No matter why you’re in Connecticut, for a visit or the long haul, this area’s rich history and ample opportunities for a sunny day out make it ideal for families. Create lasting memories of learning experiences and explorations you just won’t find anywhere else. Be sure to bring the camera, these summer spots promise memories the whole family won’t want to forget.
Essex Steam Train & Riverboat
One Railroad Ave.
Essex, CT 06426
Price: $26 adults/$11 children $11/free infants
It’s all aboard for one and all at the Essex Station. Relax and enjoy the view as a steam engine powers vintage rail cars on a breathtaking ride through some of Connecticut’s finest scenery. Board the steamboat at Deep River Landing and continue to experience the beauty from the Connecticut River. The steam train awaits at the end of the boat ride to take you back to the station. Weekends offer the opportunity to ride the caboose, and special visits from Thomas the Tank Engine, The North Pole Express and the Santa Special are worth planning for. Finish the day with a keepsake from the gift shop, which is loaded with train memorabilia for all ages.
75 Greenmanville Ave.
Mystic, CT 06355
Price: $24 adults/$22 seniors/$15 youth/free children younger than 5
Spending a day at the Mystic Seaport is an experience that you and your family won’t soon forget. The recreated 19th-century coastal village is filled with authentic buildings from around New England, making for a most incredible journey through time. Visit a bank, printing office and an old school. Watch wooden boats crafted in the preservation shipyard that produced the Amistad replica. Take a ride on an historic steamboat, or take a tour of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship. Maritime galleries and exhibits offer fascinating displays including figureheads and lighthouses. Be sure to take home a treasure or two from the Museum Store.
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06610
Price: $12 adults/$10 children and seniors/free children younger than 3
Take the family for a fun-filled visit with more than 300 animals from North and South America. Experience a free flight aviary in a rainforest setting, or share some time with a variety of barnyard inhabitants. Hike the hoofstock trail to encounter bison and deer. From the exotic to the every day, the Beardsley Zoo is the place to cultivate your child’s appreciation for all creatures great and small. With a focus on education and an ever-changing calendar of events, this is a place you’ll want to return to again and again. Top off the day with a ride on the carousel and lunch at The Peacock Cafe.
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
10 N. Water St.
Norwalk, CT 06854
Price: $13.95 adults/$10.50 children/$12.95 seniors
The Maritime Aquarium is a feature-packed destination that promises to educate and delight children and adults of all ages. Long Island Sound’s diverse ecosystem’s mysteries are revealed by the many exhibits and inhabitants at the aquarium. Catch the seal show, watch the otters play and meet some sea turtles, learning about each species through its special attractions. Encourage your children to brave the Intertidal Touch Tank where they will have supervised hands-on time with sea creatures. Take the Marine Life Study Cruise and bring the learning to a whole new level while enjoying the sound. Catch a movie in the area’s only IMAX theater, which boasts a six-story-tall movie screen. Wrap up the day with a trip to the Cascade Café and the gift shop.
Connecticut Science Center
250 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT 06103
Price: $17 adults/$15.50 seniors/$14 youth/free children 3 and younger
A visit to the Connecticut Science Center puts 150 hands-on exhibits at your family’s fingertips along with a 3D digital theater and four educational labs. Unlock the secrets of forensics, physics, geology and astronomy for a fun-filled, educational day. Whether you are interested in exploring the workings of the human body, learning about the structure of the earth, taking a journey into outer space, or creating alternate energy sources, it’s all possible in one incredible place.
Related: Top Summertime Theater Activities For Kids in Connecticut
Theodora DeBarbieri is an animal advocate, columnist and local TV show host residing in Connecticut. She is owned by a number of dogs, cats and birds. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.