41 Fun and Unique Things To See and Do in Connecticut

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You would not believe all the cool and truly unique things to do in Connecticut. While the Constitution State may be small in size, it’s big on charm and offers a diverse array of one-of-a-kind experiences waiting to be discovered. From exploring quirky museums and indulging in culinary delights to embarking on outdoor adventures and soaking in the local history, Connecticut has something to offer every type of traveler.

In this post, I’ve listed some of the most offbeat and memorable activities that make Connecticut a truly special destination. Whether you’re a local seeking new adventures or a visitor looking to experience the state’s hidden gems, get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the unique wonders of Connecticut.

Yale University Art Gallery

Whether you are into art or not, the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven is a must! See exceptional art collections and masterpieces from all across the globe. The gallery is the oldest university art museum in America, with over 300,000 art pieces, and it is open to everyone free of charge. It is the cultural hub of the academic world, and its main goal is to connect artists through creative programs, exhibitions, and publications. Depending on the time of your visit, you may come across remarkable pieces or performances. 

You can see in the photos above the difference in the marble wall panels when the light shines through them on the left vs when there is no light on the right.

Rare Manuscript Library at Yale University 

When you strive for unique things to do in Connecticut, you should not miss out on the Rare Manuscript Library at Yale University. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is located in New Haven on Yale’s campus and is home to one of a kind books and manuscripts you cannot see anywhere else in the world. Plus, the setting of the library is breathtaking. The building was built with marbled walls that catch the light and illuminate the space brilliantly. Its a beautiful space to take a break and enjoy the ambiance.

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The Birthplace of The Hamburger 

Learn about the history of America’s favorite type of sandwich – the hamburger! Connecticut is the place where one of the world’s most popular dishes was created. Louis’ Lunch in New Haven is recognized as The Birthplace of The Hamburger by the Library of Congress. Taste the original flavor of a classic hamburger, carefully prepared and served on white toast with only cheese, onion, and tomato, to highlight the 5 cuts of meats rolled into each patty.

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Those interested in the history of nature and its origins will love the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The world’s oldest and biggest natural history museum offers the most astonishing exhibitions and one of a kind displays showcasing the earth’s evolution over 4 billion years ago. This is a place where knowledge and education rise to a new level while exploring the world from another perspective. 

The museum recently underwent extensive renovations, and is even more extraordinary than in years past. With free entry to all, it’s a must see when looking for unique things to do in Connecticut.

The Cushing Center

While at Yale University exploring some of the most unique things to do in Connecticut, make sure to head to the Cushing Center at Yale School of Medicine for its unique collection of brain specimens and related materials assembled by Dr. Harvey Cushing, a pioneering neurosurgeon who is often referred to as the “father of modern neurosurgery.”

The collection includes hundreds of brain specimens, as well as photographs, notes, and other documentation related to his work in the 19th and 20th centuries. The mission of the Cushing Center is to inspire wonder about the human brain and its disorders, and to educate visitors about the history of modern neurosurgery-a fascinating destination for all to explore!

Mystic Aquarium 

If you want to take a peek at the astonishing marine creatures of the underwater world, the Mystic Aquarium is the place to go. The aquarium is home to hundreds of sea animals from penguins, sea lions, sharks and two adorable beluga whales. Mystic Aquarium is known for their exceptional interactive experiences and exhibits. While I do not like seeing animals in captivity, I was happy to learn the aquarium is home to rescue animals like Astro, a Steller seal, who after three attempts was not able to return to the wild. 

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Olde Mistick Village

Olde Mistick Village is a favorite spot for both locals and tourists. The open-air village is home to many shops, restaurants and activities with a local flare. The pet-friendly village hosts festivals and events throughout the year and offers pleasant surroundings that are ideal for experiencing the local culture of Connecticut. 

Mystic Seaport Museum

When looking for an activity for the whole family in Connecticut, consider visiting the Mystic Seaport Museum in charming Mystic, Connecticut. It is the largest maritime museum in the United States, displaying many fascinating things dating back to the 19th century mixed with modern exhibits. Explore the last remaining wooden Whaleship and stroll around the working shipyard where craftsmen are hard at work.

Opt for a boating adventure and cruise the Connecticut Coast or sign up for a workshop in the recreated 19th-century seafaring village. You’ll learn from hands-on activities and demonstrations of what life was like during the seaport’s hay day.

