To everyone not on the East Coast, Connecticut might as well not exist. I’m born and raised in CT, but I don’t take offense to that. I’ll be the first to crack a joke about how boring it is around here, but I’ll admit, there are plenty of ways to make your own fun, especially during the summer. Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, shopper, or simply love the outdoors, there is something for you across this little state.
Here is your guide to a weekend trip in Connecticut, social distancing style.
Admittedly, the most fun I have in CT is on the shoreline. The beaches and restaurants alone are entirely responsible for that. I’m the first to say I prefer a Rhode Island beach but I still love a trip to Niantic or Madison from time to time. Whether you want to go boating in Mystic, or simply soak in the sun on any of the beaches lining the shore, there are plenty of beautiful spots to explore.
Not to mention, the shore has some seafood restaurants to die for. I think Connecticut can be overlooked in terms of seafood, Boston and Maine aren’t too far away after all, but we’re still New England too! I have fond memories of going to Costellos Clam Shack in Noank throughout my childhood, going for the clam fritters while my parents settled for lobster rolls. Sitting there outside right on the water surrounded by a bunch of boats as the sun starts to go down is something so simple yet so relaxing.
A little further west, I’ve seen that The Place in Guilford is another prime seafood spot. This open-air restaurant includes bright red tables with tree stumps as chairs, a wood fire, and a gigantic wood sign that acts as the menu. From roasted clams, to shrimp, to lobster, it has plenty of great options, and it’s also BYOB, if you’re over the age of 21 of course.
Yeah, beaches are great but if that’s not really your thing, CT has some other outdoor activities that may suit you. Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam has trails for hiking and biking, and spots for picnicking, fishing, camping, and birding. The park’s waterfall is gorgeous and flows into a nice spot for swimming too. It’s all very low-key and if you like the outdoors you will have plenty to do.
Not too far from Devil’s Hopyard is Gillette Castle State Park, which features hiking, picnicking, and of course, Gillette Castle. First occupied by actor William Gillette, the now historical site was purchased by the state of Connecticut in 1943. Today it has it’s own visitors center and museum and welcomes thousands of guests each year. Right now it is not yet open, but it’s still super cool to look at from the outside.
Buttonwood Farm is not necessarily a park but it’s too pretty not to mention. Located in Griswold, this is a great summer spot for people from all over. Here you can get some delicious ice cream and stroll through a field of sunflowers, perfect for a good photo-op.
Honestly the last thing I want to do right now is go browse in a store but if you’re down go for it (as long as you’re wearing a mask of course). There are quite a few good options for shopping in Connecticut, and lucky for you they aren’t just malls.
Mystic Village has numerous shops filled with all kinds of unique pieces, like jewelry and hand-crafted gifts. Previously an 18th-century New England village, it it a refreshing departure from any other shopping mall. Even just walking around the site is an experience, with it’s nice paths and colonial style buildings. While in Mystic, another historic site to explore is Mystic Seaport, not necessarily a shopping destination but a great outdoor space.
For a more standard shopping experience, you can go west to the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets or the Westbrook Outlets. These shopping centers are only about a 10 minute drive from each other so hitting both is doable too. If I had to choose one I would go with Clinton for it’s larger size, but both are nice partial outdoor shopping options if you’re looking to get some new fits.
New Haven Pizza
I’ll be honest, I’m nowhere near New Haven so I am not well equipped to defend it, but New Haven pizza is the best. The only New Haven pizza restaurant one I can speak on is Pepe’s which is fantastic. The small chain has restaurants in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island however it all started in New Haven which is why that location is a must-visit for me. Of course, if you’re looking for something else there are plenty of other options. P.S., while you’re in the area check out the Yale campus, it’s beautiful.
Whether you’re looking to eat, shop, or just enjoy the outdoors, a summer in Connecticut has all of that and more. Despite restrictions, there are still plenty of ways to stay safe while enjoying all this state has to offer.
Cover photo: Wikimedia Commons