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Connecticut Attractions

Lake Compounce Buy One Get One Free Deal

Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT is starting off the season right with a buy one regular admission ticket and get the other ticket for free deal – or $40.99 for two tickets. The deal is only available online and the tickets are only good for May 9 (opening day for the 2015 season), 10, 16 and 17, 2015. Be sure to check out the new Dino Expedition when there.

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New England’s Oldest Amusement Parks

Did you know that New England is home to some very old amusement parks? It’s true. There are three of the country’s oldest amusement parks in New England, including the oldest. They are:

    1. Lake Compounce Amusement Park in Bristol, CT, (1846). The oldest amusement park in the United States, Lake Compounce is also tied for the fifth oldest amusement park in the world. The Wildcat Roller Coaster (1927) at Lake Compounce is the eighth oldest roller coaster in the United States and tied for the twelfth oldest in the world. Lake Compounce is also home to a classic, hard-to-find, flying scooter ride, and a classic wood carousel dating back to 1893.
    2. Canobie Lake Park in Salem, NH, (1902). Canobie Lake Park is tied for the 31st oldest amusement park in the world. Canobie Lake Park is also the oldest trolley park* in New England and tied as the seventh oldest Trolley Park in the United States. Canobie is also home to a couple of classic, hard-to-find rides including a flying scooter ride, and a caterpillar ride. They also have a classic wood carousel dating back to 1898, and a classic metal carousel dating to the 1940s.
    3. Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, CT, (1908). Quassy is tied for the 41st oldest amusement park in the world. Quassy is also the second oldest Trolley Park in New England and the 11th oldest trolley park in the United States. Quassy is home to a  carousel dating back to 1952 (Little Dipper) and a brand new all wooden carousel (Wooden Warrior – 2010/2011).

* Trolley parks were picnic and recreation areas started along streetcar lines.

Sources: National Amusement Park Historical Association and the National Carousel Association.

Photo credits: The picture of Lake Compounce is in the public domain. The picture of the Corkscrew at Canobie Lake park if from the Wikipedia. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. The picture of Quassy is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.license.

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Visit Some Great Old Ships in Connecticut

Continuing in our series on New England’s maritime heritage, we round up some famous ships that you can visit in Connecticut. As with any trip to Connecticut looking for all things nautical, you would be well served by making sure that Mystic Seaport is on your itinerary.

Freedom Schooner Amistad

The recreated (at Mystic Seaport 1999/2000) Amistad makes its home in New Haven, CT. But be sure to check their schedule because they visit ports throughout the world.

The Eagle

The Eagle (1936) makes its home port in New London, CT at the US Coast Guard Academy. You will want to check their schedule though as the ship has an active training schedule that takes it away from home for a good portion of the year.

Picture of the Charles W. Morgan

Charles W. Morgan

Charles W. Morgan

The Charles W. Morgan (1841) is the last of America’s whaling ships and the the country’s oldest commercial ship afloat. Only the USS Constitution is older. You will find the Morgan at Mystic Seaport.

Watercraft Collection at Mystic Seaport

Explore the entire watercraft collection at Mystic Seaport. The collection includes 20 vessels including the National Historic Landmark vessels: Morgan (mentioned above), Dunton (1921), Sabino (1908) and Emma C. Berry (1866).

USS Nautilus

You will find the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, CT.

Other Articles in this Series

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Connecticut Aquariums and Maritime Museums

This is the second in our series on New England’s maritime heritage (See our first installment here – Ten Must See New England Lighthouses). In it we stop in the Constitution State to visit the many aquariums and maritime museums that give you a view of the sea both from above and below the waves.

Custom House Maritime Museum – New London, CT
Preserving the history of New London’s waterfront, the Custom House Maritime Museum offers exhibitions, and artifacts relating to lighthouses, U.S. Customs, the Amistad, as well as offering boat trips and lighthouse tours. Yankee Magazine recognized their lighthouse tours as a 2014 Editors’ Choice for Best Lighthouse Tours. You will also want to check out their annual “chowda’fest”.

The Maritime Aquarium – Norwalk, CT
Get a fish eye view of the sea at The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT. See sharks, turtles, harbor seals, river otters, visit the intertidal touch tank or the shark and ray touch tank, or take in a show at Connecticut’s largest IMAX theater. Great fun for young and old alike.

Mystic Aquarium – Mystic, CT
Another wonderful aquarium experience can be found at the Mystic Aquarium. A visit here can easily be paired with a visit to Mystic Seaport to get a full picture both above and below the waterline.

