Summer 2023 Connecticut Bucket List

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Every summer, our family makes individual bucket lists of things we want to do and places we want to explore. We usually have a good mix of perennial favorites and new-to-us spots. This week, we thought we’d share some suggestions of things to do in Connecticut this summer (most of which can easily be modified for your neck of the woods).  We’re sharing this list now because 1. We always like to be ahead of the game and 2. Some of these activities require reservations that will fill up quickly. 

Here are 10 summertime activities in Connecticut:

  1. Ride the trails in Essex. The rail bikes at Essex Steam Trail are one of our favorite activities of the whole summer! Two person and four person bikes are available for 4, 6 or 9 mile trails throughout the Connecticut shoreline. The trails are not overall strenuous, a majority of the trail is in the shade, and trails offer beautiful views of the Connecticut River. Read more about it in this post
  1. Take a boat cruise. There are several options to hop on a boat on Long Island Sound. We’ve taken boat rides to Sheffield Island in Norwalk (which offered daytime, nighttime, and specialty themed cruises), to the Thimble Islands in Guilford (there are a few options for companies, and tons of cute shops and restaurants near the pier), and across Long Island Sound to Port Jefferson on the ferry, New York. Mystic County offers lots of options for cruises in the area, and there are tons of river cruise options. Read more about some of our boat adventures in this post.
  1. Smell the lavender at Lavender Pond Farm in Killingworth. The 25 acre farm has over 10,000 lavender plants (12+ varieties) that are harvested in nearby Old Saybrook and then grown on site. Visitors are welcome all summer to explore the grounds and follow the Lavender Labyrinth for free. There is also a lavender themed shop, a path around the pond dotted with fairy gardens, and the “lavender train” which offers train rides around the property. Read more about it in this post
  1. Pick fruit at one of dozens of farms throughout the state. Some of our favorite farms include Jones Family Farms in Shelton, Silverman’s Farm in Easton, Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford, and Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. All these farms offer a variety of activities and special events for the whole family, and some have full gift shops, garden centers, and even small cafes. Timing is important:
    1. June is the time for strawberries
    2. July is the time for blueberries and raspberries
    3. August is the time for peaches
    4. September is the time for apples

Good comprehensive lists of farms in Connecticut include this list, this list, and this list.

  1. Hike! Connecticut has 142 state parks and state forests, covering 255,000 acres of public space and thousands of trails for both amateur and veteran hikers; check out this post we wrote about why we love state parks. During the pandemic, we got on a “hiking” (we use the term loosely) kick and started exploring many of the parks.  We’ve shared posts featuring hikes in Western Connecticut, in Central Connecticut, in Mystic, and in Fairfield County.  And check out our post featuring our favorite hiking supplies here.
  1. Learn about the history of Connecticut. Take a (free!) tour of the Connecticut State House in Hartford, or tour Fort Griswold and Fort Trumbull. Fort Griswold, in Griswold, is the site of the 1781 massacre led by British Forces and Benedict Arnold. Visitors are able to walk the park grounds, peek inside the fort, climb to the top of the monument,  and explore the fort museum. Fort Trumbull, located on the water in Groton, has served as the home of many military operations and training groups for the Navy, Army, and Coast Guard. Guests can take tours of the entire fort, walk the perimeter, and explore the indoor museum.  Note: Both forts have seasonal hours, and limited hours in winter. Be sure to check there website before visiting.
  1. Seek thrills at amusement parks. Connecticut is home to two great amusement parks: Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury and Lake Compounce in Bristol. Quassy has  almost two dozen rides (some age and height restrictions), the Splash Away Bay Water Park, laser tag, an arcade, and even a small zoo.  Lake Compounce, the oldest amusement park in America(!!), has almost 50 rides (some age and height restrictions), a water park, and even a campground for overnight and extended stays.  Both parks have multiple dining options, weekly concerts, and tons of special events. 
  1. Follow a (or create your own) food trail. There are tons of themed trails throughout the state- the website has a great list here. During the pandemic, we made our own series of food trails (cupcakes, chocolate shops, cookies, hot dogs, tacos, crepes, tacos, and Milford bakeries). Another one of our favorites is the ice cream trail through the greater Mystic area. 
  1. See masterpieces of art. A rainy or super humid day is a great opportunity to head to an art museum– although art museums are just as lovely in good weather, too! We’ll have a full feature of Connecticut art museums soon, which will include our visits to the Yale Art Museums in New Haven, the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, and the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. All three spots have tons of family friendly activities and scavenger hunts, as well as special programs and events throughout the summer. 
  1. Explore a new part of the state. Connecticut is made up of 169 towns, divided into 6 counties, and has (what is considered by most people) 5 large cities (Stamford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury, and Hartford). Each part of Connecticut offers its own unique history, public land, museums and cultural institutions, and tons of great dining and shopping. To date, we’ve shared full City Guides to Mystic, Coastal Connecticut, Hartford, and New Haven,

Bonuses: Looking for adventures close to home but out of state? Here are a whole bunch of City Guides to areas that are within an hour or two (depending on what part of Connecticut you’re leaving from):

Follow along on our adventures on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter

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  1. This is a very versatile play list – definitely looks like something the kids will love no matter how young or old they are. I reckon this’d be perfect for families with kids of large age gaps!

  2. Loved this guide. We lived in CT for most of my kids’ childhoods and loved having so many things to do and see!

  3. I am not familiar with this part of the US having only visited California and Florida but it looks like it ticks all the boxes for a great family holiday!

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