Known for its beautiful beaches and its charming rural towns, Connecticut offers plenty of opportunities for day trips and mini vacations. This New England destination is full of fantastic places, and there’s always something new to discover. Affectionately known as the ‘Nutmeg State’, Connecticut is sometimes erroneously labelled as a ‘drive-through’ state enroute to more exciting destinations, but although it is flanked by many popular tourist spots in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, there is plenty to see and do within its borders.
Best Time to Visit Connecticut
The hot summer weather tends to lure visitors out to the beaches of Cape Cod and Long Island Sound, while autumn is the perfect time to venture into the countryside and admire the colourful fall foliage.
Between October and November, the trees turn brilliant colours all over the state and the daytime temperatures stay between a comfortable 60°F and low 70°F. This is a popular time to visit so make hotel reservations as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
Summers are also a good time in Connecticut, especially if you plan to do any outdoor recreation like boating, fishing, or hiking. Although it can be a tad hot and humid at the peak of the heat wave, a visit in the shoulder months of early June or September can reward you with pleasant weather and virtually no tourists.
Fun Facts About Connecticut
- The word “Connecticut” is derived from the Native American word ‘quinetucket’, meaning ‘besides the long, tidal river’. The Connecticut River flows through four states including New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
- Connecticut is home to a lot of ‘firsts’ including the first colour television, hamburger, phone book, polaroid camera, nuclear-powered submarine, and helicopter.
- The Scoville Memorial Library in Connecticut is the oldest public library in the United States.
- In Hartford, Connecticut, it’s illegal to cross the street by walking on your hands. Meanwhile, in Devon, Connecticut, it’s illegal to walk backwards after sunset.
- Connecticut is the third smallest state by area, the 29th most populous, and the fourth most densely populated of the fifty states.
- Apart from being known as the ‘Nutmeg State’, Connecticut is also known as the ‘Constitution State’, the ‘Provisions State’, and the ‘Land of Steady Habits’.
One Day Itinerary in Hartford, Connecticut
If you’re a bookworm and love literature, your first stop in Hartford should be the Mark Twain House and Museum. Literary genius Mark Twain and his wife Olivia commissioned their new home in Hartford in 1873 and moved in the following year. The house had every latest convenience, some of which you’ll see demonstrated on the tour of this three-story Victorian mansion. The tour is filled with engaging stories about the couple, which will get you a glimpse of their personalities and their eccentric habits. It was here that he wrote his famous novel, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and several others of his best-known works. The Victorian Gothic mansion is a National Historic Landmark.
Tip: No pictures are allowed inside the house.
From the Mark Twain House and Museum, you can move on to an art lovers’ paradise – the Wadsworth Atheneum. This museum harbours one of the finest American arts collections, particularly works of the Hudson River school. It is the oldest free public museum in the United States and houses more than 50,000 works of art. Major highlights of the European collection are Italian Baroque paintings, with major works by Caravaggio, as well as the Surrealist artists, represented here in works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, and René Magritte.
If you have your kids along, make a stop at the Connecticut Science Centre. There are 168 exhibits, where each section explores some facet of the world around us, along with fun DIY activities for children. With the interactive exhibits in Planet Earth, kids can feel hurricane-force winds and make their own weather forecasts. Others include Sight and Sound; Exploring Space; Picture of Health; Energy City; and River of Life, with a marine touch tank that examines the Connecticut River and its creatures.
After you complete the tour of the science museum, you can stop for a light lunch at one of the many comfortable restaurants and cafes that Hartford is dotted with and move on to your next destination, which should certainly be the State Capitol. Built in 1879, the building houses the State Senate Chamber, the Hall of the State House of Representatives; and the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Secretary of the State. The building is a National Historic Landmark with many beautiful features, from the Italian marble floors to the stained-glass windows. You will also get to see an 18-foot impressive statue that once topped the golden dome of the building, a model of the Civil War flagship Hartford and the wooden figurehead from the original ship, the statue of Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero, the battle flags of Connecticut regiments from the Civil War, and a replica of the Liberty Bell.
It would be a shame if you didn’t make a stop at the beautiful Elizabeth Park Rose Garden – the third-largest in the United States. Named after American journalist Elizabeth Pond, the garden was donated to the city by her husband, Charles H. Pond in 1903. Today, the garden contains more than 15,000 plants with 800 varieties of roses. They are in bloom all summer, but the most spectacular time to visit is in late June and early July when the ramblers covering the arches are in full bloom. In the winter, the park is open for ice skating. It’s certainly a sight to behold – travel won’t do this justice!
End your day drenched in history by visiting the Ancient Burying Ground on Main Street – Hartford’s oldest historic landmark and the only one to survive from the 1600s. The oldest gravestone is from 1648, and there are about 6,000 graves, as it was Hartford’s only graveyard until the early 1800s. Three blocks down, you will find the Butler-McCook House & Garden and learn more about early Hartford. Built in 1782, Butler-McCook Homestead is the oldest house in Hartford and home to generations of a family who lived here for nearly 200 years, from the Revolution to the middle of the 20th century.
Where to Stay in Hartford
To enjoy the sights of the town to the fullest, the best place to stay is in the compact city centre.
- The Hartford Marriott Downtown is located bang in the middle of all the action and directly connected to the Connecticut Convention Centre. Many of the rooms have views over the Connecticut River, and several restaurants are within a five-minute walk.
- The Goodwin Hotel is a downtown landmark. The 1881 apartment building was converted into a hotel and includes original fireplaces and built-in wooden closets.
- Residence Inn by Marriott – another historic building from the 1800s, now stands nicely renovated and offers full suites with kitchens and is literally steps away from the Wadsworth Atheneum.
- Homewood Suites stands within walking distance from the Amtrak Station and is set in a 1913 heritage building.
- Holiday Inn Hartford Downtown in East Hartford is a 15-minute walk to the Wadsworth Athenaeum, closer to several restaurants; there’s a shuttle and parking is free.
- Consider a visit in the fall months of October or November when the trees change colour and the weather is at its finest.