After our long winter, every late spring, summer and fall weekend that has good weather should be spent outside. However, it sometimes becomes a challenge to find innovative and exciting activities to motivate one to move off the couch, especially if there are little ones in tow. These ideas are different, innovative and interesting for all ages. All within an hour or so from Hartford, they are pocketbook friendly, at under $100.

Gillette Castle State Park
67 River Road
East Haddam, CT 06423
(860) 526-2336

Built in 1919 by veteran actor William Hooker Gillette, best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, this medieval-style edifice is Connecticut’s answer to the grandeur of Old England. Imperiously located on top of the Sixth Sister Mountain, overlooking the Connecticut River, its 24 rooms occupy a portion of an estate spanning 184 acres. The local fieldstone façade contains hand-carved interior embellishments of southern white oak wood and intricate steel doors. The vast outdoor areas include gardens and hiking trails passing under trestle bridges and through a tunnel. Accessible by road and via the Chester-Hadlyme ferry, a visit to the castle is a great day out.

RC Madness
101 North St.
Enfield, CT 06082
(860) 741-6501

“RC Madness” is a paradise for racing enthusiasts who want to try their hand at different vehicles all in one day, albeit model-sized versions. Radio-controlled vehicles such as trucks, cars, airplanes, boats and helicopters can be manipulated to vent all the machismo, testosterone and “road rage” that cannot be exhibited in real life. The vehicles go speeding, tumbling over obstacles, hazards and jumps of a challenging track. Young and old, male or female, it is everyone’s fantasy come true.

New England Air Museum
Bradley Int’l Airport
36 Perimeter Road
Windsor Locks, CT 06096
(860) 623-3305

This aerospace museum presents aviation and its development through the ages in a fascinating manner. Three hangars covering 75,000 square feet feature simulators, over 80 types of aircraft, demonstrations, exhibits and activities. Also on show are the historical aviators whose names are synonymous with the industry. The technology is presented in an easy-to-understand and interesting manner. The educational series illustrates this fascinating story and its impact on all aspects of modern life.

Related: Top Spots to See Flowers This Spring In Connecticut

Highwire Deer & Animal Farm
68 Park Road
Woodbury, CT 06798
(203) 263-4522

If you are looking to provide a total fun and different experience to your little ones, Highwire Deer & Animal Farm in Woodbury is the go-to destination. Spreading over five acres in the Connecticut hills, its 30+ species feature kangaroos, coatimundis, a camel and a beautiful “z-donk.” The owners takes pride in sharing their exotic animals with the public and pleasure in their excitement as they view and interact with the animals, feed them and picnic on the grounds.

Lyman Orchards
32 Reeds Gap Road
Middlefield, CT 06455
(860) 349-1793

Described as “the destination for families, food and fun,” there could be no better tag line for this enterprise. Owned by the Lyman Family for the last 272 years, Lyman Orchards is one of the country’s oldest family-owned businesses. It is a landmark year-round Connecticut destination that features amazing foods, seasonal family fun and championship golf. The Apple Barrel Market is full of the smells of good baking and fragrant foods that you can buy and enjoy right on deck. The summertime weekend breakfasts are legendary. The orchards feature “pick your own,” and there is always a variety of events taking place for your entertainment. The Lyman Homestead, Golf Club and Golf Center are also open to visitors.

Related: Top Flying Adventures In Connecticut

Bina Joseph, a resident of Glastonbury, CT is a freelance writer covering all things travel-related in Connecticut.
A passionate veteran of the travel industry, Bina has visited more than 40 countries, giving her a unique, global perspective. Her work can be found at