Essex Steam Train 

Train lovers who are looking for unique things to do in Connecticut will love taking a train ride on a steam powered locomotive. The Essex Steam Train offers a unique journey through picturesque landscapes and quaint towns along the Connecticut River Valley, even more spectacular under a blanket of fall leaves. 

The train ride is complemented by various themed excursions, including a river cruise, holiday-themed rides, and dinner trains, adding to the charm and allure of the experience. Additionally, visitors can explore the Essex Steam Train Museum, which showcases a collection of vintage trains and offers insight into the region’s rich railroad history.

Connecticut Science Center 

Learn about science and technology at the fascinating Connecticut Science Center. The museum is located on the Connecticut River in Hartford, and it is quite expansive. The nine-story building is full of interactive exhibits spanning topics like physics, biology, astronomy, and more. One standout feature is its state-of-the-art 3D theater, offering immersive experiences with stunning visuals. Its accessibility and inclusivity create an engaging atmosphere for all ages to ensure everyone can enjoy and learn. With evolving programs, and various events and demonstrations, you will always have something new to explore. 

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Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Connecticut pays a lot of attention to art and culture, so the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is another glorious place where you can explore different artistic works and masterpieces. Admire the Classical and Egyptian bronzes along with French and American paintings that are considered treasures of the world. Learn about European baroque art and savor the beauty of the great artists. This museum in the heart of Hartford will amaze you with its expansiveness and will take your breath away with all its gorgeous artistic pieces!

Visit the Victorian Homes along Charter Oak Place

Charter Oak Place is renowned for its stunning collection of Victorian homes, each with its own unique history and architectural charm. Developed in the mid-19th century, the street was originally designed as an affluent residential area for the middle and upper class of Hartford. The architectural styles of the homes along Charter Oak Place range from Queen Anne and Italianate to Second Empire, reflecting the tastes and trends of the Victorian era. A stand out home is the Northam House, also known as the Painted Lady. Iconic for its vibrant and colorful exterior paint schemes, intricate woodwork, and ornate detailing.

Tour The Mark Twain House

While not directly on Charter Oak Place, the iconic Mark Twain House and Museum at 351 Farmington Avenue overlooks the street. This striking Victorian Gothic mansion was the home of the renowned American author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, from 1874 to 1891. The house is now a National Historic Landmark and offers guided tours that provide fascinating insights into Twain’s life, work, and the Victorian era offering a deeper understanding of his legacy.

BF Cider Mill 

BF Cider Mill is the oldest steam powered Cider Mill in the United States dating back to the 1800s. Enjoy taking in the laid back surroundings while tasting local hard cider, wine, and their famous cider donuts. The property hosts a museum, cider making demonstrations and a few gift shops with locally made goods from candles to honey and hot sauce. A few hours at the mill is a fun and unique thing to do while enjoying Connecticut in fall.

Bushnell Park

Visit Bushnell Park for some legendary fun with the whole family. The park is located in Hartford’s center and offers many historical monuments and activities for the entire family. Ride on the carousel and let yourself be whisked away back to a delightful childhood. The park is also known for live music and performances, so if you are lucky, you may catch one during your visit. Besides spectacular festivals and events, Bushnell Park offers an ice skating experience for those who love winter activities. 

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Tour The Connecticut State Capitol

The Connecticut State Capitol building, located in Hartford, south of Bushnell Park, is eye-catching with its modern secular Gothic architecture and should not be missed during your visit to Connecticut. You can book a self-guided tour and explore the indoors of the majestic building. The architecture is amazing, and the chambers inside will leave you in awe. It is a unique way to learn about history and feel the magic of Connecticut. 

Visit The Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities

For a truly unique experience in Connecticut, do not skip the Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities in Hartford’s Old State House. While the state house is decked out in Colonial charms, the top floor presents an unexpected surprise you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Visit the museum and get a chance to see a collection of the most unique, and curious oddities that will make you go-huh?. It is a museum of the rarest things you can imagine, like a unicorn horn, two-headed calf and a mummy hand. It is definitely one of the most unique things to see in Connecticut!

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The Glass House  

The Glass House, in Canaan, Connecticut is a National Trust Historic Site. Its a piece of art done by the great Philip Johnson. It is one of the most breathtaking works of architecture, and it is famous for its innovative integration of international styles into American residential architecture. The Glass House is made of unique materials that fabulously match the landscape. Visit from mid April to earl December to walk around its grounds and enjoy other monuments, sculptures and landscapes on the property. Its a true gem worth a visit!

