When it comes to summer in Connecticut, there’s truly a little something for everyone! Between vineyards and wineries, ocean beaches, charming towns, farm stands, and seasonal festivals, you’ll have a hard time squeezing it all in before the leaves begin to fall.
This post is all about my favorite things to do in Connecticut in the warmest months, including the best beaches, ice cream places, boat tours and more. With that, let’s start planning your best summer yet!
Best Things To Do In Summer In Connecticut
1. Visit The Beaches, Of Course!
Since Connecticut is a coastal state, it goes without saying that you’ll want to plan at least a few beach days once the summer season arrives, and there are plenty to choose from along the coastline.
One of the best towns to visit for beaches in Connecticut is Madison, which is home to the largest beach in the state at Hammonasset Beach State Park. This beautiful 2-mile long sandy stretch of coastline along Long Island Sound makes for the perfect beach day because it also has nature trails, a boardwalk and great amenities.
Here are some more awesome beaches to check out:
- Walnut Beach in Milford
- Compo Beach in Westport
- Ocean Beach Park in New London
- Hole In The Wall Beach in East Lyme
2. Get An Epic Ice Cream
Okay, so I know you can pretty much get great ice cream anywhere in the world in the summer season, but I honestly think New England in general does ice cream especially well 🙂 And ice cream shops in Connecticut are no exception.
Not only will you find standard ice cream stands all over that serve up great quality treats, the state is also has some pretty epic, instagram-worthy creations that are just perfect for a hot, summer day. So whether you’re looking for just a regular cone with sprinkles, or you’re up for something more adventurous, there are some really wonderful places to scope out this summer.
Here’s where to get the best ice cream in Connecticut:
- Honeycone in Chester – Unique summer flavors like peach crisp, sweet corn blueberry and strawberry creamsicle. Plus, you’ll find picture-worthy, seasonal sundaes and ice cream sandwiches.
- Milkcraft – There are 4 locations around Connecticut, and they’re known for their bubble cones and inventive, small-batch flavors.
- Ashley’s – With multiple. locations around the state, Ashley’s is a staple for the summer season! Their homemade ice cream always hits the mark, and is often voted the best in the state!
- Big Dipper in Prospect – Amazing homemade ice cream with even better seasonal flavors for summer.
- Arethusa – With locations in Bantam and West Hartford, this super premium ice cream might be the highest quality you’ll find in the state! Using fresh ingredients from their own farm, they also have a killer peach ice cream for summer that’s so worth it.
3. Take A Boat Tour To Sheffield Island
The ferries out to Sheffield Island to see the beautiful lighthouse are only open seasonally in late spring and through summer, so this is the best time of year to book a tour! Plus, boat tours to the island include some sightseeing around Norwalk Harbor (which includes more lighthouses!) before disembarking on Sheffield Island to enjoy the scenery.
Departing right from Norwalk, there are actually a variety of tours you can take, including the tried and true 2-hour sightseeing tour mentioned above, sunset cruises and even special clambake dinners on the island.
4. Find Your Way Out Of A Sunflower Maze
At Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, you can do a lot of fun things in the summer season, but the sunflower maze is definitely the highlight. The maze spans about 3 acres, features over 350,000 sunflowers, and $1 of each ticket sold is donated to Connecticut Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders.
Be sure to plan about 30 minutes to find your way through the maze, and you can either use the handy map to make all the right turns, or use the fun trivia game passport book to answer questions along the way that provide hints on where to go once inside.
Also at the orchard, you can cut your own sunflowers in a separate field, pick your own berries, and visit their farm stand for fresh produce and ice cream.
Pro Tip: The sunflower maze at Lyman Orchards is typically open through the entire month of August, but each year can vary a bit, so be sure to check their website for details.
5. Visit A Rose Garden
One of the best summer flowers to enjoy is, of course, the rose, and Connecticut is home to some really beautiful rose gardens to stroll through while admiring the blooms.
Located in Hamden, on the border of East Rock Park in New Haven, Pardee Rose Gardens is free to visit, and features over 50 varieties of roses to see across 2 acres of gardens. They also have other beautiful perennial flowers to enjoy during your visit. This garden is free to enter!
Another wonderful rose garden is the The Helen S Kaman Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park in Hartford. Here, you’ll find over 75 fairytale-like rose arches, and 150 varieties of roses in bloom. This park is also free to explore!
Lastly in Norwich, it’s also worth stopping by the Veterans Memorial Rose Gardens in Mohegan Park, which featured over 120 varieties to see during your visit.
