I have many fond memories of my childhood on the southeastern Connecticut shoreline, but as a kid, it sometimes felt like it was hard to find things to do. Boy, was I wrong! Now that I have my own kids and have explored more of the state, I’ve discovered that there are so many fun things to do in Connecticut with kids!
Best of all? Connecticut is a small state and no matter where you’re staying, nowhere is more than a relatively short drive away so you can pack in a lot of activities in a day.
Whether you’re on vacation or if you are new to the Nutmeg State, New England has a rich history that leaves the region with a lot of things to do and learn. Museums, great restaurants, historic sites, natural beauty and so much more can be found here.
If you’re wondering what to do in Connecticut with kids, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at all of the fun things that are packed into this tiny state.
New London County
Stonington Borough – This quaint little fishing village is where I spent most of my childhood years. It has changed a lot since then, but just going for a stroll through town is a fun way to spend the day. Take in the adorable village and all of the Colonial architecture, antique shops, and delicious restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, this is where the restaurant and other scenes for the movie Mystic Pizza were filmed.
Stop at the playground by the fishing docks on the northern end of The Boro for the kids to blow off some steam.
Lighthouse Museum, Stonington Borough – Located at the southern point in Stonington Borough, almost directly across from duBois Beach, you can tour this 1840 lighthouse and climb the circular steps to the top. Inside you will also find historical artifacts and interesting information about the lighthouse.
duBois Beach, Stonington Borough – If weather permits and you will be in town for a while, kick back in the sand, swim out to the raft, go crabbing on the rocks, or just watch the boats go by. While at Stonington Point, if you look out on the water you can easily see Fisher’s Island, NY and Watch Hill, RI on a clear day.
Mystic Seaport, Mystic – There is quite a bit to do in Mystic. Like The Borough, it is a nice place to take a walk downtown where you will likely catch the drawbridge going up, but The Seaport is a must.
Mystic Aquarium, Mystic – The beluga whales, sea lions, and penguins are a lot of fun to watch in their outdoor habitats. You can also pet rays and see all of the colorful fish and other sea critters inside.
Olde Mistick Village, Mystic – Located next to the aquarium, Olde Mistick Village is a fun place to walk, shop, and eat. Grab a pizza at Mango’s, a frozen chocolate banana at Munson’s, or shop for fun and unique souvenirs.
B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill, Old Mystic – In the fall, there is no place like Clyde’s. Get fresh cider from the only remaining steam-powered cider mill in the US. Don’t forget to also grab some cider donuts and pumpkin bread!
USS Nautilus, Groton – Bring your kids on a real-life submarine! Located near the US Naval Base in Groton, the Nautilus has a small museum about submarines and then you can go take a tour of the first nuclear-powered submarine.
Harkness Park, Waterford – Harkness is a beautiful place to enjoy the outdoors and make your own fun. Pack a picnic, bring some kites or a badminton set and have some good old-fashioned outdoor fun in beautiful surroundings.
Waterford Speedbowl, Waterford – Do you have older kids that are into car racing? Then the Waterford Speedbowl will be right up their alley!
Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme – Go swimming, hiking, and fishing at Rocky Neck.
Book Barn, Niantic – This may seem like an odd suggestion, but I’m a book lover and love to know where all of the amazing used book stores are. Book Barn in Niantic is an experience more than a store. Plus, they have goats! That right there is reason enough to stop in.
Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard – This may not sound child-friendly and is somewhere that you may prefer to go without the kids but if you do find yourself there with rugrats in tow, there are great places to eat and you could bring them to visit the Pequot Museum. Please note that children are NOT allowed on the gaming floor under any circumstances so keep that in mind if planning a trip with the kids.
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville – See the Foxwoods description. They do have Kids Quest where there is an area for tiny tots and your older kids can play non-violent arcade games and other fun activities.
Green Falls, Voluntown – In the Patchaug State Forest is a beautiful place for swimming, hiking, camping, picnicking, and fishing
The Dinosaur Place, Montville – For the young dinosaur lover in your family, they will have a blast at Dinosaur Place walking the dinosaur trails, exploring the maze, playing at the dino-themed playground, and more.
Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum, Willimantic – Pay the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum a visit to see their collection of locomotives and vintage railroad buildings. Go on a guided tour of the museum and get the chance to operate a replica 1850’s-style pump car.
Connecticut River Valley
Gillette Castle, East Haddam – The quirky home of William Gillette is a fun place to visit. The grounds are beautiful with lots of hiking trails, photo opps, and views of the Connecticut River.
Essex Steam Train, Essex – What kid doesn’t love to ride trains? Go for a ride on a real old-fashioned steam train just like Thomas the Tank Engine.
