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Great Things To Do in Connecticut includes off-the-beaten-track fun

CTGTHINGSINTRO Connecticut is packed with great things to on a getaway for families, kids, or just adults, like scenic shoreline and country drives, antique shopping, world-class museums, historic sites, pretty walks, and plenty of activities and attractions for your vacation adventure.

Phone ahead or check the attraction's website before visiting, especially for outdoor activities.

One Railroad Avenue Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-0103 Toll-Free: 800-377-3987

A Connecticut River adventure by train and boat

Gather family and friends for a sightseeing adventure aboard the only steam train and riverboat connection in the United States! This 2½-hour narrated journey explores the nature and beauty of the Connecticut River Valley, designated as one of “the last great places on Earth” by The Nature Conservancy. View historic sites such as Gillette Castle and the Goodspeed Opera House. Excursions begin and end at the historic 1892 Essex station. Rain or shine.

40 Sargent Drive New Haven, CT, 06511 Phone: 203-812-9981

World’s largest indoor ropes course now in New Haven

Explore over 100 rope elements on the 4 level It ropes courses that stand 5 stories high. Choose your own path and go at your own pace through each level on both courses. Then soar down each of the Zip It zip lines for a self-guided zip experience over 48-feet in the air! The zip lines stretch 180-feet long between the It ropes courses for your extra daring challenge. To exit the course, go on the Jump It for the ultimate free‑fall sensation as you are comfortably lowered to the ground from 48’ in the air. Kids under 48” tall can experience a ropes course just like the larger It attraction at a more comfortable height on the little it attraction. Participants can also continue the adventure on 4 climbing activities that challenge participants to climb over 29’ high on wobbly beams and twisted structures.

12 Steamboat Wharf Mystic, CT, 06355 Phone: 860-536-0416

Explore New England's coast aboard a romantic sailing ship

Return to the romantic Age of Sail aboard the 81-foot schooner Argia. She is a US Coast Guard-inspected vessel and one of the last sailing ships in New England. We're docked in Mystic, Conn., and sail in Fishers Island Sound, a calm, protected body of water, from May 1st to mid-October. Bask in the sun on our spacious wooden deck while we explore the seafaring village of Mystic, the surrounding islands, and historic lighthouses. Pass through the Mystic River Drawbridge, which opens for the Argia with every cruise. We offer complimentary snacks and lemonade, but feel free to bring your own picnic and beverages as well. Wine and beer are permitted. Enjoy a half-day cruise, or experience the romance of the sea at twilight with a sunset cruise.

77 Forest Street Hartford, CT, 06105 Phone: 860-522-9258

Don’t Miss the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford’s Nook Farm

Nineteenth century Hartford was an intellectual mecca for writers, publishers and social thought leaders. Harriet Beecher Stowe came to Connecticut’s capitol city as the most famous American women in the world. Her landmark novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852, set the world on fire and helped to escalate an international groundswell of opposition to the enslavement of people in the United States. Stowe’s Hartford home was her residence for 23 years. The Stowe Center uses the story of Stowe’s life to inspire social justice and positive change, with a 21st century tour experience using the historic collections to “paint a picture” of the significance of Stowe’s impact and to engage visitors in connecting Stowe’s history to today’s headlines. Open year round, check website for tours, programs and events (Park once and visit both Stowe and Twain with a combination ticket).

63 South Main Street Essex, CT, 06426 Phone: 860-767-7796

Royal pampering washes aches away

You will be treated like royalty from the moment you enter the Spa at Essex, where experts perform seemingly magical therapies and treatments on sore muscles, tired skin, and drooping spirits. From the moment you enter the property, you are greeted with warmth and bundled into comfortable robes and overstuffed chairs (including chairs for two) while you wait for treatments like massage, facials, luscious manicures and pedicures, makeup and more. Innovation treatments bright aging or troubled skin. Couples, mothers-to-be, and gentlemen can enjoy refreshing and energizing treatments for their particular needs. Customers exclaim over the cleanliness of the indoor and outdoor spaces, which include a sunny patio with a fountain. Specials like the flower facial and the South Seas body treatment with tan will bring you back over and over.

607 West Thames Street Norwich, CT, 06360 Phone: 860-425-3500 Toll-Free: 800-275-4772

Pampering as high art

Get away for the day, overnight or to celebrate something festive. This shrine to relaxation is set in a historic Inn in bucolic surroundings. 42 country acres hold perennial gardens, spring-fed ponds, century-old oak trees, a reflecting pool and an oversized deck welcome you to the spa and inspires a sigh. Thirty-seven treatment rooms offer sauna, steam, hot tub, salon, plus signature services from facials and massage to hand and foot therapies, and even tarot card readings. There’s a fitness center and indoor pool and activities to enhance your health and stimulate the senses. Enjoy special packages including Day Spa and Overnight Spa to Rejuvenation and Personal Escape Packages available on Sunday nights of holiday weekends at a small upcharge.

