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

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 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 wonderful ride!

Any “great things’ list includes travel, adventure, and high entertainment value. Find all three here wrapped inside an historical and ecological adventure into “one of the last great places on earth,” the Connecticut River Valley. The 1892 Essex Station is your launch point. Climb aboard the Essex Steam Train on a 12-mile, narrated trip to Deep River Landing. There you’ll board the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a 1¼- hour cruise along the Connecticut River and see the natural habitats of wildlife and water birds. Gillette Castle, Goodspeed Opera House, and the Haddam Swing Bridge are among the historical highlights along the way. Upon Becky's return, “steam” on back to Essex Station. More great things can be found in the EST&R special programs for train fans, jazz lovers, romantics, kids and families.

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.

600 Main Street Hartford, CT, 06103 Phone: 860-278-2670

Founded in 1842, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the oldest continually-operating public art museum in the United States. The museum’s nearly 50,000 works of art span 5,000 years, from Greek and Roman antiquities to the first museum collection of American contemporary art. Year-round programs for adults include lectures, gallery talks, group tours, art activities and concerts. First Thursdays provide an evening of music, refreshments, arts activities and films. Free Second Saturdays offer hands-on art making, tours for families, performances of music, dance, theater, and demonstrations. Docent-led tours are offered daily, and the audio tour and Family Guide allow for exploring the collections during regular museum hours. Open Wednesday – Sunday. Visit our website for details and hours.

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

Meet the residents - large and in charge

A dinosaur encounter is one of the all time great things to do. And you can do that nearby and safely and have more fun than you can possibly imagine. Indoor/outdoor activities here will bring you up close and personal to not only dinosaurs, but to wildlife, nature trials, a water park, a titanic playground and science activity center that will teach you a thing or two. There’s 50 acres of pristine woodland, 40+ life-sized dinosaurs, a man-made lake, and a monster playground with a swinging, vibrating three–dimensional double tower to shake you silly. There a maze to get lost in, a Splashpad to cool down in and lots of tasty food, picnic areas and shady spots. But be listening for footsteps. Big ones.

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.

350 Trolley Line Boulevard Mashantucket, CT, 06338 Phone: 860-312-3000 Toll-Free: 800-369-9663

More things to do than you can count – or ever forget

With 30 restaurants, six casinos, four AAA Four-Diamond hotels, two spas, award-winning golf, theaters, and exclusive retailers, you’ve come to the largest resort casino in North America. Things to do? Wherever you start, you’ll never finish. Try the slots, the tables, the Race Book or Keno and more live Poker and Bingo games than anywhere in the country. The best in music and comedy are here. Share a drink or dance at the area’s hottest nightclubs. Designer boutiques offer fashion and fun. And the Spas, yes the Norwich and G Spas are for what ails you and excites you from massage and facials to pedicures and hair styling. The waterfall pool with veranda is the perfect spot to congratulate yourselves for slipping way to enjoy the remarkable Foxwoods Resort Casino experience.

Come to the River to See the Eagles

The lower Connecticut River in Connecticut is a favored stop-over for bald eagles traveling down the waterway from Canada for southern feeding in the winter. People can see the birds and learn their story during on-water tours aboard a marine research vessel, hosted by the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. A museum naturalist provides guided narration; free coffee and use of binoculars are included. There’s a heated cabin and ample deck space. Fee covers admission to all museum galleries featuring the Eagles of Essex exhibit. Advance reservations strongly suggested. Tours are Fridays through Sundays until mid-March. No guests under age 6 admitted. Phone: 860-767-8269

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.

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.

Boothe Memorial Park Is Entertaining All Year

Boothe Memorial Park & Museum on Main Street in Stratford sits on an idyllic, 32-acre site in the north end of Stratford by the Housatonic River, which was the estate of the Boothe family for many generations. There are many architecturally unique buildings and attractions on the grounds as well as a new, handicapped-accessible playground with two climbing walls. The annual Great Pumpkin Festival is a huge attraction in the fall, while outdoor concerts and Shakespearean plays beckon visitors in the spring and summer. Tours of the historic buildings are seasonal (May - October). The park is open and free of charge year round. Phone: 203-381-2046.

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.

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 like a fine violin or a memorable wedding gift at the lavish Hoaglands of Greenwich. Things to do, places to shop, and lovely eateries to indulge in lunch or dinner surround browsers on all sides. It helps to visit the street with some money to burn, but the attraction of strolling and peeping in shop windows is open to everyone.

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.

