Connecticut’s 2015 Summer Bucket List

Whether you have kids or not, there’s a ton of stuff to do in Connecticut and we are here to make sure you get it all done! No, no, we won’t be at your door at 4am with fishing gear and a packed lunch, but we will write you a great bucket list and STRONGLY suggest you print it and share it with all of your friends.

  1. Gillette Castle, East Haddam, CT – A mansion tour isn’t at the top of most children’s must-do lists, but this isn’t just another rich family’s house: Among other novelties, you take both an antique train and a ferry to get here. Kids used to jam-packed subway cars will love settling into their comfortable seats on the Essex Steam Train (One Railroad Ave, Essex, CT; 860-767-0103, $19, children 2–11 $10) for an hour long trip through the Connecticut River Valley. Disembark and, after a brief walk, hop aboard the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry ($2 per person). As you approach landfall, keep an eye out for the medieval-style stone structure atop a hill. That’s Gillette Castle (860-526-2336; $6, children ages 6–12 $2, children 5 and under free), and it’s just a short (though not stroller-friendly) hike from the shore. Once you’re there, tour guides will take your crew through two dozen wood-and-stone–clad rooms. Built in the early twentieth century by the then-famous actor and Sherlock Holmes portrayer William Gillette, the mansion is like a mystery-movie tableau where ghosts and evildoers might lurk at any turn. Gillette was also a stage manager who invented many trick props, and a bit of a prankster: He devised a series of mirrors to allow him to spy on visitors, and a hidden staircase so that he could sneak up on guests—or escape from them.



  1. Mystic, CT -Start with breakfast at Kitchen Little (36 Quarry Rd; 860-536-2122, The Mystic Melt—fresh lump crabmeat and cream cheese scrambled with two eggs  for $9.95—is a favorite, and great fuel for exploring this marina town. Dine on the patio so kids can watch boats traveling up and down the river. At the Mystic Aquarium (55 Coogan Blvd; 860-572-5955, $34.99, children ages 3–12 $24.99, children 2 and under free), you’ll find African penguins, sea lions and beluga whales. Pirate-loving tykes get a real taste of 19th-century maritime life at the Mystic Seaport Museum (75 Greenmanville Ave; 888-973-2767, $25, children ages 6–17 $16, children 5 and under free). Don’t forget to check out the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world. When tummies start growling for lunch, head to Sea Swirl(30 Williams Ave; 860-536-3452,, a roadside burger and fries dive that also serves top-notch fried seafood, or Mystic Pizza (56 W Main St; 860-536-3700,, the eatery made famous by the 1988 Julia Roberts movie. Save room for dessert: The best ice cream in town is just down the street at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream(2 W Main St; 860-572-7978, The local favorite serves up house-made flavors like chocolate truffle and Mystic Mud.mystic pizza
  2. I usually wouldn’t only do a restaurant in our travel blog, but Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough is an exception. This extended lobster shack in peaceful, sleepy Noank, Conn. (part of Groton and minutes from famous Mystic) comes across more as a rite of passage into the coastal New England summer than just another restaurant. Lobster reigns here with the New England Seafood Feast standing out as the ultimate shore meal: clam chowder, “shrimp in the rough” steamers, mussels, topped off with an absolutely fresh and delicious steamed lobster. The warm, buttered lobster roll with ample tender lobster is to die for. We also recommend ordering the fresh, native corn on the cob and, if possible, saving enough room for dessert — including New York-style cheesecake, carrot cake, strawberry shortcake, apple crisp, brownie sundae and ice cream.  Order-at-the-window service, picnic tables on the lawn, outside deck dining right at the water and breezy informal indoor dining round out this grand New England waterfront dining experience.  This is what summer is all about in New England! – See more at:


  1. Go to a Vineyard! Did you know that there are over 50 Vineyards in CT!? I googled over 4 pages of vineyards! I picked one that had a lot of good reviews, but please feel free to try a different one and send me the review please! We would love to hear about it! So I picked Paradise Hills Vineyards, which is at 15 Wind Swept Hill Rd. Wallingford, CT 06492. (203) 284-0123.  So let me know what you think.  You may actually see me there…..I’m booking my tour now!  Some other vineyards were,,,, etc….