1650 Hartford-New London Tpke. (Rt. 85) Oakdale, CT, 06370 Phone: 860-443-4367

Big fun at The Dinosaur Place!

The Dinosaur Place at Nature's Art Village offers a 60 acre outdoor adventure park with over 40 life-sized dinosaurs spread among a mile and a half of pristine nature trails. Children will love getting lost in a”MAZE”asaurus dinosaur-themed maze and playing on Monty’s playground featuring the custom-made SpaceNet, a 15 foot tall three-dimensional swinging, vibrating, climbing web. During the summer, cool off in New England’s largest SplashPad, a unique zero-depth water park. Indoor adventures await in Discovery Depot at Nature’s Art Village where guests can dig for gems, pan for “gold” and unearth dinosaur bones – each adventure comes with its own unique souvenir! Bring a picnic or enjoy great food at the Cobalt Café and locations throughout the village. There are special events, educational programs and amazing shopping. Plan an indoor or outdoor birthday party, scout, school or recreational group outing. Check out the new Cooper Creek Mini Golf Course open Summer 2017 for ages 8+!

950 Trout Brook Drive West Hartford, CT, 06119 Phone: 860-231-2824

The learning place for fun and adventure

This creative community where learning and fun connect adds a healthy dose of whimsy, geared toward children 2 to 12 years old. Founded in 1927, it’s the fifth oldest children’s museum in the nation. Its various components offer hands-on, minds-open, child-centered interactive labs, workshops, multi-sensory exhibits and demonstrations. There’s a renown science-curriculum-based Preschool program and Connecticut’s largest public, digital, and full dome planetarium, and science camps during school vacations. Roaring Brook Nature Center in nearby Canton is our outdoor classroom, with hiking trails, bluebird boxes, and wildlife habitats on 165 acres of the State Wildlife Refuge. The Wildlife Sanctuary takes in unwanted and confiscated Illegal pets, and injured animals. Then there’s the mammals, turtles, tortoises, birds, lizards, amphibians, arthropods, snakes and fish - Oh My! Be sure to visit our latest exhibit Dinosaurs in your Backyard: A Portal to Past Worlds.

1080 Chapel Street New Haven, CT, 06510 Phone: 203-432-2800 Toll-Free: 877-274-8278

The best of British art in a celebrated edifice

The Center houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, which reflects the development of British art and culture from the Elizabethan period onward. It offers exhibitions and programs, including lectures, concerts, films, symposia, tours, and family events, as well as a Reference Library and Study Room for research. The building, opened in 1977, is the last to be designed by acclaimed American architect Louis I. Kahn and it is near many of New Haven’s best restaurants, shops, and cultural destinations. Museum hours: Tues–Sat, 10 am–5 pm; Sun, noon–5 pm. Museum Shop hours: Mon–Sat, 10 am–5 pm; Sun, noon–5 pm. Free and open to the public.

Image credit: Long Gallery, fourth floor, Yale Center for British Art, photograph by Richard Caspole

Matthews Park - 303 West Avenue Norwalk, CT, 06850 Phone: 203-899-0606

Stepping Stones Museum makes the whole world look fresh

At Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Conn., we create an environment that inspires lifelong learning. Our museum offers engaging and educational exhibits with indoor AND outdoor experiences that give children, families and educators twice the space to discover, learn, and grow. Our Energy Lab includes hands-on exhibits that teach how the sun, the wind, the force of water, and the burning of fossil fuels produce energy. Tot Town is an imaginative world shrunk down to toddler level. Our Build It! exhibit lets children explore architectural design and construction. We've got tools they can use to pretend to finish walls, paint with brushes and rollers, apply carpeting, and more. After a visit, youngsters will see their world in a whole different way.

351 Farmington Avenue Hartford, CT, 06105 Phone: 860-247-0998

Come and explore the beautiful home of America’s favorite author which was featured in 1000 Places To See Before You Die. Take guided tours through Mark Twain’s historical home, visit his personal library, the children’s rooms, the servants’ wing and his famous Billiard Room where he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Enjoy informative exhibitions and documentaries held in the Museum Center, visit the museum store to discover one of a kind treasures, or grab a relaxed lunch in our Nook Farm Nook cafe. House tours run daily beginning at 9:30 A.M. with the last tour leaving at 4:30 P.M., while the Museum Center is open for self-guided visitation during regular hours.

