When it comes to top tourist attractions, Connecticut flaunts its destination sites, which bring people from all over the country as well as the world to its East Coast location. Not only does this most southern New England state have fun by the seashore, but its eclectic four-season offerings and art-driven cultural status make it a most desirable place. Connecticut Yankees have accomplished many firsts, including creating theme parks. They have also gained recognition for the best in many fields. Whether it’s fun and games or serious observation of our world and its inhabitants, Connecticut has staked a great claim in top tourist attractions.

Foxwoods Resort Casino
350 Trolley Line Blvd.
Mashantucket, CT 06338
(800) 369-9663

Visit Foxwoods Resort Casino and become an instant winner of a fun-filled adventure. This resort casino lives up to its name by offering the best as a resort and the best as a casino. Foxwoods is the “largest resort casino in North America,” but its claim to fame is not its sheer size. It features the absolute best in gaming, hotels, entertainment events, golf packages, theater productions, concerts, spas, gourmet dining and a state-of-the-art museum. It is literally impossible to be bored here. With so much going on, visitors enjoy a winning experience whether they hit a jackpot or not. Don’t take a chance when it comes to fun. Head out to Foxwoods. People who don’t like to gamble still come to Foxwoods to play golf. This course is as beautiful as it is challenging.

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Lake Compounce Family Theme Park 
186 Enterprise Drive
Bristol, CT 06010
(860) 583-3300

Because Connecticut is one of the original New England states, it is not surprising to discover that many firsts have taken place here. Take, for instance, Lake Compounce, a family theme park that is the “oldest continuously-operating amusement park” not only in the entire country, but in all of North America. Created in 1846, no other park comes close to this 167-year-old amusement center. This theme park also boasts of its wooden roller coaster, which ranks number one in wooden coasters. As if being the oldest and having the number one roller coaster isn’t enough to brag about, Lake Compounce also has the largest water park in Connecticut. A visit to this top tourist attraction will keep visitors smiling all day. At night, they can enjoy a full-fledged concert or a light show during the holidays.

The Beardsley Zoo
1875 Noble Ave.
Bridgeport, CT 06610
(203) 394-6565

Connecticut’s one and only zoo is a very special zoo. Featuring exotic animals that adults and children usually only read about, it is here where people can see up close and personal such rare animals as an Amur leopard. Currently an endangered species, the Beardsley Zoo is proud to showcase this beautiful animal. A zoo that does plenty of research on its many animals, it makes sure that the animals are in a comfortable environment. This particular leopard is so rare because it is hunted for its spotted fur. The Beardsley Zoo has an outstanding reputation for protecting endangered species. It is also well known for educating the public about the animals on its premise. Open almost year round with major holidays being the only exceptions, people will enjoy the South American rainforest with exotic birds and its New England Farmyard with animals typically seen on a farm like “goats, cows, pigs and sheep.”

The Mystic Aquarium
55 Coogan Blvd.
Mystic, CT 06355
(860) 572-5955

People by the busload arrive daily at the Mystic “Marinelife” Aquarium, which features everything from beluga whales, sea lions, seals and penguins to poison dart frogs and piranhas. This is where children and adults can see sand tiger sharks, whales, alligators, African penguins and blue iguanas. Why is this so special? Considering that there are only between 10 to 25 blue iguanas left in the world, seeing one is a rare opportunity. In addition to the many aquatic exhibits and species, the Mystic Aquarium also serves as a rescue center. It cares for sick and injured animals that come ashore or are found stranded and it educates the public about caring for these animals and their environment.

Dinosaur State Park
400 West St.
Rocky Hill, CT 06067
(860) 529-8423

Here’s a tourist destination that boys and girls of all ages will remember all their lives. A visit to Dinosaur State Park is like stepping back into history when dinosaurs roamed the land. Featuring over “500 Early Jurassic dinosaur footprints,” which have been painstakingly preserved and accented with guided tours, presentations, interactive exhibitions and many other activities that are marked for various age groups, this park is one of Connecticut’s special treasures. In addition to this, there are hiking trails, opportunities to mine for precious stones (seasonal) and the opportunity to make a plaster casting of a an actual dinosaur footprint (seasonal.) An especially interesting display focuses on a possible explanation regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs. The park is family friendly and when the season is right for being outdoors, there’s even a picnic area.

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Joanne Greco Rochman is the arts editor of The Fairfield County Review, a columnist, critic, feature story writer and English professor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Republican-American and Hersam-Acorn Publications. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.