Dinosaur State Park

The Dinosaur State Park is one of the largest natural history preserves in Connecticut. It offers a fun way to learn about the past and the life of these enormous creatures so many are curious about. The park offers indoor and outdoor activities like gem mining, hiking and track casting. Come see authentic dinosaur tracks that were made 200 million years ago and visit the Arboretum with over 200 plant varieties directly linked to prehistoric times.

Gillette Castle State Park

Gillette Castle State Park is a unique destination in Connecticut, offering a one-of-a-kind experience that combines history, architecture, and outdoor adventure perfect for history buffs, nature lovers, and families. This park is situated atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. 

The castle itself is an architectural Marvel. A medieval-inspired fortress built by renowned actor William Gillette in the early 20th century. Best known for his role portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage and screen. The castle’s whimsical design features intricate stonework, secret passageways, and quirky architectural details. 

Enjoy picnic areas, hiking trails, and guided tours of the castle. Visitors can explore the castle’s interior, including its unique furnishings, Gillette’s personal artifacts, and the mysterious “trick” features designed by the actor himself.

Powder Ridge Mountain Park

Powder Ridge Mountain Park is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and offers thrilling activities for both winter and summer seasons. Winter offers opportunities for downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and snow bike tours. In the summer choose from mountain biking, the water slide, paint ball and disc golf. You can stay right on the mountain at their mountainside lodges or choose from other nearby accommodation. Its the perfect place to play for families of all ages.

Roseland Cottage Museum

Roseland Cottage, (also known as the Bowen House) is a National Historic Landmark in Woodstock, CT recognized by its astonishing gothic style architecture and unique pink exterior. The home was built in 1846 and not only has a stunning exterior but a well-preserved interior featuring original furnishings and decorations from the mid-19th century. The house and its surrounding landscape, including a garden and carriage barn, have been preserved and restored over the years, offering visitors a glimpse into life during the Victorian era. The property now offers walking tours of this historical landmark June-October along with downloadable virtual tours.

Elizabeth Park’s Rose Garden 

The Helen S. Kaman Rose Garden sits at the center of  Elizabeth Park Conservancy in West, Hartford. It’s one of the largest rose gardens in the country with over 190 rose varieties and offers visitors a glimpse of the magnificent flower arrangements that create a fairytale-like setting. Visit in mid-June into early July for gorgeous blooming rose arches that lead to an extraordinary gazebo where couples often choose to say “I do.” The property hosts a delicious snack cafe with warm-weather goods like gourmet hot dogs and ice cream, an award winning cafe with a rotating seasonal menu. Stop at the visitor’s center and gift shop for more information about the park. 

The Book Barn

Bookworms, brace yourselves! Niantic, CT, has something fascinating in store for you! The Book Barn is a well-known and beloved bookstore full of hidden treasures providing an immersive bookstore experience. It’s famous for its extensive collection of new, used, and rare books spread across multiple locations with books stacked from floor to ceiling and often in a maze-like fashion. The main location, often referred to as the “Big Barn,” offers a vast selection of books housed in rustic barn buildings.

Visitors can spend hours browsing through various genres and editions, ranging from classic literature to contemporary fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and more. Its fun and exciting atmosphere makes it the perfect escape for anyone looking for a unique thing to do in Connecticut.

Drive Through a Covered Bridge 

While Connecticut might not have as many covered bridges as Vermont, it certainly has a few worth exploring. The most well known covered bridge in Connecticut is West Cornwall Covered Bridge. It was constructed in 1864 and is still in use with continued restoration and maintenance efforts to preserve its historic character and structural integrity. A drive through this historic red covered bridge is a fun and unique thing to do in Connecticut, offering a glimpse into history and a memorable experience. 

Saybrook Breakwater Light, New London

The Saybrook Breakwater Light, located in Old Saybrook near New London, Connecticut, has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1886. It was built to mark the entrance to the Connecticut River, providing crucial guidance for ships navigating the waters nearby. Although it is no longer open to the public and best viewed from the water, it is visible from various vantage points along the shoreline offering opportunities for photography and appreciation from afar.