55 Coogan Boulevard Mystic, CT, 06355 Phone: 860-572-5955

Be among the greats at the Mystic Aquarium

This extraordinary destination offers much to explore and never to forget. Indoor and outdoor exhibits get you up close to amazing sea creatures including beluga whales, African penguins, rescued seals, colorful fish, over 30 different species of frogs and a 6’ alligator. Reach out and touch a shark, stingray or an exotic reptile while the sea lions will keep you smiling with their unique behaviors in the Foxwoods Marine Theater. Step into Exploration: Wild to experience the most extreme environments on earth. Take a virtual ride at the 4-D Theater or immerse your mind at the National Geographic Theater. Year round there are exciting events and appearances by special guests of the human and animal variety. Sea more at MysticAquarium.org.

103 Main Street Ivoryton, CT, 06442 Phone: 860-767-7318

A full roster for great theater for 2017

The Ivoryton Playhouse is a unique theatre with a rich cultural history. Built in 1911, the Ivoryton Playhouse is the oldest, continuously running, self-supporting summer theater in the nation. Some of the great names of from the stage and screen have appeared at Ivoryton Playhouse including Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Groucho Marx and Tallulah Bankhead. Today, the Ivoryton Playhouse produces a year-round, professional season of award winning musicals, comedies and dramas as well as summer children’s theatre and many special events. The Ivoryton Playhouse roster of productions for the 2017 Season includes My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Biloxi Blues, Million Dollar Quartet, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, I Hate Musicals: The Musical, and Ken Ludwig's The Game's Afoot!

Sailing from the Niantic Bay Marina Niantic, CT, 06357 Phone: 860-448-3662 Toll-Free: 800-382-2824

Spend a special day or evening on the water

Board a great party boat with an experienced skipper and fish for striped bass, bluefish, porgies, sea bass, blackfish and other delicious food from the sea. Serious fisherman sail on the "Captain's Choice," trips scheduled for the best fishing time and circumstances. Enjoy a night bass trip with no crowds or tangles or a special seal watch, sunset, fireworks and/or nature cruise with science field trips also on the menu. Plan a private day charter of 15 or more and night charters of 12 for your next party or celebration. You can bring your own gear or rent rod and reel. New to fishing? The experienced crew will ensure you have a great day on the water. But do bring your lunch. Then catch your dinner. Reservations are not required and the parking is free.

Grape things to do and savor

In one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country, Connecticut’s winemakers work microclimates in this scenic little corner of the state to grow grapes and make the finest wines. Spend an afternoon, day or several visiting the vineyards and wineries here and all along the Connecticut Wine Trail and its 25 diverse destinations. You can explore the farms and fields as well as the historic homes, churches and shops around them while sampling reds, whites, fruit wines and others among an almost limitless range of varietals statewide. Set in the area’s scenic towns and rural havens you can travel the trail and learn about the distinct differences of each locale. Look for the Wine Trail’s blue signs. The wineries also remind you to please drink and drive responsibly.

1225 Ocean Avenue New London, CT, 06320 Phone: 860-447-3031 Toll-Free: 800-510-7263

Oh, the fun things you can do at this seaside park

Some things you can do at Ocean Beach Park (and this is just for starters): Enjoy a pristine sugar-sand beach. Take the kids to an old-fashioned amusement park on the boardwalk with a carousel and tiny trains (and the Scrambler for older “kids”). Play mini-golf. Swim in an Olympic-size pool. Work out in a health club. Go down a triple waterslide. Grab ice cream, a burger, clam fritters – or a cocktail. Play Skee-Ball in the arcade. Watch a free beach-blanket movie, catch a band or a magic show. Go on a nature walk. You can even have a wedding ceremony and reception overlooking Long Island Sound, in a gourmet banquet facility – or right on the beach.

Parking fees (includes park admission for everyone in the car): Weekends $23, Weekdays $17, Weeknights after 6pm $8, Monday cruise nights are FREE after 5pm; Fireworks Evenings $10. Seasonal parking passes available. Walk-in Admission $6. See our website for additional information & fees for rides/attractions.

Meet the Outdoors at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center

Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center at 109 Pequotsepos Road in Mystic is a nature preserve and learning center with lots of hiking trails and a delightful nature store. Bring your family for a day of walking, birdwatching, nature photography and a picnic. On the 10 miles of hiking trails through woodlands, wetlands, and meadow, you can search for bluebirds, turtles or bullfrogs, admire a summer wildflower garden or simply enjoy a peaceful walk. Wander the Butterfly House and enjoy the tree house. See “Night in the Meadow” in the small theater. Open daily. Trail map. 860-536-1216

Bees, Hawks, and Other Wild Sights

The Audubon Center at 613 Riversvile Road in Greenwich offers indoor and outdoor attractions and fun by people who are experts on nature and wildlife. The 295-acre sanctuary has miles of trails near a hardwood forest, fields, a lake, streams and ponds, stone walls, and homestead buildings. If the weather invites you indoors, the Kimberlin Nature Education Center building has Kiernan Hall Nature Art Gallery with its wildlife viewing window and honey bee hive exhibit, and a Nature Gift Store. 203-869-5272

