I pretty much grew up in Connecticut; I lived here from fifth grade through my senior year in high school. I can remember very happy times, but I also recall being eager to leave, to get OUT, to find excitement elsewhere. And I did. College found me on the gulf coast, early marriage in South Florida. I gave birth to my first child in Virginia and my next two babies in Indiana.
Now? I’m back in Connecticut in a crazy twist of events, living in the same town from which I graduated high school.
So what can you do here in Connecticut? How can I entertain my family without having to break the bank on travel costs? Here are just a few ways to keep the whole crew satisfied if you’re hanging in the Nutmeg State…
We have abundant woodland here in Connecticut. Long, meandering strolls through pretty forests can be a great way to spend a day. Pack a lunch and make a day of it. Hiking is so very common in our state that well-marked trails are easy to find. Trees bring shade and cooler air, making the woods a lovely place to spend a hot day.
Ours is such a small state (the third smallest in the nation), that even if you live on the very west coast, the ocean is still only an hour or so away. Obviously, that’s not a drive you want to make everyday, but it’s a very reasonable day trip! And, if you feel like splashing around in between visits to the sea, our lakes, streams, and waterfalls are abundant.
The Beardsley Zoo is fantastic. It is the perfect size for a young family and not overwhelming for children. Like many smaller zoos, it is less crowded and the employees are more accessible than they may be at larger ones. We love seeing the tigers and giggling at the peacocks that regularly follow us around. For a change of pace, though, we can always make the drive to the very famous Bronx Zoo; it’s well under two hours away, no matter where in the state you live.
We are fortunate to have two well-known, excellent aquariums in our state- the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and Mystic Aquarium. Both boast a wide array of sea creatures to examine and explore in addition to fun shows and displays. Aquariums are delightful because, unlike zoos, they’re good bets even on rainy days. Also, I’ve found that my babies and toddlers often love the dim, soothing atmosphere that aquariums provide.
Not only does Mystic have a fabulous aquarium, it also boasts a beautiful lighthouse, ships rich in history, and really fun shops. It’s very easy to spend an entire day meandering through Mystic, checking out all the neat places this seaside gem has to offer.
The Appalachian Trail runs through Connecticut and, you can bet on it, we have some mountains. They are beautiful to look at and provide more challenging trails for the accomplished hiker, trail runner, or trail biker. Again, these higher elevations provide much appreciated cooler temps as the mercury rises, too!
Similar to geocaching, letter boxing is a bit like a “hiking scavenger hunt.” The basic premise is that you follow directions you can print from online and try to find a “letter box” hidden somewhere, usually off the in the woods somewhere. In the box, you’ll find a stamp and a notebook. You use the stamp to stamp your OWN notebook and you leave your own mark in the box’s notebook. It is an absolute delight to do with children and a simple search will reveal letter boxes of all difficulty levels. This is cheap, healthy fun!
Picnics on Greens
New England towns were established around central greens, unlike our neighbors to the west with (more logical) grid systems. The result? Difficult driving, but pretty downtowns. Many (if not most) towns still have these green spaces right in their hearts. Ours is lined with small shops, the library, and churches… all old, beautiful buildings with rich history. There is a bandstand there, benches, trees, flowers, and monuments. It is a purely lovely place to go to have a picnic lunch. The church bells charm all of us and, oftentimes, some young musician can be found softly strumming a guitar and singing. Budding artists and photographers gather there to capture the beauty. It’s a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day and, really, as local as it gets!
Finally, if you just can’t find a single thing to entertain you in Connecticut, you can rest easy knowing that both New York City and Boston are easy day trips. Museums, art, shopping, shows, and more abound in these booming metropolises, and, if you can’t find something to entertain you, then I can’t help you.
Staycation opportunities abound in our small state! Planning a fabulous getaway doesn’t need to involve tank after tank of pricey (well over $4- ouch!) gas.