When asked to name my favorite day-trips in Connecticut, I knew my task would be an easy--and pleasant--one. Here are a few that came rapidly to mind, with online links to sites that will provide visitor information, including hours of operation, prices, and directions.
A natural for kids going through their dinosaur phase, and for parents who have never outgrown theirs, Dinosaur State Park is fun for the whole family. Walking among authentic dinosaur tracks made millions of years ago in our own backyard is only half the fun. The other half is making plaster casts of these ancient footprints using materials available on-site or nearby. Our 4th grader's show-and-tell souvenir is still intact (in the attic) a decade or more later.
Looking for an old-fashioned New England town to show your visiting in-laws? They don't get much more typical (or charming) than this compact village, just off Exit 69 of I-95. Water views of the Connecticut River, a grassy park with a gazebo, an inn with a restaurant that attracts visitors from all over the state on holidays (our favorite over the years has been Mother's Day), and boutique shopping are among the lures of this visitor magnet.
Nineteenth-century actor William Gillette gained fame and fortune during the Gilded Age through his memorable and melodramatic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. He used a considerable part of that fortune to build the house now known as Gillette's Castle. When we first visited this spot, it was partially closed for renovations. These have now been completed, and the Castle and its grounds overlooking the Connecticut River (a few miles upstream from Essex) are now open to all comers, making a repeat visit a new addition to our family's to-do list. Tours of the grand mansion are available.
Connecticut's version of Coney Island, located smack in the middle of the state, off I-84 between Waterbury and Hartford, is smaller and homier, which has made it a godsend for parents wanting a good spot for an outing. More than once have I boarded a bus as a chaperone for a day of sun, water rides, and lots of noise. The nation's oldest, continuously operating amusement park, Lake Compounce is a cheaper and nearer alternative to Six Flags.
One of the most celebrated towns in Connecticut--and not just because it was the setting for the Julia Roberts' breakthrough film Mystic Pizza. Besides the Aquarium and the historic ships, Mystic also offers less pricey alternatives to visitors, including a charming village with shops, superb seafood eateries, ice-cream parlors, and, yes, a pizzeria with a famous name. My favorite moment in Mystic was not the windy day we spent inspecting the tall ships, but an early evening in which we watched--from the second floor of a harbor restaurant--the drawbridge open and close for returning boats as the sun was setting and we were enjoying a New England fish dinner.
If none of these is quite your cup of tea, no worries. Connecticut is rich in history and full of places of interest to singles, families, and seniors, too. Before you embark on your next day-trip, check out our catalog. We have a wonderful selection of local travel guides to help you plan your getaway. Here are my top picks:
Once you've whet your appetite browsing through our travel guides, go online and check out these web sites for the latest information on events, prices, and special offers:
Bonus link: The Connecticut Supreme Court, State Capitol and the Museum of Connecticut History have planned two days of programming this summer for families interested in a day-trip with their kids. Click here for details!
See you @ the Library (when you get back)!