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12 Top-Rated Weekend Getaways in Connecticut

Written by Shandley McMurray

Formally known as the Constitution State, Connecticut is home to some of New England's best beaches, hiking trails, and nature reserves. Nestled between Rhode Island Massachusetts, New York, and the Long Island Sound, Connecticut boasts a wide variety of towns, perfect for quick trips or romantic getaways. From quaint villages to bustling cities, there's something for everyone. Those searching for culture will be rewarded by a multitude of impressive art, history, and science museums. Foodies will enjoy the vast array of restaurants, ranging from local eateries to upscale dining. Sea lovers can expect to be lulled by long walks on the sand, boardwalks, and seaports. Not sure where to start? Begin with our list of top-rated weekend getaways in Connecticut.

1. Chester

Fall foliage

Fall foliage

This quaint rural town offers a panacea for stressed city dwellers. About two hours from both New York and Boston, tourists will feel their shoulders relax as they wander along the charming main street. Complete with cafés, gift shops, and the Maple & Main Gallery of Fine Art, the town center is the perfect place to unwind. Take the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry to East Haddam and visit Gillette Castle State Park, while you're here. It's an impeccably preserved, 24-room mansion with impressive views from atop one of the Seven Sisters hills. Grab dinner nearby and catch a show at The Norma Terris Theatre, then head back for a restful sleep at the Madison Beach Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton in nearby Madison, CT. In the morning, rent bikes to explore the area, stroll along the private beach, or have a massage in the spa.

2. Mystic

Mystic Seaport

Mystic Seaport

Once a booming seaport essential for the region's trade, Mystic now boasts an impressive array of maritime-themed attractions. An hour from New Haven, this harbor town is home to a wide array of great restaurants - you'll be hard-pressed to find fresher seafood. Plus, movie buffs can enjoy a slice of pie at Mystic Pizza, the restaurant made famous by Julia Roberts' film of the same name. Step back in time with a visit to the Mystic Seaport Museum. You could while away hours climbing aboard historic vessels, exploring exhibits, and visiting the shipyard. Next stop: Mystic Aquarium, where you can come face to beak with a penguin, pet a shark, and marvel at a beluga whale. Then, set sail on a trip with Argia Mystic Cruises. When else will you be able to travel aboard a schooner? When it's time for bed, head to The Whaler's Inn for a relaxing and romantic stay. Traveling with kids? Book the Main Inn Junior Suite - kids get their own alcove complete with bunkbeds and a TV.

3. Greenwich

Boats anchored in the bay at Greenwich

Boats anchored in the bay at Greenwich

A commuter's haven, Greenwich is a mere 40-minute train ride from the Big Apple. Greenwich Avenue, with its luxury designers, upscale restaurants, and trendy cafés, can make even the hardiest of shoppers believe she's on NYC's Upper East Side. The Bruce Museum, a five-minute walk from the Metro-North train station, offers a cultural boost to your day, while the Flinn Gallery at Greenwich Library is a worthy spot for art lovers. Are you a nature-lover? Head to the Audubon Center for a stroll along the well-established nature trails. Greenwich harbor is a local gem best viewed from the Delamar Greenwich Harbor hotel. No one will blame you for adding a spa treatment to your stay.

4. New Haven

New Haven Green

New Haven Green

Two hours of calming views soothe the soul as your train speeds along the Long Island Sound from New York. Home to Yale University, New Haven is known for its up-and-coming foodie scene and impressive galleries. The Yale University Art Gallery, for instance, boasts over 250,000 objects, including paintings by Cézanne, Degas, Monet, and Manet. Plus, it's free. You won't want to miss the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale Center for British Art, or Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Whether you're traveling with kids or are one at heart, spend a few hours at Jordan's Furniture store. It houses one of the world's largest indoor adventure ropes courses. At night, enjoy a show at the College Street Music Hall or Yale Repertory Theatre.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in New Haven

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in New Haven

5. Hartford

Downtown Hartford

Downtown Hartford

Once known as the House of Hope due to its position as a Dutch trading post, Hartford sits on the Connecticut River. Attractions in Connecticut's capital are plentiful. You'll kick yourself for missing the Mark Twain House or Harriet Beecher Stowe House, but perhaps the most interesting place to visit is the Connecticut Science Center. Hold a butterfly in the greenhouse, design and test a heli-flyer, or take a journey through the galaxy - all within the center's walls. Other places to visit include the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the West Hartford Reservoir, a peaceful nature reserve with walking trails. Talcott Mountain State Park is 20 minutes away. Hikers who make it to the Heublein Tower (1,000-feet up) are rewarded with spectacular views over the Farmington River Valley.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hartford