Antique Victorian Sleighs Wait to Whisk You Through the Woods

The pretty fields and towns of the Litchfield region could have been designed for winter sleigh rides, complete with lap robes, harness bells, and a top-hatted driver. Wood Acres Farm in Terryville has 25 acres of wooded trails, sleighs, and teams of draft horses to take you over the river and through the woods. Particularly for Valentine’s season, couples may want to snuggle under a nice warm blanket and enjoy a ride on a private horse-drawn Victorian sleigh. For details and reservations, call 860-583-8670.
Also, in the town of Norfolk, Loon Meadow Farm hosts rides on a two-passenger antique surrey sleigh, drawn by a single horse or a larger sleigh drawn by two horses for up to 10 adults. A steaming cup of hot mulled cider awaits you at the end of the ride. Phone: 860-542-6085.

Go Climb a Rock

During the chilly seasons or on rainy days, are you and your kids climbing the walls? Come of the place where this activity is a fun, challenging indoor sport (for all ages)! Prime Climb is an indoor rock-climbing gym at 340 Quinnipiac Street in Silversmith Park in Wallingford, next to Walco Park. For fun and physical training, rock climbing is the next big thing, and indoor clubs are springing up everywhere. Good for children, teens, and adults. Prime Climb offers specials and kid-oriented activities. Phone: 203-265-4006

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

Connecticut Art Trail Reveals Contemporary Work

Here is a project that can keep you busy year-round: explore the 15 world-class museums and historic sites that comprise the Connecticut Art Trail. The trail meanders among attractions such as historic sites, bucolic farms, art studios and artists' houses to grand and modern art museums in vibrant downtowns. The trail includes a feature called Trail Getaways that presents recommended itineraries along with helpful suggestions for things to do in nearby places such as where to visit and dine. In the Litchfield region, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield and Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center in Waterbury.

Awesome Setting; Cool Tunes

Built in 1883 in picturesque Norfolk in northwest Connecticut, Infinity Hall, on Route 44 in the center of town, is an intimate music, dining and entertainment destination. Newly renovated, the hall hosts more than 200 music and entertainment shows by quality national and regional artists annually. Infinity Bistro, the music-themed restaurant and bar, serves gourmet delights and spirits. In addition to popular music shows of many genres, both the music hall and bistro offer other forms of entertainment including comedy, magic, poetry slams, and shows for youngsters. Phone: 860-542-5531.

Explore Yale's Architecture on Foot

The city of New Haven, along with its ivy encampment, Yale University, wants to make it easy for visitors to enjoy the wide variety of public art and fine architecture attractions in the city. A self-guided walking tourof art on the Yale campus is available, stopping at works by Maya Lin, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein, and others. Also, the Yale Visitor Center at 149 Elm Street leads free group walking tours of public art at Yale by request; call the Visitor Center (203-432-2300) a week before the requested date. An walking tour of New Haven architecture includes part of the Yale campus, along with Science Hill and the Yale Medical Center. The tour visits buildings by Louis I. Kahn, Paul Rudolph, Cesar Pelli, and Eero Saarinen. On the tour, you can soak in a wide range of architectural styles and see how those styles mesh to create a distinctive city, making this one of the most interesting things to do in the area.

First Nations at Mashantucket

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, which is the world's largest Native American museum, offers events and experiences for young and old, from life-size dioramas that transport visitors into the past to changing exhibits and live performances of contemporary arts. Four acres of permanent exhibits depict 18,000 years of Native and natural history, while two libraries offer materials on the histories and cultures of all Native peoples of the continent. The museum is located on Pequot Trail in Ledyard, near the Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Phone: 800-411-9671

100 Years and Full of Vigor

The Shubert Theater in New Haven opened in 1914 with all the magnificent frills that made a night at the theater such a grand gesture in that era. Except for a 7-year dark period, the Schubert has been going strong for a century. The theater’s archives and living memoirists can name dozens of national-caliber performers, e.g., Carol Channing, Katherine Hepburn, Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, who performed there in the pre-1940s period when the New Haven was a regular stop on national tryout tours before shows opened on Broadway. In just the 2014-2015 season, some of the shows include “A Jew Grows In Brooklyn,” Three Mo Tenors, “Singin' In The Rain,” Jim Brickman in concert, “Peter and the Star Catcher,” the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Matilda the Musical.” The New Haven Symphony Orchestra also performs there. People who love live theater should not miss this dynamic legend.

Art Trail Is Rich with Stops in Mystic Region

Here is one of the state’s activities that can keep you busy year-round: explore the 15 world-class museums and historic sites that comprise the Connecticut Art Trail. The trail meanders among historic sites, bucolic farms, art studios and artists' houses to grand and modern art museums in vibrant downtowns. The trail includes a feature called Trail Getaways that presents recommended itineraries along with helpful suggestions for nearby places to visit and dine. In the Mystic region, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich, the William Benton Museum of Art in Mansfield/Storrs, the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, and the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain.

