Lake Compounce - Fun Family Activities In Northwest Connecticut

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

Boulderdash, Lake Compounce
Boulderdash is a favorite coaster at Lake Compounce.

Lake Compounce, a Classic Midway

Bristol is home to Lake Compounce (822 Lake Avenue, Bristol, Connecticut 06010; 860/583-3300), 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.

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 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.

Top Coasters and Thrill Rides

Coaster enthusiasts may know that Lake Compounce is home to the “World’s #1 Wooden Rollercoaster.” Named Boulder Dash, this wooden thrill ride reaches speeds of 65mph 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.

Convenient Connecticut Water Park

Lake Compounce waterslide fun.
Lake Compounce waterslide fun.

On warmer days, Splash Harbor is an outdoor water park on the grounds 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 celebrating its 174th season in 2019. 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 until 10pm.

Halloween is also a great time to visit because the park offers several themed-attractions for extra spooks and thrills. An everyday benefit of visiting Lake Compounce is free soda.  Thirsty family members can drink all day, every day with unlimited refills — a great money-saver!

More Fun Activities for Kids in Northwest Connecticut

The majestic Warner Theatre at 68 Main Street in Torrington (860/489-7180) was opened by Warner Brothers in 1931. After years of popularity, a slow decline set in and owners decided to demolish it in the 1980’s. However, 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 reopened 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 the place because it has a magical quality to it, while parents will enjoy the deep-rooted history.

What’s Made in Connecticut

Waterbury boasts The Connecticut Store  (800/474-6728) at 116 Bank Street. Home to all products “Made in Connecticut,” the Connecticut Store offers consumers a variety of brands including Wiffle Ball Inc., Bovano, Woodbury Pewter, Waterbury Button Co. and PEZ, to name a few.

Discover some 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 this state.

Children’s Museum Celebrates the Imagination

The interactive children’s museum, Imagine Nation (860/314-1400) in Bristol, 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 is free.

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

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