Located in the northeastern USA with the Connecticut River running through the state, there are loads of historical and natural landmarks in Connecticut to explore. Connecticut is an adaptation of a Native American word, quinatucquet, which means ‘beside the long tidal river’, the Connecticut River. Known for its stunning fall foliage, Connecticut is part of New England and shares a border with Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.
The Dutch created the first European settlement in 1633 before it became a British colony, then in 1776, Connecticut was one of the first 13 colonies to join the American Revolution and was the fifth state to sign the US Constitution. The ‘Constitution State’ played an influential role in the development of the United States and is home to the first written constitution in the USA, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut (adopted in 1639).
The third-smallest US state is the home state of showman PT Barnum, Katharine Hepburn, Meg Ryan, Mark Twain and Charles Goodyear. It’s also the birthplace of the hamburger, Subway and hot lobster rolls. Inventions include watchmaking, typewriters and submarines. Here are 20 Connecticut landmarks to tick off your to-see list.
- Connecticut Landmarks
- Historic Landmarks in Connecticut
- Natural Landmarks in Connecticut
- Other Landmarks In Connecticut
Historic Landmarks in Connecticut
1- Charles W. Morgan
Mystic town has developed around its famous seaport, which is a vast, open-air museum with colourful buildings that house museums and galleries.
Mystic is a historic shipbuilding seaport that settled in 1654, with a charming village atmosphere and protected harbour where tall ships came to weather the storm.
The highlight here is its incredible collection of floating craft, including the last remaining wooden whaling ship in the globe, Charles W. Morgan.
It’s the world’s oldest surviving merchant watercraft and the only surviving wooden whaleship from the 19th century, making it one of the top historic landmarks in Connecticut.
The schooner L.A. Dunton, Joseph Conrad, and many steamships are other historical vessels featured here.
Charles W. Morgan is an exhibit in the Mystic Seaport Museum at 75 Greenmanville Ave, Mystic, CT.
2- Mark Twain House & Museum
The Mark Twain House & Museum is one of the most visited sites in Hartford and home to American author Samuel Langhorne Clemens or Mark Twain.
Mark Twain and his family lived in a 25-room Victorian Gothic mansion from 1874 until 1891.
This place is also where he wrote his most important works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The impressive structure has become one of the Ten Best Historic Homes in the World by National Geographic.
Today, it’s a museum featuring collections of over 50,000 items that belong to the author and his family.
It also offers activities and educational programs to explore Mark Twain’s literacy legacy.
Mark Twain House & Museum is at 385 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105.
3- Roseland Cottage
Built in 1846, Roseland Cottage was the summer home of a successful anti-slavery advocate and publisher Henry Bowen and his family.
While it’s also called the Pink House for its pretty pink exterior, Roseland Cottage has an equally impressive interior, much of which has survived unchanged from the Victorian era.
It features Gothic furniture, embossed Lincrusta-Walton wall coverings and heavily designed carpets.
Today, the cottage is managed by Historic New England and operates as a museum.
The museum complex includes an icehouse, garden house and a carriage barn housing the US’s oldest surviving indoor bowling alley.
The estate also overlooks a parterre garden with 21 flower beds and over 4,000 annuals bordered in boxwood in their actual 1850’s pattern.
Roseland Cottage is at 556 CT-169, Woodstock, CT.
4- Elizabeth Park
Opened in 1897, Elizabeth Park sprawls across more than 101 acres (41 ha) through Hartford.
This delightful space is also called the Flower of New England Parks, with formal Victorian gardens, green areas, recreational spaces and walking trails.
Besides being a serene spot, the park’s claim to fame is it’s the home of the first public rose garden in the country, with around 800 varieties of roses.
There are also basketball and tennis courts, ball fields and lawn bowling courts.
Throughout the year, the Elizabeth Park Conservancy arranges tours, outdoor concerts, exclusive events, lectures, and garden workshops in the park.
The Pond House Café in the park is open for lunch and dinner.
Elizabeth Park is at 1561 Asylum Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117.
5- Wadsworth Atheneum
The oldest continuously operating public art museum in the USA, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is another Hartford attraction and a Connecticut landmark.
The museum was founded in 1842 on the site of the family home of Daniel Wadsworth, a prominent patron of arts.
This Gothic-style building houses an incredible collection of over 50,000 works of European Baroque art, Greek and Roman antiquities, American and French Impressionist paintings, ancient Egyptian bronzes, early American furniture and European decorative arts.
Wadsworth Atheneum is at 600 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103.
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6- Yale University
Yale University is a New Haven must-see attraction and one of the country’s oldest universities.
The university campus is home to world-class museums, the most significant of which is the Yale University Art Gallery.