Stonington Lighthouse Museum

The lighthouse museum in Stonington is another lovely stop in Connecticut when looking for unique things to do. The Stonington lighthouse was an integral part of Stonington’s seafaring past, providing safety to vessels passing the treacherous Fishers Island Sound. You can now visit the lighthouse and walk around the stone building from 1840. Do not forget to climb the tower and enjoy the breathtaking view. From the top, you can see a dramatic portrayal of three states. This stop won’t take long but offers a fun activity when visiting the charming town of Stonington.

Day Trip to Sheffield Island 

Experience the coastal charm of  Connecticut’s Long Island Sound with a day trip to Sheffield Island. Conveniently located at the southern end of the Norwalk islands, Sheffield island makes a lovely day trip from Norwalk, CT. The island is known for its stunning ocean views, wildlife and historic landmarks. On clear days, you can view the New York City skyline.Ferries operate frequently to the island taking only 30 mins from the main land. Opt for self guided exploration or choose a boat tour company with hands on guidance. Don’t forget to visit the Sheffield Island Lighthouse while visiting the island. It’s the most notable landmark on the island and offers tours of the tower, museum, keeper’s house and other structures during summer.

Tour the Thimble Islands

If you want to see a more unique side of Connecticut, consider booking a Thimble Islands cruise. The Thimble Islands are a chain of 365 islands in Stony Creek Harbor off the southeast coast of Branford in Long Island Sound.

Tours through the small islands is an exciting way to spend the day in Connecticut. Enjoy navigating through the maze of small islands on a guided boat ride providing insights into their history, geology, and wildlife. Some of the islands are privately owned, while others are uninhabited or serve as wildlife sanctuaries. Enjoy the history of the islands, including stories of pirates, bootleggers, and famous residents. Take in the scenic beauty of the Thimble Islands, with their rocky shores, lush vegetation, and diverse birdlife. Keep your camera handy to capture memorable moments as you cruise around the islands!

New England Air Museum

The New England Air Museum, located in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, is one of the largest aviation museums in New England with a diverse collection of aircraft and exhibits. The museum strives to presenting historically significant aircraft, aircraft engines and aviation artifacts, and has of the finest restoration programs in the country. Enjoy three hangers fully of restored aircrafts, multiple floor exhibits and flight simulators.

Submarine Force Museum 

Connecticut is full of cool places and museums where you can have unique experiences and learn something new. Among the most intriguing museums is the Submarine Force Museum, home to the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus. This museum offers educational events, a library, guided tours and activities like a scavenger hunt perfect for families. With free admission and free parking-it’s a no brainer!

Holy Land USA Ruins 

Holy Land USA was a religious theme park located in Waterbury, built by John Baptist Greco in the 1950s. Inspired by his travels to Israel, Greco created Holy Land USA as a replica of Biblical sites, intending it to be a place for prayer and meditation.The park featured various recreations of religious landmarks, including a replica of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Golgotha. There was also a large illuminated cross that could be seen from miles away, which became a prominent landmark in the area.

For many years, Holy Land USA attracted visitors from around the region but as time passed, the park fell into disrepair and was closed in the 80s after John’s death. You can still visit the site and walk around the ruins overtaken by nature while imaging what it once was like. Although the site has seen better days, it is still a unique thing to see in Connecticut.

Highland Games Festival in Scotland, CT

If you are visiting Connecticut in October, you may want to attend the popular Highland Games Festival. This festival is all about Scottish traditions and customs, from bagpipe bands and dance competitions to Highlander cows and Scottish sheep. This is a unique was to experience Scottish culture without using a passport. This festival was held in Scotland, CT for over 35 years, but in 2024, they’re moving to the Brooklyn CT fairgrounds. The Highland Games Festival will keep you entertained for hours and is perfect for anyone looking for a unique interactive experience while visiting Connecticut. 

Visit Strawberry Hollow Farm 

Strawberry Hollow Farm is one of the most colorful and vibrant places in Connecticut. It is a family-friendly spot perfect for anyone who loves festive fall vibes. Pick a pumpkin, walk around their field and visit the charming gift shop filled with local goodies and Christmas decor. It makes a perfect stop on a New England fall road trip!

Find Your Way Through a Corn Maze

For a unique family fun activity- challenging enough for the whole family, head to The Farm, in Woodbury. During fall they transform their corn fields into a 4 acre, interactive corn maze experience. Each year they have a different theme that is seen throughout the games, trivia and puzzles you’ll find along the way-Getting lost has never been so fun!

