We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see your travels.
Bridgeport: Circus midget Tom Thumb (born Charles Stratton) was born in Bridgeport in 1838. He is buried in Bridgeport’s Mountain Grove Cemetery, along with his wife Lavinia Thumb, and showman P. T. Barnum.
Bridgeport: Hometown boy made good, showman P.T. Barnum is remembered here with the Barnum Museum, exhibiting some of his greatest sideshow attractions.
Bristol: Step back in time with a visit to the American Clock and Watch Museum, where hundreds of interesting and beautiful timepieces will remind you of times past. There are more than 1,400 clocks and watches on display including “grandfather” clocks, shelf clocks, wall clocks, novelties, alarm clocks, tower/church clocks, jeweled watches, watch keys and fobs, clock and watch making machinery and tools.
Bristol: If you like both nostalgia and thrills, be sure to stop at Lake Compounce Amusement Park, the nation’s oldest continuously operating amusement park.
Bristol: The New England Carousel Museum displays over 300 antique carousel items, including elaborately carved carousel animals and a nice collection of carousel band organs.
Collinsville: The Canton Historical Museum displays a reconstructed 19th century general store, post office, barber shop and blacksmith shop, along with exhibits that include a hand-pulled fire fighting wagon, a case containing old medical instruments of the horse and buggy doctor era, and a Civil War casket.
Coventry: Patriot spy Nathan Hale was born here in 1755, and his home at 2299 South Street is now a museum and open for tours.
East Haven: Over 100 old trolley cars are on display at the Shore Line Trolley Museum, including the world’s oldest rapid transit railway car. Visitors can even take a ride on the museum’s own trolley line.
Groton: The country’s largest submarine base is also home to the Historic Ship Nautilus and the Submarine Force Museum. Here you can visit the world’s first nuclear submarine and see a fascinating collection of exhibits on undersea warfare.
Hartford: Abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe of Uncle Tom’s Cabin fame, lived in Hartford from 1873 until her death in 1896. Her home, at 71 Forest Street, displays her personal possessions and original copies of her books.
Ivoryton: At the Museum of Fife and Drum, the history of military parade music is remembered with exhibits of martial music, antique military drums, uniforms, and other memorabilia.
Middlebury: The Golden Age of Trucking Museum honors the American trucking industry, focusing on trucks of the 1950s. The museum displays over 40 antique trucks, including a 1952 Diamond T, 1952 White, 1941 Federal, 1955 GMC 860 Cannonball, 1959 Brockway 147, 1929 Chevrolet, 1938 Mack FG, 1955 International RF-405 West Coaster, 1954 Kenworth, 1953 Fageol, 1917 Republic 10, and a 1937 Ford wrecker.
Monroe: The Warren Occult Museum displays a collection of fascinating articles on topics including voodoo and fertility dolls, a cursed string of pearls which is reported to have choked its owner to death, an organ from one of the most haunted houses in New England, a coffin slept in by a vampire, and a portrait said to be painted by the spirit of a witch.
Mystic: Mystic Seaport is considered one of the nation’s leading maritime museums, with a 19th century seafaring village, comprised of more than 30 authentic old New England trade shops and businesses; hundreds of historic ships and boats; a preservation shipyard where wooden vessels are restored with traditional tools and skills; a planetarium, and thousands of seafaring artifacts.
New London: The U.S. Coast Guard Museum, on the grounds of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, spans the two hundred year history of America’s premier maritime service with exhibits on past and present Coast Guard vessels, weapons, paintings, uniforms, exhibits on the Life Saving Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Lighthouse Establishment and the Revenue Cutter Service.
Rocky Hill: If you are into ancient creatures, be sure to visit Dinosaur State Park, where over 2,000 sets of dinosaur footprints can be seen.
Simsbury: Three successive generations of Phelps tavern keepers operated the Phelps Tavern and Inn from 1786 to 1849. Today the Phelps Tavern Museum includes period rooms and interactive galleries to show visitors what life was like during its busiest time.
Southbury: The largest concentration of wintering bald eagles in Connecticut can be seen at the Shepaug Eagle Observation Area on the Housatonic River, operated by Northeast Utilities. Other birds seen in the area include red-tail hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, goshawks, great blue herons and a variety of waterfowl.
Stonington: The Old Lighthouse Museum, housed in an 1823 lighthouse, displays nautical and Revolutionary War artifacts.
Terryville: At the Lock Museum of America you can see an amazing collection of locks, padlocks, safes, handcuffs, leg irons, and keys, including 1,000 locks and keys manufactured from 1854 to 1954.
Westbrook: One of the largest collections of military uniforms in the nation is on display at the Military Historians Museum.
Windsor Locks: Old aircraft ranging from a 1909 Bleriot X1 Monoplane and a 1930 Sikorsky S-39 Amphibian B-29 bomber, a Vietnam-era Fairchild-Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II, along with an impressive collection of helicopters, gliders and aircraft memorabilia are on display at the New England Air Museum.
Thought For The Day – I thought about being born again but my mother refused.