Did you know that there’s a castle you can visit in Connecticut? Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, CT, features a stunning castle along the Connecticut River. At the park, you can tour the castle, walk the grounds on the various trails, and picnic! It’s a must visit park in Connecticut!
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About Gillette Castle State Park
Gillette Castle State Park was once the home of William Gillette, who was a well-known actor, director, and playwright. Gillette named the eighty four acre estate the Seventh Sister. While the name might sound odd, the castle sits on the southern most hill on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters.
Gillette designed the castle and most of its contents personally. There are many cool features of the house from intricate doors, light switches that resembled train controls, fire protection because of all of the beautiful woodwork, and even mirrors strategically placed so he could see when visitors were entering the house. The stone castle was even made from local fieldstone!
Aside from the castle, there are several notable features of the property. One of main features is the views of the Connecticut River that it offers. You can even walk down to the river on the park grounds!
There are also various walking trails throughout the property that were once train tracks. The Seventh Sister Railway was created to bring guests around the property. If you’re wondering, why trains, it’s because Gillette had a true passion for trains.
Things To Do At Gillette Castle State Park
There’s no shortage of things to do at Gillette Castle State Park. Whether you’re looking to enjoy nature, learn some history, hike, or explore a 100 year old house, there’s something for you!
Gillette Castle State Park Visitor Center
Start your trip to the park at the Visitor Center. Inside this building is the park office, bathrooms, the gift shop, and it’s where you’ll buy tickets to go inside the castle.
Inside the Visitor Center, you’ll also find an exhibit room. In the exhibit room, there’s an informational video to learn about the property and the castle’s owner, William Gillette. If you’re interested in history, I definitely recommend sitting in and watching the video! There is also a timeline along the wall with info if you’d prefer to read through the history.
Next to the Visitor Center, you’ll find the Food Concession. Here, you’ll be able to get lunch in the park! Whether you’re looking for paninis, wraps, appetizers, or ice cream, this park concession stand has you covered! However, an important thing to note is this is only open during the castle museum season (late May to Labor Day) and it isn’t open during all castle tour hours.
Behind the food concession, there is a deck with picnic tables to enjoy your food. The deck has some amazing views of the landscape behind the building as well as the castle to the side of the castle! There are also vending machines on the deck to get drinks and mini melts, which is great for days the food concession isn’t open!
Tour The Castle
If you’re into architecture and history, be sure to take a tour of Gillette Castle! You can buy your tickets right at the park in the visitor building.
There are tours every 15 minutes, so there’s no need to stress about whether or not you’ll be able to make it into one of the tours! I have always had good luck with showing up and being able to buy tickets for the tour with no issues.
The inside of the castle is absolutely stunning. There is ornate woodwork and stonework throughout the medieval castle. The park workers inside the castle are very knowledgeable. They will share some interesting stories about Mr. Gillette and his guests as you tour the house!
As you go through the house, you’ll see various cat decorations. This is because William Gillette loved cats. He had 15 to 20 cats living with him after his wife Helen Nichols Gillette passed away.
Gillette Castle State Park is also a great spot to get out and enjoy nature! There are various trails to walk throughout the park. Many of the paths were once a part of the Seventh Sister Railway. It’s very cool to walk the paths that were once the railway that Gillette used to drive his friends around the estate on his train!
My favorite path to take is the one that takes you down to the Connecticut River. Take the path to the left of the castle down the hill. When you get to the river, you’ll find a small beach. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot!
There are various spots to picnic around the park! One of the most popular spots to picnic is Gillette’s Goldfish Pond. This spot is located by the entrance of the park. It has its own parking lot for easy access.
The other popular spot to picnic is under the Grand Central Station. This is a popular spot because it offers great views of the Connecticut River. What’s better than dining and stunning water views?
Why Visit Gillette Castle State Park
Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam is definitely a must see spot if you’re in Connecticut. With a beautiful stone castle and great hiking trails with stunning views, there’s something here for everyone in your group to enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! It is free to visit Gillette Castle State Park.
Yes! They have tours every 15 minutes. You can buy tickets to go in the castle at the Visitor Center!
For adults, it is $6 for the castle tour. For children aged 6-12, it is $2 to get in. If you’re purchasing your tickets online, there is a $2 processing fee. You’ll find more information on the state website.
Looking for more Connecticut State Parks to visit?
- Ferry Landing State Park: Much like Gillette Castle State Park, Ferry Landing State Park offers stunning views of the Connecticut River is only a ten minute drive from Rocky Neck!
- Gardner Lake State Park: Enjoy the lake life at this state park. This park has a boat launch as well as a beach to enjoy!
- Rocky Neck State Park: Enjoy the Connecticut shoreline at this beautiful state park. There’s a public beach and various walking trails!