Mystic Seaport – Mystic, CT
Billing themselves as the “Museum of America and the Sea”, Mystic Seaport is a must-see for anyone with an interest in our seafaring history. Whether is is strolling around the 19th century village, checking out some of the many demonstrations and performances, or taking in the wooden boat show or Sea Music Festival, Mystic Seaport will give you an unprecedented understanding of our nautical heritage.

Stonington’s Old Lighthouse Museum – Stonington, CT
Owned by the Stonington Historical Society, the Stonington Old Lighthouse Museum exhibits artifacts chronicling Stonington’s maritime and agricultural history. The museum is open May to October.

The Submarine Force Museum – Groton, CT
The Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CT houses the world’s finest of Submarine artifacts. The museum has over 33,000 artifacts, 30,000 photographs, and 20,000 documents in in its collection – making for ever changing displays. The museum is also home to the USS Nautilus.

U.S. Coast Guard Museum – New London, CT
The U.S. Coast Guard Museum is currently on the grounds of the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. It houses artifacts covering over two hundred years of the service’s history. Pleas note that a new site for the museum in downtown New London is planned for the future (See: National Coast Guard Museum Association).

Picture credits: The picture of Mystic Seaport in the slider is from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 1.0 License. The remaining pictures are considered to be in the public domain.

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2014 Spring School Vacation / April School Vacation

The annual April school vacation is upon us. What to do? Well fret not, here are a few great ideas for things to do during this year’s spring school vacation…

Visit an Aquarium
Always a fun thing to do with the kids, New England has several excellent aquariums, including:

Take in a Baseball Game

What better way to celebrate spring than to take in a baseball game.

  • Boston Red Sox (MLB) – The Red Sox will be in town April 16 to 21, 2014 against the Orioles and April 22 to 23 against the Yankees
  • Pawtucket Red Sox (MiLB AAA) – The Paw Sox will be at home from April 18 to 21 against Buffalo, and April 22 to 25 against Rochester
  • New Britain Rock Cats (MiLB AA) – The Rock Cats are at home from April 17 to 19 against Portland, and April 21 to 24 against new Hampshire
  • New Hampshire Fisher Cats – The Fisher Cats are at home from April 11 to 13 against Binghamton, April 14 to 16 against New Britain, and April 25 to 27 against Reading
  • Portland Sea Dogs – The Sea Dogs are at home from April 11 through 13 against New Britain, April 14 to 16 against Binghamton, and April 25 to 27 against Trenton

Go to a Living History Museum

Both Plimoth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village are open during April vacation. Old Sturbridge Village has a host of special activities for the week including a muster of the militia, fife and drum performances, and more on Patriot’s Day.

Spring Skiing

While the ski season is definitely rapidly fading, there should still be some good spring skiing at some of the bigger ski resorts in northern New England (ME, NH, and VT).

Visit a Zoo

There are numerous zoos in New England if you want to get the kids out to see some interesting animals.

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2014 New England Air Shows

It looks to be another lean year for air show fans – the lingering hangover from last year’s sequester cuts? There are only two major events taking place in the spring:

As always, you can look for the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour to make its way into New England in the late summer early fall. Keep on eye on the schedule for exact times and locations.

Also, the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, CT is a great place to get your aviation fix this spring and summer.

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New England Diners That Allow You to Fill Up While Looking Back

There’s just something about a good diner that makes you feel linked in common experience to generations that came before. They have a feel of permanence to them, like they’ve always been there and they always will be. Perhaps it is that permanence that makes them feel so homey.

With diners, you generally know what you’re going to get: a traditional Americana menu, friendly service and homemade slices of pie. New Englanders are fortunate, then, to have so many traditional diners nearby. If you’re traveling to, or a resident of New England, visit these diners for a delicious slice of yesteryear.

Orem’s Diner
167 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT 06897

Orem’s Diner in Wilton, Connecticut has been around for a long time — since 1921! In their near-century of operation, the Orem’s folks have accumulated invaluable culinary wisdom, and a certain importance to the community. “It’s where Wilton happens”, says their website, proudly. It’s a status that Orem’s has earned.

First, there’s the menu: it has everything, any time. From broiled center-cut pork chops, to seafood, to blueberry pancakes. The portions are generous (or as one customer puts it, “diner food on steroids.”) Then there’s a staff renowned for its attention to detail, friendliness and efficiency. Throw in a great atmosphere in a setting that feels like a diner should, and you’re left with a top-to-bottom complete dining experience.

Sundays are especially crowded, so get there early, especially with large parties.

