Get out of the house: Five historic landmarks to entertain the kids and restore your sanity

It’s February. You’ve done every craft in the craft closet. All your board games are missing one essential piece. The iPad has caused warring factions in your household. You need to get out of the house — now.

We can help with that.

These five landmarks are welcoming guests during the pandemic and have plenty to offer every age group.

Connecticut is rich with history, from an eccentric castle to a New Haven restaurant recognized as the birthplace of the hamburger.

Gillette Castle State Park

This state park is home to a 24-room castle, built by actor, playwright and director William Hooker Gillette. According to the park’s website, construction took five years, from 1914 to 1919.

The Connecticut government purchased it in 1943, after Gillette died. The website says Gillette would probably be happy about the purchase, as he once said he did not want the property to go to “some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”

The interior of the castle is closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, but the park is still open. The exterior of the castle is oh-so-Instagrammable, and the young ones (or the young-at-heart, we won’t judge) will love the chance to play out their own medieval adventures.

(Open 8 a.m. to sunset at 67 River Road, East Haddam. For information, call 860-526-2336 or visit portal.ct.gov.)

Louis’ Lunch

The Liberty of Congress named this 126-year-old burger joint “the birthplace of the hamburger sandwich.” If that’s not American history, I don’t know what is.

All burgers are cooked on the same cast-iron stove that has graced the restaurant since 1896. And don’t expect any fancy toppings here. Louis’ says it’s committed to serving burgers the old-fashioned way, on white toast with American cheese, onion and tomato, for $7.

The rest of the menu is simple, $5 for a slice of pie, $2 for potato chips or a soda, and $4 for potato salad.

(Open noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and noon to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, at 261 Crown St., New Haven. Open for dine-in and takeout. For more information and full menu, call 203- 562-5507 or visit louislunch.com.)

The Connecticut Freedom Trail

The Connecticut Freedom Trail is not a day-long excursion. It’s a long list of historical sites that tell the story of Connecticut’s Black history. It includes locations that hosted safe houses along the underground railroad, homes of abolitionists, monuments to Black heroes and experiences and more.

The trail’s website has four themed trails: Travel the Freedom Trail, Escape on the Underground Railroad, Sail the Amistad, and Explore the Concept of Freedom. All four are essential to understanding Connecticut’s history.

(Hours vary depending on location. For full list of sites, visit ctfreedomtrail.org.)

The New England Carousel Museum

At this museum, learn about the past 100 years of carousel history. There are carousel creatures — including tigers, alligators and seals — on display, and an indoor carousel available for rides.

There’s also an exhibit on the history of firefighting, with alarms you can sound and uniforms you can try on.

Masks are required.

(Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, call for appointments Monday and Tuesday, at 95 Riverside Ave., Bristol. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students with ID, $5 for children, free for children 2 and younger. For information, call 860-585-5411 or visit thecarouselmuseum.org.)

The Institute for American Indian Studies Museum and Research Center

This museum and research center educates people on the history of American Indians in Connecticut. There are exhibits inside the museum and outdoor exhibits on trails surrounding the property, including a replica of a Native American village.

The museum also hosts book discussions and workshops, such as a maple syrup workshop and crafts demonstrations and lessons. There are also several virtual learning programs for kids in kindergarten all the way to 12th grade.

(Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, at 38 Curtis Road, Washington. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $6 for children. For more information, call 860-868-0518 or visit iaismuseum.org.)

Sarajane.Sullivan@hearstmediact.com, Twitter: @bysarajane