Discover and Learn at Connecticut's Imagination Stations Last Updated: August 2022

By Traci L. Suppa
Calling all kids: these Connecticut playgrounds were built for you.

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Connecticut Science Center

This Hartford museum has more than 165 hands-on exhibits to excite all ages. Head to the 3D digital theater or rooftop garden, four educational labs for live demonstrations and daily events like the Wildlife Encounters stage show. Interact with displays about space, sports, genetics and energy. The Butterfly Encounter provides indoor habitat for numerous species, primarily from Central America.

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Discovery Museum and Planetarium

In Bridgeport, all kids learn something new at this museum focusing on STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The Energy Network exhibit showcases how energy is produced, used and transported, and Wild Weather explores extreme weather phenomena. Visit Discovery’s Challenger Learning Center, a mock mission control and spacecraft, and Everbright, a giant LED grid. The planetarium offers awesome star shows.

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Stepping Stones Museum for Children

To stimulate the imagination—while expending the energy—of the under-10 crowd, bring them to this Norwalk museum. Nearly a dozen indoor and outdoor exhibits allow kids to make robots, try woodworking or learn about erosion. The Energy Lab is a highlight, offering immersive experiments with water, wind and sun. Toddlers get their own dedicated space, Tot Town, with climbing structures and activity mats.

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Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History

Part of Yale University in New Haven, this museum is a renowned center for dinosaur research. Its paleontology collection, among the largest in the United States, contains fossils 200 to 65 million years old. In the Great Hall, you’ll be dwarfed by the 70-foot brontosaurus skeleton, a stegosaurus and a triceratops. Other exhibits showcase birds, plants, gems and minerals. The Discovery Room lets younger children interact with science experiments and watch a colony of leaf-cutter ants.

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Connecticut River Museum

The history and heritage of the Connecticut River is the focus of this museum, located in Essex at Steamboat Dock in a restored warehouse. A replica of the world’s first submarine, the 1776 Turtle, is a highlight—kids can climb in to turn the cranks. Take a seasonal river cruise, or rent a canoe or kayak. Time your visit for a summer lawn concert, the Antique & Classic Boat Show in July or Dogs on the Docks in October.

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New England Carousel Museum

Housed in a restored 1837 hosiery factory, this museum located in Bristol is dedicated to the preservation of antique carousels and displays pieces created by famous woodcarvers. The extensive collection also includes art and memorabilia plus the on-site Museum of Fire History, but the main draw is the working indoor carousel. The museum hosts family programs such as princess tea parties and teddy bear picnics.

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All Aboard!

Every kid is fascinated with trains at some point in their life. Give them a glimpse at history, as well as a fun ride, at the Railroad Museum of New England, which operates excursions through Naugatuck Valley from the historic Thomaston Station. Family favorites include the Easter Bunny Express and Pumpkin Patch rides. In Essex, the Essex Steam Train offers excursions through the Connecticut River Valley, including themed trips such as the fall foliage and North Pole Express rides.

The Danbury Railway Museum has 70 pieces of historic railroad equipment and a Lionel train display and offers weekend rides aboard vintage equipment. To see streetcars, visit the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven for a ride through scenic salt marshes. Or, in East Windsor, board popular old-fashioned trolleys at the Connecticut Trolley Museum.