The museum’s collection belongs to the ancient Mediterranean world, the Americas, and Africa, while the galleries exhibit works by Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and other prominent artists.
This prestigious institute is also home to the Peabody Museum of Natural History, which houses varied collections, including ancient Roman and Greek finds and Native American cultures.
The campus is a major tourist spot and one of the most famous Connecticut landmarks.
Prominent architects designed its buildings, which you can admire while on a free student-led tour offered every morning.
Yale University is in New Haven, CT 06520.
7- Connecticut State Capitol
South of Bushnell Park in Hartford, the Connecticut State Capitol is home to some of the most important institutions of the Connecticut state, such as the Connecticut General Assembly, the State Senate, Upper House, Lower House, Governor’s office and the House of Representatives.
The building was constructed between 1872 and 1878, and it’s a significant Eastlake-style building with touches of French and Gothic elements.
The site remains open to visitors, with self-guided and guided tours available during weekdays to educate visitors on the history of Connecticut.
Connecticut State Capitol is at 210 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106.
8- Essex Steam Train
Owned and run by the Valley Railroad Company, the Essex Steam Train is an intriguing attraction near the Connecticut River Valley.
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat takes passengers on nostalgic journeys through the river valley, known as one of the ‘last great places on earth’.
The train passes through New England towns and the riverboat cruises past Connecticut’s historic landmarks.
There are also eco-excursions and family-themed events throughout the year.
The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat is at 1 Railroad Ave, Essex, CT 06426.
9- Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch
Hartford’s Bushnell Park is where the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch stands honouring the 4,000 locals who served, and almost 400, who lost their lives in the Civil War.
It was the first permanent triumphal arch constructed in the USA and, unlike other memorials elsewhere, the structure has an inscription on it.
The monument tells about the city’s role in the Civil War.
The huge terra cotta frieze on the northern side displays war scenes and there are scenes of peace on the south side.
Hartford’s leading architect George Keller designed this Gothic and Romanesque revival monument, and his own and his wife’s ashes were entombed in the East Tower of the arch.
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch is at 15 Trinity St, Hartford, CT 06106.
10- Colt Building
Along the Connecticut River in Hartford, the Colt Armory is a historic factory space for manufacturing firearms.
It was built in 1855 by Samuel Colt, an American industrialist and businessman.
Three years after Colt’s death, the original armoury was later destroyed and rebuilt by his widow.
The new building is larger than the original, with a gold-starred blue onion dome.
From 1873 to 1902, the factory manufactured a collection of presses that gave it the reputation as the best hand-fed platen press ever made.
The state is planning to transform this complex into a national park.
The Colt Building is at 140 Huyshope Ave, Hartford, CT 06106.
11- Gillette Castle
Gillette Castle is a 24-room Medieval castle built by William Hooker Gillette between 1914 and 1919.
Gillette was a Hartford-born actor, playwright, and director descended from Hartford’s founder (Thomas Hooker).
When he died, the State of Connecticut acquired the castle in 1943.
Gillette Castle State Park is at 67 River Road, East Haddam, CT.
For landmarks in Latin America, see:
Natural Landmarks in Connecticut
12- Wadsworth Falls
Wadsworth Falls is one of Connecticut’s natural landmarks.
Wadsworth Falls State Park was established in 1942 and is a 285-acre public recreation and preserved natural space along the Coginchaug River.
Two natural waterfalls lie within reach by trails: the Little Falls on Wadsworth Brook and the Big Falls on the Coginchaug River.
The latter descends 30 ft (9.1 m) over the shelf of Hampden basalt, while the Little Falls drops almost 39 ft (12 m) over the outcrop of sandstone.
The five-mile (8 km) park trail to the falls passes through a pleasant forest landscape and there are swimming and picnic spots in the park.
Wadsworth Falls State Park is at 721 Wadsworth St, Middletown, CT 06457.
13- Chauncey Peak
Chauncey Peak is a landmark in Connecticut where you can enjoy beautiful vistas, unique plant species, different microclimate conditions, and the view from the cliff overlooking Crescent Lake.
It’s a 688-ft-high (210m) traprock mountain a couple of miles northeast of Meriden.
The 3.5 km Chauncey Peak Trail weaves through forests and offers pleasant views.
The west side of the peak lies within Giuffrida Park, which has a golf course, woodlands and a lake. You can go bicycling, hiking and skiing.
The trailhead parking lot for Chauncey Peak is at Giufridda Park on Westfield Road, Meriden, CT.
14- Hammonasset Beach
Hammonasset Beach State Park is a natural attraction with over two miles (3.2 km) of sandy beach.
