End of Summer Bucket List: 40 Things To Do in Connecticut Before School Starts

There's plenty of time to fill your days with more summer fun! Photo courtesy of Lyman Orchards
There's plenty of time to fill your days with more summer fun! Photo courtesy of Lyman Orchards

Don't put away those beach towels because there are still plenty of things to do in Connecticut before school starts. Soon enough those long summer nights will be replaced with weeknight curfews, but for now, there's still plenty of time to embrace late-summer things to do with kids. So read on for our end of summer bucket list and start checking things off your own!

Families can close out the summer vacation season before school starts with these must-do activities. For even more ideas on making the most of what's left of summer, see our 50 Free Things to Do in Connecticut This Summer with Kidsbest August activities, and daily events calendar.

End of Summer Bucket List: 40 Things To Do in Connecticut Before School Starts 

1. Go on a picnic. 

Whether it’s in your backyard, at a playground, or a scenic location such as Westmoor Park or Wickham Park, sit back and bite into a sandwich while watching clouds glide by. Weir Farm, the only national park dedicated to American painting, is such an incredibly tranquil place to explore in Connecticut. 

2. Visit a museum before school crowds descend. 

Though small in square footage, Connecticut hosts a big art collection. Visit the Wadsworth Atheneum, the New Britain Museum of American Art, or the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Find a masterpiece to discuss, and maybe even to replicate.A number of museums offer free admission for kids as part of the Summer at the Museum program. 

Image of Mystic Seaport Museum - things to do in Connecticut before school starts 
Historic Mystic has plenty of things to do before school starts. Photo courtesy of the Mystic Seaport Museum

3. Spend a day or two in Mystic

This is one of the most magical destinations in Connecticut. See the aquarium, the seaport, or find a local park to play in. You can spend a few hours here, or enjoy a weekend getaway, and still run out of time to explore the area.

4. Take a cruise or sailboat ride. 

These Connecticut boat rides are perfect for kids and families that want to explore the coastline, rivers, and islands or learn more about marine life.

5. Enjoy a scenic railroad adventure. 

Choose from numerous train rides and see the state from a different perspective. 

6. Go on a hike. 

Connecticut has some of the most beautiful state parks and forests in the country. Hike up to Talcott Mountain or Gillette Castle, or search a new hiking trail in our Hiking Guide.

7. Check out a petting zoo. 

Goats, sheep, horses, and donkeys, oh my! Most children enjoy getting up close to farm animals, so head to Flamig FarmWestmoor Park, or Action Wildlife, or find your favorite farm animals in Fairfield County

Image of kids with ice cream - things to do in Connecticut before school starts 
Put those frosty treats at the top of your end of summer bucket list. Photo by Ally Noel

8. Get a double scoop. 

Our favorite summertime treat spots are farms with homemade ice cream and other activities. We also have suggestions for a few extra-delicious ice cream parlors in the New Haven area, in New London, and in the Farmington Valley

9. Spend a day on the water. 

Take a swim in Lake McDonough, or go canoeing down the Farmington River. Salmon Brook Park in Granby is a fun place to play and relax for the day.

10. Enjoy one more teacup or rollercoaster ride. 

New England is home to a number of great theme and adventure parks.

Image of family with sculpture - End of Summer Bucket List 
Enjoy art, sunshine, and time as a family before school starts. Photo courtesy of the Simsbury Art Trail

11. Enjoy a sculpture walk. 

The Simsbury Art Trail is a free, easily accessible experience that offers wonderful opportunities to discuss history and art, and just have fun. 

12. Pick a bouquet of sunflowers. 

These flower farms allow you to pick-your-own sunflowers and other blooms.

13. Get lost in history. 

Discover the Noah Webster House, walk in the footsteps of Mark Twain, explore the Stanley-Whitman House, or venture north for a day in Old Sturbridge Village.

14. Make hand prints. 

Each year, their tiny hands get a little bit bigger. Find a way to incorporate hand prints into a work of art, or imprint them on a lasting heirloom at one of the many Paint Your Own Pottery Places in the area.

15. Go to camp, virtually!

Give your kids the opportunity to expand their creativity while staying home with this list of virtual camps and classes.

Blueberry picking is one of the best things to do in Connecticut before school starts. Photo courtesy of Bishop's Orchard

16. Pick some blueberries.

The blueberries are in season. Pick a pint (or three) and throw them in delicious homemade homemade popsicles.

17. Zoom down a waterslide.

Connecticut is home to some ultra-family-friendly water parks that offer thrills like waterslides, cliff jumping, and state-of-the-art roller coasters, as well as waterfalls and sugar-sand beaches. 

18. Spend time (and not money) at a sprayground.

A visit to a free splash pad in the Hartford area or Fairfield area is an easy way to cool off when a heatwave is on.