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hartford

6. Cornwall

Red covered bridge in Western Cornwall

Red covered bridge in Western Cornwall

Small-town country charm abounds in this beautiful town. Its quaint buildings and unique shops will remind you of the way things used to be before technology got in the way. Quietly nestled in Litchfield County, Cornwall is most famous for having one of the only covered bridges in Connecticut. Before you head out, pack a picnic and enjoy a day of hiking through lush forest trails in Mohawk State Park. The summit provides a 360-degree view across the picturesque landscape. Mohawk Mountain is a hot spot for skiers, who don't want to drive all the way to Vermont. A family-friendly ski area, it's small enough that you won't lose your way, but big enough to race down trails of varying difficulties. At night, rest your tired feet at The Cornwall Inn, a modest bed-and-breakfast with old-school hospitality.

7. Milford

Fishing pier at Walnut Beach

Fishing pier at Walnut Beach

If you're looking for charm, you'll find it in Milford. This old-fashioned town dates back to 1639 and has an English feel. The Wepawaug River winds its way through the center, making Milford the perfect spot for those who enjoy a more laid-back, romantic weekend. Apparently, Captain Kidd and other pirates sailed along the nearby coast and hid buried treasure along the way. Perhaps you can dig it up at Walnut Beach, Silver Sands State Park, or Charles Island. Settle in to the Residence Inn Milford before browsing local shops. Then, enjoy a coffee (or two) at the charming cafés and wander through town at your own leisurely pace.

8. Essex

Essex Steam Train

Essex Steam Train

Fans of The Gilmore Girls will love this town, which served as inspiration for Stars Hollow. Like its fictional television counterpart, it, too, is charming. If you are on a family weekend getaway, hop aboard the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat for an experience everyone will love. The cheerful conductor will teach you about the region's history while you chug through an inspiring landscape. Keep your eyes peeled for a bald eagle or heron while sailing along the water towards Gillette Castle. Use Saybrook Point Inn & Spa in Old Saybrook as a relaxing base. It's only an 11-minute drive from historic buildings dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War, and Main Street's charming shops and restaurants.

9. Kent

Kent Falls State Park

Kent Falls State Park

A fan of fall foliage? You've come to the right place. Kent offers well-maintained, scenic hiking trails, which reward the adventurer with stunning views of the Catskill Mountains and Kent Falls State Park. In fact, the main reason people come to Kent is for the immense trails like those found in Macedonia Brook State Park. You won't find the impressive shopping offered in larger towns like Greenwich, but your soul will thank you for the fresh air and close animal encounters. Not a fan of walking? Rent a bike from the Bicycle Tour Company. Stay at New Milford's Homestead Inn, a 30-minute drive away, for true hospitality and the best breakfast hands-down. Tip: ask for the waffles.

10. Madison

Hammonasset Beach State Park

Hammonasset Beach State Park

Get away from it all in this sweet, ocean-side town. Grab a good read at RJ Julia Booksellers and a coffee from a local café. Then head to Hammonasset Beach State Park for a calming start to your day. Visitors also enjoy a trip to Meigs Point Nature Center, where they can get up close and personal with turtles, crabs, fish, birds, and snakes. A bonus: it's free! Work off lunch with a walk or bike ride along the Shoreline Greenway Trail. It's flat and scenic, which makes it perfect for kids. You'll wind down easily with a dip in the indoor pool at the Water's Edge Resort & Spa before heading to the Tanger Outlets for some retail therapy.

11. Westport

Downtown Westport

Downtown Westport

An easy commute from Manhattan (it's takes just over an hour from Grand Central), Westport offers a small-town vibe mixed with city flavor. From paleo to sushi, even the pickiest of eaters will have his palate tempted by local restaurants. Grab fresh seafood, local veggies, and the best taco you'll ever eat at the Westport Farmer's Market on Thursdays from May to November. Main Street offers a wide array of shops. The top three favorite things to do in this town: hang out, swim, and build sandcastles at Compo Beach. For a more rustic beach experience, head to Sherwood Island State Park. Later, catch a play at the Westport Country Playhouse or an outdoor concert at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts. The nearby Norwalk Aquarium offers a chance to touch stingrays and jellyfish, watch sharks feed, and take a cruise on the Sound. The Westport Inn is your best bet for an in-town base.

12. Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun

Mohegan Sun | Photo Source: Mohegan Sun

What do U2, live comedy, and an exotic body scrub have in common? You can enjoy them all at The Mohegan Sun. People visit this extensive resort for an escape from the stress of life, and that's exactly what they get. From concerts to basketball and spas to fine dining, you'll never be short of something to do during your visit. Don't miss the indoor planetarium dome, 55-foot indoor waterfall, and electrifying water wall. A mere hour from Hartford, a trip to the Mohegan Sun will make you feel like you're in Vegas without actually having to go there.

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