Taste of New Haven

Gather with friends to soak in the tastes, sights, and sounds of New Haven. On Taste of New Haven’s themed food and drink tours, guides lead guests through the buzzing city and into its finest eateries, with fun stops at cultural spots along the way. Try the Pizza and Pints Bike Tour, a bicycle tour with pizza and pub pit stops, or the New Haven Symphony Tour, which offers an evening of multicultural cuisine and a complimentary ticket to hear some sweet sounds. This year’s Trick or Eat Spooky Tour is a ghost tour with a frightful amount of food and drink tastings. Tours run year-round for 1.5-4 hours in rain or shine, and your departure point is revealed when you register. Phone: 203-710-3710

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. If you are looking for things to do and getting warmed up for a visit, dip into Glenn's Book Notes to get your list started. Phone: 860 739-5715

Family Fun on the Farm (Planetarium Included)

The folks who run Stamford Museum and Nature Center at 39 Scofieldtown Road Stamford have a genius gene for making farm life, the outdoors, nature and the sky a fascinating adventure for young children and families. The science and nature attraction is on a 118-acre site and it encompasses a working farm, hiking trails, picnic area, a playground, art galleries, and a planetarium with observatory and regularly scheduled events describing the heavens above. Many special seasonal events and things to do for families include maple harvest, Easter egg hunts, and fall activities. Property includes the Bendel Mansion & Galleries. Open all year, with hours change seasonally. Phone: 203-322-1646.

Antique Shopping Is Artful & Abundant in Stamford

Stamford, just a hop and a jump from the New York border, is a beehive of antiques stores, and a place where antiques lovers could get lost and put a grave dent in the checkbook. Among the places that are named in the upper strata of Stamford antiques shops are Harbor View Center For Antiques on Jefferson Street; Mid Century Antiques on Pacific Street; Hamptons Antique Galleries on Canal Street; Hiden Galleries on John Street; Connecticut Antiques Center Canal Street; John Street Antiques Center.

Come to Clinton for Antiques

It’s no secret that the town of Clinton has become a hot spot attraction for browsing and buying fine antiques. Susan Alon, proprietor of the MiRIAMGREEN Antiquarian Bookshop & Gallery in Clinton, has written “… a constellation of new shops dealing strictly with ... antiques & specialty goods ... has opened in previously unoccupied and in many cases historic real estate, bringing a new look to the Clinton downtown and a new audience, the upscale antiquers.” The Clinton Antique Center, a 70-dealer shop at 78 East Main Street, is a huge influence. However, Alon noted, “…clustered closely along Main Street within the space of four or so miles, you have the opportunity of viewing the merchandise of dozens of dealers, and benefit from their experience, taste, and connoisseurship.”

For Your Reading Pleasure

During a visit to this relaxed and postcard-pretty Litchfield county town, people who love books should visit Johnnycake Books, 12 Salisbury Street in Salisbury, offering 8,000 titles and soft seating to browse them. The shop is housed in a 19th-century farm cottage and surrounded by perennial gardens. A place to soothe the spirit and feed the mind. Open Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. , Sunday, noon-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday by chance or appointment. Phone: 860-435-6677

Borough of Dreams

New England is not short of beautiful villages, but Stonington Borough, on a small peninsula in the Fisher’s Island Sound, is special. A walk through its tight streets is a joy by itself. Colonial-era houses rich with fine architectural details and dripping with flowers from window boxes are packed cheek-to-cheek along Water and Main streets, where you can find many intriguing antique shops. A handful of well-used fishing boats cluster at the town docks, which thrum with music and flags and cheer during the annual Blessing of the Fleet. All you need here is the power to stroll, gaze, and enjoy.

Theater is Great at Goodspeed

This historic Victorian theater overlooking the Connecticut River is a beauty, and that is just the start. Home to the original productions of “Man of La Mancha,” “Shenandoah,” and “Annie,” and recipient of two special Tony Awards for outstanding achievement in the musical theater, the Goodspeed Opera House at 6 Main Street in East Haddam is world renowned as the home of the American musical. The work is professional, quick, and wonderfully entertaining, and the theater brings some of Connecticut’s most popular events. In 2015, patrons can look forward to "Guys and Dolls," "La Cage Aux Folles," "The Honeymooners,” and morre.Phone: 860-873-8668.

Luxury Shopping in Central CT

The Westfarms shopping center at 1500 New Britain Avenue on the border of West Hartford and Farmington is an upscale shopping place with style and kick. The enclosed center is anchored by New England’s first Nordstrom along with Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney, and two Macy’s locations. Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton, two of the great luxury brands, came to the center in 2008. Westfarms has two signature dining restaurants, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Brio Tuscan Grille, both a pleasure for dinner or lunch during a festive shopping day. Come, browse, and enjoy. Phone: 860-561-3024.

Get on the Skating Rink at Foxwoods

Take the family and kids for entertainment to the casino? Sure! Foxwoods Resort Casino at 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket operates an outdoor skating rink for the public every day through February 23. Fire pits and hot chocolate on the side. Nice day trip with skating parents and kids on a winter weekend. Hours vary by day: Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 2-9 p.m.; Friday, 2-10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-p.m. Admission fee and rental fee.

