Known for its commuter cities, New York's neighbor is synonymous with the affluent lanes and mansions of The Stepford Wives and TV's Gilmore Girls. In old-moneyed Greenwich, the Litchfield Hills and the Quiet Corner, these representations ring true.
Many regard the state as a mere stepping stone to the 'real' New England, from whose tourist boom Connecticut has been spared. The upside is that Connecticut retains a more 'authentic' feel. The downside is a slow decaying of former heavyweights like Hartford and New London, where visitors can ponder the price of progress and get enthused about urban renewal. New Haven, home of Yale University, is one such place rewiring itself as a vibrant cultural hub.
Rich in maritime, literary and national history, as well as the farm-to-table food movement, celebrity chefs and enough waterfalls and state parks for the most avid outdoors folk, the Nutmeg State unfolds in incredible layers the longer you stick around.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Connecticut.
In 2015 the nation's oldest public art museum completed a five-year, $33-million renovation, renewing 32 galleries and 15 public spaces. The Wadsworth houses nearly 50,000 pieces of art in a castlelike Gothic Revival building. On display are paintings by members of the Hudson River School, including some by Hartford native Frederic Church; 19th-century impressionist works; 18th-century New England furniture; sculptures by Connecticut artist Alexander Calder; and an outstanding array of surrealist, postwar and contemporary works.
MuseumYale Center for British Art
Reopened in 2016 after extensive restoration, this fabulous gallery was architect Louis Kahn’s last commission and is the setting for the largest collection of British art outside the UK. Spanning three centuries from the Elizabethan era to the 19th century, and arranged thematically as well as chronologically, the collection gives an unparalleled insight into British art, life and culture. A visit is an absolute must for anyone interested in beautiful things. And yes, it's free.
MuseumYale University Art Gallery
This outstanding museum was architect Louis Kahn's first commission and houses the oldest university art collection in the country; it includes Vincent van Gogh's The Night Café and European masterpieces by Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Manet and Picasso. In addition there are displays of American masterworks by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollock, silver from the 18th century, and art from Africa, Asia, and the pre- and post-Columbian Americas. Best of all, it won't cost you a penny to take a peek.
ArchitecturePhilip Johnson Glass House
Inspired by Mies van der Rohe, this icon of mid-century modern architecture was the home of late Pritzker Prize–winner Philip Johnson and his art collector partner, David Whitney. Johnson added 13 other structures to the 47-acre site during his life here and daily tours allow you to explore a selection of them along with the stunning gardens. Reservations are highly recommended.
MuseumMystic Seaport Museum
More than a museum, Mystic Seaport is a re-creation of an entire New England whaling village spread over 17 acres of the former George Greenman & Co Shipyard. To re-create the past, 60 historic buildings, four tall ships and almost 500 smaller vessels are gathered along the Mystic River. Interpreters staff the site and are glad to discuss traditional crafts and trades. Most illuminating are the demonstrations on such topics as ship rescue, oystering and whaleboat launching.
MuseumMark Twain House & Museum
For 17 years, encompassing the most productive period of his life, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835–1910) and his family lived in this striking orange-and-black brick Victorian house, which then stood in the pastoral area of the city called Nook Farm. Architect Edward Tuckerman Potter lavishly embellished it with turrets, gables and verandas, and some of the interiors were done by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Admission to the house is by guided tour only; advance ticket purchase is recommended.
Each year, thousands of high-school students make pilgrimages to Yale, nursing dreams of attending the country's third-oldest university, which boasts such notable alums as Noah Webster, Naomi Wolf and Hillary Clinton, and presidents William H Taft and George W Bush. You don't need to share the students' ambitions in order to take a stroll around the campus – just pick up a map at the visitor center or join a free, one-hour guided tour.
MuseumConnecticut Science Center
Designed by Argentinian architect Cesar Pelli, the Connecticut Science Center is both an exciting architectural space and an absorbing museum for adults and kids alike. Innovative, interactive exhibits and programs abound; there's a dedicated KidsZone on the 1st floor; films, stage shows and special events are on offer; and there's always a fascinating world-class visiting themed exhibition. You could easily spend a whole day here, but it's best to arrive after 2pm when the school groups clear out. Check the website for what's on.
State ParkHammonasset Beach State Park
Though not off the beaten path by any means, the two full miles of flat, sandy beach at Hammonasset Beach State Park handily accommodate summer crowds. This is the ideal beach (the state's largest) at which to set up an umbrella chair, crack open a book and forget about the world. The surf is tame, making swimming superb. Restrooms and showering facilities are clean and ample, and a wooden boardwalk runs the length of the park.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Connecticut.