I have dubbed this summer “The Summer of Day Trips” for my children and me. Now that my children are 5 and 3, I’ve realized this is the first summer in almost six years that I do not have a child who wears diapers, eats baby food, or nurses. Translation? No diaper bag! That’s right! I just waltz out the door carrying only my purse, usually with a few water bottles and granola bars shoved inside. It’s amazing!
This summer, when we found ourselves with a free day, or even part of a day, we decided to get out and explore. Of all the adventures we’ve had, these are our favorites so far…
Tour de New Haven: Full day
Possibly my favorite day trip included a trip to my old home, the Elm City. We started the day at the Pez factory in Orange, CT. I’d been dying to visit this place since the visitor center opened somewhat recently. My kids have tried Pez exactly one time, and while they kind of liked it, they certainly aren’t Pez fanatics. However, this was super fun. Admission was reasonable ($5 for adults and $4 for kids) and came with a $2 credit to use in the store, which bought a Pez dispenser to take home. Not a bad deal. We watched workers make Pez through the glass windows to the factory floor, did a few quick activities, and looked at the hundreds and hundreds of Pez dispensers. It was only about a 30 minute trip, but it was fun.
If you live over an hour from New Haven like I do, you’d probably want to do more than spend half an hour at Pez before turning around and going home. We checked out the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and it was big hit! Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children, and most CT libraries have a pass for $5 off admission that you can check out before you visit. We easily spent about 2 and a half hours exploring the museum. The dinosaur skeletons and the Hall of Native American Cultures were the favorites with my kids. We strategically skipped the mummy in the Egypt exhibit on the third floor because she haunted my entire childhood and I didn’t want to put them through that. 😉
Finally, let’s talk food in New Haven. Can you go wrong? Probably not. We always grab a pizza at either Pepe’s in Wooster Square or Modern Apizza on State Street, and we frequent Ashley’s Ice Cream on York Street.
Beach Day, Rocky Neck Style: Half Day
The beach will always be my favorite place, and Rocky Neck in East Lyme, CT will always be my favorite beach. The sand is soft, the shore is inexplicably not rocky at all, and the water is clear and shallow– perfect for little ones. We’ve been here about a million times, and this is what to remember: Go early, pack lots of food and sand toys, and plan to leave by lunch time or just after. Since this beach is popular, it gets crowded quickly. We try to arrive by 9 am at the latest (it opens at 8am), and we can usually get a great parking spot and prime place in the sand. We have a morning snack, hang out making sand castles and trying to catch crabs, fish, etc in buckets, maybe have a picnic lunch, then leave as the crowds arrive. They have changing facilities and showers, and the concession stand and ice cream cart are usually open.
Rainy Day Fun at Connecticut Science Center and/or LAUNCH Trampoline Park
Rainy days are my nemesis in the summer. My kids are now accustomed to 6+ hours of fresh air and running around, and when they’re cooped up? Help. Me. Our rainy day favorites, which are conveniently not too far away from each other, are the Connecticut Science Center and LAUNCH Trampoline Park, both located in Hartford. Now, these places are not bargains. The science center is $19 for adult admission and $14 for children. However, this summer (through August 31st), educators can visit for free with a valid work I.D., and most CT libraries have a pass you can check out for 20% off admission. The science center is huge, and well worth the admission price. LAUNCH Trampoline Park is $14 per person to jump for one hour, which I think is insane, but they have some good summer deals going on. If you have kids under the age of 5, LAUNCH could be very overwhelming and expensive. For the younger ones, I’d recommend the preschooler morning deal (call for day and time, since it changes) where you can jump for one hour for just $10, and the adult jumps for free. Confession: I may have more fun here than my children do. Or at least, an equal amount.
Out-of-State Adventure: Yankee Candle and Magic Wings
My mom and I decided to be brave and take the kids to Yankee Candle and Magic Wings in South Deerfield, MA. It was just over a one-hour drive from central CT, so very doable with my still-young kids. We spent about two hours at Yankee Candle, learning about how candles are made, smelling jar after jar, and making wax creations at the kids “Wax Works” area. They had some fun activities for kids from about age 5 and up, including making a wax hand mold, dipping colorful candles and wax shapes, and layering scented wax in a jar candle to take home. My son made a lovely combination of blueberry-cinnamon-pumpkin-fruit punch. An olfactory treat for sure.
After Yankee Candle, we went up the road to Magic Wings, a butterfly conservatory. Admission was steep, at $14 for adults and $10 for children, but it clearly went to the care and upkeep of the beautiful butterfly pavilion which is filled with beautiful exotic plants, hundreds and hundreds of butterflies that will land right on you, and some nice spots to sit and observe.
Well, we have about 2.5 more weeks of summer here in Connecticut…what are your favorite day trips? Share them below!