Pewter Says “New England”

Few art objects say “New England” more than fine pewter items, and one place to find these is Woodbury Pewter Factory Outlet on Main Street in Woodbury. Woodbury Pewter pieces are available in both traditional and contemporary designs. If you are looking for a gift or a remembrance of your day in western Connecticut, this company creates decorative accessories; tabletop, baby, and holiday items; lamps; mugs; tankards; tableware; candlesticks, tea and coffee services, and hundreds of other items. Woodbury Pewter is all hand-crafted in Connecticut and made from the highest quality, lead-free pewter. The company offers a pewter making demonstration and also sells factory second pieces at reduced prices. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Phone: 800-648-2014.

Grande Dame of Art Deco Theaters Is Alive & Dynamic

The Warner Theatre at 68 Main Street in Torrington -- opened in 1931 and revived in 2002 -- is an Art Deco gem: eye-popping designs, murals, rich mahogany, and vintage etched glass chandeliers. Since its revival in the 21st century, the theater continues to grow and improve. Some highlights of the 2015 season include “The Addams Family,” “The Lightning Thief,” “Hello, Dolly!,” "Charlotte’s Web," and more. The theater hosts the MetOpera Live in HD, bringing high-brow classics on film. Keep an eye on the theater’s schedule; you’ll be glad you did. Phone: 860-489-7180. Phone: 860-489-7180.

You Bring Lunch; Gouveia Supplies the Wine

For the folks at Gouveia Vineyards in Wallingford, producing first-rate wines is clearly a labor of love. Joe and Lucy Gouveia planted their first vines ten years ago and to today visitors can sample wines made from the eight different types of grapes that thrive there. Set on top of a hill overlooking the vineyard, the Winery Building boasts a large stone fireplace, panoramic views, woodlands and sunsets, making this the perfect romantic getaway for couples looking for things to do. Guests are invited to bring their own picnic lunch to enjoy as they sip on Gouveia’s award-winning Stone House Red, Whirlwind Rose, or Oaked Chardonnay. Open Friday to Sundays. Live music events Saturday evenings. Phone: 203-265-5526.

Drive New Haven’s Charmed Shoreline

Set aside a day to drive part of the shoreline of Greater New Haven. This strip of land along Route 1 contains historic homes, stylish restaurants, nature preserves -- all within a few miles of the Long Island Sound. Start on Route 1 in Branford's elegant downtown. Walk around the Green or veer off onto the many hiking or bird watching trails. The scenic Route 146 takes you into Stony Creek, a tiny former fishing village. The Thimble Islands are visible from Stony Creek's harbor. Next up, Guilford has a truly grand town Green, a lengthy, well-shaded block that's lined with charming storefronts. Madison's quiet, walkable downtown includes the much-loved R.J. Julia Booksellers and many other small shops. Outside of town is Hammonasset Beach State Park, Connecticut's largest shoreline park.

Check Out the Sound at Connecticut’s Doorstep

Come have some fun with water creatures while you learn about life of Long Island Sound at The Maritime Aquarium at 10 North Water Street in Norwalk. Situated in an old factory building at the mouth of the Norwalk River, the aquarium has plenty to see, with 34 exhibits of hundreds of marine animals. A guided journey of the Sound begins along a freshwater river and proceeds to salt marsh, then to deeper habitats in the ocean. Visit sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles -- including some in touch tanks. The aquarium has an IMAX theater with a screen six stories tall for a close, close experience with nature on film. Hours: daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., (closing is 6 p.m. in July and August.) Phone: 203-852-0700.

Skydiving: The Leap of a Lifetime

Ready to face your fear of heights? Take the plunge and experience the sensation of floating in a freefall at speeds upwards of 120 miles per hour. At the Skydive Danielson facility in Danielson, qualified instructors lead first-time skydivers into the adrenaline rush of a lifetime: a scenic ride over the landscape followed by a tandem jump from a height of 13,000 feet! Those who leave the Skydive Danielson facility wanting more can sign up for technical classes and receive their license to skydive. Phone: 860-774-5867

Polish Stoneware Adds Brilliance to Your Home

The Zanger Company at 21B Kenny Roberts Memorial Drive in Suffield is an attraction that has opened its warehouse showroom to the public to enjoy and buy the richly colored Polish stoneware and pottery from the very respected Polish manufacturer Ceramika Artystyczna. Zanger imports directly from Ceramika Artystyczna, finding an American following for heirloom-quality fine art for the home. Each piece is still with hand-cut sponges, a technique descended from the folk art tradition known as potato stamping. The colors are dazzling. The showroom is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Phone: 860-668-8915.

