Lake Compounce - Fun Family Activities In Northwest Connecticut
Kids Coaster at Lake Compounce
Lake Compounce Waterslide
Broadcast Studio at Imagine Nation

The northwestern corner of Connecticut, the area around Waterbury and Bristol, has many fun attractions for the family. Whether you’re going for a day or a weekend away, here are suggestions for popular and lesser-known attractions. 

Lake Compounce, A Classic Amusement Park

Bristol, Connecticut is home to Lake Compounce, the oldest amusement park in America. In our family, that’s enough of a reason to plan a weekend in the northwestern corner of Connecticut.

Lake Compounce
822 Lake Avenue 
Bristol, Connecticut 06010
860/583-3300
Opened in 1846 by Gad Norton, who conducted electricity experiments on the 23-acre lake, Lake Compounce has been entertaining amusement-seekers ever since.  Many attractions such as the 1911 open-air trolley, the antique carousel and the Wildcat, a wooden roller coaster built in 1927, have been around for many years.

The park has also undergone renovations nearing $40 million and now boasts over 50 rides (including a lakefront rollercoaster) and attractions set on over 300 acres. Through it all, it maintains an old-fashioned welcome for families. 

For coaster enthusiasts, Lake Compounce is home to the “World’s #1 Wooden Rollercoaster.”  Named the Boulder Dash, this wooden thrillride reaches speeds of 65 mph and has a 115-foot drop.  For 4-G force experience, try the two-arm swing called Thunder N’ Lightning.  A much less intense ride for the entire family is Zoomer’s Gas N’ Go which takes riders back to the 1950s in a mini-Corvette.

The younger set (ages 3-10) will enjoy Garfield’s Circus World.  Rides of all calibers can be found in this section of the park including Caterpillar Train, Drop Zone and Flying Elephants.  There is even a smaller version of the park’s famous Wildcat Coaster, called Wildkitten.

On warmer days, Splash Harbor is an outdoor water park featuring more than 15 water attractions.  From the 800-foot lazy river to the 60-foot New England lighthouse, there is a water attraction for everyone.  Plenty of water slides and tube rides along with a wave pool are all fun ways to get wet.

Located only 20 miles from Hartford and 30 miles from New Haven, Lake Compounce is a great day trip.  The park is open seasonally, from mid-May to the end of October, with special events most weekends.  In July and August, the park stays open weekend nights till 10pm.  Halloween is also a great time to visit because the park offers several themed-attractions for extra spooks and thrills.  An everyday perk of visiting Lake Compounce is free soda.  Thirsty family members can drink all day, everyday with unlimited refills — a great money-saver!

Other Fun Activities for Kids in Northwest Connecticut

Warner Theatre
68 Main Street
Torrington, Connecticut 06790
860/489-7180
This majestic theater was opened by Warner Brothers in the 1930’s. After a slow decline it was slated to be demolished in the 1980’s until the Northwest Connecticut Association for the Arts Inc., a non-profit group, stepped in and raised the money to save the old building. In 2002, after years of renovations, the theater re-opened and now hosts many performances, with past line-ups including hits such as “Grease,” “The Graduate,” and the “Wizard of Oz.” The building is reminiscent of the classic movie houses that have mostly disappeared from the modern landscape. Kids will love it because it has a magical quality to it, while parents will enjoy the deep-rooted history.

The Connecticut Store
116 Bank Street
Waterbury, Connecticut 06702
800/474-6728
Home to all products “Made in Connecticut,” the Connecticut Store offers consumers a variety of products from brands including Wiffle Ball Inc, Bovano, Woodbury Pewter, Waterbury Button Co., and PEZ, to name a few. Discover all of the great products that come from Connecticut, while enjoying some PEZ in one of their many great dispensers. It will be a discovery adventure, learning about all of the things you never knew came from Connecticut.

Imagine Nation
One Pleasant Street
Bristol, Connecticut 06010
860/314-1400
This interactive children’s museum is for kids ages 2-10, and provides numerous hands-on activities and exhibits for smaller children. Bristol is home to the ESPN Network, and the museum includes Play Your Way, a special ESPN exhibit, which invites kids to anchor their own sports shows or even play the role of their favorite sports heroes. If you love your work so much, you can buy a taped recording for a small fee. In the Kid Zone, your children can take on the role of construction worker, and use the provided construction sets to design their own buildings, or sculptures. Your children will beg you to take them to the Soda Fountain, which is a re-creation of a classic 1940’s soda fountain with ice cream sundaes and more. The museum offers many programs including summer classes so be sure to check out their events and programs. Admission for infants free.

For more information on activities, accommodations, or dining in Connecticut, search VisitConnecticut or CTVisit for ideas.


This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.