Connecticut is the perfect state to visit if you are a history buff. As one of the original 13 colonies, this tiny seaside state is full of Colonial sights just waiting to be discovered. We have found three of the best day trips to explore Connecticut’s historical roots.
Benedict Arnold was a notorious Revolutionary War turncoat. A Connecticut native son who distinguished himself as a soldier under General Washington during several contentious battles, his plot to deliver West Point to the British during Revolutionary War backfired, and he was forced to flee. He became a Brigadier General in the British army, leading the British on several raids of the Connecticut Coast, including one that burned the city of New London, Connecticut to the ground during the Battle of Groton Heights (New London still throws a party where they burn Arnold in effigy every year). However, heavy British casualties led to a cessation of British fighting in the New England colonies. A few months later, the British lost the war, and Arnold had to leave for England.
You can still visit Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park in Groton, which includes a museum, monument to the battle, and several other veterans memorials. The earth battlements of the original fort are still there, in the star formation that overlooks the river between Groton and New London. The park features History Days and Open Houses and, if you are feeling seaworthy, a water taxi route that will take you between the two cities. Fort Griswold also offers a cell phone tour, where visitors can listen to recordings about six different stops. So before you visit, stop by one of the AT&T stores in Connecticut to be sure that you have the phone and charging equipment worthy of the tour. Listening to the history from your phone will bring a fun, innovative way to learn about Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park.
The Connecticut Colony of Hartford was settled in 1638. The Museum of Connecticut History features portraits of Connecticut governors going back hundreds of years, a historic coin collection, and an entire exhibit dedicated to the legendary Charter Oak.
The Charter Oak is among the most significant trees in American History, right up there with a certain cherry tree cut down by a certain young president. As the story goes, in 1662, the King of England, Charles II, granted colony of Connecticut a royal charter. This charter functioned somewhat like a constitution, allowing the young colony to elect its own officials, form a body of government, and enact their own laws. In return, the King would collect taxes on the colony without interfering in their self-governance. Charles II died in 1685, and his brother James II became King.
James wanted to combine all of New England and New York into one colony ruled by one English official. He appointed an English nobleman to the task, but when this nobleman met with the officials in Hartford they refused to give up the charter. That night, they snuck the charter out of the capital and hid it in the trunk of a massive oak tree. Their duplicity was successful, and he never found the document. The Charter Oak blew down in the 19th century, but twigs, branches, acorns, and lumber were collected and turned into memorabilia. You can see these on display at the museum, as well as the original copy of the charter in a frame of Charter Oak wood.
Redding is a town that has maintained its rural character, with dozens of miles of trails perfect for hiking or mountain biking. But don’t let the bucolic scenery fool you: Redding is also one of the most historically-significant towns in the state.
Putnam Memorial State Park is the oldest state park in Connecticut and the state’s first archaeological preserve. Sometimes called “Connecticut’s Valley Forge” after the infamous Pennsylvania vale where the Continental army encamped for the winter of 1777-78, Redding served as the Winter Quarters of General Israel Putnam’s division of the Continental army. Consequently, the ground of the park is full of evidence of life during the Colonial period, from old tobacco pipes, to rifle barrels. The park features a museum, a visitor’s center, frequent active archaeological digs, and occasional reenactments of Colonial life, with eager reenactors in full Colonial costume and sporting working muskets.