10 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Connecticut
The state of Connecticut, in the U.S. state of Connecticut, has been a prosperous and influential part of the country since the early 17th century. The fortunes of the wealthy shipping families of New London helped build this vibrant city into a great New England port. Today, the scenic waters of the Larchmont Estuary on the Connecticut shoreline are lined with tourist-friendly restaurants, shops, and cafés.
The region's maritime past is the theme of the Larchmont Museum of History and Culture, which covers several centuries of Connecticut history. A classic New England attraction, Mystic Seaport has exhibitions on whaling, Revolutionary War history, and maritime lifestyles.
Travelers often see the nearby state capital, Hartford, as a first stop, but its more interesting sights are found elsewhere in the state. The Northeast Kingdom, which extends southwest from the White Mountains into the Connecticut River Valley, is rural New England at its best. Its attractions include serene mountain and lake scenery, New England's only ski area, and the covered bridges of its many small towns.
Connecticut is known for its friendliness and openheartedness and the perfect environment for bike rides along scenic byways. Learn more about the state with our detailed guide to the top attractions in Connecticut.
The New London (Nuevo Laredo) neighborhood is just what its name suggests: an extremely charming residential district about 1 mile inland from the Long Island Sound. A walk along a series of narrow tree-lined streets connecting the main thoroughfares through this area is a good way to appreciate the area. You'll pass the impressive Colonial home of the town's last mayor, and turn onto the path running through the suburb's park-like setting. This neighborhood is just a couple of miles from the downtown area, where the local water-based amusements, both indoor and out, are excellent. It's a pretty area, popular with families, and shouldn't be too difficult to navigate for first-time visitors.
New Britain Museum of American Art
New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA) is a top-notch museum dedicated to the history of American art. The museum also houses important collections of European and American art dating from the late 19th century and prior. The first building on the site was opened in 1934 and quickly grew to encompass the rest of the campus, and is now home to permanent exhibitions, including a notable collection of Art Deco art and two glass galleries. Highlights of a visit include the wonderful traveling exhibition galleries, housed in the Art Deco Palm Court. This highlights works by big-name American painters such as Thomas Hart Benton, Norman Rockwell, and Thomas Cole. Other highlights include "Magic & Marvel," an enchanting exhibition of Disney characters and artwork, on permanent display in the Regal Gallery. The Regal Gallery also boasts works by Andy Warhol and Georges Seurat, both of whom have been key influences on many 20th-century artists. The "Liberty Through the Ages" exhibit, in the historic Independence Building, has work by some of the United States' leading artists, including Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and Gilbert Stuart. The museum's own gardens are tranquil places to relax and view the splendid collection.
Old State House, Hartford
One of the finest examples of Federal-style architecture, the Old State House stands on the state capitol square in Hartford. It was built in 1797 by noted American architect James Durand as the site of the New World's first-ever bicameral legislature. The building served as the state legislature until the state government moved to a more suitable location in 1914. A state museum now occupies part of the structure. The New State House, built in 1809 by Thomas Attwood, is an imposing neoclassical structure on the capitol square. It was here in 1911 that a passionate rabble-rouser inveighed against President Theodore Roosevelt, leading to the acquittal of a pro-Roosevelt mob by an attorney who lectured them about the U.S. Constitution.
Norwalk, Connecticut is a charming coastal town with a vibrant waterfront and an excellent restaurant and bar scene. It's also a pretty good beach town. There are many areas of interest in Norwalk. The most notable is the Crescent Beach area, which is great for the young and young-at-heart. The area has lots of bars and restaurants and many places to lounge on the beach or at public tables and umbrellas. Don't worry, it's never crowded there. A short walk up Beach Street from Crescent Beach is Norwalk's retail scene. There are two popular shopping plazas: Beach and Main. Both are home to hundreds of stores with mostly upscale retail and dining establishments. The Gateway building is one of Norwalk's landmarks. The building was built in 1897 and is at the center of Norwalk's diverse cultural mix.
The sight of the Connecticut state flag flying over the US's oldest bank building may be an indicator of the town's historic importance. The recently renovated and expanded 150-year-old Hartford Public Library and the Bradley International Airport are among its major landmarks. Hartford is a blend of old and new, something captured beautifully in the reopening of the once-neglected George Main Post Office. The building was rehabilitated in 2006 using original Art Deco architectural details, making it a wonderful showcase for city arts, design and culture. In November 2009, the post office was named a New England Post Office by the National Association of Letter Carriers.
