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Gay City State Park rests neatly near the middle of Connecticut, just 30 minutes from Hartford and Middletown and a stone’s throw from Windham. Surrounded by lakes and parks, Gay City is the heart of the town of Hebron and has an interesting origin story.
Gay City was founded in the late 1790s by the Gay family and quickly grew into a thriving mill town. However, in the early 1800s, the town was struck hard by the pressure of the War of 1812. The town started to gain legs again over the next 30 years, but when the mill burned down in 1830, Gay City became a ghost town. The townspeople left and the city was overtaken by the land. In 1944, the area that was once Gay City was a thriving forest and the state of Connecticut turned it into Gay City State Park.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love this place. Historic ruins, lush green forest, great hiking trails: Gay City has adventure written all over it. Book an RV in Tolland County today and start your motorhome camping vacation in Connecticut's scenic woodlands.
If you’re looking for some outdoor fun, rent an RV near Gay City State Park and head up to the lake. It's a nice, refreshing place for families to enjoy themselves in the area. Treat yourself to some fun in the sun, a relaxing rest on the shores, or a nice swim. Anglers have been known to flock to the park for some prime Connecticut fishing.
Hikers at Gay City State Park are in for a fascinating adventure. Leave your RV rental at the campsite and hop onto one of the many hiking trails that go all through the park. There are over nine miles of dirt pathways to explore. They weave through the green woodlands and over the remains of a once-thriving mill town. See concrete and stone walls that have crumbled and been overtaken by the land, or walk over simple streams and past man-made waterfalls. There's even an old mill building that's partially intact and can be seen from the trail.
The natural beauty is one of the major draws to Gay City State Park. As you explore the lush woodland, you’ll notice a vast array of geology. There are many varieties of rocks and formations, including Gneiss, amphibolite, pegmatite, and schist. The forest is bursting with red maple, eastern hemlock, and black birch trees. You might also find some deer, red fox, and maybe even a moose. You'll find no shortage of opportunities to go sightseeing at Gay City State Park, so pack your best walking shoes and get ready to explore.
Although youth group camping is available on the park grounds, there aren't any facilities for RV camping at Gay City State Park. To find a place to camp near Gay City State Park, you'll need to take a short drive.
Nelson’s Family Campground is just south of the park in East Hampton. This family-friendly park is full of fun activities for the kids and adults. There's a 540-acre lake for swimming, relaxing, and fishing, as well as athletic fields and even a club area. Leashed pets are allowed, and Wi-Fi and cable television are available. For amenities, Nelson’s provides campers with a dumping station, flush toilets, hot showers, firewood and ice, picnic tables, and fire pits. Basic electrical hookups are also provided.
Lake Williams Campground is also a nice spot to camp. The campground provides full hookups and cable for all RV campers. The campground is lakeside which provides campers with a beach and a place to swim, fish, or boat. There are also hiking trails, a laundry room, and a playground.
Water’s Edge Campground is another nice waterside place to camp. Located right on Johnson's Pond, Water’s Edge provides campers with plenty of water activities and hiking trails. The park is kid-friendly and group-friendly. On-site conveniences include a park store, dog park, Wi-Fi, dump station, and laundry facilities.
Honestly, the town of Hebron doesn’t have a lot to discover. There are a few restaurants, shops, and pubs east of the Jeremy River, but if you want a place with a little more going on, Hartford is just west of the park. Whether it’s great food or fun events, the state capital has you covered. Catch some live music at any of the local bars in town, or see a major act at the Webster Theater. You'll also find tons of museums and historical monuments to check out.
The Mark Twain House and Museum are of particular interest, where the writer wrote many of his most famous novels. The architecture itself is a marvel to see, built in an American High Gothic style, with a steeply pitched roof and turreted chimney stacks. There is an exhibition in the visitors center that will give you a better insight into the life of this famous writer and there are also regular events and themed tours.
The Connecticut Science Center is also a great day trip for Hartford campers, and with around 165 hands-on exhibits, this is a great place to take the kids. The exhibits cover 6 floors and explain topics such as gravity, energy, natural history and more in fun and interesting ways. One of the biggest draws to the museum is the butterfly encounter exhibit which is housed in a huge tropical greenhouse that is simply teeming with life.
Impossible to miss is the Connecticut Star Capitol building, with its gold-plated dome glinting in the sunlight. The building sits in the beautiful Bushnell Park, which is worth exploring in itself, and during the week you are able to actually enter the building and go on a guided or self-guided tour. On the tour, you'll be able to see the Hall of Fame, office buildings, the Hall of Flags and many other impressive rooms.
Just south of Hartford you'll find Middletown, an active college town. Wesleyan University is a liberal arts college located in Middletown that helps bring the town to life. Take the children to the Kidcity Children’s Museum, see the waterfalls at Wadsworth Falls State Park, or visit any of the great microbreweries in town.
Providence, Rhode Island is less than an hour and a half east of town. The capital of Rhode Island is one of the best places in New England to find culture, food, and fun. Check out any number of museums or local shops. Make a day trip out of it and see a show at the Trinity Repertory Company, or have a scrumptious seafood dinner in Providence’s downtown area.
Once your tank is topped off at one of the gas stations nearby and your stomach is full of great local flavor, it’ll be time to jump back on the road. I-384 is just north of the park, and Route 2 is on the south side. Both lead to the closest major city, which is Hartford, and I-84 can take you north towards Boston.