By Vanessa WilloughbyConnecticut may be one of the smaller states on the East Coast, but this doesn’t mean that it lacks history. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a family-friendly activity to occupy an idle summer afternoon, Connecticut offers a wide spectrum of historical sites that are sure to be both fascinating and informational. From long-ago battlefields to the humble of abodes of literature’s most renowned authors, each place can provide insight into Connecticut’s rich beginnings.

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park

57 Fort Street
Groton, CT
(860) 445-1729

Hours: Monument and Museum Hours: Open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Park: All year: 8:00 a.m. – sunset

Price of Admission: Free
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Located east of the river on Groton Heights, Fort Griswold functioned as the reigning outpost for the harbor and the surrounding countryside. In addition to projecting fortifications, the fort was surrounded on three sides by a deep trench. Unknown to enemies, a tunnel-like passageway led to a covered ditch; this stopped at a cannon battery southwest of the actual fort. Deemed one of the prominent landmarks of the American Revolutionary War, For Griswold became the site of the treacherous Benedict Arnold’s destruction. On September 6, 1781, British Forces, led by Arnold, captured the fort and slaughtered 88 of the 165 soldiers.

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Harkness Memorial State Park

275 Great Neck Road
Waterford, CT
(860) 443-5725

Hours:  Park 8 a.m. – sunset
Mansion: Tours on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day

Price of Admission: Weekend/Holiday parking fees, $9 for CT Registered Vehicle, $15 for Out-of-State Vehicle, $6 R after 4 p.m., $7 NR after 4 p.m.
Weekday: $6 for CT Registered Vehicle, $10 for Out-of-State, $6 R after 4 p.m., $7 NR after 4 p.m.

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Originally the estate of Edward Harkness, the heir to a family fortune gleamed from investments in John Rockefeller’s Oil, the park officially became a part of the state park system in 1952. Like a glittering creation ripped from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harkness boasts a 42-room mansion on its sprawling 230 acres, in addition to Italian, Oriental, and Cutting Gardens.

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Gillette Castle State Park

67 River Road
East Haddam, CT
(860) 526-2336

Hours: Castle 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day
Park Grounds: 8:00 a.m. – sunset

Price of Admission: Age 13 and Over: $6, Ages 6-12: $2, Ages 5 and Under: Free

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William Hooker Gillette, famous for his stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, commissioned and designed Gillette Castle in 1914. Spanning 184 acres of land, the estate is most noted for the 24 room mansion designed to look like a medieval mansion. Composed of local fieldstone and built with a steel infrastructure, it took 20 men five years to finish the main structure. The estate also contains fabulous walking trails, fondly traveled by Gillette. With such a setting reminiscent of regality and courtly sophistication, it’s no surprise that weddings are hosted at this beautiful site.

(Photo Credit: Dave Wright)

The Mark Twain House & Museum

351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT

Hours: Monday-Saturday. 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Sundays Noon – 5:30 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays from January – March, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Price of Admission: Senior Citizens: $14, Adults: $16, Children: $10, Under 6: Free

(860) 247-0998
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Have you ever wanted to visit the home of your favorite author, the very rooms where his or her literary masterpieces were composed? From 1874 to 1891, Mark Twain and his family resided in Hartford, Connecticut. This historic landmark is the site where Twain composed his most famous and well-heralded works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and The Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. After touring the house, take a peek into the museum for more information about Twain’s work and lasting influence.

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Old State House

800 Main Street
Hartford, CT
(860) 522-6766

Hours: Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Summer Schedule (following July 4th through Columbus Day weekend)
Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Price of Admission: Seniors: $3, Adults: $6. Children: $3, Children 5 and Under: Free
Students with School ID: $3, AAA Members with card: $3, Military Veterans and Active Members: Free

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Serving as Connecticut’s original state capitol from 1797 to 1873, the Old State House is one of the oldest remaining state houses in the nation.  A restored historical monument, the exterior building and the Senate have been restored to its original Federal style. The Old State House has been the site of a few key historical events. In 1814, the Old State House was the site of the Hartford Convention. Later, in 1839, the state house witnessed the beginning of the Amistad trial.

Vanessa Willoughby lives in Waterford. A recent graduate of The New School’s MFA program, she also blogs for the entertainment and music website,