Copernican Observatory Brings Stars to Your Eyes

Stargazers, pay attention. The Copernican Observatory & Planetarium on Paul Manafort Drive Stanley Street is on the grounds of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain is home to one of the largest public telescopes in the United States. The observatory and planetarium hold monthly star gazing throughout year and the public is welcome to these free shows. For planetarium shows, seating is first come, first served. The planetarium is located in Copernicus Hall and there is convenient parking in the Copernicus garage. See campus map. Phone: 860-832-3399

On the Trail of Antique Treasures

Mystic Country is a place of many delightful antique shops in towns like Old Lyme, Niantic, Mystic, Stonington, Canterbury, Brooklyn, Coventry, Putnam, Woodstock, Willimantic, Norrwich, and Lebanon. Now, visitors can receive a wonderfully succinct and helpful brochure describing the Mystic Antiques Trail. The brochure is available online as a pdf or in print through the mail. It has a detailed regional map and names, addresses, and descriptions of 30 antique shops. With this brochure, a half-tank of gas, and a sense of adventure, a day of antiquing activities in Mystic is pure fun. To request a free guide call 860-536-8822 or visit

Visit a Classic Town Center

The village of Plymouth Center, in southeast Litchfield County, is an archetypal New England town centered upon a town Green and the white-steepled church. A self guided walking tour takes you through this historic place, touching on the Plymouth Burying Ground, with gravestones dating to 1749, and where 38 soldiers from the Revolutionary War are buried and several historic buildings, including where George Washington stayed during the Revolutionary War, and a house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad. A fun walk in any season.

Cool, Classic Home Styling

Stylish, classic, and comfortable. L.C.R. Retail is a design firm that, in addition to construction and consultation, operates a retail shop 981B Farmington Avenue in West Hartford. The shop has a tasteful collection of furniture and accessories by Anna Weatherley, Kosta Boda, Michael Wainwright, Tamara Childs, Mottahedeh, and J. Fleet Designs. Cool resource for your own home or for gift shopping. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and weekends by appointment, Phone: 860-231-7742

Hip Happens in SoNo

SoNo -- South Norwalk -- is a piece of the town's downtown business district centered on Washington Street has been converted to a sizzling attraction that mixes upscale restaurants, shops, nightclubs, museums, and galleries in this waterfront town on Long Island Sound. The anchor of this trove of great things to do is the Norwalk Maritime Center, including exhibits, events, cruises, and a boat building shop. Nearby, is Oyster Shell Park. Clubs and eateries in SoNo include Naked Greens, Gingerman, Brewhouse, Chocopologie, Barcelona, SONO Baking Company & Cafe, Black Bear Saloon, Strada 18, Match, and Bradfords Grill and Tavern.

Casino Shopping for All Tastes

As you approach the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, the sleek profile of the high-rise buildings with their jaunty, jagged roofline is a clue that you are in for something bold and uninhibited. Inside the casino, you’re sure of it. Whether or not you gamble, the Sun is a jaw-dropping wonderland of design, architecture, entertainment, dining, events, and … shopping. The main concourse is packed jaw-to-jaw with an unusual array of shops, from major brands in outdoor wear at Trailblazer to lavish cut crystal jewelry at Swarovski to Fisher Price toys. Even if you leave your plastic in your pocket, you will still enjoy the spectacle and find plenty of things to do.

Funky, Fashionable, Fascinating…

After only a year in operation, The Past Antiques Market at 1650 Hartford-New London Turnpike in Oakdale was chosen in 2014 as Best Antique Stop in New England by Yankee Magazine. The magazine's Travel Guide to New England stated: "The Past Antique Market has two floors of carefully arranged funky, fashionable, and fascinating antiques." An antique shopper's delight and a collector's showcase, The PAST Antiques Market features historic American and other fine collectibles by a variety of artisans. The market is part of Nature’s Art Village a shopping area and dinosaur nature theme park founded originally in 1991. Adults who love unusual, nature-inspired gifts can browse the shops while kids enjoy visiting the world of the dinosaurs. Phone: 860-437-3615.

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. The hike is less than a quarter of a mile on easy terrain. There is a solitary grave on this forest – a memorial to a soldier. The gravestone is weathering away, but you can still see the soldier’s name, the date, cause of death, and his age. Phone: 295-9523

Alpaca, Not Llama

Take a break from the hectic world around you with a visit to the gently rolling countryside of western Connecticut and a world-class alpaca farm in Watertown. Learn why the curious gentle alpaca's fiber is comparable only to cashmere. You'll relax and maybe laugh a bit at the antics of these wonderful animals. As you tour South Wind Farms, get to know the alpaca family, and peruse the many different types of yarn and other alpaca products the farm has to offer. South Wind Farms welcomes visitors, but please call ahead to schedule. Phone: 860-274-9001.

