor, the state’s largest water park. And to extend the fun, new this year is the Bear Creek Campground, offering cabins, tent and RV sites for those who can’t “bear” to leave the lake.
(860) 583-3300, lakecompounce.com
Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
Dedicated to the aquatic environment and creatures of Long Island Sound, this South Norwalk destination showcases more than 100 species of sea critters, including sharks, turtles, seahorses, crabs, lobsters and otters. Families can also enjoy the antics of harbor seals, pet a ray or just chill with the jellyfish. This summer, the aquarium has some special guests: Playful and energetic African meerkats, whose antics will make anyone smile, and colorful lorikeets that will sip nectar right out of your hand! And if you want to explore the Sound itself, the brand-new 65-foot Spirit of the Sound catamaran will be heading out on the water for regular study cruises.
(203) 852-0700, maritimeaquarium.org
Lime Rock Park
It seems a bit incongruous at first: the peaceful, verdant beauty of the Litchfield Hills and the screaming engines of high-powered race cars, but trust us, it works! For nearly 60 summers, Lime Rock has welcomed big crowds and terrific racing, and this season should be no different. Memorial Day weekend officially opens the 2014 season, starting with the IMSA Continental Tire Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup and Sunday Royals Car Show. Other major events this summer include: the SCCA Northeast Region (June 20-21); Optima Batteries/Chumpcar World Series (July 21); and the Historic Festival Race Car Rally (Aug. 28-Sept. 1).
(860) 435-5000, limerock.com
New Britain Museum of American Art
With more than 11,700 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs and illustrations by American artists, there are very few museums in the nation that can chronicle the history of American art as well as the New Britain Museum of American Art. From Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull to Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt to Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper and Sol LeWitt, the full spectrum of American creativity is on view in one place.
(203) 229-0257, nbmaa.org
Submarine Force Museum
Connecticut has played a big role in the development of the submarine: The first submersible attack vessel (David Bushnell’s Revolutionary War Turtle) and the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, were both built here. Both are also on display here—visitors can actually board the Nautilus—along with more than 33,000 submarine-related items and interactive exhibits that wonderfully illustrate the history of underwater warfare.
(860) 448-0893, ussnautilus.org
The Bruce showcases art, science and natural history, and hosts rotating exhibits throughout the year. Upcoming this summer: Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing, which pairs the works of five New York-based artists and five Chinese artists; and iCreate 2014, which will feature original art from local high school students as well as works from Chinese students. The museum’s scenic Seaside Center, located in the recently restored Arden Cottage at Greenwich Point, educates visitors on the ecology of Long Island Sound.
(203) 869-0376, brucemuseum.org
Florence Griswold Museum
The “Home of American Impressionism,” the Florence Griswold Museum features the Georgian-style manse that Miss Florence opened to the Lyme Art Colony, who reciprocated by repeatedly capturing the glory and beauty of the Connecticut countryside on canvas. It also is home to the 9,500-square-foot Krieble Gallery, which hosts rotating exhibitions—from June 6 to Sept. 21, visitors can see Art of the Everyman: American Folk Art from the Fenimore Art Museum and Thistles and Crown: The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore.
(860) 434-5542, flogris.org
Connecticut River Museum
Tucked along the banks of the Connecticut River in charming Essex, the Connecticut River Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the river with historic objects and art. This year it helps celebrate the bicentennial of the British raid on Essex during the War of 1812—on May 10, the museum will host Burning of the Ships Day, a celebration that includes the Sailing Masters of 1812 Parade and Muster, a reenactment of events and other historic activities.
(860) 767-8269, ctrivermuseum.org
The first time you see Gillette Castle, there’s no doubt it was built by a bold man with a plan—that man was William Gillette, bold playwright and actor who made his fortune bringing Sherlock Holmes to the stage. He took that fortune and built his dream castle overlooking the Connecticut River, a 24-room medieval stone fortress fraught with ingenious designs and decor. The castle is perched on a hill amid 184 lush acres, all of which is now a state park that offers miles of hiking trails and dozens of scenic picnic spots.
(860) 526-2336, ct.gov/deep/gillettecastle
Foxwoods Resort Casino
The largest resort casino in North America, Foxwoods offers a wide array of gaming action with nearly 400 tables and more than 7,200 slot machines. In addition to four hotels, Foxwoods is also an entertainment mecca, featuring two theaters that host headline acts, an all-star comedy club, multiple nightclubs and bars, dozens of gourmet restaurants and even an ultra-hip bowling alley. It is also home to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, one of the state’s hidden gems and the world’s largest Native American museum. Experience “the wonder of it all.”
(800) 369-9663, foxwoods.com
“Spectacular” may not be enough of a description for all that Mohegan Sun has to offer, but it’s a great place to start—three major entertainment venues (the 10,000-seat Arena, plus the more intimate Cabaret Theatre and Wolf Den), a 34-story luxury hotel tower, a 20,000-square-foot spa, a three-story crystal mountain, an indoor waterfall and more than 40 restaurants and bars. Oh, and did we mention the three casinos, offering a state-of-the-art poker room and more than 300,000 square feet of slots and table games? Spectacular, indeed.
(888) 226-7711, mohegansun.com
(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of Connecticut Magazine
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