This is my fifth post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest starting with the first, second, third, and fourth posts from the trip. Because I blog about educational travel, I received admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. A few places we went are free for everyone, while we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
We checked out of our Providence hotel on Friday, June 16 and drove 102 miles to Orange, Connecticut. Why Orange? It's home to the Pez Visitor Center.
I've always loved Pez. I mean, doesn't everyone? Pez dispensers are cute and fun, plus the candy itself is tasty. Trevor dressed as a Pez dispenser for Halloween in 2019, and two years before that, our family visited the Pez Museum in Burlingame (sadly, now permanently closed). So it was non-negotiable that when we made it to Connecticut, we would go to the Pez Visitor Center. It was awesome.
That enormous Pez dispenser is 14 feet tall. With a push of a button, the head tilts back and the orange candy comes forward. Sadly, it is not actually candy, but it is still really cool. As was everything else at the Pez Visitor Center.
Visitors can access two floors of displays, games, and trivia about Pez.
You can also peek into the factory. I wish we could have seen more.
Display cases show Pez dispensers by theme. That part of the Pez Visitor Center reminded me a lot of the Bobblehead Museum. Just like at the Bobblehead Museum, you can opt to complete a challenge at Pez. We worked together to find the dates specific dispensers premiered, which was quite difficult but a lot of fun.
Any other 1970's kids remember Barbapapa? I hadn't until I saw these.
It was particularly neat seeing the special Pez sets. This one features Pixar characters voiced by John Ratzenberger.
Admission to the Pez Visitor Center comes with a credit for the gift shop, so it'd be silly not to get something with your credit. We filled a tin with all the flavors of Pez (affiliate link) and have been thoroughly enjoying them.
As they say, you're not famous until they put your head on a Pez dispenser.
We had so much fun at the Pez Visitor Center, but that was just the start of our day. Our next stop was 21 miles away in Meriden. There, we tried one of the two main foods for which Connecticut is famous: steamers. If you're thinking clams, think again. These are steamed cheeseburgers.
If you believe that steaming a cheeseburger instead of grilling it sounds like a questionable idea at best, you haven't been to Ted's Restaurant. And if you haven't been to Ted's Restaurant, you must.
It's small and unassuming, but absolutely worth the visit. None of us were quite sure what to expect of a steamed cheeseburger, but let me assure you - they are the juiciest burgers you'll ever have and absolutely delicious. Make sure to get Foxon Park to enjoy with your burger. They're made in nearby East Haven, CT. Gassosa is my favorite.
After our excellent lunch, we continued north to Hartford, which is the capital of Connecticut. First, we visited the Museum of Connecticut History.
The museum has a lot of interesting artifacts, like the Connecticut charter...
... and the pie pan from Frisbie's Pies that inspired the name of the Frisbee.
This display is about Connecticut changing their state's nickname from the Nutmeg State to the Constitution State.
I think this display is about items made in Connecticut, but I'm not sure. Unfortunately, while there is a lot of interesting content in this museum, you have to hunt for it. The museum could really use a major refresh with more modern displays and interpretive signs that are easier to find and read.
This display about Colt Manufacturing Company, headquartered in Hartford, is an excellent example. There's a lot on display, but it's just not eye-catching. There's so much more they could do with the space to really highlight their interesting artifacts.
Next, we went to the Connecticut State Capitol. Contrast the ornate building with the bland exhibit room inside the Museum of Connecticut History.
I spy the Charter Oak!
No shortage of architectural details inside or outside the Capitol!
There's the Liberty Bell replica!
I don't normally take pictures inside public restrooms, but I was alone in the women's room so I did. Sinks on the left, stalls on the right... what is straight ahead and why is it carpeted??
It turns out there's a lounge, with the exact same furniture my dorm lounge had in 1990! It seems like a strange place to hang out, but I'm guessing it functions as a space for nursing moms rather than somewhere to have meetings or eat lunch or something.
Outside the Capitol, people were working to repaint portions of the Black Lives Matter mural along Trinity Street that had been defaced. Black Lives Matter, and the fact that someone would put messages of hate on those very words prove the point.
We strolled through Bushnell Park on the way to our next destination. It's a nice park, with water features and a carousel, and lots of plants and green space. But that's not all. In 1854, it became America's first public park.
Feel free to skip the Bushnell Plaza Sculpture Garden. Or see it, if you're there anyway. I like the idea behind it, but it was underwhelming.
Our next stop was the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. We were there for their free happy hour and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
These porcelain flowers were stunning.
Dinner was at Frank Pepe Pizzeria, famous for their white clam apizza.
If any of the three of us liked clams, we would have gotten the white clam pie since it is quintessentially Connecticut. But it would have been very wasteful to order clams, then have all three of us pick them off and leave them. Instead, we got their spring special, a white pie with mozzarella, bacon, spinach, roasted tomatoes, pecorino romano, and olive oil. It was phenomenal. And, of course, we had Foxon Park soda to go with it.
After a full day in Connecticut, it was time to say farewell to the Constitution State. We crossed into Massachusetts and stayed at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place. Tomorrow I'll tell you how we spent our time in Springfield.