Break the winter blues with a Connecticut day trip

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Statewide - posted Fri., Feb. 7, 2014
(Brave) children can pet a live shark at the Mystic Aquarium during February vacation. Courtesy photos. - Contributed Photo

With weather making local residents largely homebound for several winter days, many are dreaming of trips to tropical locations. While that may not be feasible for everyone, there are many day trips and things to do in Connecticut to break the cycle of cabin fever and to help pass the time until spring arrives.

For the adventurous, outdoorsy folks, there are several opportunities to ski. Ski Sundown in New Hartford is only about a 40-minute ride from the Connecticut River Valley, and offers 15 trails (including one a mile long) on a 625-foot vertical drop and 1,075-foot summit. Closer for most is Mount Southington, located right off I-84. Mount Southington has 14 trails on 50 skiable acres, a vertical drop of 425 feet and a summit 525 feet above sea level.

Some non-skiers choose to make frozen water their friend. Outdoor ice-skating is seeing a small resurgence in popularity. Many local lakes and ponds allow skating, but it’s wise to check with the local recreation department regarding conditions. There is a list of skating areas on

Coventry Lake is a popular destination for ice-fishing. Calico bass, northern pike and yellow perch are among the more common fish found there.

Winter hikes are also popular, with many scenic trails of varying levels of difficulty all across Connecticut. Some shorter trails include Earle Park in Glastonbury (behind the Connecticut Audubon Society Center) and Wickham Park in Manchester.

Mansfield Hollow State Park surrounds the dam-created Mansfield Hollow Lake, and has several miles of trails. Bigelow Hollow State Park in Union offers 35 miles of trails, including several that overlook 92-acre Breakneck Pond.

If indoor family fun is more your style, the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford offers education-made-fun for kids of all ages. Currently (through May 4), the center is hosting a "Lost Egypt" exhibit, which includes real mummies and ancient artifacts, and hands-on activities including digging for clues, and building a pyramid. Visit for more information.

The Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum in nearby Cheshire will please animation fans of any age, with more than 80,000 items including toys and character collectibles from 1873 to present, including television, and advertising collectibles and cartoon memorabilia. The Barker is also the official museum for Celebriducks, the California Raisins and Gumby. There is also an adjacent animation art gallery.

Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut in Niantic is another learn-while-having-fun opportunity, with interactive hands-on exhibits for the entire family, including the Long Island Sound Marinelife Tank, and the popular Kidsville, an entire kid-sized town. The museum also offers scavenger hunts for kids, which help them explore the center in a fun, challenging way. Live animals are also featured, including Richter the Red Tailed Boa Constrictor.

February vacation week is “shark week” at the Mystic Aquarium. From Feb. 15-23, the aquarium will be inviting guests to discover why sharks are so popular. Sharks of many shapes and sizes will be on hand, including some species most people don’t realize are indeed sharks, and interactive exhibits will compare human senses with those of the predatory fish. Visitors can actually touch sharks (if they dare) and take part in a shark scavenger hunt.

For something a little different, The New England Carousel Museum in Bristol is just a short drive on I-84. The museum houses a large collection of antique hand-carved carousel pieces, and offers guided or self-guided tours. Boasting education as well as eye candy, the museum also offers classes for youth during vacation week.

Lyman Orchards is offering a special event at the end of vacation week. The Middlefield orchard’s Winterfest takes place Feb. 22 and 23, and features interactive ice-carving demonstrations, horse-drawn wagon rides, and performances by Siberian husky sled dogs. Refreshments include the New England traditional sugar-on-snow, and complimentary tastings of fresh fruit, baked goods and specialty foods. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Visit for more information.

For more Connecticut winter getaways and daycation outing ideas, visit or

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