19. Watch a free movie. 

Maybe even under the stars? There are free sunset screenings still to catch. For a nostalgic experience, check out drive-in movie theaters in Southington, Winsted, and Mansfield

20. Shop unique vendors and eat delicious food at a summer festival.

21. Play some backyard water games.

Image of Beardsley Zoo amur leopards in Connecticut.
Go wild with your summer bucket list! Amur siblings photo by Jack Bradley courtesy of the Beardsley Zoo. 

22. Greet the new Amur tiger cubs at Beardsley, our state's only zoo. 

If your children are fans of wildlife, you can cross state lines (we won't tell) and admire the elephants at Rogers Williams Zoo, have a rhino encounter at Southwick's Zoo, or explore Tiger Mountain at the Bronx Zoo

23. Spend a day in the backyard playing board games.

A picnic table or just a blanket will do, or you can head down to the Board Game Cafe in Middletown.

24. Visit a nature center. 

Learn about a new flower or insect at Roaring Brook Nature Center, Ansonia Nature Center, or Meigs Point Nature Center.

25. Escape the heat and challenge yourself.

Kids will love the indoor adventure courses at IT Adventure Indoor Ropes Course in New Haven or Soarin' Indoors in Manchester. 

26. Pick late-summer fruit at an orchard

Apple season is just getting started by August's end, but peaches, nectarines, and other fruits await. A crowd-favorite is Lyman Orchards, but there are many others across the state. Our Farm and Pick-Your-Own listings provide a lot of suggestions, no matter what county you reside in.

27. Take a road trip. 

When a staycation just won't do, a getaway near Connecticut does not have to be expensive or extravagant. Buckle up in the car for a couple of hours and bring your family to a fun destination, like Boston, New York CityNew Jersey, or Philadelphia.

Photo of kids in the surf at a beach - End of Summer Bucket List 
There's plenty of time to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Photo by Ally Noel

28. Make time for one last beach day

Especially now that state residents enjoy free admission to Connecticut beaches, make one more sand castle and splash in the waves. Some beaches are on the quiet side and great for toddlers, while others, such as Ocean Beach Park, make for great day trips

Photo of a family around a campfire - End of Summer Bucket List 
Light up some of the last summer nights with campfires. Photo courtesy of the KOA Campground in Mystic

29. Go camping

There's still time to gather around the fire at night and enjoy family time. Campgrounds that are extra fun for kids include amenities like playgrounds and on-site mini golf.

30. Make a difference. 

Picking trash off the playground, caring for a favorite hiking trail, or donating clothing and toys to a local charity are just a few ways kids can volunteer

31. Learn about the world of reptiles.

The newly opened Riverside Reptiles is a serpentarium that exhibits large and small reptiles for the public. 

32. Walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs.

Visiting one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America at Dinosaur State Park is one of the most authentic things to do in Connecticut that will take you back to the time when 20-foot long predators roamed the land.

33. Create something beautiful and useful.

Create and paint a memory that will last a lifetime at one of Connecticut's drop-in pottery studios

Photo of Connecticut waterfalls - End of Summer Bucket List 
Connecticut has so much natural beauty to see. Enders Falls photo by Rick Schwartz (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

34. Experience roaring water at a waterfall.

If you are looking for things to do in Connecticut that are majestic, look no further than Enders Falls, Buttermilk Falls, and Wadsworth Falls. But, they are just three of the hundreds of waterfalls you can get up close to.

35. Get up and close with alpacas.

These fuzzy faced creatures near Hartford are curious, smart, and kids love them. You can also say hello to a pig named Morty while visiting.

36. Grab a rod and fish.

Lakes and rivers offer great picnic spots you can bring a fishing rod to. Whether you want to hook up with a Smallmouth Bass near Fairfield or catch stocked trout near New Haven, there are many places to fish in Connecticut with kids

Photo of a child on a telephone - End of Summer Bucket List 
Take a moment to appreciate the past. Photo courtesy of the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum

37. Take a trip back in time.

Have your kids ever seen a dial phone? A morse code machine? A computer from the 1980s? The Vintage Radio and Communications Museum in Windsor will blow their minds.

38. Spend time in nature.

Connecticut is loaded with nature centers offering exhibits, programming, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. 

39. Explore Connecticut's lighthouses.

Are you a fan of lighthouses? Our shoreline has many historic lighthouses and each one has a story to tell.

40. Take in a play.

Connecticut kids can experience theater by taking in a performance of Anne of Green Gables at the Goodspeed Musicals or Broadway in the Park in Norwalk

If you run out of things to do or want more ideas, you can check our list of 100 Things To Do With Kids in Connecticut Before They Grow Up. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: All Photos Courtesy of the Author 

Originally published 8/4/17
Updated 8/5/2022


Lyman Orchards' Sunflower Maze
Lyman Orchards - 9:00 AM Pick
Art Summer Nights
New Britain Museum of American Art - 4:00 PM Pick
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