For us here in Eastern Connecticut, we don't necessarily pay attention to the calendar to decide if the season has changed. We have our own barometers and signs that warmer weather is just around the corner! Check out some of these springtime rites of passage. And for more springtime fun make sure to check out our Mommy Poppins Spring Guide.
1. Wild N Wacky Wednesday at Waterford Speedbowl
From May 16 to September, you'll find few cheaper and louder nights out for the whole family! Adults pay $8 and kids 14 and under are free on Wednesdays at the Speedbowl. Plus, the action starts at 7pm and wraps up around 9pm. Just remember to bring your ear protection!
2. Mystic Aquarium
Befriend a beluga or try the touch tank, the Mystic Aquarium gives you the opportunity for a close up encounter with all sorts of sea creatures. On Saturday, April 21 join them for a Nature Play in the Green.
3. Fred's Shanty
When Fred's opens for the season, it's a sign to locals that spring has officially arrived, no matter what the calendar says. A hot dog, burger or chowder, a side of fries, and a seat by the Thames River make for a perfect spring lunch or dinner.
4. Michael's Dairy
A staple in New London for almost 100 years, Michael's red brick building on Montauk Avenue serves up treats by employees in milky white uniforms with some of the best ice cream around. Check their schedule for Friday night sock hops!
5. Cruise Night at Ocean Beach Park
Every Monday, starting mid-May, Ocean Beach welcomes vintage car enthusiasts from around the area to fill the parking lot with classic and collectible cars. Entry to the park is free and rides are half price with a special unlimited ride bracelet option.
6. Connecticut College Arboretum
Stroll through 25 acres and a two mile trail among tall trees and shrubs in new bloom. It's a great location to take some family photos or spot some resident turtles sunning themselves in the bog! Best of all, admission is free!
7. Submarine Force Museum
Home to the USS Nautilus and the only submarine museum operated by the US Navy. Take a tour of thousands of artifacts at the museum or walk across the pier to tour the world's first nuclear powered submarine.
8. Paul's Pasta Shop
A hidden gem tucked away on Thames Street in Groton, kids can order fresh pasta, made fresh daily on premises, any way they like. Grab a table on the deck and take in the gorgeous view of the Thames River and downtown New London. Leave room for dessert and order a pound of their fresh pasta to take home.
9. Alice Acres/Cows and Cones ice Cream
Shop for spring annuals and perennials at Alice Acres, then take a short walk up the drive to Cows and Cones for a quick, cool treat. Don't forget to look for Farmer Pete and his animal friends!
10. The Dinosaur Place
There are so many dino-themed outdoor activities to keep you and your little ones on your toes at Dinosaur Place. Wander the trails and encounter life-sized dinosaurs along the way, enjoy the playground, and when the weather (finally) warms up indulge in the zero depth splash pad.
11. Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center/Coogan Farm
Reconnect with the outdoors at this preserve in Eastern CT. Whether you want to take a walk along the trails or meet some of the animal ambassadors on site, there's lots to keep you busy on a bright, spring day.
12. Mystic Seaport
There's a little something for history buffs of every age at Mystic Seaport. Check out the vast collection of historic ships, the period village, and lots of seasonal events. Check out the website and see what's happening when you decide to go.
13. Florence Griswold Museum
Tour the beautiful grounds and check out the mansion itself. The gardens are sure to please no matter the weather with seasonal plantings for spring and summer. Exhibits deepen the experience by offering a close look at many aspects of Connecticut history.
14. Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut
Let's face it, sometimes spring means rain. Have no fear, the children's museum is here! Spend the day exploring and learning about everything from art to science. The museum is ideal for kids aged nine months to nine years.
15. Gillette Castle
Learn about William Hooker Gillette, a famous actor and director who built his dream castle on 184 acres overlooking the Connecticut River. The highlight is the 24 room mansion that is built to resemble a medieval castle. Discover the secrets of Gillette Castle.
16. Pachaug State Forest
This state forest spans six eastern Connecticut towns. When the weather is cooperative enjoy hiking trails, picnic areas, and fresh water fishing.
17. Bishops Orchards
As spring moves forward and warms up (seriously, promise) Bishops begins their annual rotation of pick your own. Check the website for what's available when. Or stop by and visit the farm market and enjoy the picturesque grounds.
18. Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum
Got a train fan on your hands? Well then head over to the Railroad Museum in Willimantic to explore Connecticut's railway history. The museum opens for the season in May.
19. The Adventure Park at Storrs Connecticut
If you have an adrenaline junkie in the family then this might be the place for you. Climb through the treetops by daylight or moonlight.
20. Fields of Fire Adventure Park
Last but certainly not least, if Storrs isn't in your neighborhood, rest assured your quest for adrenaline can still be conquered at Fields of Fire in Mystic. This 50 acre adventure park offers climbing and ropes courses and is sure to test your mind and body.
Photo Credit: J. Coe
Originally published 4/21/13