If you're in Connecticut for the summer, or even just for part of it, consider yourself lucky. Many throughout New England think of our little state as something of its very own Vacationland, USA. From beaches (upon beaches, upon beaches) to some of the most beautiful, and doable hikes this side of the White Mountains, Connecticut is a summer-lover's paradise.
We've put together a list of our top 10 favorite things to do around this stunning, however pintsize state of ours before the weather gets chilly and we all start feeling a little less outdoorsy...
- Hammonasset Beach State Park
Located in the seaside town of Madison, this state beach is truly one of a kind. With over two miles of sandy shore along the Long Island Sound, "Hammo," as it is affectionately known to those who frequent it, is likely the most popular attraction in the state. There are also campsites abound—but be sure to book them well in advance.
If you decide to go in August, be prepared to wait out a long line along the park’s entrance. But trust us—once you see the marsh lands, tide pools, and sweet curling waves crashing along the shore—it’ll have been worth the wait.
- Chatfield Hollow State Park
Another state park located closer to the Shoreline in Killingworth, this one's quite different from its Hammonasset counterpart. The park offers trails upon trails for walking, hiking, biking, and running, as well as a beach for swimming, trout fishing, rock climbing areas, and picnic spots. As the park's name suggests, Chatfield Hollow is home to a number of areas previously inhabited by Native Americans. So, if you're hiking in the woods, keep an eye out for some of the many caves throughout the park--and if you bring a flashlight, you might just see some markings inside of them.
- Pinchot Sycamore
In Simsbury, you’ll find the Pinchot Sycamore, the largest tree in Connecticut. In 2010, the Pinchot measured 28 feet around and 104 feet tall, with an average canopy diameter of 147 feet—that's HUGE.
During the day, you can visit the Sycamore and look up through its leafy, gigantic branches--and at night, see the massive beauty lit up by floodlights. Both sights are spectacular. Not sure you want to go to Simsbury just for a tree viewing? We get it. Bring your bathing suit, then, because the Farmington River is right there, too, and offers a launching point for small boats and canoes.
- The Beardsley Zoo
Whether you've got kids to bring along or not, this place is one of the very best for a warm, perhaps rainy summer day. With over 300 North and South American species of animals, the Beardsley Zoo has it all. Located in Bridgeport, it may strike one as odd how "rural" a zoo can be when inside of a city. But no matter--this one does it, and does it well! It’s the only AZA-accredited zoo in the state, and even has a carousel (hey, you don’t have to have kids to enjoy a good carousel ride). If you are looking to add kids to the mix, however, the zoo now offers camel rides at $5 a pop, from 9 am to 3:30 pm, every day (do we have to have kids for this one?!)
- The Thimble Islands
Another shoreline adventure awaits at the Thimble Islands in Branford. An archipelago of small islands within the Long Island Sound, the Thimbles are located in and around the harbor of Stony Creek.
Sightseeing tours of the Islands are a real CT specialty; Captain Bob Milne and his crew will show you the enchanting homes of the shore birds, who’ve made the Islands their special sanctuary, for upwards of an hour. Kayak tours are also available, if you’re feeling a bit on the sportier side!
- Durham Dari Serve
Right in the heart of Durham, you’ll find the tiny, however bursting with deliciousness, Durham Dari Serve. Ask any native of CT and they’ll tell you: it’s the best of the best. From the softest-soft serve to the sweetest blueberry ice cream you’ve ever tasted, this over 50 year old establishment is a frozen dessert lover's dream come true. The prices are totally reasonable, and the portions are quite simply, huge. But be forewarned: the Dari Serve is only open during the summer months—go any other time and you’ll find a “gone fishin’” sign splayed out across the façade. Cherry, chocolate, caramel, and even coconut dip are some of their specialties—you do not leave disappointed.
- Talcott Mountain State Park
If you couldn’t tell yet, Connecticut is chock full of state parks! Talcott is home to 574-acres of gorgeous woods and miles and miles of trails. If you choose to make the trek to Bloomfield for all of Talcott's beautiful views, be sure to also trek up the mountain and see the Heublein Tower, a 165-foot-high lookout at the very top of the mountain. Perhaps pack a lunch, too, because there are plenty of picnic areas once you've reached the Tower. And while you should be careful of going up too close to dark, the Western view of the sunset is always one to write home about.
- Crocodile Cove at Lake Compounce
This is another one that you don’t necessarily need kids to enjoy! Lake Compounce in Bristol is, at its core, an amusement park. However, in the summer, Crocodile Cove opens up a whole slew of new opportunities for fun! It’s the state’s biggest (and best, if you ask us) water park, and should not be missed during those hot months. Dozens of water slides, wading pools (and water-centric playscapes for the little ones) dot the Cove, offering one of the most fun ways to cool off. Not sure you want to grab a tube and go racing down a slide? No worries. There’s also room to relax by the water in a recliner. Crocodile Cove’s got it all.
- Compo Beach
Westport’s Compo Beach, bordered also by the Saugatuck River, offers an array of fun activities (as well as the beach, of course) for visitors. Along with a boardwalk, pavilion, and concession stand, there's also a softball field, basketball courts, skate park, and an open skate area. Talk about fun for the entire family! There are also picnic areas, of course, so that if you plan ahead a bit, it'll be easy to spend the entire day at Compo. Be aware that while alcohol is prohibited on the beach at large, the South Beach picnic area allows for beverages of all types to be readily enjoyed!
Head over to Stamford’s Town Center for live music from both national and regional headliners, every Thursday night at 5, from now until August 11th (that’s this Thursday! As in the day after tomorrow!) The best show is always the last show, though, so if you plan quickly and accordingly, you’ll be in for a real treat.
While Alive@5 attracts mostly an after-work crowd (content marketers like us are wildy abundant!), this last concert is always one for the summer’s books. It’s only $10 (however, Thursday it will be $15)—why? Because CeeLo Green and Wild Planes are performing. It’s 21 and older, and always a blast. Talk about end of the summer fun—you won’t want to miss this last concert of 2016.
And there you have it! Our top 10 picks for things to do during these last summer months in Connecticut. I mean really, let’s face it: the dog days of summer are upon us—it’s hot, we’ve run through our go-to list of summer things to do, and we’re all in need of some new material. So get planning! Any option on this list is a good one. Have fun!
Can-Do Ideas is a Digital Marketing agency specializing in Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales. We are located in New York City and Connecticut.