The Shops at Yale Are Just the Start of Your Exploration

With more than 50 unique boutiques and shops in Chapel Street Historic District and Broadway, Shops at Yale at 255 Crown Street in New Haven has the perfect mix of browsing, shopping, dining and people-watching to fill a weekend. The Shops at Yale are rich with boutiques alongside national retailers like Apple, J. Crew, and Urban Outfitters; bluestone sidewalks and beautifully restored architecture; award-winning restaurants and theaters; and world-renowned museums. Near at hand are public spaces that host lots of fun cultural events (one example among many is the sidewalk chalk art festival in August). Mix your pleasures with a visit to ancient beauty at the Yale Center for British Art, the Peabody Museum, Yale School of Architecture Gallery, and the historic Shubert Theater.

Take Your Appetite for a Walk in SoNo

SoNo, the south of Norwalk district along South Main, South Water, and Washington streets in South Norwalk attracts visitors for its waterfront ambiance, nearness to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, and – our point here – for the awesome dining. Especially along Washington Street, you can find a fabulous array to tastes: Greek, Japanese, Mexican, Irish, craft beer, steaks, seafood, chocolate, pizza – wow. Check out this website and pick a Friday or Saturday evening to treat your taste buds. Delightful!

Covered Bridge Is the Hidden Jewel in This Serene Forest

Comstock Covered Bridge in East Hampton, one of Connecticut’s last remaining covered bridges, crosses the Salmon River and is limited to pedestrian traffic. The bridge is located within the Salmon River State Forest , which covers over 6,000 acres in Hebron, Colchester, East Hampton, and Marlborough. The forest includes the Airline Trail, which follows an old railroad bed and features the 137-foot-high Lyman Viaduct, providing a wonderful view of the Dickenson Creek valley; a handicap accessible fly-fishing area; and a letterbox hike. 295-9523

Moo-sey Around the Farm With Us

The Farmer’s Cow is a group of six family-owned dairy farms in Lebanon, Coventry, Hebron, Thompson, North Franklin and Woodstock that welcome people to visit the farms for fun farm tours. During the tours, which run almost year-round, visitors may walk the farms, meet the farmers and cows, learn about farming, and sample local products. Some tours in 2017 are: Summer on the Farm (June 24), Ice Cream Day Bluegrass Bash (July 16), Corn Roast in the Hayfield and Farm Tour (August 5), Celebrating Agriculture with Fairview Farms Wagon Ride Tour (September 23), Autumn Fields & Cow Walk (October 9), More Than Moos Ice Cream Social (October 21).

Artistic Works in a Stone-Walled Landmark

Connecticut River Artisans, at 4 Water Street in Chester, is inside a 1909 stone building so delightful looking from the outside that you itch to go inside, regardless of what you might find there. In fact, what you find there is original, artist-made pottery, stained glass, fine art, jewelry, handbags, and cards are among the beautiful items we carry. There is always something new from the workshops of local and regional artists. It’s an adventure in beauty and gift shopping. Open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. 860-526-5575

Fairfield History From Garden to Battlefield

Fairfield Museum and History Center to explore the history of this community, through the lens of world wars to ordinary daily life. The museum offers exhibition galleries, a family education center, a theater overlooking the Town Green, and a museum shop. Exhibits have looked at baseball in America, golf, witchcraft in Connecticut, traditional crafts, the Pequot tribe, and the stories behind everyday objects. The museum’s 1750 Ogden House has a Colonial-period garden and a bee keeping project. Open daily except major holidays. Phone: 203-259-1598

Knowledge. Experience. Teamwork. Street Smarts

Here’s an intriguing indoor activity for you and your smartest friends. Adventure Rooms at 282 Main Street Extension on Middletown offers a simple challenge: escape from a closed room in less than 60 minutes. You and your teammates will find yourselves in an unfamiliar environment, where you have to rely on common sense and each other to escape the room. You work together to gather objects, find clues, decipher codes, open locks and solve puzzles to find the key that will lead you to freedom. Are you part of the 30 percent who escape? Advance registration is required. Typical group is two to eight people and typical cost is $27 to $30. 860-358-9130.

Jiminy Cricket Hops

The comic book and cartoon characters from your childhood and earlier are hopping around in their original styling at the Barker Character, Comic, and Cartoon Museum at 1188 Highland Avenue in Cheshire. Archie and Jughead dolls? Roy Rogers Lunch Box? Charlie McCarthy Puppet? If you remember these icons wouldn’t mind visiting them again, the museum probably has them. Enjoy the collection of 80,000 antique toys and collectibles as well as a cartoon theater. Open year-round, Wednesday-Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Phone: 203-272-2222.