Pro Tip: Roses in Connecticut usually begin to bloom at the beginning of June, and can peak anywhere from mid-late June. So generally, late June, right after the first day of summer, is a great time to plan a visit.
6. Picnic At A Vineyard
Connecticut’s wine trail is a really fun one to explore, and many of them allow you to bring your own food for the perfect summer afternoon picnic. Grab a bottle of wine at the vineyard, pack a picnic blanket and your favorite snacks, and spend your afternoon savoring the flavors of both in a dreamy setting.
Here are some vineyards and wineries in CT that allow you to bring your own picnic:
- Stonington Vineyards
- Paradise Hills Vineyards in Wallingford
- Preston Ridge Vineyard
- Aquila’s Nest Vineyards in Sandy Hook
- Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen
7. Eat ALL The Lobster Rolls
I mean, Connecticut has its very own lobster roll style, so this is one thing you just have to eat in the summer! If you’re not familiar with art of New England lobster rolls, allow me to explain 🙂
Most people are at least familiar with the traditional Maine-style lobster roll, which has lobster salad in a hot dog roll, and served cold. But Connecticut created its own version that uses warm lobster meat and butter. If you haven’t tried both, I suggest you do, and decide which you like better.
Since lobster and fresh seafood is kind of synonymous with summer dining, this is the perfect season to try them all.
Here are some awesome places for lobster rolls in Connecticut:
- Ford’s Lobster in Noank
- Guilford Lobster Pound
- Liv’s Shack in Old Saybrook
- Lobster Landing in Clinton
- Jessica’s Lobster Shack in Malborough
This is just a small sampling of all the amazing places serving up lobster rolls around Connecticut, so keep in mind that most towns in the state will have a great place for this perfect, New England summertime dish.
8. Peddle The Rail Bike
The Essex Steam Train is a popular activity year-round in Connecticut, but in the summer, one of the more unique things to do is peddle along the rail tracks on a rail bike.
Taking you through wooded areas, the scenic trails offers views of the Connecticut River, marinas and other lovely areas, and you can also tailor the length of the trip to your preferences. For a fun afternoon outdoors in nature, this is such a fun option.
Once you’re done biking the rail tracks, you can also book a combo ticket to hop aboard the steam train for the ultimate day of fun in the River Valley region.
9. Cool Off At Brownstone Adventure Sports Park
It’s hard to deny that Brownstone Adventure Park is fun for both kids and adults, and especially in the summer season, this waterfront park is perfect for cooling off on a hot day.
And they really offer everything – cliff jumps and zip lining over the water, wakeboarding, obstacle courses, and even kayaking and paddleboarding for a more serene experience. They also have food concessions on-site so you can really make an entire day out of it. For a summer afternoon of fun at the lake, this is hard to beat!
10. Dine On The Water
Since Connecticut is a coastal state with lots of beautiful rivers and waterfront, it would be a shame to not take advantage of all the incredible waterfront dining in the summer season. For brunch, lunch or dinner, it’s the perfect setting to grab a cocktail, and enjoy your meal with an awesome view.
Here are some wonderful waterfront restaurants in Connecticut:
- The Boathouse at Saugatuck in Westport
- S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar in Mystic
- Shell & Bones Oyster Bar & Grill in New Haven
- Breakwater in Stonington
- Carlson’s Landing in Essex
11. Attend A Dinner Event At A Farm
On those long summer nights, there’s something very magical about dining outdoors, and there are a few gorgeous farms in Connecticut that host special dinners throughout July and August. These are usually quick to sell-out, so it’s best to book right away if you’re interested!
Hunts Brook Farm in Quaker Hill is one of the best, and hosted under a candlelit tent on the farm. A 5-course menu is prepared farm-to-table style, and features fresh and local ingredients, live music and expert wine and beer pairings. Click here for more info!
Rosedale Farms and Vineyards in Simsbury hosts an array of Max Chef To The Farm events throughout the summer, including Lobsterfest and Oysterfest, among others. But their Taste of Max events are their special farm-to-table dining experiences that you don’t want to miss. Click here for more info!
Stoneacres Farm in Stonington also hosts a similar event, with dining under the stars on their beautiful grounds. And of course, the focus is fresh, farm-to-table cuisine and fresh seafood catches, spectacular ambience, and incredible drink pairings. Click here for more info!
12. Stroll Around Mystic
Mystic is undoubtedly one of the best small towns to visit in Connecticut, and summer is such a great time to visit. Between the river scenery, the very cool bascule bridge, amazing restaurants, awesome Main Street for shopping, and the very cool Mystic Seaport Museum, it really has so much to offer. Oh, and it’s also close to Stonington Vineyards, so you can easily work a dreamy picnic into your plans 🙂
But in the summer, there are also some fun events that take place, including the Mystic River Jam in June, and the Summer Sounds Concert Series in July.
