Despite being the third smallest state, Connecticut offers big adventures. Student groups traveling through Connecticut have ample opportunities to explore nature and aspects of early America. Destinations featuring art, ecology and history make Connecticut full of exciting learning opportunities.

3 Places that Take Students Back in Time

Weir Farm National Historic Site

Located in Wilton, Weir Farm National Historic Site is one of two parks devoted to the visual arts in the National Park Service. Commemorating generations of American artists, the site allows student groups to get in touch with their creativity through 16 historic buildings and 60 acres of beautiful landscape. The Burlingham House features a large gallery with changing exhibits and an orientation video. Groups may also participate in the Take Part in Art program, where students are allowed to take part in the time-honored tradition of painting and sketching en plein air, or in the open air.

Nature’s Art Village

With a museum, an outdoor adventure park and a discovery depot, Montville’s Nature’s Art Village has something for any kind of student group. Students can pretend they are paleontologists with life-size dinosaurs with touch-and-learn stations and educational displays at The Dinosaur Place, a 65-acre adventure park designed to replicate the Mesozoic era. The Gateway Museum also takes students on a trip to the past with exhibits on the transformation of American technology.

Warner Theatre

Built by Warner Brothers Studios and opened in 1931 as a movie palace, the Warner Theatre is now a performing arts center and deemed the finest surviving Art Deco-style theater in Connecticut. Student groups can explore the theater in a behind-the-scenes tour before watching a performance.

Credit: Warner Theatre

Credit: Warner Theatre

3 Destinations that Promise to Connect Students to Nature

Dinosaur State Park

Student groups can walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs at Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, home to one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. Underneath a geodesic dome lies an expansive display of fossils 500 dinosaur tracks that student groups can explore along with other interactive exhibits highlighting dinosaurs, evolution and Connecticut geology. More than two miles of nature trails surround the Exhibit Center containing plant life like katsuras, ginkgoes and magnolias that appeared during the Mesozoic era.

Dinosaur State Park

Kellogg Environmental Center & Osborne Homestead Museum

The Kellogg Environmental Center & Osborne Homestead Museum in Derby celebrates the life of Frances Osborne Kellogg, an accomplished businesswoman and conservationist who was dedicated to preserving land for future generations. Student groups can learn about the Osborne family, women in history and agriculture, and the environment through touring the Osborne Homestead Museum. The museum grounds are landscaped with shrubs, flower gardens and flowering trees. Near the museum is the Kellogg Environmental Center, which focuses on the conservation of the environment. It offers school programs that help students investigate the natural environment and explore critical issues.

Gillette Castle State Park

In 1853 actor and playwright William Gillette built what is now known as Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, a 184-acre estate with a 24-room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle at its center. Student groups will feel like time travelers while touring the mansion and Aunt Polly, Gillette’s sunken houseboat that is most visible when the Connecticut River is low. The grounds surrounding the castle are wooded and full of hiking trails student groups can explore.

Gillette Castle 2

3 Hot Spots to Learn About Different Mediums of Art

Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry

Located on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry has one of the greatest collections of puppets from around the world. Students can come learn about the history, culture and making of puppets as well as enjoy a puppet performance. See exhibitions of all different forms of puppetry from shadow puppets to marionettes. Students are also able to create their own rod puppets and masks and learn the art of shadow puppetry.

The Barnum Museum

The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport is the only museum dedicated to P.T. Barnum, an American showman and businessman remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The museum is dedicated to portraying Barnum’s life and following his motto of “instructive entertainment.” With exhibits ranging from a 4,000-year-old mummy to a 1,000-square-foot miniature replica of his circus, this museum will enrapture students from start to finish.

Mark Twain House and Museum

Student groups can explore the house where acclaimed author Mark Twain, also known as Samuel Clemens, lived in Hartford. The Mark Twain House and Museum has a permanent gallery of Twain’s life and work, plus an exhibition hall with rotating exhibits. Students can venture into the research library, an archive of documents and photographic images that were made, received or accumulated by Mark Twain, his friends and family and the Mark Twain House and Museum as an institution. The museum has a lecture hall that it rents out for student group functions or performances.

By Caroline Rabin