School Vacation Ideas- Part 1

So about a month ago I put the question out there, “What can a 7-year-old and his grandparents do for 2 weeks in the winter, in CT, on school vacation, when NO ONE else has school vacation?”  You all came through for me in a big way and I though I would say thanks with a little wrap up for anyone else who finds themselves in the same conundrum someday (or you are just looking for some ideas of good day trip activities).

Note: All addresses, hours of operation, and exhibits listed below are those at the time of this posting and may change, so please double check before you make your plans!

* Also note that this is supposed to be a vacation- our clean-eating rules were largely ignored on outings!


Day 1

Roaring Brook Nature Center- 70 Gracey Road, Canton

Open: Tuesday- Saturday, 10am-5pm

Cost: Adults- $6, Children- $4 (check your library for free passes!)

Roaring Brook Nature Center is nature museum in Canton that aims to show what animals were and are native to CT.  There are lots of animals that have been preserved and set up to give children (and adults) an idea of what they would have looked like in nature.  There are also lots of live snakes, salamanders, and insects for kids to marvel at.  There is also a replica of a Native American long-house.  The most fascinating part of the museum for us, was the Birds Of Prey habitats they have outside.  Although it was raining the day we went, we still trudged outside to catch a glimpse of the bald eagles, hawks and owls.  Personally, I had never seen an eagle up close before!  They also have lots of trails and nature walks to be taken when the weather is nice.  The staff is knowledgeable and willing to answer questions and tell you about the animals you see.  All-in-all we spent about an hour there, as the weather was not great and we could only do the indoor stuff- though we will probably be making a return trip in the summer!

The Shoppes at Farmington Valley- 110 Albany Turnpike, Suite 925, Canton, CT

Open: Varies

Cost: Depends on the store!

We decided to head to lunch after the museum and went over to the Shoppes at Farmington Valley.  The different stores are too many to list here, but we headed to Barnes and Noble to grab a book, Panera Bread for lunch, and then to Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream.  If the weather had been nicer we may have explored more, but we decided to head out after that.

Miles enjoying an ice cream form Ben and Jerry's (see, I let them have sweets!!!) Photo Credit: Dena Fleno
Miles enjoying an ice cream form Ben and Jerry’s (see, I let them have sweets!!!)
Photo Credit: Dena Fleno


O’Reilly’s Irish Gifts- 248 Main St. (Rt 10) Farmington

Open: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 10am- 5:30pm, Thursday: 10 am- 7pm, Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 11:30am- 5pm

We passed this store on the way to the Nature Center, and since it was decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, we decided we would try to stop on our way back.  This store has almost anything Itish you can think of!  We got some Irish Peat bricks for the fire place!  The hubby and I went to Ireland for our honeymoon and fell in love with the smell- now my house can smell like we are back in Dingle!  Definitely on out list of go-to places for gifts!

Pottery Piazza- 17 Farmington Avenue, Plainville

Open: Tuesday-Thursday 11am-9pm, Friday 11am-10pm, Saturday 10am- 10pm, Sunday 11am-6pm, Mondays during school vacation weeks and observed holidays.

Cost: The cost of your piece of pottery (lots of option for under $20) and then a paint fee of $4/half hour of paint time, with a cap of $10/day

The Pottery Piazza is right near Ava’s daycare and we pass it every day.  This was the first time we had been there and it was a lot of fun.  The have a lot of pieces to choose from and the staff is very friendly and helpful in helping you with techniques to get the best pottery.  I would say this is suitable for kids over 4, as there are a lot of breakables within reach!

The artist at the Pottery Piazza Photo Credit: Dena Fleno
The artist at the Pottery Piazza
Photo Credit: Dena Fleno

Day 2

Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, 10 North Water Street, Norwalk

Open: Daily 10am-5pm

Cost: Adults- $19.95, Children- $12.95 (also there is a paid parking garage, we paid about $7 for our 2.5 hour stay).  There are also movies to watch for an extra fee.

We headed down and got to the Aquarium just before lunch time.  We decided to eat lunch first and then explore.  The Aquarium has a Cafe onsite with things from salads, to burgers, to clam chowdah (I’m from New Hampshire- you never say the ‘r’ in ‘chowder’).  The prices were fairly reasonable with the two of us eating for under $15.  The exhibits here are similar to other aquariums, yet it is laid out nicely for kids to freely roam and explore, yet still be in complete eyesight of the adults they are with.  Our favorite parts were the ray and shark touch tank, the seal show/feeding time, and the Meerkats (I want one!).  In nicer weather you can go outside to see the penguins, but in the winter they are behind some tarps and you can really only peek in.  I can definitely see us heading back in the warm weather and walking around the seaport and downtown after a trip to the aquarium.