A1 Diner
Picture of the A1 Diner in Gardiner, ME3 Bridge Street
Gardiner, ME 04345

The classic A1 Diner has been a Gardiner staple since 1946, and has received a ton of accolades recently, gracing the cover of Maine magazine, as well as being featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Part of its allure is the look. It’s a retro-styled dinner car, complete with chrome, flower boxes, and a neat, hanging sign. The menu is a proverbial survey of traditional diner food: all-day breakfast, over 20 sandwiches on the lunch menu, and an Americana menu with fried liver, Maine fried clams, and New England pot roast along with veggie options.

A1 Diner is open 7am-8pm Monday through, 7am-8:30pm on Friday and Saturday, and an abbreviated 8am to 1pm on Sundays.

Tilt’n Diner
Picture of the Tilt'n Diner in Tilton, NH61 Laconia Road
Tilton, NH 03276

Tilt’n Diner is a laid back, 50’s-styled diner that faithfully recreates the look and feel of that era. With its pink exterior and the vintage red script “Tilt’n Diner” above the entrance, its resemblance to the diners from the James Dean era is truly striking.

The food is great too, something Tilt’n has gained national notoriety for. It’s been tagged a “must stop” on the New Hampshire Presidential Primary campaign trail by The Associated Press. They offer no nonsense dishes like Baked Shepard’s Pie, meatloaf, steak, and liver, but also a number of salads, five seafood dishes, a full breakfast menu, sandwiches, burgers, and 12 different deserts. That’s a lot of food, folks.

Shawmut Diner
Picture of the Shawmut Diner in New Bedford, MA943 Shawmut Avenue
New Bedford, MA

The Shawmut Diner is an old converted dinner car that is on the National Register of Historic Places, but still produces some of the best diner food in Massachusetts. As with the Tilt’n Diner, Shawmut has a massive menu. Honestly, where do they store all of this food when they’re so tiny? It boggles the mind.

They follow a simple formula: delicious, flavor-rich food in enormous portions for surprisingly low prices. Sometimes not changing things is a brilliant plan.

Dam Diner

5929 Rt 30 W. Townshend, VT 05353

Giggle, it’s OK. The Dam Diner folks know all the jokes. Heck, they probably came up with half of them. Kind of like the delicious “Double-Dam”, which includes a healthy portion of ham/bacon/sausage egg and cheese with home fries. The Dam Diner serves flavor-packed traditional diner food with gregariousness and zeal… and puns.

Everything is home-cooked, from the French toast to the roast beef. Not surprisingly, the quality is superb, and that’s why it’s normally crowded with locals.

Curiously, the diner is closed on Tuesdays (I’ll be dammed) but is otherwise open from 5am through 8pm. The Dam Diner is a cash only establishment, but if you forget, you can always swing by the dam ATM.

Standing Out By Being Traditional

Many New England diners have continuously operated for over 50 years, becoming social pillars of their communities. Their booths and barstools are where gossip happens, where business is done, where problems are solved, and jokes are cracked. Generations of people have likely unwittingly sat in the same seat and eaten the same meal that their fathers and mothers ate decades before. Time goes by, but diners are constant.

If you’re near any of these New England diners, stop in. You’ll eat home cooked food, chat it up with your server, and leave with a full stomach and a smile, just like a million people before you.

About the Author

Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel expert and enthusiast. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group motorcoach tours in the US and Canada, including several New England bus tours which you can learn more about here: Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers.

Photo credits: The picture of the A1 Diner is by Steve Frenkel and is from flickr. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license. The picture of the Tilton Diner is by Gail Frederick and is from flickr. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. the Picture of the Shawmut Diner is by Elizabeth Thomsen and is from flickr. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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Things to Do During April School Vacation

April school vacation is once again upon us raising the question of how to entertain the kids for a week. You can check out some of our suggestions from last year – 10 Great Things to do During April School Vacation, or you can consider some of the following ideas:

Go to an Aquarium

An aquarium always makes for a fun day-trip. There are three aquariums in New England that are open this time of year:

Go to a Children’s Museum

Children’s museums are always fun for the kids. They can be especially fun during a vacation week as they tend to add special programming for vacation weeks. The following children’s museums are open during school vacation week:

Go to a Baseball Game

A baseball game is a great springtime activity with kids. The following teams are “in town” during April school vacation week:

  • Boston Red Sox (MLB):
    • April 12-15, 2013: Against the Tampa Bay Rays
    • April 19 & 20, 2013: Against the Kansas City Royals
  • Pawtucket Red Sox (MiLB AAA):
    • April 12-14, 2913: Against the Rochester Red Wings
    • April 15-18, 2013: Against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs
  • New Hampshire Fisher Cats (MiLB AA)
    • April 18-21, 2013: Against the Binghamton Mets
  • Portland Sea Dogs (MiLB AA)
    • April 19-21, 2013: Against the New Britain Rock Cats
    • April 22-24, 2013, Against the Binghamton Mets

Go to a Zoo

A zoo is always a fun activity both for adults and their offspring. The following New England zoos are open during school vacation week:

How About Something a Little More Unique?