KidCity Children’s Museum, Middletown – A really fun and creative place for kids to play, explore, and pretend. With many handpainted, creative, and artsy exhibits it’s a place that your kids will want to visit again and again.
No trip to the Uconn Farm is complete without also stopping in at the Dairy Bar for a delicious ice cream cone. Rumor has it that they have some of the best ice creams in the state, and you probably know how we New Englanders love our ice cream.
Nathan Hale Homestead, Coventry – Is your child a history buff? If so, they will get to find out what it was like to live like an 18th Century Revolutionary War soldier and spy.
New Haven County
Greater New Haven
New Haven Pizza – When in New Haven you MUST get a pizza; or as they say in New Haven, apizza (pronounced as ‘ah-beetz’). Really, it’s good enough for a special trip. The Big Three are Frank Pepe, Modern Apizza, and Sally’s Apizza. They are consistently on the best pizzas in the country for good reason, with Pepe’s sitting at number one on many lists. Because of this, be prepared to wait a little while for a table, but it will be worth the wait. Not be overlooked is Zuppardi’s Apizza in West Haven.
Peabody Museum, New Haven – Take your kids to see dinosaurs, mummies, and other fun stuff at the Peabody. It’s a small museum, but it packs in a lot of fun!
Note: some exhibits of are now closed with the entire museum closing on July 1, 2020, for a major renovation. The museum won’t reopen until 2023.
Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison – Have a picnic, go swimming, fishing, boating, or take a hike. Hammonasset is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park.
Shoreline Trolley Museum, East Haven – Visit the museum and ride a real trolley on the last remaining track segment of the Branford Electric Railway. This attraction is registered with the National Register of Historic Places
Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury – Quassy is small and older, but a fun day trip to keep the kids entertained for a few hours. Admission is relatively cheap, too. You can buy a day pass for $24. 50 (45″ or taller) and $20.50 (under 45″) or you can buy individual ride tickets for $3.50 each if you aren’t much of a ride person.
Pez Visitor Center, Orange – Tucked away in Orange, CT you will find the Pez factory. Yes, that Pez. Here you will find over 4000 square feet of Pez memorabilia and history.
Mark Twain House, Hartford – From the website: The Mark Twain House & Museum, a National Historic Landmark in Hartford, Connecticut, was the home of America’s greatest author, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) and his family from 1874 to 1891. It is also where Twain lived when he wrote his most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Connecticut Science Center, Hartford – If your kids like science then this is the place for them. The fairly new science museum is right in the heart of downtown Hartford.
Lake Compounce, Bristol – Opening in 1846 it is the oldest, continuously-operating amusement park in North America. Lake Compounce is home to Boulder Dash, which has been voted the world’s #1 wooden roller coaster, as well as Crocodile Cove; Connecticut’s largest water park.
Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill – There aren’t really any dinosaurs here or even bones for that matter. What they do have is fossil dinosaur tracks, beautiful walking trails, and a nice place for a picnic.
The New England Carousel Museum, Bristol – Have a look at historic carousel animals that have been donated from around the country. Be sure to also visit the Museum of Fire History in the same location.
New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks – With Pratt & Whitney and Sikorsky in the state, Connecticut is rich with aviation history. NEAM has exhibits dedicated to these two pioneers of aircraft as well as WWII memorials and exhibits on hot air balloons, women in aviation, and more.
The Children’s Museum, West Hartford – Conny the whale, lizards, and dinosaurs, oh my! Visit the planetarium, watch the butterflies, visit the animals in the wildlife sanctuary, and lots more.
Action Wildlife, Goshen – As if the drive-through safari wasn’t cool enough, add a petting zoo, hayride, and museum and this one-of-a-kind animal park will keep your family entertained all day.
Railroad Museum of New England, Thomaston – Take a scenic ride on the historic Naugatuck Railroad. There are also seasonal rides such as a Santa Express, Easter Bunny Express, and more available for the whole family as well as trips for a unique date night.
The Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk – If you find yourself in the southwestern part of the state then it is definitely worth a visit with the kids.
Stepping Stones Museum, Norwalk – A great museum for kids to explore and have fun.
Beardsley Zoo, Bridgeport – A small zoo with tigers, a petting zoo, wandering peacocks, and a carousel. Your kids will have a blast.
Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield – Paint, take a pottery class, make jewelry, learn to do glass art, and more. Classes for adults and children, open studio, or a summer youth program are available for the artist in your family.
Stamford Museum and Nature Center, Stamford – Take a stroll on the Overbrook Nature Center trails and visit the 10 acre Heckscher Farm where there are dozens of farm animals, gardens, and a maple sugar house to explore. If that isn’t enough, check out the observatory & planetarium, the otter pond, and the Bendel Mansion.
Things to do with kids near CT
Connecticut is a small state and almost everything is nearby, but maybe you feel like getting out of town instead. No problem!
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