  1. The Bacon Brothers – If you have never seen Kevin Bacon in person…..put it on your bucket list.  Yum. And playing music in a skimpy white t-shirt….double yum.  It’s good music for you men too. They’re playing at Ridgefield Playhouse on June 19th. Ridgefield is a cute town to also have on your bucket list for the summer…..great restaurants! Make a day of it. You’ll thank me for it.

Hiking – Here are a few places you should visit this summer if you like to get out and hike!Sleeping Giant, Hamden. Drive north from New Haven on I-91 and you will see it, a natural configuration of trap rock ridges that since Indian days has suggested a reclining giant. The Native Americans legend had it that an irritable spirit named Hobbomock was stomping around and causing problems until a good spirit named Kietan cast a spell and put him to sleep forever. Today, Sleeping Giant State Park is one of the gems of the state’s park system, and you can climb back and forth across the giant like it’s a modern-day Gulliver. Just make sure you don’t wake him up

      • Kent Falls, Kent. Connecticut’s abundance of water and hills means that its landscape features many waterfalls. Most of the falls are pleasant and modest, but the dramatic series of cascades known as Kent Falls is an exception. It begins in the westward flow of Falls Brook as it drains an area of six or seven square miles before gathering for the big drop – plunging approximately 70 feet in a noisy free fall. From there, the stream descends in a series of lesser falls and cascades to the Housatonic Valley below. Much of the limestone over which the brook flows has been carved into interesting shapes including numerous potholes of all sizes. Kent Falls State Park provides pathways along the falls, including stairs and observation decks.
      • Dinosaur Tracks, Rocky Hill. In 1966, thousands of dinosaur tracks were discovered here during the construction of a state office building. Today, the 200-million-year-old evidence of giant reptiles in the region has been preserved, with 500 tracks on display beneath a geodesic dome at Dinosaur State Park and the rest buried for preservation. Features onsite include a life-size diorama showing the dinosaurs “making tracks” across the sandstone and a track-casting area.Waterfall. The southern trailhead for the Mattatuck Trail is located in Wolcott’s Peterson Park, just off busy Route 69. Within minutes on the trail, however, the sounds of the outside world begin to fade, replaced by the babbling of the Mad River. Soon you will find yourself in a sort of natural amphitheater, or movie set, with towering hemlocks, filtered sunlight, tumbling and splashing water, and an understory of moss-covered boulders, ferns and mountain laurel. You may want to stay awhile, but if you stick with the trail for another 5 miles, crossing a couple of roads and even passing through a residential neighborhood (follow those blue blazes!), you’ll come eventually to Buttermilk Falls in Plymouth, one of Connecticut’s great secrets in the woods. For this 5.7-mile hike, you’ll have to park one car at the beginning and another at the end.
      • With a Llama. Yes, you read that correctly – hiking with a llama. Rowanwood Farm of Newtown offers the opportunity for you to take a rare breed miniature llama with you as you hike through a pine forest, along a river and through a bald eagle sanctuary in western Connecticut. The experience begins at McLaughlin Vineyard in Sandy Hook, where you’ll meet your llama, get to know proper handling techniques and then embark at a leisurely pace on a two-hour trek that you will likely never forget.


