Looking for a short get-away that isn’t a budget buster, but is still filled with tons of family fun? Then why not head up I-95 to Connecticut and get to know a piece of the Constitution State.
Connecticut is over 5,000 square miles, so don’t expect to see it all – but a good start is along the Southeast corridor, with stops in Bridgeport, Mystic and Waterbury. Along the way, you’ll get a good sampling of nature, history and underwater fun (for both you and the fish!). And even better, it’s all just hours from New Jersey. Note: Many of the places listed are open year round, but a few do close during the winter months. Please check to make sure of hours and closures!
Plan on getting an early start – you’ll get to see more during the day AND hopefully miss the inevitable I-95 congestion – and head up to Bridgeport, the most populous city in Connecticut. Originally named Pequonnock – the Englishmen who arrived there in the mid 1600s first settled on the banks of the Pequonnock River – the town was a center of Privateering during the American Revolution. Today, it remains a vibrant town – where PT Barnum (the circus promoter) was once the mayor, the first Subway was opened in 1965; and claims to be the home of the Frisbee.
There’s a lot to choose from in Bridgeport. A few highlights include:
In the late afternoon, it’s time to head up to Mystic. It’s about a 1½ drive. Hotel suggestions: Mystic and the nearby towns have a variety of chain hotels to choose from. There is a hotel for every budget, including Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Hilton and Marriott.
Get a good night sleep - there are tons of things to do tomorrow.
Mystic Village (it’s actually not a town with it’s own independent government, but rather a part of Groton and Stonington) is located on the Mystic River and was, historically, one of the areas most important seaports. Today, it remains a fascinating place to visit and explore.
Start your day at the Mystic Seaport. It is one of the nations leading maritime museums and historical villages. Climb aboard tall ships, stroll through a 19th-century coastal village, explore exhilarating exhibits, and watch a working preservation shipyard in action. Museum volunteers stroll the grounds in period costumes and horse and carriage rides are available. There are also seasonal kids activities and exhibits. The Treworgy Planetarium on the grounds of the seaport offers shows and exhibits on celestial navigation using the stars and planets of the season. Summer hours: 9AM-5PM; Winter Hours: Vary. Closed: January – mid February. Special discounts for military families. 75 Greenmanville AvenueMystic, CT 888- 973-2767
Following your visit to the seaport (and if you have time), head west about 20 minutes to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum where visitors travel back 18,000 years and discover the native and natural history of Southeastern Connecticut. The museum includes interactive exhibits, dioramas, historic artifacts, movies and an observation tower. Open year round. 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, CT 800-411-9671
Stay in Mystic for the morning and enjoy the Mystic Aquarium, a hands-on aquarium that offers unforgettable animal encounters, fun interactive experiences and dynamic learning opportunities for people of all ages. Sea lion shows, beluga whales, African penguins, deep-sea exploration exhibits and more! Open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, 9AM-4PM. 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, CT 860-572-5955
After the aquarium, there are two options, depending on what your family is interested in.
Option 1: Are you a family of Dinosaurs lovers? Then, you have two choices (both are slight detours, but not too bad):
Option 2: Not Dinosaur Fans?
End the day in Waterbury.
End the trip with a surprise for the kids – a Day Pass at the Coco Key Water Park. There is over 55,000 square feet of indoor water fun – rain or shine! Water slides, rafts rides, Adventure River, kiddie area and more!
(Side note: Kids love waterparks – a lot of adults do as well. But if you tire of the water park and have some spare time before heading home, consider heading to the Timexpo Museum – a museum detailing the history of the Timex. Learn about this famous watch, discover the role of the Waterbury Clock Company during the war, and more. Hands-on activities are also available.
It’s time to head home. It was a busy 4 days – and there was so much more to do, but not enough time! If you do have another day or two, you can check out a few of these fun sites and activities that are all within driving distance of Mystic; others are on the way home to NJ:
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