Book Lovers Flock to the Hickory Stick

Hickory Stick Bookshop at 2 Green Hill Road in Washington Depot has been operating for six decades, offering the best qualities of a local, independent bookstore: good selection, expertise, fellowship among book lovers. Staff members, with a collective century of book business experience, are happy to guide you to your favorites or to help you make new discoveries in literature. Also, the store has a selection of book accessories and gifts, and fun stuff for children. Open daily. 860-868-0525

Beaver Brook Farm Makes Cool Cheeses, Warm Sweaters

Beaver Brook Farm at 139 Beaver Brook Road in Lyme, originally a dairy farm, produces wool, yarn, woolen clothes, cheeses and dairy products, sold at a farm store on the property and at farmers markets. People are invited to visit the farm store for its many cheeses, yogurt, gelato, and raw milk. People who knit will love the woolen yarns and people who love to keep warm will go for the farm’s blankets, sweaters, and warm hospitality. The farm owners welcome visitors and invite you to phone ahead with questions. 860-434-2843.

Artwork Down on the Farm

Weir Farm National Historic Site on Nod Hill Road in Wilton is one of two national historic sites that preserves and displays a place for the visual arts. (The other is the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire.) From 1882 to 2005, Weir Farm was the home and workplace of three generations of painters, starting with J. Alden Weir. Visitors today can view the Weir home and studios, take guided walks of stone walls and painting trails, and enjoy the rotating art exhibits. The grounds are open year-round; hours at the Visitor Center vary seasonally. Phone: 203-761-9945

Come and Stomp to the Music

The town of Putnam is in Connecticut’s northeastern “Quiet Corner,” but if you are itching to hear or make some sound on a trip there, visit the Stomping Ground, at 132 Main Street in Putnam, a young restaurant-bar with live music five nights a week. It was opened by an artist and a musician who decided to more their frequent living room-based musical evenings into a business establishment. Crafts beers, good food, made from scratch in a tiny kitchen, loads of music. Phone: 860-928-7900

American Indian Museum Presents Authentic History

Located just off Route 199 in the town of Washington, the Institute for American Indian Studies museum and educational center focuses on the indigenous peoples of northwestern Connecticut. Changing exhibits highlight Native American culture from across America, while permanent exhibits focus on American Indian living traditions of the northeast. Outdoor exhibits include a replicated Algonkian Village and simulated archeological site. The Museum Gift Shop offers Native American jewelry, crafts, pottery, books and more. Open year-round. 860-868-0518.

Asteroids Are Just the Opening Act at Leitner Observatory

Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University opened in early 2009 to the delight of star lovers and planet chasers in New England. Located at 355 Prospect Street, the observatory and planetarium is open to the general public on Tuesday nights (October-March at 6 p.m.; April-September at 8 p.m.). The shows will include a live presentation highlighting planets and constellations visible in the night sky, as projected onto the planetarium's 30-foot dome, followed by Passport to the Universe, a digitally projected tour through the solar system, galaxy and beyond. Shows will last approximately 35-40 minutes and, weather permitting; telescopes will be set up for observing afterwards. Phone: 203-285-8840.

Garden Pottery With Antiquated Inspiration

The potter Guy Wolff is highly respected by people who love fine craftsmanship. Wolff says he is inspired by at 18th and 19th century English flowerpots and centuries old Asian vases. His pottery for use in the garden is sold and collected widely. He works and operates a showroom at a renovated 1740 house at 1249 Bantam Road, 1.1 miles west of Bantam on Route 202. 860-567-5577.

A Bookstore With a Serious Love of Reading

R.J. Julia Booksellers at 768 Boston Post Road in Madison opened two decades ago as an independent bookstore whose mission was, and is, to be a place where words matter and where writers meet readers. The store hosts more than 200 events a year. Authors from all over the country visit the store to inspire, educate, and entertain. A knowledgeable staff, opinionated book selections with shelf-talker tags help book lovers find books that are just right for them. Open daily, Phone: 203-245-3959.

Come Visit Connecticut’s Beautiful Barns

You don’t need to be a photographer or painter to appreciate the beauty of farm barns. These icons of farming life have caught the attention of Connecticut historians, who created a Connecticut Barn Trail. Use the trail and its maps to explore this beautiful countryside at your own pace. The trail has seven routes that highlight barns at farms and farm stands, orchards, wineries, and historic sites. 203-562-6312.

Sports in All Seasons

The SportsCenter of Connecticut on River Road in Shelton doesn’t give a darn about the weather. This covered and weather-protected facility offers numerous activities such as a golf practice range, 18-hole miniature golf course, baseball and softball batting cages, laser tag arena, bowling, and the world’s only double-decker ice arena. You like sports? Now, inclement weather doesn’t need to slow you down and you will have plenty of things to do with friends and family. Phone: 203-929-6500.