The Puppetry Museum

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry is one of the leading institutions in the United States dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of puppets and puppetry housing one of the largest collections of puppets in the world. This unique art form is brought to life with performances, workshops, and educational programs to engage visitors of all ages with the art of puppetry. Enjoy rotating exhibits showcasing various aspects of puppetry, including historical puppets, contemporary puppet artists, and puppetry traditions from around the world. Additionally, the Ballard Institute hosts performances, workshops, and educational programs to engage visitors of all ages with the art of puppetry.

Devour a Lobster Roll

There are so many options for fresh seafood in Connecticut but this New England speciality is hard to pass-up. Served hot with butter or chilled with light mayo, a fresh lobster roll is a must try while visiting Connecticut. The state is home to numerous fishing communities and coastal regions where lobster is caught locally so rest assured your lobster roll will be exceptionally fresh, enhancing its flavor and texture, making for a memorable dining experience.

One of my favorite rolls came from the Sea View Snack Bar in Mystic, CT. It was so good I went back everyday I was in Mystic!

Connecticut Chocolate Trail  

The Connecticut Chocolate Trail is a delightful journey for chocolate lovers, featuring various chocolatiers, shops, and attractions throughout the state of Connecticut.

The “trail” has been featured in many top 10 lists and is known as one of the best food trails in the country. This route includes over 10+ business and chocolate experiences including sweets like caramels, truffles, ice cream and cookies. It is a great way to see the state, support local businesses, and satisfy your sweet tooth. 

Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum

The Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum is certainly one of the most unique things to do when in Connecticut, perfect for anyone who gets a kick out of comics, cartoons or animation. This museum features rotating exhibitions that highlight various aspects of comic and cartoon history, including displays focused on specific characters, genres, or time periods. It’s the U.S.’s largest collection of character toys and is the only official CelebriDucks Museum in the world! 

In addition to its exhibitions, the museum also hosts special events, workshops, and educational programs for visitors of all ages. This tiny, yet spectacular museum will remind you of the simple pleasures of your childhood with so many animated characters on display. 

Eerie Union Cemetery  

If you love ghost hunting head to the eerie Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut. It dates back to the 1700s and is considered one of the most haunted places in the USA. Many people have reported ghost sightings and enjoy hearing about the folklore and ghost stories of this historic site. The most famous tale associated with Union Cemetery is that of the White Lady, who is said to appear as a ghostly apparition dressed in white. According to local legend, the White Lady is the spirit of a woman who tragically lost her child and now wanders the cemetery in search of her lost child or seeking vengeance for her untimely death. While there are no documented facts supporting these urban legends, some enjoy the mystique and love to wander around the cemetery grounds in hopes of their own ghostly encounter.

Visit Stars Hollow

No one does small town charm better than Stars Hollow, the cozy community home to Rory and Lorelai, fictional characters from the hit TV show, Gilmore Girls. The series aired for seven seasons in the early 2000s and was set in fictional Stars Hollow, Connecticut. While the show was taped on a set in Burbank, CA, many credit the small towns of Waterford, New Milford and Washington Depot as the inspiration behind this beloved small town. Enjoy a stroll down main street, have a meal at local diner and relax on the town green just like the characters in Star’s Hollow! 

Old Wethersfield is one of my favorite small towns to drive through. It offers historic homes, local shops, festive yards and an overall charming down home feel. Located just 10 mins outside of Hartfort.

Enjoy a Scenic Drive Any Time of The Year 

Connecticut offers amazing routes for scenic drives all year long. Enjoy lighthouses and fresh seafood along the coast, or head through the state’s famous small towns and historic streets while admiring fall foliage and coastal views. Some of the best scenic routes in the state include Route 169 National Scenic Byway passing through small towns with picturesque views and miles of farmlands. For spectacular fall foliage, lakes and scenic farmland head to the Litchfield Hills area along Route 202 between the towns of Litchfield and New Milford. Merritt Parkway, a 15 mile stretch of road between Milford and Greenwich is some of the nicest in the state, filled with tree cover an scenic coastal views. As long as you stay off of the major highways, you are sure to enjoy any of the scenic byways in the state!

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With so many unique and fun things to see and do in Connecticut its impossible to get bored in the Nutmeg state! Connecticut is in a great location for many day trips to explore more of charming New England and is easily connected to Boston, another iconic New England city that is worth exploring!

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