13. Tour Mystic River On A Schooner
While you’re in Mystic, one of the best things to do is hop aboard schooner Argia, which offers really fun tours along Mystic River. Argia is the only remaining commercial sailing ship in Mystic, so that alone makes it such a treat to experience a charter with them.
Offering public sails through the day, including special sunset charters, there are options to suit everyone’s plans. They also allow you to bring wine and beer aboard to make your experience even more memorable.
Pro Tip: Parking in the summers in Mystic, especially on weekends, can be challenging, so it’s best to plan plenty of time to find parking before your scheduled departure time.
14. Pick Your Own Flowers Or Visit A Flower Cart
The New England growing season is such a short one, so one of the best things to do this time of year is savor all the beautiful blooms. There are quite a few places around the state that offer both cut your own flower fields, and cute little flower carts to pick up a fresh, locally-grown bouquet. I have some suggestions below to get you started!
Here are some awesome places for cut your own flowers in Connecticut:
- Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme
- Raspberry Knoll Farm in North Windham
- Buttonwood Farm in Griswold (sunflowers)
- Scotts Farms in Essex
Here are some great flower farm carts to visit in Connecticut:
- Mystical Gardens Flower Cart in North Stonington
- Sterling Flower Farm in Sterling
15. Visit A U-Pick Fruit Farm
Same goes for fruits! The berry and fruit growing season in New England is very much celebrated during its short window, and it feels so wonderful to harvest your own fruits to enjoy all that incredible flavor that’s synonymous with the summer season.
With strawberries peaking at the end of June, followed by blueberries, raspberries, peaches and more, it’s a summer day well-spent collecting your own baskets full of all of them.
Here are some wonderful U-Pick farms around Connecticut:
- Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford – U-pick blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, pears and peaches.
- Lyman Orchards in Middlefield – U-pick strawberries and peaches.
- Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme – U-pick strawberries, blueberries, peaches and nectarines. Also has U-pick flowers.
- Raspberry Knoll Farm in North Windham – U-pick raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. Also has U-pick flowers.
- DeFazio Orchard in Killingly – U-pick peaches.
- Scotts Farms in Deep River – U-pick peaches and blueberries.
16. Hit Up The Farmer’s Markets
While you can find great farmer’s markets all over the country, Connecticut actually has well over 5,000 farms, so the agriculture industry is impressive! And that means you get rewarded with incredibly fresh produce and speciality foods. Swinging by a Connecticut Farmer’s Market to pick up the flavors of the summer is such a treat.
Here are the best farmer’s markets to check out this summer:
- Putnam Farmers’ Market
- Westport Farmer’s Market
- Shelton Farmer’s Market
- Fairfield Farmer’s Market
- Monroe Farmer’s Market
Fun Fact: Paul Newman was a founding member of the Westport Farmer’s Market, and even started his brand, Newman’s Own, right in Westport.
17. Go Kayaking And Paddle Boarding
I’ve mentioned before that Connecticut is home to so many rivers, ponds, and inlets, and one of the best ways to enjoy them in the summer season is by heading out on a kayak or paddle board.
There are tons of places all over the state that offer rentals if you don’t have your own equipment, and you can even find great kayak/paddle board tours if you’re a newbie.
Here are some great places to check out to get you started:
- The Norwalks Islands are a very scenic place for kayaking.
- Sea Kayak Connecticut in Westport is a great place for rentals and tours.
- Blue Heaven Kayak & Paddle Board Rentals is perfect if you’re near Mystic.
- Metacomet Tours in Windsor is a wonderful tour operator.
18. Spend The Afternoon At Buttonwood Farm
Famous for ice cream and sunflowers, there’s not a more iconic summer duo than that, right? 🙂
And at Buttonwood Farm in Griswold, they have an awesome program in the summer season that’s more than worth checking out: Sunflowers For Wishes. Every year, the farm plants over 300,000 sunflowers across 14 acres, and picks them to sell, donating 100% of the profits to Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut.
After you’ve gotten your sunflowers for a great cause, swing by for farm-fresh ice cream. They usually have about 50 flavors to choose from, and also make their own waffle cones.
19. Have A Drive-In Movie Night
Drive-in movie experiences are getting harder to come by, but in Connecticut, there are some great options for a summertime movie night.