Treasures From the Past

With about 200 antiques dealers under one roof, the Stratford Antique Center on Honeyspot Road is a place where antiques buffs can become blissfully lost. The center is located off I-95 in Stratford and is locally known as the “big blue building.” It houses 16,500 square feet of antiques and collectibles. Browsers will enjoy the numerous dealer floor spaces and display cases, making this a great shopping attraction for anyone looking for things to do on an afternoon or weekend. 203-378-7754.

Western Connecticut Is Filled With Great Antiques

The Litchfield region is a magnet for antiques and the people who cherish them. Here is just a sampling of places to visit on an antique hunt through Litchfield: Gardenalia in Falls Village, offering outdoor fountains, birdbaths, statuary, and sundials (860-824-0020); Jennings & Rohn Antiques in Woodbury, with English, Continental and American furniture of the 17th through 20th centuries (203-263-3775); Housatonic Trading Company in Bantam (860-361-6299); Jeffrey Tillou Antiques in Litchfield (860-567-9693). Get a map of the region and set out on a summer drive and antique hunt!

Cider Milled by the Sixth Generation

A visit to B. F. Clyde's Cider Mill at 1129 North Stonington Road in Mystic is like stepping back in time. This cider mill, built in 1881, is now being operated by the sixth generation of the Clyde family. It calls itself the only steam-powered cider mill in the United States. The season starts in September with hard ciders and apple wines, jams, jellies, local honey, maple syrup, and fudge. Also available in the fall are apples, apple pies, pumpkin bread, gourds, Indian corn, pumpkins, candy apples, kettle corn and apple cider donuts. Cider-making demonstrations are held weekends, 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Open daily, September through late December. Phone: 860-536-3354.

Craftsmanship in the Shadow of the Berkshires

During the past 21 years, Heron American Craft Gallery at 16 Main Street in Kent has become a destination for people who are searching out the dynamic, ever changing work of American crafts. This shop presents an explosion of color, wit, and whimsy in the form of unusual playthings, ceramics, jewelry, glass work, sculpture, rugs, and clothing. This shop in the foothills of the Berkshires honors the spirit of handmade goods. Open daily. 860-927-4804.

Tasty Lessons at Cheese School

Fairfield and Greenwich Cheese Company , with locations (at 2090 Post Road in Fairfield and at 154 East Putnam Avenue in Cos Cob) wants to help you know and love cheese (even more). You are invited to taste and shop, or course, and also to attend weeknight evening classes to learn about topics like goat cheese, wine and cheese pairings, beer and cheese pairings, cheeses of France. Presenters are sometimes stars of the New England cheesemaking world. It’s a fun date night for cheese hounds! 203-292-8194 or 203-340-9227.

Rodeo Drive on the Right Coast

Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich has been nicknamed after Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles because of its beauty, charm, and fabulous shopping , from daily products to upscale goods. On the Avenue (not counting the many shops just a block off-avenue) you’ll find names like Lily Pulitzer, Club Monaco, Baccarat, Gabby, and Marmot. Spend a full day browsing and shopping; there are places to enjoy lunch or dinner on all sides.

Concerts in the Garden Surrounded by Art

Coastal Connecticut’s history as a hub of American Impressionist painters (a la the Florence Griswold Museum) is alive and active at Leif Nilsson Spring Street Studio and Gallery at 1 Spring Street in Chester. In addition to its artwork on display the studio hosts a monthly concert series called Concerts in the Garden. Musicians and singers performing every style from cool jazz to blue grass and beyond entertain for listeners seating outside in the garden amphitheatre (or inside the gallery, in colder weather). It’s a BYOB and picnicking scene. Monthly concerts happen year-round; check the schedule! 860-526-2077.

Winery Offers the Best of California and Connecticut

Located in the beautiful small town of North Stonington, Jonathan Edwards Winery, at 74 Chester Main Road, is situated on a 48-acre hilltop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Jonathan Edwards creates premium California and Connecticut wines to highlight each coast’s climate. The two diverse product lines complement each other and allow guests to sample delicious wines that showcase what each area is known for. Wine lovers are welcome to stop in, taste the wines, tour the winery and vineyards, enjoy a picnic, and browse the gift shop for wine items and local treats. Each season in the vineyard has its own unique charm. Phone: 860-535-0202.

City Stampede

Bushnell Park on Trinity Street in Hartford is a wonderful public sanctuary that merits a full-day visit. The park is home to a carousel that dates from 1914. Created by Russian immigrant craftsmen, the carousel is notable for the horses’ flamboyant faces and real horsehair tails. Besides the 48 horses, there are two lovers chariots, 800 twinkling lights, 24-sided pavilion houses, and a Wurlitzer organ. Open Friday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rides are $1.

