“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” – Henry James
I recently realized, with equal parts excitement and dread, one of the benefits/consequences of the mild winter we experienced this past season in the Northeast. I had been mentally counting down the days to the end of the school year, planning out activities, camps and vacation based on the end date of the school year as marked on the calendar. And then this little caveat caught my attention: “School will close for the year upon the completion of the 183rd student school day.” Ummm…what?
As it turns out, there are six emergency school closing days built-in the calendar in my kids’ school system. Which means, since we only had one snow day…school is getting out one week earlier than I had been counting on and planning for. Which means…I get an extra week to enjoy summer with my kids! Or…ugh, now I need to find something for my kids to do for an extra week. See what I mean about benefits/consequences?
I did some research, and I realized that there is enough going on in this little state to keep my kids busy all summer. Some of the items I’ve added to our “must do” list include the following, all of which are easily within 45 minutes of home:
- Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, Hartford: In addition to learning about Harriet Beecher Stowe the abolitionist and suffragist, the months of July and August have guided and self-guided tours, focusing on Stowe’s love of gardens.
- Flanders Nature Center, Woodbury: A nature preserve that has hiking trails with letterboxes, farm animals and educational interior spaces.
- Elizabeth Park and Rose Garden, West Hartford: The nation’s oldest public rose garden is on the National Register of Historic Places and offers not only the beauty of the extensive rose gardens, but also walking paths, annual gardens, and picnicking and photography are welcomed and encouraged.
- Dinosaur State Park, Rocky Hill: At one of the nation’s largest dinosaur track parks, visitors can observe 500 dinosaur tracks that were discovered 50 years ago, and are now housed within a geodome. The grounds outside the geodome offer the opportunity to walk through several different habitats.
- Heublein Tower, Simsbury: We’ll spend a bit of time hiking up the (challenging for little legs at times) trail to Heublein Tower, which offers spectacular views of the Farmington Valley.
Some places that are further afield from home, but appear to be worth the day trip include:
- Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport, Mystic: We’ve been to the Aquarium before, but have yet to experience the Seaport.
- The Adventure Indoor Ropes Course at Jordan’s Furniture, New Haven: Yes, it’s a furniture store. With a massive indoor ropes course and zip lines.
- Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village, Oakdale: A 60-acre adventure park with nature trails and life-size dinosaur replicas, a splash pad, interior educational spaces and shopping…sounds heavenly!
- Silver Sands State Park, Milford: I’ll have to research how crowded this location gets, because entry to the beach is free.
- Weir Farms National Historic Site, Wilton: Hiking trails, a Junior Ranger Program, and a unique opportunity to “Take Part in Art”; the National Park Service provides art supplies free of charge for visitors wanting to sketch or paint some of the landscape. Guided tours of the Weir House and Studio are also offered. Free!
One thing I will do to keep expenses down is check with my local library, which offers reduced or free admission to several of the locations listed above. Another thing will be to pack picnic lunches for those locations that allow it.
So tell me, what is on YOUR must-do list for the summer?