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Take in Spring in a Garden or Arboretum

What better way to celebrate the season of rebirth than to stroll through a botanical garden or arboretum on a nice spring day? To that end, we thought we would share with you another one of the itineraries from Mystic Country – this one featuring Arboretums and gardens…

Connecticut College Arboretum, New London, CT
Established in 1920, the Connecticut College Arboretum in New London has four major plant collections:

  1. Native Plants – This collection features primarily trees and shrubs as well as a wonderful wildflower garden.
  2. Caroline Black Garden – The four acre Caroline Black Garden has ornamental trees and shrubs arranged in a series of four garden “rooms”.
  3. Campus Landscape – The Campus Landscape features a wide variety of trees and views of Long Island Sound.
  4. Lord & Burnham Greenhouse – The Lord & Burnham Greenhouse contains tropical plants for teaching and research.

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, Mystic, CT
A butterfly house filled with flowering plants as well as a number of distinct wildlife habitats and natural gardens native to Eastern Connecticut all can be found at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic.

Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, CT
In addition to their fine collection of American Impressionist Art, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme is home to restored gardens and landscape that feature over 1,500 heirloom perennials and an orchard of heirloom apple and pear trees that recreate the landscape that attracted artists to the original Lyme Art Colony. All of this is on 11 acres set on the banks of the Lieutenant River.

Garden on the Bridge, Willimantic, CT
Set between Windham Mills State Heritage Park and a restored mill building you will find the Windham Garden on the Bridge. Benches, gardens, and views of a restored mill complex and the Willimantic River make for the perfect spring-time escape.

Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, CT
300 acres overlooking Long Island Sound, an Italianate style mansion, Eolia (1904), formal gardens showcasing Chinese statuary, a columned pergola, a manmade waterfall and a manicured Japanese maple grove all make Harkness Memorial State Park a wonderful spring destination.

The Lavender Labyrinths at Quintessential Gardens at Fort Hill Farms, Thompson, CT
If standing among 1500 Lavender plants doesn’t say spring I don’t know what does. That is what you will find at the Lavender Labyrinths at Fort Hill Farms Quintessential Gardens.

Mohegan Park & Memorial Rose Garden, Norwich, CT
The Mohegan Park & Memorial Rose Garden in Norwich displays 2,500 rose bushes of 140 different varieties on two acres of parkland. The roses are at their peak in June but continue to bloom throughout the summer.

Roseland Cottage-Bowen House, Woodstock, CT
At the Roseland Cottage-Bowen House in Woodstock you will find boxwood-edged parterre gardens planted in the 1850s. The house itself is also pretty cool and among other things features the oldest surviving indoor bowling alley in the United States.

With temp’s in the 60s and flirting with the 70s, take a visit to any of Mystic Country’s wonderful gardens and arboretums to get a good dose of spring. Just what the doctor ordered to shake off the last of winter’s cobwebs…

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Ghost Tours in Connecticut

Picture of a Fog Enshrouded GraveyardWe had a lot of fun last year with our series on ghost tours, and our recent post Mystic Hauntings proved to be equally popular. But readers were quick to point out that we have not yet highlighted any ghost tours in Connecticut. To rectify this over site on our part we offer up the following ghost tours in Connecticut. Happy hauntings…


ConneCTions offers one-day or multi-day ghost tours for groups. Four haunting itineraries led by ghost hunter Donna Kent are offered:

  1. Haunted Southwest Connecticut
  2. Haunted Eastern Connecticut
  3. Haunted Northwest Connecticut
  4. Haunted Southeast Connecticut

Ghosts of New Haven

Ghosts of New Haven offers two leisurely 90 minute walking tours, each of less than one mile:

  1. A Haunting in Connecticut: The New Haven Ghost Walk
  2. The Wallingford Ghost Tour

Seaside Shadows in Mystic

Seaside Shadows offers haunted history tours in Mystic.Check out their:

  • Downtown Mystic Tour
  • Special event tours at other confirmed haunted locations

West Hartford Hauntings

West Hartford Hauntings offers a lantern-lit walking tour of the North Cemetery with an in-character guide hearing the story of the guide’s life. There are different stories each year to keep you coming back for more.

Other New England ghost tours include:

Learn More About New England’s Ghosts

If you would like to learn more about New England’s ghosts you may wish to check out some of these books:

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