While you can’t travel back in time, you can travel to Connecticut to experience a wide variety of historical and interactive getaways. Connecticut is proud to be the home of one of America’s most famous novelists, an interactive museum exploring 11,000 years of Native American history, and colonial homes dating to the early 1600s, with tours for many of the state’s “oldies but goodies” readily available. Here are ten great choices to make history come alive in Connecticut.
Connecticut Redefines the Home
In the 1950s, the town of New Canaan, known for its “conservatism” suddenly became avant-garde when five architects, known as the “Harvard Five,” used the idyllic natural surroundings to create works of modern art. The result: a definitive juxtaposition of scenery that provoked the theories of architecture and art.
Perhaps the most recognized home was also the first to be completed in the series, the Glass House, built by renowned architect, Phillip Johnson, offers scheduled tours. The New Canaan Historical Society has a year-round exhibit about the moderns.
When Dinosaurs Roamed… Connecticut?
Opened in 1968, the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill is Connecticut’s claim to pre-historic times after an accidental discovery of the largest dinosaur track site in North America. The kids will delight in the surrounding park nature trails and the Dinosaur State Park Arboretum, containing more than 250 species. Have the kids participate in several of the activities for children including fossil boxes, scavenger hunt and making a dinosaur track bookmark – the perfect keepsake!
History Loves Company: Historic Inns
Spend the night in a Revolutionary War encampment, sleep in the chambers of an 18th century judge or indulge in the summer home of a 1902 steel magnate. Renovated or restored, these Connecticut inns are more than just a warm bed; they are living history. 3 Liberty Green Bed and Breakfast in Clinton, built c. 1734, retains its colonial charm.
For history buffs, this site was once a militia muster field visited by Generals Washington & Lafayette
Having received several accolades, including the AAA Three Diamond Approval Rating, The Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme has a significant place in local history. Built in 1756 as a residence for Judge William Noyes and his family, the inn opened to the public in 1930.
Before Broadway, there is Goodspeed
Since 1876, the Goodspeed Opera House has been entertaining locals and visitors alike
A foundation built for William Goodspeed’s love of theater, the opera house has shined its spotlight on several highly acclaimed works of theater including the original production of Man of La Mancha, Shenandoah and Annie. Today, it continuously remains at the forefront of musical theater having achieved two Tony Awards and international fame. Nineteen original Goodspeed productions have transferred to Broadway, receiving more than a dozen Tony Awards.
Shine a Light on Connecticut’s Seafaring Past
Let the lights guide the way at the Sheffield Island Lighthouse and Nature Trail Tour in Norfolk. These lighthouses served as beacons of light for countless fisherman returning home from the open seas. The Sheffield Island Lighthouse has been in operation since 1868 and is now listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can climb up the light tower and see period furniture showcasing what life was like in the 19th century for lighthouse keepers
Visit the Oldest Stone House in New England
Welcome to 1639. The Henry Whitfield State Museum, New England’s oldest stone house, welcomes visitors to experience life in the 17th century
The house was erected by Reverend Henry Whitfield, who, born in England, joined the mass exodus of others leaving for the New World seeking religious freedom. With its massive chimneys and steeply pitched roof, the house is filled with authentic 17th to 19th century furnishings
Freedom Afloat: The Freedom Schooner Amistad
For those on the Amistad, freedom began in Connecticut. The Freedom Schooner Amistad in Mystic is a recreation of the original 136-ton, 129-foot-long schooner – essentially, a floating classroom. The replica has even made the journey to Europe and Africa to educate visitors on the transatlantic slave trade. Departing from Havana, Cuba, in 1839, the passengers aboard staged an uprising for freedom that would become among the most famous in history. The Connecticut court determined, in an unprecedented ruling, that their transport was in fact illegal and returned the passengers home to Africa. For March and April visitors may view the Amistad at the Mystic Seaport Museum Shipyard while it is undergoing renovations. Starting in May and continuing through June, the Amistad will be visiting Connecticut ports and will be available for public sails and overnight sails.
Visit the Birthplace of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer
Samuel Clemens, also known as his more famous pen name, Mark Twain, lived in Hartford from 1874 to 1891 and his home is now a recognized historical landmark. The Mark Twain House was where Twain created the legendary characters of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Avid fans of one of the most influential American writers can pick up a brochure highlighting 17 stops in greater Hartford from Cedar Hill Cemetery, where Mark Twain’s contemporaries are buried, to State Street Landing at the Connecticut River, where Twain frequently boarded steamboats bound for New York
Explore the Culture of Connecticut’s First Inhabitants
Travel back in time 11,000 years to explore the history of the Pequot tribe. At the award-winning Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Mystic, experience the lives of the tribe through all the senses
Watch a recreation of a caribou hunt, hear the crackling of fire, grinding of corn and native tongue of this noble tribe and participate in an excavation as part of the museum’s archaeology program
For More Information
• Connecticut Tourism 1-888-CTvisit (1-888-288-4748) or log on at www.CTvisit.com
• Mystic Seaport www.mysticseaport.org or (860) 572-5315.
• Dinosaur State Park www.dinosaurstatepark.org or (860-257-7601).
• Glass House (866) 811-4111.
• 3 Liberty Green B&B (860) 669-0111.
• Bee and Thistle Inn (860) 434-1667.
• Godspeed Theater www.goodspeed.org or (860) 873-8668.
• Sheffeld Island Lighthouse www.seaport.org or (203) 838-9444.
• Freedom Schooner Amistad www.amistadamerica.org or (203) 495- 1839.
• Henry Whitfield State Museum www.whitfieldmuseum.com or (203) 453-2457
• Mashantucket Pequot Museum www.pequotmuseum.org or (800) 411-9671.
• Mark Twain House www.marktwainhouse.org or (860) 247-099
Photos courtesy of Visit Connecticut