        • Water, Water, Water – With hundreds of miles of shoreline on the Long Island Sound and over 1500 lakes in Connecticut, of course there is plenty of water sports fun to be had! Here are a few things I like to do every summer on the water.Kayaking. One of the beauties of this sport is that you can take a kayak out onto virtually every sort of water, from open ocean to quiet cove. Connecticut’s many points of interest along the shore are very popular among kayakers, the favorite of all perhaps being paddling around and among the Thimble Islands in Branford. Connecticut Coastal Kayaking leads tours through the islands (you can use your own kayak or rent one), taking in local history, architecture and birdwatching, to name just a few of the local diversions.Sailing. Long Island Sound has long been recognized as one of the great cruising grounds for sailors of boats both large and small. There are charters available from one end of Connecticut’s coast to the other, for example Joy Ride Charters of Westbrook. Whether you want to learn how to sail yourself or just relax and take in the sunset, Joy Ride’s 35-foot “Hado” is a very good way to go.Rafting. One of the best ways to spend a day in northwestern Connecticut is to get out on the Housatonic River in a raft. Clarke Outdoors of West Cornwall will drive you upriver with your raft and then pick you up again after you’ve floated 10 miles along the Housatonic’s moving flatwater and easy whitewater. You can even lunch midway and get a shower at day’s end.
  • Tubing. One of Connecticut’s great summer pleasures is floating down the Farmington River on an inner tube, either your own or one provided by Farmington River Tubing on New Hartford. The 2.5-mile course downriver begins at Satan’s Kingdom Recreation Area and takes you through three sets of rapids. Be sure to call ahead at (860) 693-6465 to check river conditions.Water Skiing/Wakeboarding. Connecticut’s largest lake, Candlewood Lake, is also one of its great outdoor playgrounds. Gerard’s Waters Edge in New Milford rents ski boats and pontoon boats and also water skis, wakeboards, inner tubes and other water toys.River and Stream Fishing. There are terrific fishing streams all across Connecticut, including some secret spots where native trout can still be found. A few of the better-known sites for fishing in general would be: 1) The Salmon River, an eastern tributary of the Connecticut River. The Nature Conservancy says “the fast, cold Salmon River drains a 96,000-acre watershed in 10 towns. Experts have ranked the Salmon as the best example of its river type in Connecticut” and “one of the state’s top trout streams.” 2) The West Branch of the Farmington River, especially between Riverton and New Hartford, is said to have the highest trout density of any stretch of river in the state. 3) The Housatonic River has been compared to western rivers and is among the finest for trout in the eastern U.S. It has areas dedicated to fly fishing.Lake and Pond Fishing. This fishing season brings the latest edition of the invaluable Angler’s Guide, published by the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. It’s a thoroughly up-to-date compilation of the state’s fishing regulations as well as fishing spots. And if you want the inside scoop on hot fishing spots, lake reports and fishing gossip in general, go to and, as they say, get hooked.
  • Hartford Jazz Festival – If you have not been to the Hartford Jazz Festival yet, I suggest you go! Mark your calendars for the soulful sounds of the 24th annual Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz July 17, 18 and 19. For three days, New England’s largest free jazz festival features two stages, sixteen jazz bands, 45 food and marketplace vendors, and attracts more than 40,000 fans, all in the beautiful, historic Bushnell Park. They have some great food and music!
  • Nutmeg State Games – The Nutmeg State Games is the largest amateur multi-sport sporting event in Connecticut and it unites fans and participants annually in New Britain. Cheer on your favorite teams and experience the electric Olympic-like atmosphere for yourself throughout the month of July! he “Games” represent an outstanding opportunity for local and national businesses to help support “Good Kids Making Good Choices!”This is something everyone should be a part of!
  • Riverfest in Hartford – Who says fireworks are only for the Fourth of July? Riverfest in Hartford lights off a few sparks mid-July and features free entertainment including live bands, amusements, kids’ activities, great food, and more. AT 9 p.m. Montreal International Fireworks Competition Gold medal winner, Atlas Pyrovision, will highlight the largest one-day fireworks celebration in Connecticut.
  • The Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival brings colorful and competitive dragon boat races and an Asian cultural festival to the river in mid-August. In addition to dragon boat racing, the expanded 2-day festival offers a variety of live Asian entertainment, abundant ethnic food, martial arts demonstrations and authentic cultural programming. It has culture, it has color, it has food….what more do you need really?     And watch this video:

I will see out and about this summer.  Speaking of out and about….


Out and About Moms made a bucket list for moms to do with kids. We thought we would add their list. Here is their list of kid-friendly things to do this summer.

