Making the Perfect Connecticut Bucket List (2023)
Connecticut is one of the most popular states in New England. Fondly known as The Nutmeg State, Connecticut might be the third smallest state in the United States, but what it lacks in size, it makes up in the stunning places to see and incredible things to do. The southerly location and closeness to New York City have also made Connecticut a popular choice for a weekend trip or day trip to New England. Like the rest of the region, Connecticut is full of history, culture, charm, and many quirky highlights that you must add to your Connecticut bucket list.
So if you are planning a trip to this magnificent state, here are some things to definitely include to come up with the perfect Connecticut bucket list.
Making the Perfect Connecticut Bucket List
1. Spend a Beautiful Day In The Prettiest City of Connecticut – Mystic
There are many beautiful small cities in Connecticut, but none as charming as Mystic. The town of Mystic was established in 1684. The town’s maritime history is famous and evident at every turn you take in this beautiful former shipbuilding seaport. Throughout the year, there are many annual events that celebrate boats, schooners, pirates, and more as a way to keep the history of the town alive. There are dozens of ways to get out on the water here, making it a perfect holiday for adventure lovers.
One of the top-most attractions you must check out in Mystic is the Seaport Museum, which takes up at least a few hours of your day. This museum is packed with many incredible things to see, including a recreated 19th-century fishing village, an old wooden whaling ship, and a separate children’s museum. You can even board a cruise from here.
Visitors to Mystic should also check out the Mystic Aquarium, which is home to beluga whales, seals, and a wide variety of other creatures, including penguins. Across the street from the aquarium lies the beautiful Olde Mistick Village, which is an open-air mall that is set up in a recreated 18th-century village style.
Another unique thing to do in Mystic is to climb aboard the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine housed at the Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum. This is a hugely popular place for families with children as admission is free. Children take an immediate liking to the working periscopes.
Once you are done exploring the town, make sure to stop to have a slice at the Mystic Pizza, made famous by Julia Roberts.
2. Visit the Beautiful Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison
Located in Madison, the Hammonasset Beach State Park is not your average day in the park kind of weekend getaway. Having over a two-mile-long shoreline, Hammonasset is the biggest coastline in Connecticut, and the beach here attracts over one million visitors every year.
There are many recreational activities to take part in here at this beautiful beach, including sunbathing, swimming, or just enjoying a walk on the boardwalk. There is a hiking trail that takes you around the beach area, and you can even enjoy fishing here.
There are many concessions available along with clean restroom facilities to use. Make sure to take out some time to check out the park’s incredible Meigs Point Nature Center.
This park is also a great place to camp overnight as it is home to a huge camping ground that opens from Memorial Day weekend till mid-October. There’s a volleyball court, playground, an amphitheater, and many other fun activities available at the campground. The Hammonasset Beach State Park is a popular spot for campers, and there are over 500 electric and primitive camping sites. So if you are into camping, the Hammonasset Beach State Park is the perfect place to spend a weekend away from the noise and stress of the city.
3. Check Out The Sparkling Candlewood Lake in Danbury
One of the most beautiful lakes in Connecticut is Candlewood Lake, the biggest lake in the state. This is an artificial lake that sprawls over 16 miles in length and 8.4 square miles in size. The Candlewood Lake is located in both Litchfield and Fairfield counties.
Having 86 miles of useable shoreline, the lake is home to several boat launches, and ten marinas. This is a popular spot for visitors and also a popular camping spot. One of the best things to do here, apart from sailing, swimming, and fishing, is scuba diving. Despite the waters being murky, there are many divers here, trying their luck to find the lost city of Jerusalem, which was flooded to create this lake.
While the lake is technically a reservoir, it was made by Connecticut Light and Power in the late 1920s. The company also constructed the hydroelectric Rocky River Dam in an attempt to boost the amount of electricity produced by pumping water from the Housatonic River into the Candlewood Lake. This should definitely be a part of all Connecticut Bucket Lists.
4. Yale University Museums in New Haven
Yale University is the gem of Connecticut, located in New Haven. While there are many other places to check out in the city, it is this Ivy League gem that shines the brightest in the city.
Now you don’t have to be a student of this famous university to be able to step inside. You can check out the many Yale University museums that are open for visitors. There’s the Yale University Art Gallery that is nestled away off the main green. It is home to over 250,000 objects, and you will find many masterpieces here that have been crafted by greats like Degas, Monet, and Manet.
You might not believe it, but you can actually catch sight of dinosaurs also at the Yale University complex. Head to the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which is one of the top-rated places to see in Connecticut. Here you will get to see everything from meteorites to fossils to Babylonian carved stone divination objects. There are over 14 million specimens and objects on display at this museum.
Even the Yale campus is open for viewing and is a major tourist attraction in Connecticut. These fascinating buildings, designed by many famous architects, including Eero Saarinen, and Frank O. Gehry, are home to many historical displays, and there is a video tour of the campus as well. You can even participate in free student-led campus tours that take place each morning.