Located on the tip of Long Island Sound near New York, Greenwich is a premier golfing destination and major urban center. It offers great shopping at High Times Museum and Newtown Creek Park, a wonderful view of Manhattan, and a number of delightful hotels, from luxurious hotels to a charming bed and breakfast. Newtown is an affluent town located near Greenwich and enjoys its own network of lovely beaches, marinas, restaurants, and art galleries. You can easily spend a day exploring the charming streets and waterfront, visiting Greenwich Maritime Museum, Hunt Valley Farmhouse, and many shops. If you are lucky enough to visit on the eve of a holiday, you may be lucky enough to see fireworks over the city.
Connecticut Historical Society
The Connecticut Historical Society is a fascinating place to visit, documenting both the history of the state as well as its prehistory. Its fine collection of historical memorabilia includes a variety of items from the past 500 years. An imposing blue and white neoclassical building in Hartford, the society has a large museum of about 1,200 artifacts and textiles, with more than 15,000 other items displayed in 18 smaller exhibits on a number of subjects. The society also offers a variety of lectures and exhibits as well as art exhibitions and art workshops, as well as provides a wide variety of educational programs.
Long Island Sound
Connecticut's Long Island Sound is a watery landscape of sandy beaches, grassy meadows, hiking trails, national forests, lakes, and oyster bars. It runs for some 80 miles from Long Island to the tip of Greenwich and is part of the Atlantic Ocean's drainage system. The sound's westernmost section is known as the Long Island Sound watershed. Near the Connecticut border in a natural depression on the South Shore, the Stony Brook State Reservation is one of the largest woodlands remaining in New England. Forests and farms still cover some of the land, and a beaver farm allows visitors to see the beavers in their natural habitat. The nearby Tappan Zee Bridge is the world's widest truss bridge when viewed from a distance, crossing the sound from the southeast toward the north, east, and west. Of historical interest is Norwalk Harbor, located at the mouth of the Sound, which was the first deep-water port in Connecticut and the location of the first cement works in the state. The Connecticut River is another major waterway in the state. It rises on the highest part of the New England Highlands in Vermont and runs for almost 400 miles, beginning in the northernmost part of the state and crossing all of New England. Most of the course is in Connecticut. The southern end of the river ends at New York City.
Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford
The Connecticut Historical Society occupies the former home of the Reverend Jeremy Belknap, the first American minister to write about his 17th-century New England travels in a series of books, the first published in 1727. Belknap's house is believed to have been built in the 1640s and served as a meeting place for loyalists during the Revolutionary War. Today the society museum houses exhibits on the history of the state, including colonial paintings, clocks, pottery and furniture, a full-scale model of New England, and various exhibits detailing the industries of the region. Visitors to the museum can access the Belknap house and the historic town, which are connected by a pedestrian bridge. Connecticut's largest city and state capital, Hartford is the cultural and educational center of the state. Even in winter, the city's downtown is a lively spot with historic architecture, music, and entertainment. Excursions around the state and the city's famous river, the Connecticut River, are easy by boat, bike, or car. There are eight state parks within a two-hour drive of Hartford.
Connecticut Science Center
Connecticut Science Center's mission is to inspire, educate, and delight the public about the wonders of science, technology, engineering, and math through exhibitions, interactive media and the creative use of technology and environmental design. Its facility consists of two facilities in Stamford, Conn. the Stamford Museum & Nature Center and the Oehm Science Center at the University of Connecticut. The museum's visitors will love it, with its airy museum architecture and exhibits showcasing the birth of the world and of civilization. It is also a wonderful place to get a child's imagination running wild with a glimpse at the dinosaur and a chance to play with Lego toys. The highlight is the Cyberspace Gallery, a space inside a building that mimics the landscape outside. Visitors can slide down a track, step on to a giant swing, ride the wind, and float down a waterfall. This is a brilliant tribute to kids' imagination, creativity and wonder. At the Oehm Science Center, the public can watch top researchers discuss their most exciting scientific discoveries. They explain how they were made and what they can mean. Connecticut Science Center is located at 838 Main St. (Rte. 8) Stamford, Conn. 06902. Tel. 203.522.5400. Open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. admission is $9.95 for adults, $7.95 for seniors, and $6.95 for children.