Explore the Best Summer Family Outings in Connecticut

CT has something for everyone – history, literature and science, museums and beaches, and beautiful parks throughout the state. Here are a few of our favorite outings:

Dinosaur State Park

If you would like a fun prehistorical learning activity, this is a great place to play and learn. There are actual dinosaur tracks with a dome built around them for preservation, and the museum displays set up all around the tracks really bring it to life. There are “life size” model dinos, casts of the fossils including a ginormous t-rex footprint, and some storm and dinosaur noises playing around you as you’re walking around the track that circles the prints. It is very cool, and there are also a few little live animals to admire.

We also did one of the short outdoor trails and enjoyed seeing some brightly colored fungus and searching (unsuccessfully) for salamanders. Of course, being a swampy area, there were some bugs to contend with.

Have Fun in the City of Hartford, CT

The capital city of Hartford has a few cool sites, including the gold-domed state capital building, and the houses of Samuel Clemmons (better known as Mark Twain) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.) Interestingly, they were neighbors. There is a beautiful Rose Garden in Elizabeth Park, with many blooming arches, a house of wisteria, and lots of couples, pregnant ladies, and bridal parties doing photo shoots. There also happened to be a Great Blue Heron hanging out in a tree the day we visited, unbothered by the crowds.

Visit the City of New Haven, CT

The Peabody Museum of Natural History is an especially cool part of Yale University to visit with your family, but it is unfortunately closed for renovations until probably 2024. Apart from the University, New Haven boasts quite a few very beautiful old buildings, the CT Children’s Museum, and East Rock Park for a moderate hike (there are steps to the top) and wonderful views.

Find an Affordable Public Beach in CT

CT is lovely in the summer, but it can be tough to find a public beach. They also tend to be expensive for out-of-staters, particularly those closer to NYC (and thus a quicker drive for most of us). We compromised and found a beautiful beach for $25-$30 in Norwalk, CT – Bayley Beach.

There were lots of beautiful shells and even a little sea-glass, but if your kids don’t like walking on the hard shells, you may want to bring water shoes. There is a rocky area off to one side with snails and other living creatures to admire, and of course it is on the Long Island Sound, so not a lot of surf. I really enjoyed swimming out to the floating docs and jumping off. There were restrooms, concessions, wooden beach chairs, lifeguards, a lighthouse in the distance and plenty of space, all we needed for a very pleasant beach day.

There is also a nice public beach farther East in Mystic (Mystic Beach), but we spent so much time at Mystic Seaport that we didn’t have time to visit it on this trip.

The Best Family Activity in CT – Mystic Seaport Museum

This is one awesome place, and probably the museum where we have spent the most consecutive time… ever. There was such a wide variety of interesting things to do that really held all of our attention.

There are several impressive galleries, with an exhibit on whaling including an enormous cloth art panorama of whaling around the world from the 18th century. There were displays on seaport folk art, artifacts from ships, and other facets of ocean living. There were also a number of children’s areas with books, toys, play structures, and games related to sailing and the sea. There was an outside play boat area and a toy-boat building activity that the kids loved. We also got to tour a historic whaling vessel and a historic seaport town. There were other displays that we didn’t even get to after four hours, so give yourself plenty of time and maybe an extra day to visit!