Barns, Books, and Time for Browsing

Old books, old maps, old postcards. People who can browse for hours among this type of treasure should beat a path to Whitlock's Book Barn on Sperry Road in Bethany. The business is, in fact, a barn and a former turkey house stuffed with many thousands of used books, maps, and prints. Much of the material comes from estate sales and people reducing their libraries. The business has been operating since 1948, receiving a steady stream of buyers and sellers of books, maps, and ephemera. Fans of maps will savor the selection of maps from the 1800s, including hundreds of maps by town and by county from 21 states. The collection includes maps by Mitchell, Colton, Tilden & Baker, and the Beers family. There also is a selection of international maps. The barns are open Tuesdays through Sundays. Phone: 203-393-1240.

And That’s Segway It Is

Not everyone wants to own a Segway, but that doesn’t mean you cannot try it out. Shoreline Segway tours offers guided Segway tours (following instruction and practice) in Guilford, Hammonasset Park in Madison and in the Mystic area. All rides are a 30-minute practice session followed by a one-hour ride. Rides are offered daily and year-round, weather permitting. The Guilford and Hammonasset tours glide through the Guilford historic district to the marina on Long Island Sound. The Hammonasset Park ride moves along bike trails near the beach and out to the wetlands viewing platforms. The Mystic tour travels through town, across the historic Mystic Bridge and along scenic River Road. Segway tours make great gifts, and gift certificates are available. Tours offered year-round, weather permitting, by appointment. Phone: 203-453-6036 or 203-215-3900.

Connecticut's Chocolate Trails

In the chillier months of the year, why not stop for a tasty treat on your scenic drive? Chocolate is an internationally adored food, and Connecticut's chocolatiers will show you why -- if you're not a chocaholic already! Connecticut's Chocolate Trails include lots of delectable treasures all over the state. The Chocolate Rain Shop in Norwalk offers customizable gifts. Chesire's CocoaShack is a tasty pit stop, with fresh s'mores and Mexican hot chocolate. Travelers say that Thorncrest Farm in Goshen is worthy of making this list, too. From handmade holiday chocolates, to freshly-made exotic deliciousness, this list of chocolatiers is a must-taste New England tradition.

Bluff Point Beckons to Walkers, Skiers

Bluff Point Coastal Reserve in Groton offers the visitor a delightful mixture of wooded hiking and cross-country skiing trails coupled with spectacular wildlife viewing on Long Island Sound. Because of its Coastal Reserve designation, access to the bluff is by foot or non-motorized vehicle only. The trail to the bluff passes through wooded and open areas until the view broadens as the bluff is approached. Here vegetation is more sparse and diminutive because of wind exposure. Among the plants to be found at the headland are native beach plum, beach pea and red and white shore roses.

Arboretum Is a Portal to Nature

Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens at 151 Brookdale Road in Stamford offers a retreat for quiet outdoor walks every day of the year. The 90-acre property has champion trees, gardens, wildflower meadows, red maple wetlands and boardwalks, and woodland walking trails. The arboretum’s Silver Center hosts art displays and summer concerts. Warm weather includes guided tours of gardens and wetlands and meadows. Even -- maybe especially -- in winter, this is a refuge for a deep breath in the wild. Open daily. Phone: 203-322-6971

Old State House is Showplace of Connecticut Achievements

From the earliest days of the Hartford settlement, the site of the Old State House at 800 Main Street in Hartford has served as the magnetic center of the region we know today as Connecticut. The earliest colonists were drawn here, nurturing ideas of freedom and self-government. A beautifully-restored architectural marvel, the Old State House welcomes visitors for guided and self-guided tours. Days of operation vary seasonally; check website. Phone: 860-522-6766.

Ambler Hosts Farm Fun Year-Round

Ambler Farm, at 257 Hurlbutt Street in Wilton is a 200-year-old farm now managed as a working farm, educational resource, and open space for the public. People are welcome to drop in any time to walk, visit the animals, stop by the farm stand, spread a picnic. Adults and kids can watch the sheep-shearing; learn to knit and do other traditional crafts; enjoy the maple syrup harvest; and much more. Annual special events include Ambler Farm Day, Valentine’s Tea, and the Summertime Barbecue. New events are in the works. Open every day of the year from dawn to dusk. Phone: 203-834-1143.

Indian Museum Presents History of America's Natives

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, the Woodland Indians of New England. Changing exhibits highlight Native American culture from across America, while permanent exhibits focus on American Indian living traditions of the northeast. Outdoor exhibits and attractions include a replicated Algonkian Village and simulated archeological site. The Museum Gift Shop offers the best in Native American jewelry, crafts, pottery, books and more. Open year-round. Phone: 860-868-0518.

Come Tube With Me!