Art and Science Explorations for Families

The Bruce Museum at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich offers expanded learning programs for families and kids age 4 to 10. These drop-in programs include Science Sundays, where kids and parents may explore simple science concepts through experiments and activities. Programs are from 1 to 3 p.m. and are included in the Museum admission fee. Bruce Moose Activity Packs are designed for the family that would like to explore the Museum’s galleries on their own in a fun, hands-on way. 203-869-0376

Tons of Books Along a Beautiful Shore

At three different but nearby locations in the lovely seaside town of Niantic, the Book Barn runs with the motto Because More is Better. This used book emporium, located at 41 West Main Street with two other locations, is stuffed with books (the main building, is, indeed, a barn). Fortunately, books are grouped by genres, so you don't need to shuffle through 350,000 volumes to find something for your taste. The Barn buys and sells books, and it is open daily. 860 739-5715

Old Press Still Churns Out Fine Cider

Devon Point Farm at 54 Joy Road in Woodstock is home to a 120-year-old fully refurbished antique apple cider press. The press was built in 1898 in Syracuse, NY, at the Boomer and Boschert factory. Dozens of men hand-cut and hand-cast machined iron parts to construct the massive apple cider press, measuring 13 by 19 feet. Apple cider donuts and a pick-your-own pumpkin patch complete the fall experience. The farm also sells grass-fed beef, natural pork and chicken, organic apples, unpasteurized cider. Open daily late September to late December. 860-974-9004.

For Motivation, Try the Sundae Drive

Connecticut’s Sundae Drive trail with an accompanying brochure and map sends you off on a tasteful adventure along some of the prettiest roads and vistas of the Mystic region of this lovely state.
The drive’s “Tasty Ten” hot spots of creamy flavor includes dairies and ice cream shops in Storrs, Pomfret, Mystic, Plainfield, Old Lyme, New London, Griswold, Salem, and Sterling. A winner for both adults and kids! Brochure and map.

Fair Trade Art Makes Great Gifts

Browsing beautiful handmade artwork from all parts of the world is a fun way to find a special gift. Ten Thousand Villages store at 1054 Chapel Street in New Haven presents fair-trade folk art, ceramics, textiles, baskets, jewelry, wall hangings, pillows, rugs, mirrors, vases, incense, candleholders, and furniture by artists in developing world. Each product reflects the traditions of its maker. Enjoy the international music, smell the gourmet coffee, and taste rich chocolate. Your fair trade purchase helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Phone: 203-776-0854.

Wooden Furniture Is Kloter's Specialty

Fine furniture from beautiful wood is artwork that lives around us throughout daily lives. Kloter Farms at 216 West Road in Ellington is a family-owned enterprise that started in 1980 as a horse and carriage hobby. The  range of products is wide: from gazebos to furniture to children’s playhouses. Many items – from jewelry boxes to quilt racks to lazy Susans -- make great gifts, so stop here for some great. Open daily except Sundays. 860-871-1048.

Home of “Impulsive Necessities”

Winner of numerous awards, the Bowerbird gift shop at 46 Halls Road in Old Lyme declares itself a prime source for “impulsive necessities.” With 4,500 square feet of doo-dads from 2,000 vendors, the vast selection of great gifts here just has to satisfy nearly any gift-giving list. The merchandise includes decorative home and garden accessories, toys, baby gifts, stationery, jewelry, gourmet food. This is a great browsing and shopping stop during a trip to this lovely seaside town, an area with numerous things to do. 860-434-3562.

Corn Maze, Pick-Your-Own, Good Eating

At Ellsworth Hill Orchard and Berry Farm at 461 Cornwall Bridge Road in Sharon presents a fun corn maze in 2017 and lots of other activities: pick-your-own apples (or you can buy them pre-picked), sweet cider, cider donuts, pies, muffins, cookies, jams, apple butter and vegetables. Open Labor Day weekend through the end of November. 860-364-0025

Cool Tunes and Comedy at the Bridge

Bridge Street Live, is an art deco-style club and restaurant at 41 Bridge Street in Collinsville. The club’s bar room, lounge, and huge wrap-around decks overlook the Farmington River and Sweetheart Mountain. Lots of cool, live entertainment and events are scheduled for the months ahead at this concert venue and comedy club. Frommer has named Collinsville “one of the top 10 coolest towns in America.” 860-693-9762.

Hop-Scotch Your Way Among CT’s Farmers Markets

Summer and fall in particular are the times for harvesting, cooking, and eating fresh produce grown right where you live. Connecticut has devised a Farmers Market Trail – including a very helpful trail map – that guides you to farmers markets, with all the details about days, times, locations, and products. These  are places with live music, entertainments for kids, hand-made goods and gifts. The Trail map tells you where to find farm-to-table eateries, walking trails, art galleries, and historic sites. The map shows ATMs near markets. 

