- Katherine Schweizer
Always ahead of the cultural curve, Connecticut is home to stunning exhibition spaces, award-winning theaters and museums, family-friendly festivals, and much more. This small state offers the complete experience – whether you’re looking for things to do or itching to discover something new, there’s something for everyone. We profile a list of ten cultural events not to miss in Connecticut this summer.
Connecticut’s Historic Gardens Day
This statewide celebration of Connecticut’s stunning historic gardens allows visitors to explore both history and beauty. Each site hosts their own special events and activities celebrating their gardens. Stroll through Harriet Beecher Stowe’s historic gardens while you admire Connecticut’s largest magnolia tree and an over 100-year-old dogwood believed to be from Stowe’s time. Find tranquility in Hill-Stead Museum’s ‘Sunken Garden’ among colors of pink, blue, salmon, and white – colors that influenced the Impressionist paintings found inside the house. Learn about the garden’s designer, Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female architect. Connecticut’s Historic Gardens Day will take place on Sunday, June 26th, from 12 pm through 4 pm, rain or shine.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest Street, Hartford, CT, USA, +1 860 522 9258
Hill-Stead Museum, 35 Mountain Road, Farmington, CT, USA, +1 860 677 4787
Meadow Life At the Slater Memorial Museum
For over 100 years, the Slater Memorial Museum has displayed some of the best examples of fine and decorative art, celebrating a broad range of cultures from Asia to Europe, Africa to the Americas. This summer, opening on June 12th and running through August 5th, the Slater Memorial Museum presents Meadow Life – an exhibition that features original artwork by local artists such as Ron Wing and celebrates the state’s open lands and picturesque green spaces. Meadow Life will enable viewers to gain a deeper appreciation for the region’s land and the need to preserve it. The Slater Memorial Museum sticks to its mission as an educational resource for the community, so be sure to check out their other events this summer.
Slater Museum, 108 Crescent Street, Norwich, CT, USA, +1 860 887 2506
WILI Boom Box Parade
What started out as a marching band-less parade in 1986 has grown into the exciting WILI Boom Box Parade – the largest parade of its kind in the world. When no marching band could be found for Windham’s Memorial Day Parade, a resident asked for help from the local radio station WILI (1400 AM), who broadcasted a few hours worth of marching band music on July 4th. She gathered a few friends, and together they paraded through town with portable radios tuned to the marching band music. Thus, the Boom Box Parade was born, and the tradition continues today with thousands of onlookers and participants. Anyone can participate – the only requirement is that you wear red, white, or blue, and bring your own portable radio for a chance to win a pair of passes to Six Flags New England. The parade will take place July 4th at 11 am. It will start at Jillson Square on the corner of Main and Jackson Streets and run seven-tenths of a mile west on Main Street to Memorial Park. Contact WILI Radio for more information.
Jillson Square, 523-533 Main Street, Windham, CT, USA, +1 860 456 1111
Goodspeed Opera House
Head to the scenic banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam to the award-winning Goodspeed Opera House for the production of Bye Bye Birdie. Opening June 24th and running through September 4, 2016, this is a musical comedy the entire family can enjoy. Since its founding in 1877, the Goodspeed Opera House is the first regional theater in America to earn two special Tony Awards. With the mission to produce and preserve the American musical, simultaneously reinventing the classics and inventing new ones, Goodspeed had the honor of receiving the title of ‘The Home of the American Musical.’ Check out more events, including ‘meet the cast,’ dinners, tours, and kids nights this summer.
Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main Street, East Haddam, CT, USA, +1 860 873 8668
Connecticut Wine Festival
If you’re a wine enthusiast, then the Connecticut Wine Festival is the place for you. Come out to The Goshen Fairgrounds in Goshen, CT, and taste the best of Connecticut’s wineries on Saturday, July 23rd from 12 pm until 7 pm and Sunday, July 24th from 12 pm to 6 pm. This summer wine festival will spotlight some of Connecticut’s best-known vineyards and showcase their award-winning wines. Participants can also sample locally produced food, enjoy live music, browse handicrafts, and more. Buy your tickets here. Designated drivers get a ticket discount – don’t forget to bring your ID!
Connecticut Wine Festival, 116 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT, USA, +1 860 216 6439
Milford Oyster Festival
This family-orientated festival has it all, from live entertainment to arts and crafts and, of course, oysters – lots and lots of oysters. With 35,000 oysters of 19 varieties from eight states on the East Coast, the Milford Oyster Festival has the largest variety of oysters at any festival in the USA. Celebrating its 42nd year, the festival will be hosting two headline bands for the first time, Blue Oyster Cult and the Marshall Tucker Band. Bring the entire family to commemorate Long Island’s seafaring past on August 20th.
Downtown Milford, CT, USA, +1 203 878 5363
Take a step back in time at the award-winning Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center. Tribally owned and operated since 1998, the Museum brings to life the story of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation with its interactive programs, exhibitions, and archaeological collections. The Mashantucket Pequots are a native Algonquin people in southeastern Connecticut who endured centuries of conflict, persecution, and survival. Visit the world’s largest Native American museum on July 7th to gain a broader understanding of and appreciation for America’s First People at the Educational Powwow. Through this exhibition, Native Americans will perform a narrated dance signifying the importance of their cultural gatherings, showcasing how this dance helps sustain a sense of community.
Educational Powwow, 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket, CT, USA, +1 800 411 9671
Talcott Mountain Music Festival
Widely recognized as one of America’s leading regional orchestras, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will be kicking off their annual Talcott Mountain Music Festival July 1st. At the heart of the picturesque Farmington Valley, this tremendously popular summer series is the perfect place to pack a picnic and relax under the stars with friends and family while enjoying the sounds of the second largest orchestra in New England. As Connecticut’s premier musical organization, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra holds true to their proud mission of enriching lives and the community through great music since their founding in 1934. Dedicated to the performance of live music and quality education, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra also offers many programs for those who wish to explore the world of music.
Talcott Mountain Music Festival, 22 Iron Horse Boulevard, Simsbury, CT, USA, +1 860 651 4052
Litchfield Jazz Festival
Listen to the smooth sounds of jazz carried by the summer breeze along the picturesque hills in Litchfield, Connecticut. The Litchfield Performing Arts presents its annual Jazz Festival on August 6th and 7th at the Goshen Fairgrounds. Since its founding in 1996, the festival has had the honor of presenting jazz icons such as Jimmy Heath and Ray Charles. You’ll be sure to have a swinging good time at this festival. Also, be sure to check out what else the Litchfield Performing Arts has to offer this summer.
Litchfield Jazz Festival, Goshen Fairgrounds, 116 Old Middle Street, Goshen, CT, USA, +1 860 361 6285
Mystic Outdoor Art Festival
From its humble beginning in 1957, the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival is one of the largest and the oldest of its kind in the Northeast. Hosted by the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, the festival will celebrate its 59th year along the streets of Historic Downtown Mystic on Saturday, August 14th and Sunday, August 15th. This festival has been known to attract more than 85,000 people from New England and other areas of the country. During this two-day event, more than 250 juried artists from all across the country will display over 100,000 works of art such as watercolors, photographs, sculptures, acrylics and much more. Be sure to check out other events brought to you by the Mystic Chamber of Commerce this summer.
Mystic Outdoor Art Festival, Historic Downtown Mystic, Cottrell Street, Stonington, CT, USA, +1 860 572 9578