Sightseeing in CT: Top Places to Visit in Summer

Noank lightSightseeing in Connecticut is filled with unexpected pleasures and surprises at every turn. It is the perfect place for a summer road trip. A list of the best places to visit in CT in summer include plenty of:

  • Tourist attractions
  • Charming small towns to explore
  • Live music and performances
  • And opportunities to find your own hidden gems

 

While it may not have the exoticism of many other locales, it has one major leg-up on the competition.

 

It’s super close.

 

Seriously, it takes less than 2 hours to get from one corner of the state to the other.

 

Some counties are bigger than that in other US states.

 

Here are top picks from the many sightseeing destinations and places to visit in CT in summer.

 

All the best places to visit in CT in summer

Bugs aside, summer is the best time to explore the outdoors of Connecticut.

Greenwich

Since the completion of the railroad in the 1800s, Greenwich has long been a summer destination for New Yorkers.

 

And more recently, travelers the world over have discovered it.

 

Much that attracted people to visit Greenwich persists to this day:

Shopping on Greenwich Avenue

 

Greenwich is the quintessential wealthy New England town. Shopping the various high-end boutiques on Greenwich Avenue can take up an entire day.

Got a limited budget?

 

You’ll still find that the joy of window-shopping luxe shops is a very fulfilling experience on the lovely streets of downtown Greenwich.

 

When your feet get tired, choose one of the dozens of downtown restaurants to rest your weary bones and sip a glass of wine while people-watching.

Plying the beaches near Greenwich, Connecticut

Old Greenwich called itself “Sound Beach” back when it actually wanted to attract tourists.

 

Now, it’s a different matter.

 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t play tourist.

 

Just be ready to pop for a day at the beach at any of the best beaches in Greenwich and nearby.

Outdoor activities

The beach deserves its own section.

 

But that’s not the end of the many outdoor activities to enjoy in Greenwich this summer.

 

Some more ideal choices include:

 

Be sure to download the official Greenwich, CT, Visitor’s Guide to plan a quick summer visit.

 

New Haven

Yale University campus, one of the best places to visit in CT in summerYale University gets all the attention in New Haven, Connecticut.

 

But there really is so much more to New Haven and the surrounding area than that.

 

Several of the best summer festivals in Connecticut happen in New Haven. And some parts of the Connecticut shoreline are particularly unique around New Haven.

 

Yale University

 

Having just made the above statement, Yale University is a nice place to visit.

 

Especially when most of the students are away over summer break.

 

The historic Yale campus might not be something on your radar, but it is truly one of the most scenic spots. You can take a campus tour or stroll the campus on your own. Mature trees, well-manicured lawns and imposing 300-year-old buildings make it an impressive spot to wander the same paths as the famous alumni who came before you.

 

Lighthouse Point Park

 

New Haven lighthouse, one of the best places to visit in Connecticut in summerWhile you’re visiting Yale, you can also plan to stroll through this 82-acre park on Long Island Sound. It’s also located in New Haven, just on the other side of town. The city can get hot in the summer, and the park is the perfect place to relax and take in the scenery.

 

Though like the majority of the best Connecticut beaches, be ready for a cover charge for a day at the beach here.

 

Silver Sands State Park

 

This Milford, CT, park offers pristine sandy beaches spanning a half-mile as well as a boardwalk made for strolling. You can spot shorebirds, bask in the sun, and collect seashells while listening to the soothing sounds of the sea.

 

Walk from here to the nearby neighborhood of Walnut Beach.

 

There, take a cooking class at the Fig Cooking School.

 

Afterwards, send us a thank you note for providing you with one of the best date ideas in Connecticut.

 

And free of charge, at that.

 

Sleeping Giant

 

This best of the Connecticut parks is a silent reminder that many of Connecticut’s rolling hills were once volcanoes.

 

The Appalachian mountains used to be taller than the Andes.

 

Seriously, look it up.

 

It’s amazing what time (and erosion) will do to you.

 

Sleeping Giant was formed by trap rock ridges creating a fault-block ridge over 200 million years ago. The stunning ridge looks like a giant taking a nap, which is how it got its name.

Victorian mansion on one of the Thimble IslandsThimble Islands

 

This collection of lovely islands can be viewed via a boat tour.

 

What makes this particular boat tour so fun is the chance to spot some mega luxe mansions.

 

And all while listening to some gossipy good stories learning the surprising names of the various Thimble Islands

 

Litchfield Hills

 

red barn in Litchfield Hills, a top pick for places to visit in CT in summerThis area offers some of the most dramatic views in the state.

 

They’re especially impressive at peak CT leaf season. You can drive through the lovely small towns, explore the meandering scenic Highways and Byways and even get in some excellent antiquing.

 

Some of the spots to visit in the summer include:

 

Kent Falls State Park

 

Located in Kent, you can hike the lovely falls on a hot day just to feel the cooling mist on your face.

