Cool Connecticut Car Trip

Fort, Castle, Pond, Dinosaurs, & Gardens!

New England is full of cool places, if you know how to find them.
I am all for hiking in scenic places,
and enjoying nature in its beauty and simplicity.
However, I also totally love visiting cool places, like forts, castles & gardens!

Where Are We Going? đŸ˜€

The following is a fairly easy day trip!
Driving from one point to another
without stopping would take approximately 2 hours, totaling about 80 miles.
I have the start point at Fort Griswold,
the southernmost point, and moving north,
but you could also do the trip in reverse,
starting at Elizabeth Park.

All of these stops, with the exception of Elizabeth Park, is a Connecticut State Park.
I will link the official website for each,
and be sure to check ahead of time for closures and such!

Happy Travels!

1. Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, Groton

Fort Griswold Battlefield Monument

We found this site by accident,
while browsing Google Maps.
We drove through, but didn’t actually get out, as it was too cold for the kids.
From the road, you can see the monument,
and the fort’s earthworks, which was pretty cool, even from the road! It is the site of a 1781 Revolutionary War massacre by the British, under Benedict Arnold.

2. Gillette Castle State Park, East Haddam

Gillette Castle
So, Gillette Castle is, by far,
One of my favorite places on earth!
The first time I saw it, I fell in love with is awesomeness!
I mean, it’s a castle…towering over the Connecticut River!
It was built by actor & playwright,
William Hooker Gillette.
The grounds are accessible year round,
there are trails, ponds & picnic areas.
If you have never been here, GO!

3. Day Pond State Park, Colchester

Day Pond From Trail
Once the site of a water powered sawmill owned by the Day Family, Day Pond is now a nice place for picnicking, swimming &
fishing, and is stocked with trout. The gate is not open year round, so please check the website for up to date info!
Even in the rolling fog & January chill,
Day Pond was beautiful!

4. Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill

Entry Walk, Dinosaur State Park
200 Million years ago, dinosaurs left tracks at this very site!
Of course, dinos walked everywhere,
but I find it very interesting to know
that they were HERE for sure!
This is the site of a dinosaur fossil trackway, and an interpretive exhibit center.
The park is also home to trails, however, the trails and center were closed when we went, which was disappointing.
Nonetheless, its a pretty awesome spot,
and a great place to bring the kids!
I would definitely check the hours and such
before planning your trip!

5. Elizabeth Park Conservancy, West Hartford

Center Gazebo, Elizabeth Park
Even in the cold drizzle, with no flowers blooming, this place is stunning!
It is open year round to the public,
and is home to the oldest municipal rose garden c. 1904.
There is a center gazebo, stone bridge,
an herb garden and greenhouse, among other gardens and features.
The flowers were not in bloom, being January, but I greatly anticipate returning in spring!

 Parting Thoughts

As noted above, we were unable to enter every center or exhibit for various reasons,
which was expected in winter, and due to it being a cold, rainy January day, we were not able to see these places in their FULL splendor.
Nonetheless, they are still completely reasonable year round destinations.


Gillette Castle is always marvelous, and in fact, we have NEVER been inside the castle!
Our favorite time to visit is fall, and it is a truly remarkable place!
It is also awesome in early spring (May-ish), when everything is blooming <3


Fort Griswold is easily visible and accessible and is cool because its a Revolutionary War Fort.
It will be included in a future New England Forts Trip!


Day Pond’s gate wasn’t unlocked, but you can park and walk in, though I wouldn’t if there had been snow on the ground.

There are stone remnants of the mill here,

though we didn’t see them on this trip.


Dinosaur State Park was a bit disappointing, as the trails were closed (?!) in addition to the center, but I attribute this to the government shut down, maybe?
I will say that there was another couple there, apparently on the trails, so maybe we COULD HAVE walked the trails anyway,
though there was a slightly misleading closure sign at the trailhead.


Elizabeth Park was fabulous, while muddy,
and I took great delight in the lavender in the herb garden!
I CAN NOT wait to go back in spring/summer/fall!
The gazebo with outlying trellises is probably A-mazing!
I’m, literally, excited just thinking about it!

Additional To Note:

There are plenty of other stops you could make on this trip,
including, but not limited to,
but this was our route and we enjoyed it!

What About You?

Feel free to share YOUR New England Day Trips & Cool Spots!



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