Here are the drive-in theaters you can check out in Connecticut:
- Southington Drive-In
- Mansfield Drive-in Theatre & Marketplace
- Pleasant Valley Drive-In
Later this year in 2023, a new drive-in experience is scheduled to open in Wethersfield, so I’m keeping my eye on that, and will update this post once once I have an official opening date 🙂
20. Hike To A Castle
Connecticut has the unique experience of hiking to a castle, which is such a fun summertime activity.
Castle Craig in Meriden requires about a 3.5 mile hike round trip, and once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with a stone observation tower that offers incredible views. It’s truly such a cool experience to have!
Gillette Castle is another wonderful option, and doesn’t even require a hike to get there. Tours are given inside this unique medieval-inspired castle seasonally from late spring through summer, and there are some great hiking trails and picnicking areas on the grounds that you can enjoy.
21. Explore The State Parks
There are so many wonderful state parks in Connecticut to explore throughout the summer season, and during your visits, you can see waterfalls, enjoy scenic nature walks, pack a picnic, and so much more.
Kent Falls State Park is a great one to check out to see the tallest waterfalls in Connecticut! There’s also a cute little covered bridge for an idyllic New England landscape to enjoy, and nice hiking trails.
Devil’s Hopyard State Park is another wonderful option that also has a scenic waterfall to admire, bike trails, hiking trails, picnic areas and places for fishing. This park is only about 20 minutes from Gillette Castle, making it easy to combine both in the same day.
Wadsworth Falls State Park, Indian Well State Park, and Campbell Falls State Park are also great options for waterfall sightseeing and hiking.
I also recommend checking out Mt. Tom State Park for scenic views, and Silver Sands State Park for waterfront fun.
22. Tour The Lighthouses
There are some really beautiful lighthouses that are sprinkled along the Connecticut coastline, and while I’ve already mentioned a ferry boat ride over to Sheffield Island Lighthouse, there are plenty more you can see.
Quite a few lighthouses in Connecticut can only be seen by boat, but there are several that are on the mainland, including:
- Fayerweather Lighthouse in Bridgeport (walk a fun breakwater jetty to get to the lighthouse!)
- Five Mile Point Lighthouse in New Haven
- New London Harbor Lighthouse in New London
- Stonington Harbor Lighthouse in Stonington
- Avery Point Lighthouse in Groton
You can also take a ferry out to Great Captain Island Lighthouse in Greenwich!
23. Plan A Coastal Road Trip
While the Connecticut coastline is small, and can be driven in about 2 hours without stops, there are so many great places to stop along the way that you can easily stretch it out into a few days for an awesome summer road trip!
Start in Greenwich, which is close to the New York border, and make your way to Mystic & Stonington, which is almost to the Rhode Island border. There are so many wonderful towns and lots of gorgeous coastal scenery to see along the drive.
From there, you can keep going through Rhode Island, and explore Westerly & Watch Hill, Narragansett and Newport!
24. Attend A Food Truck Festival
Throughout the spring and summer seasons, there are some really fun food truck festivals throughout Connecticut, and these should definitely be on your list when planning your summer weekends! Enjoy the incredible food and live music, and some even have kid’s activities and vendors to shop from.
Here are some great food truck festivals to check out this summer:
- Glastonbury Food Truck Festival
- Naugatuck Food Truck Festival on The Green
- Manchester Food Truck Festival
- International Food Truck & Vendor Festival
Fun Connecticut Summer Festivals
In addition to awesome food truck festivals, there are even more summer events to enjoy in Connecticut. Here are a few you’ll want to have on your radar:
25. Norwalk Oyster Festival
While it’s late in the summer, Norwalk Oyster Festival is one you don’t want to miss! Taking place in early September, it’s been a Connecticut tradition for over 40 years.
Over the course of 3 days, you can enjoy amazing food vendors serving up fresh seafood and fair food, carnivals rides, live music, artisan vendors, and lots more.
25. Norfolk Midsummer Farmer’s Market
I know I already talked about some great farmer’s markets to shop from in the summer season, but the Norfolk Midsummer Farmer’s Market is one you don’t want to miss.
Often showcasing over 30 farmers and local artisans, the market not only offers great shopping, but also live music, kid’s activities, cooking and gardening demos, and a huge sense of community.
In New London, Sailfest is such a fun event that celebrates everything great about summer. There are always awesome fireworks shows, live music, carnival rides, over 200 vendors, and of course … ships!