 

There are 17 waterfalls cascading downwards leading to the Housatonic River.

 

This park serves double duty, as it also merits a mention on a fall sightseeing list.

 

The kaleidoscope of colors earns it the title, “The Jewel of the Inland Parks.”

 

Fun fact:

 

No one seems to know who first gave Kent Falls State Park that bejeweled title first.

 

Ask anyone in Connecticut, and they’ll respond with some variation of, “It is known”.

 

Lake Waramaug

 

This massive Connecticut lake spans 656-acres surrounded by lovely parkland ready to explore. 

 

Because of its size, you can choose where you want to get started and enjoy hiking, swimming, boating and even camping if you are feeling more adventurous.

 

Be ready to encounter wildlife in all shapes and sizes from beavers to soaring eagles and bears to wild turkeys.

 

Mohawk Mountain and Forest

 

Located in Cornwall, this state park accesses the Appalachian Trail.

 

Reaching the summit ridge offers views of Long Island Sound and the Hartford skyline. The forest offers over 9 miles of trails, including a portion of the Mattabesett Trail.

 

Burr Pond State Park

If this writer were to choose between the sea and a lake for a summer dip, the lake would be the winning choice.

 

Burr Pond State Park, like Lake Waramaug, offers a man-made lake for boating, fishing, and swimming.

 

This is also one of the best parks in Connecticut for fall colors. Plenty of hiking trails offer pristine sights and views of the fall foliage.

 

Saville Dam

Saville Dam, one of the best places to visit in Connecticut in summerThe Saville Dam is one of the most photographed sights in Connecticut with its castle-like turret and peaceful surroundings. It sits on the eastern branch of the Farmington River in Barkhamsted.

 

Like everything else in Litchfield County, it’s a bit of a drive from anywhere else.

 

So pack a lunch.

 

Hartford

Situated inland in the center of the Connecticut River Valley, Hartford can get hot in the summer.

 

But there are plenty of attractions and activities in Hartford to distract.

 

Elizabeth ParkElizabeth Park

 

Elizabeth Park offers more than 100 acres of formal gardens and grounds. Instead of nature trails, you can stroll the tranquil green space and walking loops to enjoy a sense of calm and discover the many varied gardens and landscaping themes. Plan to have lunch at the Pond House Café.

 

Heublein Tower

 

Located in lovely Talcott Mountain State Park, hikers can reach the tower via a (steep) 30-minute hike through stunning parkland.

 

The tower is hard to miss in the vast forest, standing 165ft tall and 1,040 ft above sea level.

 

Roseland cottageRoseland Cottage

 

This Gothic Revival-style home is known for its distinct pink exterior and is a National Historic Landmark. It is beyond quaint and charming, both inside and out, with beautifully appointed rooms offering a glimpse of life in the Victorian era.

 

Lake Compounce

 

Looking for a way to release tension?

 

Then this CT amusement park is the place to go. It is not only the oldest amusement park in the United States, it’s also massive.

 

Lake Compounce covers 332 acres of pure unadulterated fun.

 

Old Saybrook

 

Saybrook point lightPerhaps best known as the former home of silver screen star Katharine Hepburn, one can reach this lovely town in just 90 minutes from New York City. If you’re looking for a summer day trip, this is New England state’s oldest town.

 

And, it’s situated on the waterfront.

 

So definite plus.

 

Snap shots of the old lighthouse and explore the upscale boutiques before enjoying lunch.

 

Hammonasset Beach State Park

 

Another lovely beach, in hand with stunning parkland along the shore, offers a perfect day of relaxing. Located along the waters of the Long Island Sound you can tan, swim, or take a stroll along the boardwalk.

 

bridge across the Connecticut River in East Haddam

East Haddam

 

This historic small town was founded in the 1700s and settled on the east bank of the Connecticut River in Middlesex County.

 

This picturesque setting is packed with New England charm, making it the perfect place to stroll and take in the atmosphere.

 

The town offers boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and lovely homes and buildings that speak to its history.

 

Devil’s Hopyard State Park

 

There is no other way to describe Devil’s Hopyard State Park other than stunning. It offers miles of hiking trails to take in the beautiful scenery, bird watch, bike or just stroll. You’ll find a trail to suit your pace as you encounter bridges, mountains, cool and shady woodlands, and babbling streams.

 

This park also features the impressive Chapman Falls.

 

Gillette Castle State Park

 

This medieval castle is an unexpected sight in the United States, with its stone façade and imposing sense of history. The castle itself is a popular pic to snap by tourists, but the park is also lovely with interesting stone-arch bridges and wooden trestles.

 

Mystic

Coastal Connecticut is all about the summer.

 

And tourists come from all over the East Coast to visit the attractions, activities and things to do in Mystic, Connecticut.

 

A must-visit summer attraction in the area is:

Bluff Point State Park Coastal Reserve

 

This peninsula is a local haunt, not quite as well-known by tourists. This makes it the perfect place to take in the natural beauty where the beaches are quiet, and you’ll discover a very diverse landscape.

