Editors' Picks: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Connecticut!

One of the oldest states in the Union (admission: 1788) helped establish the maritime and financial services industries in our country…and is the birthplace of the PEZ dispenser, the helicopter, color TV and America's first phone book (back when those were a thing).

The oldest newspaper in the country, The Hartford Courant, first rolled off the presses in 1764 and is still around. Yup, Connecticut is a cool mix of the old, the new and the enduring - and if you want to get the full flavor of the state, here are 20 things you must check out.

1. Kent Falls State Park, Kent, CT

The melting winter snows make the waterfalls of this park pretty fantastic. It's a lovely place to explore, with easy hiking, a covered bridge and a nice spot in front of the falls that just cries out for a picnic.

2. Wickham Park, Manchester, CT

It sounds like the name of a posh English estate - and, like an estate, its 250 acres of glorious ornamental gardens are done in a variety of styles. There are also woodlands, a museum, an aviary - and at the highest point of the park, a fantastic view of Hartford. A great place to take pictures, ride a bike or just drink in the springtime beauty.

3. Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Mashantucket, CT

A rainy spring day is a perfect time to explore this fantastic complex, owned by and dedicated to the area tribe. There are interactive programs, art, a recreation of a 16th century village, dioramas and much more.

4. Roseland Cottage, Woodstock, CT

Nicknamed "The Pink House," this National Historic Landmark recalls a more genteel time when the well-heeled (including several American presidents) enjoyed its charm and hospitality. There are lovely gardens on the grounds - and a barn with an indoor bowling alley!

5. Audubon Greenwich, Greenwich, CT

It's considered one of the most important bird areas in the country, with over 200 species having been spotted over the years. Hiking trails are spread out over its 600-plus acres and 12 sanctuaries. Naturally, there are some fantastic nature programs offered as well.

6. Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT

This recreation of a historic seaport village provides a taste of the gritty life of seafaring types in the 19th century. There are many prominent ships on display (including an antique whaling ship), plus recreated buildings and a demonstration of skills like barrel making and fish processing as it was done back in the day.

7. Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam, CT

William Gillette was a stage actor, famous for his portrayal of "Sherlock Holmes." This historic stone castle, built in 1919, features many quirky details, right up Holmes' alley: hidden doors, spy mirrors, strange doorknobs and more.

8. PEZ Visitor Center, Orange, CT

You know you had at least one PEZ dispenser as a kid. This fun museum, located at the factory where the tiny treats are made, showcases the history of the candy, going back to 1927. There's a ton of memorabilia, including a motorcycle that is the biggest PEZ dispenser in the world.

9. Lake Compounce Theme Park, Bristol, CT

Amusement parks and summer just naturally go together - and this is thought to be the oldest one still in operation in the country. There are tons of fun rides, and for the history buffs, a wooden roller coaster from 1927 and a carousel from 1911.

10. Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

Splash in the waters of Long Island Sound and enjoy one of the favorite boardwalks in the state. The shoreline is especially lovely for a sunset stroll.

11. Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, CT

The definitive American writer spent several years living and working here, and considered the time the happiest period for he and his family. There are many informative exhibits, including audio versions of his writings. And for easily bored kids, they offer a scavenger hunt with prizes!

12. New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, CT

Explore everything from vintage World War II planes (including a fantastic B-29 bomber), to a variety of helicopters and many more aviation wonders - including some that are pretty rare. Many exhibits allow you to climb inside, too.

13. Castle Craig, Meriden, CT

What a beautiful place for a fall hike. There are a variety of trails, suitable for all levels. Hike to the observation tower for some panoramic views of the Silver City and beyond.

14. White Memorial Conservation Center, Litchfield, CT

Get up close (sort of) to nature at this 4,000-acre preserve. Once you're done exploring the outdoors on their trails, head inside to their cool nature museum. There you can learn more about the animals who live on the preserve - even explore the art of taxidermy. For kids, there's a special room with a home for snakes, a beaver dam and more fun features.

15. Crypt at Center Church on the Green, New Haven, CT

Some of the state's earliest residents (entombed from 1687 to 1812) are at rest here in this crypt. Among them, Benedict Arnold's first wife and a founder of Yale. Get in the Halloween spirit, and enjoy some history, too.

16. Railroad Museum of New England, Thomaston, CT

Take a ride on the historic, picturesque Naugatuck Railroad - or just poke around their great collection of steam locomotives, cabooses, freight cars and more. At the holidays, they do a fun "Polar Express" run for children.

17. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

Founded in 1832, it's the oldest college art museum in America. Explore over 185,000 objects that date from ancient times up to a more modern era. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.

18. Connecticut Chocolate Trail

Who knew that the Nutmeg State is also home to many world-renowned chocolate artisans? If you've got a thing for the cocoa bean (and who doesn't), you'll want to explore some of them.

19. Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven, CT

Dinosaurs! There are so many great fossils, an awesome mural and pretty much anything you'd want to send you back to the "Jurassic Park" era without getting chased by raptors.

20. Mystic Aquarium, Mystic, CT

Who could resist a place that features "Stingray Bay"? That's just one of the many attractions, including a jellyfish gallery, a shark "touch pool" and more. They also offer a sea lion show, Beluga whales that swim right up to the glass wall of the tank, African penguins and so many more fascinating attractions.

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Best Things To Do Near You
Best Things To Do Near You

January Art Exhibit: Paintings by William Bonnie

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts and Cultural Center Middletown, CT
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Exhibition - David Zinni

9:30 AM
Southbury Public Library Southbury, CT
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28th Annual Holiday Train Show

10:00 AM
Connecticut River Museum Essex, CT
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Exhibition - The Nativity Story: Art of the Creche

10:00 AM
Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center New Haven, CT
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Exhibition - Lennart Anderson: A Retrospective

10:00 AM
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts Old Lyme, CT
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Exhibition - Strand

12:00 PM
Ely Center of Contemporary Art New Haven, CT
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The Velvet Queen

5:00 PM
Real Art Ways Hartford, CT
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Best Places To Go Near You
Best Places To Go Near You
1 South Canterbury Road, Canterbury, CT
The Museum, located at the Junction of State Scenic Routes 14 & 169 in Canterbury, Connecticut includes three period rooms, changing exhibits o... Read More
One Crystal Lake Road, Groton, CT
Submarine Force Museum, located on the Thames River in Groton, Connecticut, maintains the world's finest collection of submarine artifacts. It is t... Read More
27 Coogan Boulevard, Mystic, CT
Olde Mistick Village, on Coogan Blvd. in Mystic, just off Exit 90 of I-95, is a quirky but really fun place to shop, especially as the Christmas se... Read More
98 Neptune Avenue, New London, CT
Open the week before Memorial Day through Labor Day, Ocean Beach Park is open and operated daily. Ocean Beach Park offers fun and entertainment for... Read More
67 Main Street, Essex, CT
The Connecticut River Foundation at Steamboat Dock was established in 1974 as a small, all-volunteer organization dedicated to the dream of establi... Read More
119 Washington Street, Middletown, CT
Our Mission The mission of Kidcity Children's Museum is to celebrate a child's natural curiosity by offering a downtown hands-on playspace where ... Read More
2384 Alumni Drive, Storrs Mansfield, CT
Located in the new and expanded UConn Alumni Center in the heart of the University of Connecticut's main campus in Storrs, the Husky Heritage Sport... Read More
2019 Hillside Road, Storrs Mansfield, CT
In 1987 the Office of State Archaeology (OSA) was established as a part of the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History to provide local municip... Read More
49 Hollow Road, Woodbury, CT
The House: The house was built about 1750 and is an architecturally interesting and unusual combination of gambrel and saltbox roof styles. In ... Read More
230 Pine Street, Manchester, CT
The Connecticut Firemen's Historical Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and displaying the history of firefighting in Ame... Read More
500 Hawthorne Avenue, Derby, CT
Mission:The Kellogg Environmental Center and the Osborne Homestead Museum, outreach facilities of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protec... Read More
70 Gracey Road, Canton, CT
RoaringBrookNatureCenter was founded in 1948 by Canton resident Una Storrs Riddle and was originally known as the Canton Children's NatureMuseum. I... Read More
915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT
Mission: The Eli Whitney Museum is an experimental learning workshop for students, teachers, and families. We collect interpret and teach experimen... Read More
58 North Road, East Windsor, CT
The Connecticut Electric Railway Association, Inc. is the owner and operator of The Connecticut Trolley Museum. Founded in October 1940, it is the ... Read More
56 Lexington Street, New Britain, CT
Mission Erected By the People for the Use of the People," the New Britain Museum of American Art is dedicated to serving all people by pursuing e... Read More
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