17 unforgettable hidden things to do in Connecticut

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Looking for a fun-filled summer vacation destination? There is something for everyone in Connecticut. This charming state offers many hidden gems from outdoor adventures to cultural experiences.

Sheffield Island Lighthouse in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Sheffield Island Lighthouse. Photo credit: Depositphotos

Whether you are into history, art, nature or a seaside getaway, you’ll find something fun to do in the state. And with its mix of quaint small towns and bustling cities, it makes for the perfect weekend getaway or more extended vacation.

So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure. Here are some of the top fun things to do in Connecticut that you can check out during your trip.

1. Gillette Castle State Park

Gillette Castle State Park is located in East Haddam and features a stunning hilltop castle with breathtaking views of the Connecticut River. The castle was built by William Gillette, an American actor famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage.

The castle features unique architectural details such as hand-carved wooden doors and medieval-style turrets. Visitors can tour the castle or explore its grounds on their own. The park also features hiking trails that offer spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Gillette Castle from park road.
Gillette Castle. Photo credit: Daily Life Travels
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2. Thimble Islands

The Thimble Islands are located off the coast of Stony Creek in Branford and consist of up to 365 small islands depending on the tide. Visitors can take a boat tour around the islands or rent a kayak to explore them on their own.

Private residences are on the islands, so boats must respect their privacy. The islands are home to various wildlife, including ospreys, egrets and herons.

3. The Glass House

The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, is a modernist masterpiece and a landmark of 20th century architecture. The design of the house is a statement about space, light and minimalist living. Its transparent walls blur the boundaries between inside and outside, creating a seamless connection between nature and architecture.

4. Book Barn in Niantic

The Book Barn is a unique bookstore located in Niantic that every book lover should visit. The main location has several themed buildings along with gardens.

There are also two other locations within a mile. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of gently used books of all genres waiting to be discovered at the shops.

5. Devil’s Hopyard State Park

Devil’s Hopyard State Park is a stunning natural gem located in East Haddam, Connecticut. The park is well known for its beautiful hiking trails that provide breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and waterfalls.

One of the most popular hikes in the park is the Chapman Falls Trail which leads to one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Connecticut. Chapman Falls is a 60-foot-tall waterfall that cascades over a series of rocky ledges. It’s an incredibly peaceful spot, perfect for relaxing and taking in the beautiful scenery.

Chapman Falls at Devil's Hopyard State Park.
Chapman Falls at Devil’s Hopyard State Park. Photo credit: Daily Life Travels

6. Shubert Theatre

The Shubert Theatre in New Haven is a historic venue that has been showcasing theatre productions for over a century. The theatre’s stage has seen performances by famous actors like Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, and it continues to host Broadway shows, concerts, comedy acts, plays and dance performances. Visitors can enjoy the stunning architecture of the building while taking in a show.

7. Sheffield Island

The Sheffield Island Lighthouse and Harbor Tour includes views of three lighthouses in Norwalk: Peck Ledge Light, Greens Ledge Light and the stunning Sheffield Island Lighthouse.

At the end of the tour, you will arrive at Sheffield Island for a one-hour stop. You can explore Sheffield Lighthouse, nature trails and beaches during your time on the magnificent island.

8. New England Carousel Museum

The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol is a unique museum that celebrates the artistry and history of carousels. Visitors can admire beautifully restored carousels from different eras and learn about their history through interactive exhibits.

Lake Compounce is also in Bristol. It’s been open since 1846, making it one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in America.

9. Watch Rock Loop

Watch Rock Preserve is one of the most peaceful and serene locations in Old Lyme, Connecticut. It’s a 25-acre nature preserve that has become a popular spot for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike.

The Watch Rock Loop trail is an easy 0.7 hike that should take less than fifteen minutes to finish. It takes you on mostly flat terrain at the mouth of the Duck River which is an estuary near the mouth of the Connecticut River. There is a great view from the rocky shoreline.

10. Talcott Mountain State Park

Nestled in the heart of Simsbury, Connecticut, lies Talcott Mountain State Park. This hidden gem boasts breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and offers some of the best hiking trails near Hartford. But the centerpiece of the park is Heublein Tower, a 165-foot tower that sits atop the mountain’s summit.

Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park.
Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park. Photo credit: Daily Life Travels

“When I lived back east I spent a weekend at The Avon Old Farms Hotel, in the lovely little community of Avon, northwest of Hartford. The hotel itself was just charming, with comfortable rooms and very pretty grounds. I enjoyed a tour of The Mark Twain House and Museum, a walk at Talcott Mountain State Park and a scrumptious Sunday brunch at the hotel dining room. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway and you love American history, I highly recommend it.”

—  Sarita Harbour, Thrive at Home

11. Mark Twain House and Museum

The Mark Twain House and Museum is located in Hartford, Connecticut. It was the home of American author Mark Twain from 1874 to 1891. The house has been restored to its original condition and visitors can take a guided tour to learn more about Twain’s life and work.

12. Dinosaur State Park

Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill is home to some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in North America. Visitors can take a tour of the park’s exhibits or hike on one of its many trails.

13. Dividend Pond

One of the unique things to do in Connecticut is visiting the Dividend Pond in Rocky Hill. This scenic spot offers a great escape for nature lovers. You’ll find a stunning waterfall, easy hiking trails and a rough vista at the end of the property. There’s also a two-mile mountain bike trail.

14. Mashantucket Pequot Museum

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum is one of the most fascinating museums in Connecticut. It offers visitors a chance to learn about the rich history and culture of Native Americans in Connecticut. Visitors can also see artifacts from various Native American tribes that once lived in Connecticut.

15. Tarrywile Park and Mansion

Tarrywile Park and Mansion is a hidden gem that offers visitors various activities from hiking to walking through gardens.

“The Tarrywile Park and Mansion in Danbury is a fab place to spend the day. The 700-acre park has tons of trails you can explore either hiking or on bikes, and it includes multiple types of terrain to keep it interesting. Make sure you set an appointment in advance to visit the Hearthstone Castle on the site. While you can visit other buildings the day of, this one requires advance arrangements, and it’s absolutely worth it.”

— Michelle Price, Honest and Truly

16. Lantern Hill

Lantern Hill in Ledyard, Connecticut, is a popular hiking destination for locals and visitors alike. The trail is approximately three miles long and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The hike isn’t too strenuous, making it perfect for families with children or those who are new to hiking.

The top of Lantern Hill provides panoramic views of the Mystic River Valley and Long Island Sound. Hikers can also spot several landmarks such as Foxwoods Resort Casino from atop Lantern Hill.

Girls on vista rock at Lantern Hill overlooking Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Lantern Hill Overlook. Photo credit: Daily Life Travels

17. Submarine Force Museum

The Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut, is a must-see for any history buff or military enthusiast. This free attraction has an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits where visitors can explore the history of submarines. Visitors can also tour parts of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine.

More things to do in Connecticut

From picturesque small towns and charming coastal cities to rolling hills and scenic hiking trails, Connecticut is a hidden gem in New England. Whether you’re into shopping at Mystic Village or going ziplining at an adventure park, there are plenty of activities and attractions for everyone.

There’s also no shortage of special events that go on throughout the year. For more things to do, check out the events schedule at the Connecticut Tourism Office.

This article originally appeared on Daily Life Travels.

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