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CONNECTICUT TRAVEL GUIDE

Enders Falls, Connecticut Sleeping Giant State Park, Connecticut bridge in Simsbury, CT

Welcome to the bigroads.com travel guide to Connecticut! Hopefully this page and its information helps provide some inspiration and tips to help you plan your next trip to Connecticut.

Take note that I build and maintain this website as both a hobby and public service. I take joy in performing travel research and sharing my experiences and adventures. I do not make any profit from this website, and you will see no ads on it. Your constructive feedback about this site and its content is encouraged. Please email me if you have any suggestions or ideas for improvement.

Author/Contributor: Greg Parsons


OVERVIEW



Connecticut is the underrated state of New England. The scenery isn't always dramatic, but there are pockets of beauty to found across the state. If you know where to look you can find dramatic waterfalls, great beaches, excellent museums, and many of the very best rail trails in New England. The state is also obsessed with "cheap eats", which includes some of the best mom-and-pop pizza, hot dog, and hamburger restaurants you'll find anywhere in the country.

5-STAR ATTRACTIONS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut isn't particularly well known for tourism, but the state does offer plenty of 5-star attractions. I actually think the state is underrated by most travelers, especially from a food perspective. For example, Connecticut has some of the best pizza and burgers in the entire country.

I believe each of these 5-star attractions should be on your Connecticut state bucket list since they are all noteworthy from a national perspective:

Northwestern Connecticut
Campbell Falls State Park, Norfolk - beautiful waterfall on the border of CT & MA; very impressive in April/May when it usually flows strong
Kent Falls State Park, Kent - one of the best waterfalls in CT; a great picnicking spot; visible from the western side of US-7
Lime Rock Park, Lakeville - one of the best motorsport road racing venues in New England
Whitewater rafting the Housatonic River - the best whitewater rafting in CT; Clark Outdoors is one guiding company that I can recommend
Winvian - 18 luxury resort cottages, several of which are "themed"; one of the most exclusive getaway properties in New England

Southwestern Connecticut (including Bridgeport and Stamford)
Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum, Bridgeport - one of the best aerial adventure parks in New England
Cove Island, Stamford - the finest public park in Stamford; includes a nice beach; the beach parking cost is very expensive (esp. on weekends)
Elephant's Trunk Flea Market, New Milford - the best weekly flea market I have found in New Englands thus far (open Sundays in season)
Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich - upscale shopping district with several restaurants; the "Rodeo Drive of the East"
Maritime Aquarium, Norwalk - one of two excellent aquariums in Connecticut
Penuonnock River Trail - one of Connecticut's best rail trails; 13.6 miles one-way
PEZ Visitor Center, Orange - museum of all things PEZ candy; it's awesome to see all the retired PEZ styles; many great photo-ops!
Weir Farm National Historical Park, Wilton - peaceful art-focused property with hiking trails; celebrates a famous American painter

Central Connecticut (including Bristol, Hartford, Manchester, and New Haven)
Adventure Park at Storrs, Storrs - one of the best aerial adventure parks in New England
Air Line State Park Trail - one of the best rail trails in New England; 23 miles one-way
American Clock and Watch Museum, Bristol - perhaps the finest museum of its kind
Dinosaur State Park & Museum, Rocky Hill - one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the U.S
Enders Falls, Granby - one of the best waterfalls in Connecticut; several waterfalls on site
Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Essex - take a combined train ride & riverboat ride through pretty countryside and small towns
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail - one of the best rail trails in New England; 48 miles one-way and completely paved
Farmington River Trail - one of the best rail trails in Connecticut; arcs off of the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail in Farmington & Simsbury
Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam - tour an eccentric medieval-style castle; beautiful views of the Connecticut River Valley
Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam - award-winning musical theatre; an "architectural gem"
Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison - perhaps the best beach in Connecticut
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington - Colonial Revival home and art museum; annual poetry festival
Hop River State Park Trail - one of the best rail trails in Connecticut
Lake Compounce & Crocodile Cove, Bristol - the oldest continuously operating amusement park in North America; largest water park in CT
Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford - site where many of Mark Twain's books were penned
Mountain biking the Rockland Preserve, Madison - some of the best mountain biking in CT
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain - great medium-sized art museum
New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks - three hangers full of historic aircraft
New England Carousel Museum, Bristol - one of the best carousel museums in the U.S.
PEZ Visitor Center, Orange - museum of all things PEZ candy; it's awesome to see all the retired PEZ styles; many great photo-ops!
Pizza restaurants in New Haven - there's a pizza war happening here, and we all win (e.g. Sally's Apizza, Frank Pepe, etc.)
Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden - good hiking trails to an abandoned stone building and scenic views
Southington Drive-In, Southington - classic drive-in movie theatre
Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, Old Lyme - one of the best outdoor sculpture parks in New England
XFinity Theatre - one of the best outdoor music venues in the U.S. (my favorite in New England)
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford - the nation's oldest public art museum
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven - tons of fossils/skeletons and Native American artifacts
Yale University, New Haven - beautiful gothic Ivy-league university campus
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven - great medium-sized art museum