  1. Feed the animals at Flamig Farm in Simsbury.
  2. Cool off at either the Fernridge Park or Wolcott Park spray pads in West Hartford. (FREE)
  3. Have a beach day at Hammonasset State Park followed by dinner at Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale Restaurant in Madison.
  4. Spend a day in Mystic with a visit to Mystic River Park Playground followed by a walk downtown to check out the drawbridge and grab some ice cream. (FREE to visit)
  5. Spend a rainy afternoon in the large play area at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford. (FREE)
  6. Visit with farm animals and explore the short walking trail at Westmoor Park in West Hartford. (FREE)
  7. Take your little one to the water area at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.
  8. Let the kids pick out their favorite fresh fruits and vegetables at the Coventry Farmers’ Market. (FREE to visit)
  9. Spend a Sunday morning enjoying Breakfast with a View at Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury. (Begins June 8, 2014)
  10. Visit the cows and get fresh milk and ice cream at the Fish Family Farm in Bolton. (FREE to visit)
  11. Enjoy the fully fenced in Buckingham Road Playground in Avon. (FREE)
  12. Plan a fun morning out with a visit to the smaller-scale Zoo at Forest Park in Springfield, MA.  (Check out a pass at your library for FREE entry)
  13. Enjoy the beach and let the kids be entertained by passing trains at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme.
  14. Take a nature walk at the Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton.  (Trails are FREE)
  15. Enjoy a Wednesday night summer concert at Elizabeth Park in Hartford. (FREE)
  16. Take your little one(s) on a stroller ride and enjoy the scenic views at the Reservoir in West Hartford. (FREE)
  17. Grab a treat at TCBY and then enjoy the awesome boundless playground nearby in Bloomfield. (FREE to visit)
  18. Check out a few books at the Simsbury Library and then head across the street for playtime and lunch at the Rotary Park Boundless Playground. (FREE)
  19. Take a ferry ride across the Connecticut River and visit the Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam.
  20. Visit the farm animals and enjoy the wonderful playground and scenery at Northwest Parkin Windsor. (FREE)
  21. Let the kids play in the Hayloft Playscape and then pick some fruit at March Farm in Bethlehem. (FREE to visit)
  22. Grab a hot dog and try to catch a fly ball at the Rock Cats baseball game in New Britain.
  23. Get inside the prarie dog habitat and check out the gigantic bison at Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport. (Check out a pass at your library for FREE entry)
  24. Take part in a drop in program at the Avon Free Public Library. (FREE)
  25. Enjoy your coffee while the kids play in the children’s section at the Farmington Library.(FREE)
  26. Enjoy homemade ice cream while you pet the animals at Robb’s Farm in Glastonbury.
  27. Watch the Pez factory in action at the PEZ Visitors Center in Orange.
  28. Wave to Beluga whales and catch the sea lion show at Mystic Aquarium(Check out a pass at your library for discounted entry)
  29. Come face to face with a giraffe at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI.
  30. Pick peaches at Belltown Hill Orchards in Glastonbury.
  31. Enjoy fun (and food) in the sun at the South Windsor Farmer’s Market then play at nearby My Friend’s Place Boundless Playground(FREE admission) 
  32. Enjoy the nature trails, then make a cast of a real dinosaur footprint at Dinosaur State Parkin Rocky Hill. (FREE; BYO casting supplies–see post for details)
  33. Explore the beautiful grounds, visit fine feathered friends at the Aviary and find the model train in the Sensory Garden at Wickham Park in Manchester.
  34. Cool off with some indoor (air conditioned) fun at Monkey Joe’s in Hamden.
  35. Check out the giant indoor play area plus the outdoor water slides at Stay & Play in Old Saybrook.
  36. Dine seaside at Abbot’s Lobster in the Rough in Noank.
  37. Ride the wagon out to pick blueberries and raspberries at Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury.
  38. Enjoy delicious lobster rolls and ice cream from the Snack Shack and discover the Faerie Village at Jessica’s Garden in Marlborough.
  39. Explore Bodie’s Place Playground in Milford.
  40. Discover the family-friendly galleries and programs at the New Britain Museum of American Art. (FREE admission on Saturday mornings and with a library museum pass)
  41. Go treasure hunting in Putnam, CT.
  42. Indulge in cheeseburgers and ice cream at Shady Glen in Manchester.
  43. Go shopping at the Bishop’s Orchards Farm Market in Guilford.
  44. Go for a morning dip at Eastbury Pond in Glastonbury.
  45. Tour the Springfield Museums, then picnic at the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA.
  46. Ride bikes or take a stroll on the Air Line State Park Trail in Hebron and nearby areas.(FREE)
  47. Head to Holyoke to visit the Children’s Museum, then go for a ride on the carousel at Holyoke Heritage State Park in Holyoke, MA.
  48. Escape the heat at the Cora J. Belden Library’s Children’s Play Area in Rocky Hill. (FREE)
  49. Whip up some fun at a Stew Leonard’s Toddler Cooking Class in Newington.
  50. Plan a playdate at the fabulous and fully-fenced Rainbow Playground in Southington.(FREE)



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Shoshana Snyder

Shoshana Snyder

Sarah Pritchard

Sarah Pritchard

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