 

Many describe it as otherworldly.

 

The serene park also offers a lovely view of the New London Ledge Lighthouse, a quaint brick structure off the coast.

 

You’ll go from lush trees to wetlands and lovely soft sand beaches to the coast where you can sit quietly and enjoy the peace and quiet.

 

Beautiful Places in CT to Take Pictures

 

You know you’ll want to share your adventures on social media.

 

From covered bridges to gorgeous sunsets, plenty of the best places to visit in CT in summer are ideal for budding photographers.

 

Some of the most beautiful places in CT to take pictures include:

 

Connecticut Covered Bridges

 

Covered bridges in Connecticut are highly photogenic with several options available:

 

  • Comstock (CT) Bridge, East Hampton
  • Kent Falls Bridge, Kent
  • West Cornwall Bridge, West Cornwall
  • Huckleberry Hill Bridge, Avon
  • Bulls Bridge, Gaylordsville

 

Need a bit more than a covered bridge? Then check out a few more options, scattered throughout the state:

  • Heublein Tower
  • Saville Dam
  • Gillette Castle State Park
  • Roseland Cottage

 

Fun places to go in CT with friends this summer

 

Finding fun places to go in CT with friends isn’t difficult.

 

That said, some places to visit in CT in summer that this writer would recommend include:

 

Connecticut Aquariums

 

Connecticut aquariums are perfect for a rainy day. You can view thousands of species of marine life including marine mammals, fish, invertebrates and reptiles. If you’ve never encountered sea creatures up close, this is your chance.

 

There are two aquariums in Connecticut:

 

Connecticut Art Galleries & Museums

 

If you love discovering museums and art galleries, there are a few you have to visit in Connecticut.

 

Bush-Holley House in Greenwich is the former home of the Cos Cob art colony. You can view some of the artists’ work in rooms at the former boarding house.

 

You can also visit The Permanent Collections Gallery for an impressive collection of the colony’s work at the Greenwich Historical Society.

 

It’s a more intriguing destination than the name implies.

 

Mystic Museum of Art is over 100 years old located on the west bank of the Mystic River. It is a culture and art center hosting ongoing events, while also offering a lovely view of the river.

 

The Florence Griswold Museum features work from the Lyme Art Colony including founders of the American Impressionism movement Hassam, Twachtman and Metcalf.

 

Connecticut Wineries

 

The Connecticut Wine Trail features 25 vineyards and wineries each with its own story and interesting location. Spanning all points north, south, east and west in Connecticut, you can spend days exploring the various tasting rooms or taking vineyard tours. Many sites along the way include exceptional dining experiences not to mention idyllic scenery.

 

Need a more exhaustive list of things to do on a trip to Connecticut with friends?

 

Below are a few more options in different corners of the state, in case you’ve already forgotten:

  • Thimble Islands
  • Lake Compounce
  • Shopping in Greenwich

 

Best Nature Spots in Connecticut

 

hiking in Connecticut woods in the summerSummer in Connecticut offers thousands of acres of parkland, beaches, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls to explore.

 

Want to become more in tune with nature?

 

Then Connecticut offers some of the best nature spots including:

  • Silver Sands State Park
  • Sleeping Giant State Park
  • Bluff Point State Park Coastal Reserve
  • Kent Falls State Park
  • Lake Waramaug
  • Devil’s Hopyard State Park
  • Hammonasset Beach State Park
  • Mohawk Mountain and Forest

Outdoor Places to Visit In CT

 

We’ve already covered the hottest nature sights in Connecticut.

 

And yet there are also outdoor places to visit in Connecticut that aren’t just about nature including:

  • Elizabeth Park
  • East Haddam
  • Old Saybrook

 

Find even more things to do in Connecticut in the summer

Elizabeth Park rose gardensWhile there are spots all over Connecticut ideal for the summer months, most of the state has its own unique allure.

 

Not quite ready to plan your trip to all the top places to visit in CT in summer?

 

No worries!

 

Keep exploring our guide to summer in Connecticut, including:

 

Top Places To Visit in Connecticut in Fall

 

Connecticut in the fall is just as popular for sightseeing.

 

Possibly moreso.

 

The breathtaking colors of Connecticut fall foliage should be on everyone’s bucket list.

 

Some of the best places to see the leaves change include previously-mentioned locations:

  • Litchfield Hills
  • Burr Pond State Park
  • Kent Falls State Park
  • Lake Waramaug
  • Heublein Tower
  • Saville Dam

 

Be sure to read our guide to top CT fall foliage driving routes.

 

That said, there are so many more fall activities to keep you entertained in Connecticut.

 

Especially fall festivals throughout the state.

 

And for all of the most unique attractions, activities, and things to do in Connecticut, be sure to download the free Connecticut Travel Guide.

 

We hope to see you soon!