If you’re looking for beaches, awe-inspiring nature, and big city hustle and bustle, then Connecticut should be your go-to destination. Book a stay at one of many unforgettable Connecticut vacation rentals for your upcoming summer getaway. From scenic boat rides to tours through historic attractions, there’s something exciting in this state for visitors of all ages. Check out the top cities and towns in the state ideal for a summer trip.

1. Mystic

Source: Flickr/Dawn

The little village of Mystic is one of Connecticut’s most famous destinations, and with good reason. Located on the state’s southeastern coast, this town is the quintessence of the quaint, colorful 19th-century seaside village. It is home to Mystic Seaport, an old-time village that houses artifacts and interactive exhibits related to the community’s early days as a shipyard and whaling center. Climb aboard the 1841 Charles W. Morgan whaling vessel to experience the living conditions of whalers at sea. A blacksmith shop, cooperage, ship carver’s shop, and other icons of the period line the streets, offering fun and education for all ages.

A short drive from the seaport is Olde Mistick Village. Gift shops in this little gem offer everything from toys to chocolate to cookware. Take a leisurely summer stroll from one shop to another along scenic walking paths.

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2. Essex

Source: Flickr/Alan Light

The mighty Connecticut River travels past Essex, offering the town picturesque views of boats heading downstream. Experience the river close up by jumping aboard the Essex Stream Train or Essex River Boat. The train even features dinner. Visit the historic Griswold Inn for a mug of beer and a goodnight’s rest, but not before catching an exciting musical at the Goodspeed Opera House.

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3. Greenwich

Source: Flickr/Vanesser lll

Located in extreme southwestern Connecticut, Greenwich places you in an upper-class setting that sits almost in the shadow of New York City. Many attractive Victorian B&Bs populate this town, giving your stay a 19th-century flair. Visit Greenwich Point Park for scenic views of New York City’s towering skyline.

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4. New Haven

If city life near the water appeals to you, try vacation rentals in New Haven. Yale University makes its home here, and this venerable institution boasts an art gallery, a British art gallery, natural history museum, musical instrument collection, and repertory theater.

As the site of the nation’s first public tree planting program, New Haven features streets lined with mature trees offering welcoming summer shade. The historic town green offers lots of room for kids to run around. A plethora of restaurants and bars line the city streets, including the famous Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, known for its white clam pizza.

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5. Hartford

The capital of Connecticut is a vibrant modern city that also boasts many firsts. The Wadsworth Athenenum is the nation’s first public art gallery, offering a place to view the works of many great American and international artists.

For outdoor summer fun, visit Bushnell Park. Kids will love riding a vintage carousel from 1914 that features 48 hand-carved horses. The Connecticut Science Center has programs and over 100 hands-on exhibits on topics ranging from forensics to geology to astronomy. Historic sites include the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, which includes special child tours using props, stories, and activities to education children. If you get hungry, your vacation rental in Hartford is only a short distance from dozens of quality restaurants.

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6. Bristol

Source: Flickr/JJBers

For a fun mix of activities for all ages, try vacation rentals in Bristol. Lake Compounce, the oldest theme park in the United States, is located here. Hop aboard the Boulder Dash for a wild ride on this famous wooden roller coaster. Water rides are in place to give you a summer splash, and there are also several rides that cater specifically to young kids.

If you prefer to venture from your vacation home for something a little more relaxed, then try one of the many museums in the area. The American Clock and Watch Museum displays time-keeping mechanisms from the nation’s past, while the Bristol Historical Society Museum provides historical information more local in scope. If summer is calling you to an outdoors stroll, visit the Harry Barnes Memorial Nature Center to find quiet paths through fields and forests.

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7. Stamford

Source: Flickr/WalkingGeek

Like Greenwich, Stamford is another upper-class community close to Manhattan. Several Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies make their home here, bolstering the city’s image of a vibrant, sophisticated community. Your vacation rental in Stamford puts you within a short drive of Long Island Sound. If cultural activities are up your ally, then take a trip to the Stamford Center for the Arts and Palace Theater for live performances.

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8. Old Saybrook

Source: Flickr/Wilson Bilkovich

Prefer a small, quaint New England coastal town for your summer vacation? Try Old Saybrook. This community started in 1635, and you can visit the site of the original colony at Fort Saybrook Monument Park. Take the kids to a fun game of mini-golf at Saybrook Point, or head to Main Street to sample delicious fudge from the many small shops which line the street.

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9. Guilford

Source: Flickr/Good Streets

Guilford is yet another small, historic coastal town. It sits on the shore of Long Island Sound, and the town offers a picturesque setting for walks. The tree-lined streets provide welcome shade, while the large village green is a great place for kids to release pent-up energy. Many historic mansions still stand, adding to the historic feel of the community. If a beach picnic or swim appeals to you, venture over to Jacobs Beach. Guilford Harbor offers an old New England coastal town feel, especially with it’s historic Faulkner Island Lighthouse.

Children will enjoy picking fresh fruit at Bishop’s Orchard, while adults can relax over a glass of the orchard’s tasty wine.

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10. Madison

Source: Flickr/Lisa Jacobs

If chilling on the beach is your focus, then head to Madison. It is the home of Hammonasset Beach State Park, which is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park. The two-mile stretch of beach offers ample room for kids to run around and adults to relax in the sun. If you brought a boat to your vacation rental, Hammonasset Beach has a boat launch at Meigs Point jetty for you to get out on the water. The park is also great for large picnics or solitary fishing. Birdwatchers will appreciate the variety of migratory birds that stop here, include raptors and shorebirds.

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