Since its opening in 1920, it has been a popular recreation spot in the state.
The beach is the star of the park and a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
Swimming is fun and safe due to the stone breakwater built in 1955.
During peak season, you can go saltwater fishing from the jetty during the day while night fishing is allowed along the beach.
Fish for bluefish, weakfish, scup, summer and winter flounder and blackfish.
Hammonasset Beach State Park is at 1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, CT 06443.
15- Kent Falls
Located in Kent Falls State Park within the Litchfield Hills region is a series of waterfalls along Falls Brook. Falls Brook is a tributary of the Housatonic River.
The falls drop 250 ft (76 m) in a quarter of a mile, while the biggest cascade falls over 69 ft (21 m) into the reflecting pool before spilling into the Housatonic River.
Three observation decks offer gorgeous views.
The falls is a trout fishing spot that provides opportunities for fishing and picnics.
Kent Falls State Park is at 462 Kent Cornwall Rd, Kent, CT 06757.
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Other Landmarks In Connecticut
16- Connecticut Science Center
In downtown Hartford, the Connecticut Science Center is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to enhancing science education and engaging the community in scientific exploration throughout Connecticut and beyond.
Opened in 2009, it is a nine-storey museum with over 165 hands-on exhibits exploring astronomy, physics, forensics and geology.
This LEED-Gold certified building is one of the architecturally impressive Connecticut landmarks.
It has a stadium-style 3D digital theatre, four educational labs, gift stores, a function room and events for all ages.
The centre is also home to the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Academy for Teachers.
Connecticut Science Center is at 250 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103.
17- Dinosaur State Park
Officially opened in 1968 after the accidental discovery of animal tracks, Dinosaur State Park is a natural history preserve covering 80 acres (32 ha) in Rocky Hill.
The state park has one of the largest and best-preserved dinosaur track sites in North America.
It includes fossil trackways embedded in sandstone from the Jurassic era, approximately 200 million years ago.
The park also has a large geodesic dome covering 500 tracks while the other 1,500 remain buried for preservation.
The site’s arboretum displays over 250 varieties of plants that existed even during the Jurassic era.
The park offers lectures, educational activities like mining for fossils, and guided trail walks.
Dinosaur State Park is at 400 West St, Rocky Hill, CT 06067.
18- New England Air Museum
Located beside the Bradley International Airport, the New England Air Museum (NEAM) is the largest aerospace museum in northeastern USA.
The museum has around 80 aircraft, including helicopters, war-time aircraft, supersonic jets, engines and other interesting pieces of flight-related equipment.
The museum’s library has around 6,000 aviation books, 21,000 images, 10,000 technical manuals and 500 engineering drawings.
Other exhibits include war memorials, 1870s basket aircraft and a spacesuit worn by an Apollo cosmonaut.
Pedal-power aeroplanes and computer-flight simulators are hands-on exhibits for kids.
New England Air Museum is at 36 Perimeter Rd, Windsor Locks, CT 06096.
19- The Glass House
The Glass House, or the Johnson House, is a historic house museum in New Canaan built between 1949 and 1995.
The pavilion-like building was built to provide stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
The structure is among the top works of modern architecture designed by well-known architect Philip Johnson.
The 49-acre (20 ha) site also houses other structures like an art gallery, a guest house and a sculpture pavilion.
Managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, it’s open to the public for guided tours.
The Glass House is at 199 Elm St, New Canaan, CT 06840.
20- Submarine Force Museum
On the Thames River in Groton, the US Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum is the only submarine museum managed by the Navy’s Naval History & Heritage Command.
The museum is home to about 33,000 artifacts, including the USS Nautilus – the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine.
There’s also a replica of David Bushnell’s Turtle and the first submarine used for fighting.
Elsewhere in the museum, exhibits include midget submarines from WWII, a submarine control room, working periscopes, and the Explorer – the early research submarine.
The library has nearly 20,000 documents, 6,000 books and 30,000 photographs about submarines.
Submarine Force Museum is at 1 Crystal Lake Rd, Groton, CT 06340.
21- Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center is a tribally-owned museum that features displays about the history of southern New England and the Native Americans.
Every year, around 250,000 people visit this site to see the 16th-century coastal Pequot village and get to know the life on the reservation from the 17th to 20th centuries.
Interactive programs, films, archival materials, archaeological collections, and traditional crafts by Native artists are featured in the exhibits.
The museum and research centre are located within the glass and steel building complex, which has received several awards for design and construction.
There is also a 185-ft (56 m) high observation tower with a view of the Mashantucket Pequot reservation and the nearby regions of southeastern Connecticut.
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center is at 110 Pequot Trail, Ledyard, CT 06338.