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6 tourist attractions to visit in Connecticut

Topic U.S. Travel

6 tourist attractions to visit in Connecticut - Image

When you consider United States travel, perhaps your mind first goes to major cities like New York and Los Angeles. However, the smaller states are also brimming with interesting people and sites that tourists can enjoy.

Despite being the third-smallest state in America, Connecticut has a bevy of cultural attractions to explore. Find travel insurance for Canadians and head to these six destinations in the Nutmeg State.

1. Mystic Seaport and Aquarium
Stop by the small town of Mystic, right off Interstate 95, for two amazing adventures.

Mystic Seaport is a living history museum dedicated to maritime culture that includes a 19th-century village as well as historic vessels. The most famous boat at the seaport is the Charles W. Morgan, a well-maintained whaling ship that visitors can board. There's also a working preservation shipyard where you can watch masters at work. Exhibits and events are always being held on the grounds, so don't miss those learning opportunities.

Speaking of learning, Mystic is also home to a fabulous aquarium. In addition to the variety of animals the aquarium has, it serves as a center for aquatic research. A few of the must-see exhibits include the Foxwoods Marine Theater Show featuring California sea lions and the only beluga whales in New England, as described on the aquarium's website.

2. Hammonasset Beach State Park

With an expansive shoreline that faces Long Island, you should certainly schedule a day at the beach during your trip. Hammonasset Beach State Park has more than 3 kilometres of coastline to stretch out on and catch some rays. There are also paths for biking and campgrounds at Hammonasset if you'd like to stay the night.

While you're down by the shore, explore options for kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals along the coast. The neighboring town of Clinton is the bluefish capital of the world, so you know Long Island Sound is ripe for catching a fish or two.

3. Gillette Castle State Park

This castle-like structure sits atop a hill near the Connecticut River in East Haddam. It was built by William Hooker Gillette, an actor who wanted a mansion that resembled a medieval castle. He erected the structure - originally named the Seventh Sister - on his expansive estate between 1914 and 1919, according to the state website. Twenty men worked on the castle's construction, building it slowly from local fieldstone and steel framework.

Connecticut bought the land from Gillette's family in 1943 and turned it into a state park, complete with woodland trails. The grounds are open all year long but you can only tour the castle during summer months. There are campgrounds nearby and a picnic area for your enjoyment.

4. The Mark Twain House and Museum
Renowned author Samuel Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain, was a resident of Connecticut. His former house in the capital city of Hartford was converted into a museum that focuses on his life and works. According to the museum's website, the house was designed and built for his family in the mid-1880s, but they vacated the property in 1891 due to financial woes. The home was sold in 1903 and opened as a tribute to Mark Twain in 2003.

You've likely read one of his novels, whether it was "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "The Prince and The Pauper." Drop into the museum to explore The Aetna Gallery, a permanent collection of memorabilia, as well as the Hartford Financial Services Theater for a documentary about Twain.

5. The casinos
People from neighboring states frequent Connecticut's two impressive casinos - Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

Foxwoods is owned by the Pequot tribe and includes space for golf, gambling, shopping, dining, shows and meetings. You can stay in one of the several accommodations on the premises and enjoy an evening at the spa. It's the biggest casino on the Eastern seaboard, so there's no shortage of activities.

Mohegan Sun is located along the Thames River, where you can see fireworks during the summer. This casino belongs to the Mohegan tribe and has similar attractions to its neighboring establishment, such as performance spaces, restaurants, shops, golf courses and hotels.

6. The Philip Johnson Glass House
If you're interested in architecture, you have to see the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan. As the name implies, the structure is almost completely built from clear glass, although there are some walls inside for necessary privacy. The Glass House's website explained how architect Philip Johnson lived in the glass house from 1949 until 2005 and designed it as an inventive way to surround yourself with nature. With a pond to one side and woods all around, it's easy to understand why he spent the better part of his life there.