Tread carefully as you wander Connecticut's State Parks, for here lies detective history, crumbling castles, and sleeping giants. Here are the most entertaining parks for families:
Kids will love gallivanting in the castle gardens at this picturesque park. Look out on the Connecticut River from its manicured lawns and woody glens. The castle was built by Sherlock Holmes' author Arthur Conan Doyle. Who doesn't want to come here and recite his famous phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson"?
Take the kids for a turn in state history at Fort Trumbull, where you can see a military fort that dates back to pre-Civil War days. Completed in 1852, the fort was one of 42 coastal forts constructed at the time, but is unique in its Egyptian Revival features. Take a guided tour of the fort and explore its Visitor Center, or follow one of the walking trails to several wildlife exhibits. 16 acres of parkland lie near the mouth of the Thames River. Superb fishing holes are teeming with bass and bluefish.
Your children will love visiting Sleeping Giant State Park and learning about the Native American story responsible for its name. Hike along the park's well marked trails for spectacular views of the Sleeping Giant Mountain, retracing the steps of the giant with your little ones.
Jog along a beach, hop across Eightmile River, or wander through the winding trails at Chatfield Hollow. Here are the best hikes in the state:
Madison's duned bluffs make for challenging hikes and jogs amid spectacular surroundings. Wildlife chirrups and whirs in the reeds beside the water, and butterflies float on the breeze. Some argue that Hammonasset is the best beach in Connecticut, but you'll have to determine that for yourself.
One of the most unique hikes you're ever likely to take involves hopping from stone to stone across the mirror-like Eightmile River. Naturally, this thousand-acre park is a boon for fishing fans, but you can also cycle trails and picnic at designated spots on your way to see the Chapman Falls in East Haddam.
Trails meander through leafy clearings and along sparkling streams at this lakeside gem. Popular in midsummer, you will find the trails far less busy but no less beautiful during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.
For elevated views over Connecticut, head to Haystack Mountain. The gentle climb takes about half an hour and is well worth the view from the top.
Scoot along a boardwalk. Swim or boat to an offshore island. Cycle through forest-girt trails. Connecticut is full of outdoor adventures. Here are some of the most thrilling:
Milford's State Park looks out onto glimmering Long Island Sound, a restored salt marsh that provides a haven for wildlife, especially birds. The boardwalk is beloved of bikers, skaters, and runners. Roughly 300 acres of parkland are the setting for swimming, boating, and beach sports. At low tide, walk across the neck of land to Charles Island, unless its May or August, when the nesting birds are left in peace. Explore the island's trails to find a ruined Gothic chapel.
Beach and woodland are the ideal combination for watersports fans and those who prefer their activities on solid ground. Seven hundred acres provide ample space for you to stretch your legs. After swimming in the sunshine you can retire to cool trails where you'll discover geological features like Tony's Nose and Baker's Cave, while evading the scorch of the midday sun. Fishing in the sparkling saltwater of Long Island Sound is also popular.
Meadows stretch for miles at this state park, a natural playground for adventure lovers. Frisbee and catch join more modern entertainments at this spacious park. Cycle trails and ponds are adorned by sculptures by Anna Huntington.