The question we have about snow tubing is, “What took so long?” The sport is simple, and a blast. Just hop onto an inflated tube and slide down the hill. Best of all there are now lifts to take you back up to do it all over again. This is great fun for little ones, as well as the over-grown kid in all of us. Woodbury ski area at 785 Washington Road Woodbury has 15 snow tubing runs offering almost a mile of tubing trails, three parks, and four lifts. It is the largest snow tubing destination in Connecticut, and the closest to New York City. Trails are lighted for night use. Phone: 203-263-2203.

Sanctuary Is Home to Birds of Many Feathers

Connecticut Audubon Society’s Birdcraft Museum on Unquowa Road in Fairfield is an intimate natural history museum with its own songbird sanctuary. This family-friendly museum offers first-class natural history programs and exhibits to bird lovers of all ages. Planted in 1914 as a refuge to attract, and harbor migratory and resident birds, the six-acre site has sheltered more than 120 species of birds. A bridge over a pond on the property allows close-up views of the sanctuary and its inhabitants. Visitors can observe a honeybee hive, a collection of African animals, and other changing exhibits, and attend scheduled demonstrations of bird-banding in spring and fall. Phone: 203-259-0416.

History, Art, and Natural Beauty Indoors and Out

Enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors on 118 woodland acres at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center on Newfield Avenue in Stamford. The property includes a New England working farm, hiking trails, picnic area, Nature's playground, boardwalk, galleries for interactive exhibitions with hands-on area for children, two stores, special events, planetarium. Lots of special events, including Spring Family Festival, wine tastings, antique car shows.Phone:203-322-1646

Buffalo Do Roam at This Expansive Playground

You don’t need to mosey out to the Dakotas to enjoy the sight of free-roaming buffalo. Creamery Brook Bison Farm in Brooklyn offers guided walking tours where visitors may observe groups of animals, make ice cream and butter, or eat lunch at a picnic area. There is also a 40-minute wagon ride through a working dairy farm and out to the fields to where the buffalo live. Watch the buffalo cows and calves come to the wagon for a snack of hay and grain. Other fun for families includes a farmyard petting area, a stand serving gourmet ice cream, and a gift shop. Call ahead for public hours. Phone: 860-779-0837.

Three Centuries of History Come Alive

Kids and adults will find Colonial history alive and lively at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, 211 Main Street Wethersfield. Tours of the museum immerse visitors in the 18th and 19th centuries as they hear tales of the charm, hardship, and political intrigue. The property includes the 1752 Joseph Webb House, where Gen. George Washington and French Lieut.-Gen. Rochambeau planned the military campaign at Yorktown, Virginia; and the 1770 Silas Deane House and 1788 Isaac Stevens House. Nearby Old Wethersfield has 300 historic houses. Museum open year-round except January to March. Phone: 860-529-0612

Shopping Chauvinism Isn't a Bad Thing

The Connecticut Store on Bank Street in Waterbury is the flagship outlet for Made in Connecticut products. Particularly if you are searching for great gifts or luxuries for the home for a Nutmeg State expatriate who has wandered afar, visit the Connecticut Store. The store offers products by Wiffle Ball, Bovano, Woodbury Pewter, Waterbury Button, PEZ, Liberty Candle, Alynn Neckwear and many more.

Walk Though Mark Twain’s Happiest Home

You know and love him through his distinct voice in America literature. You can travel to the capital city of Hartford to visit the home where Samuel Clemens (or, the great write Mark Twain) spent some of the most happy and productive years of his stormy life. The Mark Twain House & Museum at 351 Farmington Avenue in Hartford consists of his meticulously restored house -- a particular gem of Victorian distinctiveness with a wealth of odd architectural flourishes-- alongside a museum describing his life and works. Phone: 860-247-0998.

A Bookstore With a Serious Love of Reading and Writing

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, making this a perfect attraction for readers and writers alike. Open daily, Phone: 203-245-3959.

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, the Woodland Indians of New England. 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 the best in Native American jewelry, crafts, pottery, books and more. Open year-round. Phone: 860-868-0518.

Coffeehouse Concerts and Year-Round Fun

Located on Lang Road in Windsor, Northwest Park & Nature Center is a 473-acre recreational facility that has the virtue of staying open and lively throughout the year. There is a nature center, 12 miles of trails to enjoy during the winter and summer, maple sugaring, a Coffee House Concert Series that brings live music to listeners, and more. Annual events include Country Fair, pancake breakfasts, maple sugaring demonstrations, owl prowls, holiday wreath-making workshop and other forms of fun for all ages. Nice outdoor activities for parents and kids. Phone: 860-285-1886

Antiques Along the Shore

It’s no secret that the town of Clinton has become a hot spot for browsing and buying fine antiques. Susan Alon, proprietor of the MiRIAMGREEN Antiquarian Bookshop & Gallery in Clinton, has written “… a constellation of new shops dealing strictly with ... antiques & specialty goods ... has opened in previously unoccupied and in many cases historic real estate, bringing a new look to the Clinton downtown and a new audience, the upscale antiquers.” The Clinton Antique Center, a 70-dealer shop at 78 East Main Street, is a huge influence. However, Alon noted, “…clustered closely along Main Street within the space of four or so miles, you have the opportunity of viewing the merchandise of dozens of dealers, and benefit from their experience, taste, and connoisseurship.”