This is a 2-day long event in July that you should just go ahead and pencil into your calendars now 🙂
28. West Hartford Art and Craft Show
For something a bit different than your usual food-centered festivals, the West Hartford Arts & Craft Show is most definitely worth checking out. It features over 175 artisan vendors from all over New England and the Northeast, and since the approval process is selective, you know you’re getting to shop from the best of the best!
While this event takes place in mid-June before summer officially begins, it’s close enough to the summer season, right? 🙂
29. Bridgewater Country Fair
For the past 70 years, this event has been a staple in Bridgewater! Every August, the Bridgewater Country Fair is run by the volunteer fire department, which is the last self-sustaining fire department in the entire state. All proceeds from the fair go toward funding this great organization, and all the food prepared at the fair is done by fire department volunteers!
During the fair, you’ll find a parade, awesome food, carnival rides and lots more. Have this one on your calendars for August.
Where To Stay In Connecticut In The Summer
Most Connecticut towns have a little something to offer when it comes to summertime fun, but these are the places I think make for the best summer getaways:
30. Madison or New London For Beaches
As mentioned earlier in the post, Madison is home to the state’s largest beach at Hammonasset Beach State Park, and New London has the very fun Ocean Beach Park, so it’s hard to go wrong with either choice.
I would say there’s probably more to do in New London, as far as a downtown scene and attractions, but Hammonasset Beach is one you don’t want to miss for not just the beach, but the scenic nature trails. The great news is that these two destinations are only about 30 minutes from one another, so they can easily be combined in one getaway.
Where To Stay In Madison: Madison Beach Hotel
- Private beach access on Long Island Sound
- On-site spa and restaurant
- Many rooms come with an ocean view
31. Mystic For Small-Town Charm
It’s really hard to beat Mystic for any kind of getaway, especially in the summer. It’s so nice, I had to mention it twice! 😉
Grab an ice cream in town at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream, stroll along the river, head out for a sail on Argia, book tables at amazing restaurants, and stay at a cozy, nautical-style inn.
Where To Stay In Mystic: The Whalers Inn
- Perfect local right in downtown Mystic, walkable to shops, restaurants and the river
- Very cozy New England/nautical style decor
- Amazing restaurant on-site
- Roku streaming services
- Complimentary baked goods in the afternoon
32. Litchfield For A Dreamy Vineyard Escape
In the heart of the Litchfield Hills countryside, Litchfield is an ideal location for a summer getaway if you’re looking for awesome farm-to-table dining, vineyards for wine tasting, and scenic drives. You’ll also have easy access to some great parks here, including Mt. Tom State Park.
Where To Stay In Litchfield: The Litchfield Inn
- A charming, traditional New England style boutique inn
- Classic and uniquely decorated room selections available
- Idyllic colonial countryside estate
- Formal gardens and outdoor seating (perfect for a glass of wine!)
33. Old Saybrook For A Peaceful Getaway
Old Saybrook offers a great mix of a little bit of everything, and tends to be less busy than places like Mystic, or the top beach destinations. But, it’s still a lovely coastal town with a great downtown area, ocean views, nature trails, museums, and amazing restaurants.
In fact, it’s where Katherine Hepburn spent her childhood summers, and where she eventually retired. She’s referred to Old Saybrook as “paradise,” and you probably will, too!
Where To Stay In Old Saybrook: Saybrook Point Resort & Marina
- Beautiful waterfront location at the marina
- Dining & spa on-site
- Indoor and outdoor saltwater pools
- Charming rooms
What Is Summer Like In Connecticut?
In a word – hot. Since Connecticut is the most southern of all the New England states, that means it’s also the warmest. July and August will be the warmest months, and average temperatures range from 80-85°F, and sometimes the high humidity can make it feel even warmer. It’s not uncommon to experience days in the 90’s, or even reach 100°F.
Of course, this is still New England, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say the weather can still be fickle. You could also experience some chilly, overcast days, or even thunderstorms. But generally speaking, summers in Connecticut are hot and sunny.
More posts you may enjoy:
- Fun Things To Do In Mystic, CT
- Best Things To Do In Essex, CT
- Summer In New England: Where To Go & Things To Do!
- Best Beach Towns In New England
- Fun Things To Do In Chester, CT
That’s A Wrap On Ways To Enjoy Summer In Connecticut
And there you have it, my list of all the best ways to enjoy summer in Connecticut. At the end of the day, the best things you can do during these beautiful, warm days is savor every moment of it. Whether that means hitting up all the amazing farmer’s markets for an epic night of grilling, planning the perfect beach getaway, or it’s as simple as going out for ice cream on a hot night – enjoy all the best things this season has to offer while it lasts!