Eastern Connecticut (including Mystic, New London, and Norwich)
B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill - Fall-only attraction that sells sweet cider, hard cider, wine, cider donuts, and many local goods
Downtown Mystic - attractive downtown area with plenty of places to shop and eat
Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket - one of the best casinos in New England (for some, it's their favorite)
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Mashantucket - the best Native American museum in New England
Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville - one of the best indoor music venues in New England (it's my favorite); sits in the middle of a large casino
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville - my favorite casino in New England (some would say their favorite is Foxwoods in CT or Encore in MA)
Mystic Aquarium, Mystic - one of two excellent aquariums in Connecticut
Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic - excellent maritime museum; costumed interpreters
Submarine Force Museum, Groton - lots of submarine history, including seeing the world's first nuclear powered vessel
SuperCharged Indoor Karting, Oakdale - impressive indoor go-karting venue
Tree Trails Adventures Mystic, Mystic - excellent aerial adventure park

Are you aware of any other 5-star attractions in Connecticut? If so, please email me at gparsons66@hotmail.com.

TOP 10 ATTRACTIONS IN CONNECTICUT



Are you short on time or struggling to choose something to do or see in Connecticut? Here are my selections for the top 10 attractions or experiences in Connecticut, in no particular order:

Stay at (or near) Mohegan Sun, one of the best resort casinos in the U.S. outside of Las Vegas; if you can, also catch a concert or show while there
Visit Gillette Castle State Park and explore a stone castle that looks like a medieval fortress
Cycle one of Connecticut's excellent rail trails (e.g. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Farmington River Trail, Airline State Park Trail, etc.)
Visit the excellent Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic
See retired PEZ candy dispensers at the PEZ Visitor Center in Orange
Go for a picnic and see a set of great waterfalls at Kent Falls State Park
Head to Lake Compounce & Crocodile Cove, the oldest continuously operating amusement park in the United States
Eat some of the best pizza you've ever had in New Haven
Hit the beach at Hammonasset Beach State Park
Visit the various museums of Yale University in New Haven

If I could pick only one place to visit in Connecticut, I would choose Mystic. I would explore the following: Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic Aquarium, Downtown Mystic, and Olde Mistick Village. You could also make a day trip north to either Foxwoods Resort Casino and/or Mohegan Sun Casino from there.

BEST TOWNS & CITIES TO VISIT IN CONNECTICUT



These towns and cities in Connecticut are generally regarded as the most interesting to travelers:

Essex - historic buildings; boutique shops; harbor views
Mystic - waterfront views; maritime history/museums; boutique shops; visit the Mystic Aquarium and the Mystic Seaport Museum
Simsbury - attractive downtown; flower bridge; access to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail rail trail and Talcott Mountain State Park
Woodbury - the "antique capital of Connecticut"; historic buildings

Click here if you'd like to see a complete list of towns and cities that I find interesting across the entire USA.

WHAT IS CONNECTICUT FAMOUS FOR?



Here are some things that Connecticut is famous or well known for:

casinos
hamburgers - some say hamburgers were invented in CT, but that's heavily contested
insurance companies
lighthouses
nutmeg
pizza
rail trails
rolling hills

Click here if you'd like to learn what other U.S. states are famous for.

NATIONAL PARKS IN CONNECTICUT



There are currently no national parks, national monuments, or national forests in Connecticut. There are a few other federally-managed parks and properties in Connecticut though, including:

National Wildlife Refuges
Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

National Historical Parks / Other National Parks
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Coltsville National Historical Park
New England National Scenic Trail
Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail
Weir Farm National Historical Park

For more information on Connecticut's national parks, visit the Connecticut page of the National Park Service. For an overview of all U.S. national parks, click here.