It’s a National Park – Under Water

What is a marine national monument? It is a national park – think Yellowstone or Acadia – under water. Mystic Aquarium opened in mid-2017 the new Our Blue Park exhibit that is a photographic journey of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in the Atlantic, off the coast of New England. With three underwater canyons and four seamounts, the monument is a biodiversity hot spot. Most of us will never see this national park face-to-face, but the Aquarium offers the next-best option in glorious giant photos.

Ten Thousand Villages Brings the World to You

Visit the Ten Thousand Villages store at 967C Farmington Avenue in West Hartford to browse and purchase folk art, ceramics, textiles, baskets, jewelry, wall hangings, pillows, rugs, mirrors, vases, incense, candleholders, and furniture handmade by artists in the developing world. Enjoy international music, the aroma of gourmet coffee, and rich chocolate. Your fair trade purchase helps improve the lives of thousands of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. 860-233-5470.

Awake the Artist Within

Are you for a unique experience with friends or family? It takes only a little bit of advance planning to take advantage of a wonderful offering from the Brookfield Craft Center at 286 Whisconier Road in Brookfield. If you want to dip your toe into a new hobby or art form, Brookfield will set up a class or workshop to your specifications – for a half-day mini-workshop to a five-day adventure.. You could study blacksmithing, ceramics, fiber arts, glassmaking, jewelry making, or wood turning.  203-775-4526.

Knotted Imagery from the Sea

For a sea-themed memento or a gift to take home from your Mystic vacation, a fun choice is the nautical decorations at Mystic Knotwork , with two locations in town, at 25 Cottrell Street and 2 Holmes Street. The origins of the store go back two generations, when the current owner’s grandfather opened Beaudoin's Rope Locker. Browse and buy gifts made of cotton rope: sailor bracelets, nautical hair ties and jewelry, décor accents and Christmas decorations, nautical notions for weddings. You’re not vacationing in Kansas anymore. 860-889-3793.

A Paradise for Serious Cooks

One fine way to soothe and encourage the gourmet cook in your family is through a gift-buying trip to Weekend Kitchen at 6 North Main Street in Essex. The cookware and kitchenware is a mix of traditionally styled and hand crafted items along with contemporary designs. The shop’s faux finished walls, serene mural, and antique fixtures create an inviting setting in which to shop for yourself or a special gift. Come find everything from copper coffee scoops to panini pans. 860-767-1010.

Griswold’s Maritime Art Shows Its History on Every Wall

The history of the Griswold Inn in the riverside town of Essex starts in the auspicious year of 1776, when a local ship builder began work on the Oliver Cromwell, Connecticut’s first warship in the Revolution. Essex became a hub of lodging and hospitality for shipyard workers, continuing through an era of steamboat traffic on the Connecticut River, followed by pleasure boating today. You can see this history on the Inn’s walls: prints by Currier & Ives and Endicott & Co.; ship’s portraits; and illustrations by Norman Rockwell. There is a collection of firearms from the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. And – yes – the food, drink, and hospitality are still going strong.

Heaven for Record Hounds

Records never totally went away, and for some music fans who claim the vinyl sound is pristine, record purchases are resurging. They are doing it with the help of stores that never lost the faith. Most are small, tucked-away oases for create-diggers who know their music. Connecticut is well-endowed, as follows: Willimantic Records at 744 Main Street in Willimantic; Integrity ‘N Music at 506 Silas Deane Hwy. in Wethersfield; The Telegraph at 19 Golden Street in New London; Merle’s Record Rack at 307 Rackbrook Road in Orange (opened in 1962!); Mystic Disc at 10 Steamboat Wharf in Mystic; Redscroll Records at 24 N. Colony Road in Wallingford; Gerosa Records at 246 Federal Road in Brookfield; Replay Records at 2586 Whitney Avenue in Hamden.

Dazzling Display of Worldwide Art at Wadsworth

The art treasure house known as Wadsworth Atheneum at 600 Main Street in Hartford is the oldest public art museum in the United States. Setting aside for a moment a discussion of its collections, the place itself is a joy to visit. The museum is composed of five connected buildings. Their styles are the original (1844) Gothic Revival, followed by Tudor Revival, Renaissance Revival, and modern International Style. The museum’s nearly 50,000 works of art span 5,000 years, from Greek and Roman antiquities to American contemporary art. The Wadsworth has refurbished sculpture garden and many fine paintings of the Hudson River School of art. Its calendar has brilliant family programs, lectures, and films. Open Wednesdays to Sundays. Phone: 860-278-2670.