What’s the best way to spend your Fourth of July in Connecticut? Ziplining through the treetops? Taking a trip back in history? Or would you rather relax in the big city?  Finding a vacation rental in Connecticut is a great way to reconnect to your family while staying close to all the action. There are so many attractions in one small state that it’ll be hard to decide what to do. Here’s our list of 10 great Connecticut vacations, perfect for families. No matter what activities your family is interested, Connecticut is sure to have the perfect destination and vacation rental for you!

1. Branford

 Island at the middle of the sea

It’s summer and time to get out on the water! Connecticut has hundreds of miles of shoreline on Long Island Sound, more than 1500 lakes and ponds, and plenty of rivers too, making it the perfect playground for anyone who wants to have fun on the water. Rent some kayaks or bring your own and explore the Thimble Islands in Branford. Take a Connecticut Coastal Kayaking tour to learn about the local history, architecture, and bird watching. If you bring your own kayaks, you can store them in the garage of your vacation rental.

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2. Essex

Steam Train
Source: Flickr/altopower

Step back in time to the year 1892 at the Essex station and embark on an incredible, unforgettable 2.5-hour journey into the heart of the Connecticut River Valley. The young and the young at heart will be fascinated with the steam locomotive that pulls vintage coaches on a round-trip tour through the New England towns of Deep River and Chester. Once you arrive at Deep River Landing, your journey continues aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a relaxing cruise along the Connecticut River before heading back to Essex on another steam locomotive. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

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3. Portland

 Brownstone Exploration
Source: Flickr/jaymac3

Make the kids happy and feel like a kid again yourself at Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park in Portland. This old brownstone quarry has been converted into an outdoor adventure sports park and has everything for an adrenaline-filled vacation. There’s swimming, rock climbing, snorkeling, cliff jumping, zip lining, kayaking, scuba diving, hiking and biking trails, and a “Survivor” inspired obstacle course. In addition to all those activities, you’ll also get the unique opportunity to explore the quarry’s 100-foot depths.

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4. Kent

 Waterfalls
Source: Flickr/puzzler4879

The adventure continues at one of Connecticut’s greatest natural attractions, Kent Falls. Located in Kent Falls State Park, the area also features a grassy area for playing and picnic tables. Feel the mist on your face as you experience the scenic, cascading, 250-foot waterfalls in the beautiful Litchfield Hills. Walk across the covered bridge, hike the stair pathway, and enjoy the view from three observation decks. Extend your stay to this beautiful region with an overnight stay at the Inn at Kent Falls or a nearby vacation rental because there are also opportunities for fishing.

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5. Stamford

Stamford
Source: Flickr/dougtone

Stamford is the perfect place for any nature lovers, young and old. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is 118 acres with 4000 square feet of exhibition space, an 18-acre working farm, an observatory, nature center, playground, and interpretive trail system. You can enjoy Stamford even if you’re not fond of the great outdoors. Stamford Downtown has over 80 restaurants, hundreds of stores, movie and life theaters, galleries, and more. Head to Cummings Park to get a seat for the fireworks show that starts around 9:15 pm.

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6. Mystic

 Beluga Whales
Source: Flickr/steven gosch

Anyone in the family fascinated with the ocean? In Mystic, you can explore the depths of the ocean like never before at the Mystic Aquarium and the Mystic Seaport. At the Aquarium, you can visit thousands of sea creatures through the indoor and outdoor exhibits like New England’s only beluga whales, an endangered African penguin, rescued seals, colorful fish and more. Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum, founded in 1929. It’s home to four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship in the world. Visit the working preservation shipyard, a re-created 19th-century seafaring village, exhilarating exhibits, a planetarium, historic gardens, and a children’s museum. You can also get out on the water and explore the historic Mystic River during the summer months.

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7. Granby

 Waterfalls
Source: Flickr/almond butterscotch

Haven’t gotten enough of Connecticut’s beautiful waterfalls? A short hike through Enders Falls State Forest will reward you with views of a spectacular series of waterfalls which feed into small pools at the bottom perfect for a refreshing swim. It’s a perfect place to take a cool dip on a hot day, enjoy the scenery, and take Fido for a walk. Dogs on leashes are welcome too! We can’t think of a better way to cool off on a hot July day.

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8. Canton

Canton
Source: Flickr/justenoughfocus

Just because school stops doesn’t mean the learning has to. At Roaring Brook Nature Center in Canton, the education is fun. You’ll find live animals, a replica of an Eastern Woodland Indian longhouse, a beaver habitat and more. You can also check out local plants and more than 150 bird species on the five miles of outdoor trails. Learn how changes in land use over the past 500 years have impacted the local wildlife through the interactive exhibits.

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9. Manchester

 Manchester Oak Grove
Source: Flickr/Sean Tyler

If you’re looking for more learning fun, visit Manchester’s Oak Grove Nature Center, a 52-acre preserve featuring a pond, covered bridge, and walking trails. All activities are overseen by the highly regarded Lutz Children’s Museum and include bird searches, bug hunts, and the doings many years ago of the local Podunk Tribe of Native Americans. Celebrate the Fourth in Manchester on the 1st with their 34th annual Independence Day Celebration. Festivities include children’s games, live music, food, and of course, fireworks.

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10. Burlington

 Burlington
Source: Flickr/wcupmartin6

Anyone wondering what they can do to have a positive impact on Connecticut’s wildlife should visit Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area in Burlington. Here, there are regular programs, demonstrations, and workshops about wildlife and natural resource management run by the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. If you’d rather just relax, you can enjoy the miles of hiking trails, beaver marsh, waterfall, and observation tower.

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