5. Board A Ferry To See The Magnificent Gillette Castle
If you want to truly experience the sights and sounds of Connecticut, one of the top-rated things to do is to take the ferry and visit the famous Gillette Castle. The famed Chester-Hadlyme Ferry takes visitors and their cars from the charming small town of Chester to cross the mesmerizing Connecticut River to reach Hadlyme, which is home to the unique attraction known as Gillette Castle.
This is a super popular route, especially during the warm summer months, but it is during the fall season that you get to see this route at its best. During fall, you get to take in the spectacular red, orange, and yellow hues that reflect in the sparkling waters of the Connecticut River as the trees that surround the hilly shores known as the Seven Sisters are colored in a rainbow of colors.
Once you reach Hadlyme, visit the castle, which is located in East Haddam. The Gillette Castle was constructed in the early 20th century by William Gillette, a stage actor. Sprawled over 184 acres, the estate offers some stunning views of the river flowing below. This is a medieval Gothic castle that is home to many secret passageways, numerous whimsical treasures designed by Gillette himself, and various intricate locking mechanisms.
6. Visit the Kent Falls State Park in Kent
One of the most beautiful places to see in Connecticut is the Kent Falls State Park, located in Kent. This is a stress-relieving adventure for every visitor as you see the magnificent covered bridge, feel the spray of water from the majestic 250 foot Kent Falls, or take a hike through the trails inside the deep, dark forest.
Located in the mystical Litchfield Hills, this state park is especially spectacular in the fall season when the trees are colored in a riot of red, yellow, and orange. If you take a quarter mile hike along the Kent Falls Trails, you will be rewarded with the best view in the park, so make sure you don’t miss this. Picnic tables, bathrooms, and grills are all available within the park to make your trip extra memorable.
With so many beautiful places to see, make sure you plan a longer trip to Connecticut so that you have plenty of time to visit all these attractions.
7. Check Out the Magnificent Enders Falls in Enders State Forest
Located in Granby, the Enders Fall is a beautiful waterfall located in the heart of the Enders State Forest, sitting just south of the Massachusetts border. The best way to get the most stunning view of Enders Falls is from its summit. Enders Falls is one of the most captivating waterfalls in Connecticut, made up of five separate waterfalls. You will be left thinking that the beauty is simply otherworldly.
Enders Falls is also known for being one of Connecticut’s best waterfall hikes. The hiking trails here take you right from the first set of falls, which is a six-foot-tall cascade of crashing water, past the next three gentle falls, and end at the most incredible waterfalls in the state.
There is also the fifth and final Enders Falls step, where you will find yourself reaching for your camera to capture the stunning beauty of this place. These last two steps are made up of two drops that crash 15 feet to the sparkling pool below. Each of these steps has swimming holes that are very popular with visitors during the summer months. If you find the swimming holes to be crowded, try heading to the base of the fifth fall, which is usually a little less crowded.
8. Relax and Rejuvenate at Compo Beach
Compo Beach is part of a 29-acre park that borders the Saugatuck River and faces Long Island Sound. Lifeguards are on duty here from Memorial Day to Labor Day from 10 am to 6 pm, during which time there is a parking fee that you have to pay. This also serves as the entrance fee. Lockers and bathrooms are available to use, and there is a well-stocked concession stand at the beach.
The beach is home to both a pavilion and a boardwalk, along with many recreational facilities, which include two lighted basketball courts, two beach volleyball courts, and a softball field.
Families with young children will definitely like this beach as older kids can also spend time at the skate park and use the open skate areas.
While there are no beachfront hotels on the Compo Beach, the Delamar Southport is just a short drive away, and it is located close to the Southport Train Station.
9. Enjoy Camping at the Lake Waramaug State Park in New Preston
This is one of a kind camping spot in Connecticut, and you will not want to leave from this beautiful campground. The biggest attraction at the Lake Waramaug State Park in New Preston is the massive sparkling Lake Waramaug, after which the park is named. You can see this spectacular lake from almost every angle as a huge 96 acres of campground welcome you to this stunning state park.
This park is also home to a soft and sandy beach that stretches along the shore and is located near the main parking area. This is an excellent beach for families with small children as you can play around in the sparkling water or opt to kayak, swim, paddleboard, or canoe. There are endless options to have fun on the water.
The Lake Waramaug State Park Campground is one of the best places to go camping in Connecticut, especially for families. There are 76 open and wooded campsites to choose from, all of which offer breathtaking lake views.
On the campsite, you will find all the amenities like showers, bathrooms, and a dumping station. Shelters and picnic areas are built separately, and you can also rent a canoe. It is also possible to rent a cabin if you don’t want to stay inside a tent.
10. Climb Aboard the Essex Steam Train
If you want to enjoy the beauty of Connecticut, it is best to climb aboard the Essex Steam Train and make your way through the stunning Connecticut River Valley as you soak up all the history in the vintage coaches of this antique steam train. The Valley Railroad Company operates the Essex Steam Train, and tours leave from the Essex Station starting in early May to late October. You can also combine a river cruise package on the Connecticut River on the equally remarkable Becky Thatcher riverboat to see some breathtaking sights along the way.
There are many more enjoyable things to do in Connecticut that should all be a part of your bucket list. Rest assured that there will never be a dull moment in this state.