When the poet E.E. Cummings wrote, “The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful” he could’ve been describing early spring in Connecticut. Even in mud season, there are plenty of unique outdoor family travel adventures in the nutmeg state. So grab your boots, fishing gear, paddles, and rubber ducks and check out these four family travel ideas.
1. Bet on When Winter Will Completely Melt Away
For the last 38 years the Volunteer Fire Department in the town of Kent, Connecticut, has hosted the annual Ice Watch fundraiser.
Each year, a tripod is placed on the frozen Housatonic River. A rope attaches the tripod to a car clock on the bank of the river. When the ice breaks, the tripod is forced downstream, tripping the clock that is 100 feet from the original starting point of the tripod.
For $2 a ticket your family can have fun guessing the date, hour and minute when the ice will break. Tickets can be purchased anywhere in Kent where white boxes with the tripod on them can be found and all guesses must be made between Feb. 19 at 12:01 a.m. and April 30 at 11:59 p.m. If you guess the time that is closest to when the ice actually melts, the fire department will split the proceeds of the fundraiser.
This is a great way to get the whole family excited about visiting Connecticut and the frozen Housatonic River. If everyone in the family takes a guess, the excitement of friendly competition can fuel the excitement of the trip as a whole. Even if the ice doesn’t melt during your trip, you can always keep an eye on it and use it as a reminder of the great times you had there once it finally does melt.
2. Get a Taste of the Maple Syrup Production Culture of Connecticut
For many New Englanders, February and March are synonymous with maple sugaring.
Connecticut is one of the United States’ leaders in producing 100 percent maple pure maple syrup. Throughout the region, festivals take place to celebrate this seasonal tradition. Like pumpkin patch fun in the fall, a maple syrup festival in the spring can expose kids and adults to fun and yummy seasonal activities.
There are hundreds of places in Connecticut that offer the maple syrup festival experience. Tours, syrup and sugar making demonstrations, tree tapping, story time for kids, and more can be experienced throughout Connecticut at Local sugar houses and at centers such as the New Canaan Nature Center and the Audubon Nature Center in Sharon. At the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, Connecticut, your family can learn how Native Americans made and used maple syrup.
3. Try Fly Fishing, Kayaking or Canoeing on the Farmington River
The Farmington River, designated as one of the nation’s “wild and scenic rivers,” offers the best fly-fishing in Connecticut. There are several tackle shops by the river that offer fly-fishing lessons for beginners. Children, twelve and under, can drop their lines in a specially stocked area.
Remember, you’ll need a Connecticut Fishing License and fishing gear to participate in this activity. Fishing is always a family friendly activity that kids love, especially if there’s plenty of fish. Connecticut has many other locations that are perfect for family fishing trips.
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Also on the river, you’ll see many out on canoes and kayaks. Depending on the age of your family members, this could be a fun and exhilarating activity to build teamwork and trust. Lessons for canoeing, kayaking, and even stand up paddle boarding are also available. These activities can be a unique way to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Connecticut.
4. Race Your Very Own Rubber Ducky in a Connecticut River
With the snow and ice melted it’s a perfect time for a race. And who better to paddle downstream than a duck? Several river towns throughout Connecticut hold annual fundraisers where tens of thousands of rubber ducks race to a watery finish line.
Some locations currently holding these duck races are the town of Naugatuck, Milford Harbor, and the Pequabuck River. Rubber ducks are usually available to purchase at local shops in each town and are numbered so that the owner can recognize their duck if it crosses the finish line as the winner.
Each year a variety of charities benefit from the race. The proceeds from the races, raffles, and festival are donated to these charities, making this event not an opportunity for fun and competition, but also an opportunity to teach kids about giving back.
This post was written by Justine Ickes, a contributing writer for Washington Parent, writes about travel, culture, education and people making a difference.
Post updated in 2016 by TravelingMom intern Alexandra Olsen.