STATE PARKS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut has an enormous amount of state parks - more than 130! Many would agree that these represent Connecticut's finest state parks:

Flagship / Premier State Parks:
Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam - tour an eccentric medieval-style castle
Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison - one of the best beaches in Connecticut
Kent Falls State Park, Kent - one of the best waterfalls in CT; has great picnicking; visible from the west side of US-7

Other Notable State Parks:
Air Line State Park Trail - excellent unpaved rail trail; there are two sections (southern section = 22 miles; northern section = 21 miles)
Campbell Falls State Park - beautiful waterfall on the border of CT and MA; very impressive in April/May when it is usually flowing strong
Devil's Hopyard State Park, East Haddam - scenic waterfall (one of CT's best) and miles of hiking trails; good camping
Dinosaur State Park & Museum, Rocky Hill - one of the largest dinosaur track sites in the U.S.
Rocky Neck State Park, East Lyme - good beaches, tidal river, salt marsh
Sleeping Giant State Park, Hamden - good hiking trails up to an abandoned stone building and scenic views

To see my list of the top 100 state parks in the country, click here.

BEST WATERFALLS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut has a surprisingly number of natural waterfalls. Some of the best waterfalls in Connecticut include:

Buttermilk Falls, Plymouth
Campbell Falls State Park, Norfolk - beautiful waterfall on the border of CT & MA; very impressive in April/May when it usually flows strong
Chapman Falls, Devil's Hopyard State Park, East Haddam
Dean's Ravine Falls, Canaan
Enders Falls, Enders State Forest, Granby
Kent Falls, Kent Falls State Park, Kent
Wadsworth Big Falls, Middlefield

For a listing of all known waterfalls in Connecticut, visit the World Waterfall Database or the Connecticut page of the New England Waterfalls website.

BEST SCENIC DRIVES IN CONNECTICUT



This section coming soon!

BEST RAIL TRAILS IN CONNECTICUT



Here is a list of some of the best rail trails (or similar cycling paths) in Connecticut:

Air Line State Park Trail
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
Farmington River Trail
Hop River State Park Trail
Pequonnock River Trail

For detailed information on all known rail trails in Connecticut, visit the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website.

BEST AMUSEMENT PARKS / THEME PARKS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut has two notable amusement parks:

Lake Compounce & Crocodile Cove, Bristol
Quassy Amusement and Waterpark, Middlebury

BEST MUSEUMS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut has many excellent museums. Some of the best museums in Connecticut include:

American Clock & Watch Museum, Bristol
Connecticut Science Center, Hartford
Danbury Railway Museum, Danbury
Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington
Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, Ledyard
Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic
New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain
New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks
New England Carousel Museum, Bristol
Stepping Stones Museum for Children, Norwalk
Submarine Force Library & Museum, Groton
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, New Haven
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven

BEST DAY HIKES IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut has over 2,000 miles of hiking trails. While most trails meander up and down through the woods, there are some scenic views scattered across the state. Here are some of the best day hikes in Connecticut:

Bear Mountain Trail, Mount Riga State Park
Kent Falls, Kent Falls State Park - hike a short but steep path that brings you to additional waterfalls you can't see from the picnic area
Mount Frissell, Mount Washington State Forest - the southwest shoulder of this mountain is the highest point in Connecticut
Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve trails
Sleeping Giant State Park trails
Talcot Mountain State Park trails

The highpoint of Connecticut is the southwest shoulder of Mount Frissell (2,380'). A moderately challenging day hike is required to reach the high point and also the summit (which is actually just across the border in Massachusetts).

The Connecticut "Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails" system features over 800 miles of trails. I've probably hiked 50 miles of it, and it's been a pleasant, crowd-free experience every time. While there are some views, this trail system is more about nice walks in the woods.

To find more hikes in Connecticut or to learn more about the hikes I've listed above, I recommend purchasing hiking guidebooks on Amazon (or from your local retailer). Another option is using alltrails.com, but you have to be very careful when using that website as its information is often wrong or incomplete. Published hiking guidebooks will likely always be significantly better than the information you find online.

BEST BACKPACKING TRIPS IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut offers several good backpacking opportunities. Some of premier backpacking routes in Connecticut include:

Appalachian Trail
Mohawk Trail
Natchaug State Forest trails
Nipmuck Trail
Pachaug State Forest trails
Tunxis State Forest trails

The CT DEEP website has great information on backpacking opportunities in the state parks of Connecticut. There is also good information on the backpacking Connecticut's page of the New England Waterfalls website.

CLASSIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN CONNECTICUT



Connecticut offers a few excellent adventures, including these classics:

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail
Backpacking the Nipmuck Trail
Cycling the Air Line State Park Trail
Cycling the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
Cycling the Farmington River Trail
Cycling the Hop River State Park Trail
Cycling the Pequonnock River Trail
Day hiking some of the 800+ mile Connecticut "Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails" system
Day hiking Bear Mountain
Day hiking Mount Frissell
Hot air ballooning in Woodstock
Mountain biking the Case Mountain Recreational Area
Mountain biking the Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort
Mountain biking the Rockland Preserve Singletrack
Paddle-boarding in Mystic
Rock climbing Chatfield Hollow
Rock climbing Ragged Mountain
Sailing in Mystic
Skydiving in Killingly
Tubing the Farmington River
Whitewater kayaking directly below the Great Falls of the Hoosatonic River
Whitewater rafting the Housatonic River

CONNECTICUT TRAVEL TIPS



For offbeat and unique Connecticut attractions, visit one or both of these amazing websites: Atlas Obscura and Roadside America

Want even more Connecticut travel ideas? Visit this article on Boston.com.

UNIQUE / SPECIALTY FOODS TO TRY IN CONNECTICUT



Here are some unique / specialty foods to try while you are in Connecticut:

hot dogs / deep fried dogs
ice cream parlors
new england clam chowder
steamed cheeseburgers
white clam pizza

For a list of unique foods and mom-and-pop type eateries and restaurants in Connecticut (or any other U.S. state), visit the Roadfood.com website.
For a list of unique foods to try in each of the 50 U.S. states, click here.
For a list of the top-rated beers to try in Connecticut (or any other U.S. state), visit the Beer Advocate website.

OTHER KEY CONNECTICUT INFORMATION



Capital = Hartford
Major airports = Hartford/Bradley; some people will fly into NYC or Boston and then drive into Connecticut
Largest cities = Bridgeport (149,538), Stamford (138,036), New Haven (134,871), Hartford (120,310), Waterbury (115,211), Norwalk (92,300)
Primary U.S. interstates = I-84, I-91, I-95
State highpoint = southwest shoulder of Mount Frissell (2,380'); a moderately challenging day hike is required; take note that the nearby summit of Mt. Frissell is actually over the border in Massachusetts
Professional sports teams = Connecticut Sun (WNBA)

Take note that in general this travel guide intentionally excluded restaurants, lodging/hotels, breweries, wineries/vineyards, and certain other types of attractions (like arcades, ax-throwing, bowling alleys, and escape rooms). These types of places tend to come and go, and keeping up with that would be too challenging. I encourage you to use Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and other travel sites that have reader reviews to find the latest and greatest places that I haven't covered here.


Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Connecticut
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Connecticut

Sleeping Giant State Park tower, Connecticut
Sleeping Giant State Park tower, Connecticut

Enders Falls, Connecticut
Enders Falls, Connecticut

views from a trail in Sleeping Giant State Park, Connecticut
views from a trail in Sleeping Giant State Park, Connecticut

Conny the Whale roadside attraction in West Hartford, Connecticut
Conny the Whale roadside attraction in West Hartford, Connecticut

Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Connecticut
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, Connecticut

Old Drake Hill Flower Bridge in Simsbury, Connecticut
Old Drake Hill Flower Bridge in Simsbury, Connecticut

Kent Falls, Connecticut
Kent Falls in Kent, Connecticut

MORE U.S. STATE TRAVEL GUIDES



Did you enjoy this travel guide? If so, here are links to more U.S. state travel guides:

Alabama  |  Alaska  |  Arizona  |  Arkansas  |  California  |  Colorado  |  Connecticut  |  Delaware  |  Florida  |  Georgia  |  Hawaii  |  Idaho  |  Illinois  |  Indiana  |  Iowa  |  Kansas  |  Kentucky  |  Louisiana  |  Maine  |  Maryland  |  Massachusetts  |  Michigan  |  Minnesota  |  Mississippi  |  Missouri  |  Montana  |  Nebraska  |  Nevada  |  New Hampshire  |  New Jersey  |  New Mexico  |  New York  |  North Carolina  |  North Dakota  |  Ohio  |  Oklahoma  |  Oregon  |  Pennsylvania  |  Rhode Island  |  South Carolina  |  South Dakota  |  Tennessee  |  Texas  |  Utah  |  Vermont  |  Virginia  |  Washington  |  Washington DC  |  West Virginia  |  Wisconsin  |  Wyoming

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