The seals are getting ready for feeding time! Photo Credit: Dena Fleno
The seals are getting ready for feeding time!
Photo Credit: Dena Fleno
Oh, hey there stingray! Photo Credit: Dena Fleno
Oh, hey there stingray!
Photo Credit: Dena Fleno


Day 3

Sonic Drive In, 1033 North Colony Road, Wallingford/Various Locations

Open: Varied

Cost: Varied

I can remember before there was one in CT, seeing the commercials for Sonic and wanting to go RIGHT THEN!  This was the first day that my parents were in town to help and the first stop was to the Sonic for lunch!  Miles got a real kick out of ordering and getting his food from a waitress on roller skates!  The prices were average for fast food chain restaurant, but I was told that the food tasted much better.  Miles got to end the trip with an Oreo Cookie Sonic Blast too!

Happy kid! Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
Happy kid!
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno


Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Avenue, New Haven

Open: Monday through Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sunday Noon to 5pm

Cost: Adults- $9, Children- $5 (FREE from 2-5pm on Thursdays!)

The Peabody is a natural history museum.  It has dinosaur bones, a leaf-cutter ant colony  Native American artifacts, and a current Egyptian exhibit.  The museum had enough cool stuff to keep Miles’ interest, but the explanations was very academic (it is Yale after all), and my mom had to try to read the imfo fast and figure out how to kidify it.  He did love the dinosaurs and the giant turtle fossil!

Watch out for that T-Rex, Buddy!
Watch out for that T-Rex, Buddy!
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
GIANT Turtle! Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
GIANT Turtle!
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno


Day 4

Beardsley Zoo, 1875 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport

Open: Daily 9am- 4pm (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years), in the winter the Carousel and Cafe are closed on Monday and Tuesday.

Cost: Adults- $12, Children- $10 (Check for library passes!)

According to my mom this was a very well-laid out zoo with lots of neat animals to see and learn about.  Although it was a bit cold, there were plenty of places to go and take a break inside and the signs were very clear and easy to follow.  Tons of animals reside here including wolves, tigers, rain-forest creatures, and barnyard animals.  While the animals were safely behind glass and fencing, they were close enough to really get a good view and take some pictures.  I can imagine that this would be a great place to go in the summer time as there is a carousel and picnic areas, as well as a playground for the kids!

Up close and personal with the wolves! Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
Up close and personal with the wolves!
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
Miles the Peacock Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
Miles the Peacock
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno


Pez Factory, 35 Prindle Hill Rd, Orange

Open: Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 12pm- 5pm

Cost: Adults- $5, Children (age 3-12)- $4(includes $2 credit to the store for each ticket)

Tours of the Pez Factory are self-guided, and go by pretty quick according to my mom.  It was fun for them to see all of the large Pez decorations and the old collectibles, however, this is a stop best made if you are in the area, not as an intended destination.  The store does have Pez candies and dispensers, bt according to Miles all the cool ones were “like a million dollars.”  It’s no Hershey Park, but fun to say you went!

Definitely not Clean-Eating! Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno
Definitely not Clean-Eating!
Photo Credit: Barbara Fleno

So this was the end of the first of a two week vacation!  After our High School Throwback week I will recap Week 2 (get ready for butterflies, balls, and BBQ)!


7 thoughts on “School Vacation Ideas- Part 1

  1. These are great ideas! We’ve been to Roaring Brook and the Shoppes at Farmington Valley because those are very close to us. I didn’t know there was a Pez museum! My kids love Pez dispensers (so far they don’t know about the candy) because I have a collection of them from when I was in college.


    1. The Pez Factory isn’t really a museum, though my mom said they have lots of collectibles on the walls and such. Definitely a good place to stop if you are in the area!


  2. Such a great week!!! Next time you head down to Fairfield County, head down to Stepping Stones. Such a great place for kids of all ages! SO worth it!


    1. We were going to head there, but I also thought there were going to be a few other visits to different children’s museums, and frankly for a 7 year old, they are all mostly the same. Plus, there were lots of toddlers and preschoolers everywhere we went, and I was thinking it may not be fun to be running around with the babies 🙂 Maybe next time we will take Ava, and he can tag along!


  3. Great ideas. We live in upper Fairfield County and oftn visit Beardsley Zoo and Stepping Stones. There is also a playground & water park outside of Stepping Stones. A fabulous place for the summer. The Discovery Museum is fun. Your local library will oten have passses for free admission but it requires much planning in advance. Jones Farm is wonferful for picking strawberries and bluberries in the summer. Beardsley Cider Mill is open in the fall for apple picking. Can you tell we are in Shelton????


    1. I am actually considering doing Miles’ bday party (August) at the zoo! I was disappointed in the library passes, as it required pickup on the day of, which meant my mom couldn’t get them without me, and they only allow 2 passes per member/per month. It wasn’t worth the hassle this time around. Thanks for commenting!


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