Coffee and Tea, and the Music Is Free

Bean & Leaf, at 13 Washington Street in the historic waterfront district of New London opened its doors as a bright, relaxing and welcoming place to enjoy exquisite coffees and teas. It has evolved into a roost in this beautiful old downtown for people who enjoy those beverages, along with conversation, light-and-healthy food, and excellent, free music events. Comfortable seating, including some couches, is just right to enjoy live music almost nightly, including a jazz combo on Mondays and finger-picking acoustic guitar on Fridays. No cover to enjoy the music! Menu includes juices, salads and soups, bean dishes, toasted sandwiches, pitazzas, chips and dips. It is just what a classic coffee house should be. Open daily until 10 p.m.; Sundays until 8 p.m. New London's Historic Waterfront District is a hub of art, music, and design venues, unusual boutiques, and 30 eateries in a 26-block National Register Historic District. Phone: 860-701-0000.

Food Trucks -- A La Carte in the Heart of New Haven

The heart of New Haven’s downtown gets a lot of its soul from the popular and plentiful outdoor food vendors that cluster up on weekdays in the streets and intersections near Yale-New Haven Hospital, the New Haven Green, and Yale University. The cuisine from the food stands spans the globe and it is easy to eat from one hand during a time-out from office or classroom. Favorites include the Caseus Cheese Truck (Depalma Court), the Tijuana Taco Company (Crown Street); Hayama Cart or the Lalibela Cart (Prospect and Sachem streets); the Peking Edo Cart or Jung’s Kimchi Corner or the Ay! Salsa Cart (Cedar and York streets). Along with cumin and chili peppers, variety gives the spice to life. Keep your ears sharp for live music events in the warm seasons.

Connecticut Art Trail: Meet the Bruce Museum

For a project to keep your mind and senses active, set yourself a goal of visiting the 15 world-class museums and historic sites and attractions that comprise the Connecticut Art Trail. One of the most appealing museums in the Fairfield region is the Bruce Museum at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich. Build as a private home in 1853, The Bruce is a world-class repository to enjoy art, science and natural history in more than a dozen changing exhibitions annually. For an idea of the museum's breadth of interest, look at a recent selection of exhibits: Northern Baroque Splendor, Roz Chast, Beyond the New Yorker, and Extreme Habitats. The museum offers tours and hosts seasonal festivals.

Ahhh at the Spa in Norwich

Ahhh at the Spa Who doesn’t need a little soothing care from time to time? The Spa at Norwich Inn , 607 West Thames Street in Norwich begins the healing process the moment you arrive at its 40-acre property of gardens, ponds, and walkways in the lovely Connecticut woodlands. Parking valets will welcome you to the facility, where experts in massage, facials, and a full range of other spa services stand ready to sooth and heal. Sporty guests can enjoy the fitness center. Hair styling and skin care is available. You do not need to be a guest at the inn to use the spa services. Come and treat yourself for a day or a weekend, one of the best things to do when you want to relax. Phone: 800-ASK-4-SPA.

Try Olde Mistick Village for Nostalgic Shopping

Olde Mistick Village, on Coogan Blvd. in Mystic, just off Exit 90 of I-95, is a quirky but really fun place to shop, especially as the Christmas season approaches. It is an open-air shopping center set up to resemble a Colonial village, complete with duck ponds, a waterwheel and replica of a steepled New England meetinghouse, where performances and special events take place. Visitors can wander along brick pathways to our more than 40 stores that sell exceptional gift items from the world over. The meeting house and Victorian gazebo host performances of musicians, dancers, and storytellers free of charge, will bring back the nostalgia of yesteryear. Lots of seasonal things to do and events include a fest of lights at Christmas and egg hunts at Easter. Open daily, year-round. Phone: 860-536-4941.

Art Museum Trail Focuses on Yale

Here is an activity that can keep you busy year-round: explore the 15 world-class museums and historic sites that comprise the Connecticut Art Trail. The trail meanders among historic sites, bucolic farms, art studios and artists' houses to grand and modern art museums in vibrant downtowns. Discover diverse, quality collections rich in history and heritage, including European masterpieces, American Impressionism, ancient art and contemporary culture. The trail includes a feature called Trail Getaways that presents recommended itineraries along with helpful suggestions for nearby places to visit and dine. In the Greater New Haven region the trail includes the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven.

Come Visit Connecticut’s Beautiful Barns

Barns have been called the biggest tool on the farm. These icons of a place’s farming life have caught the attention of Connecticut historians, who have undertaken a large survey of the state’s barns. The barns project also created a Connecticut Barn Trail, which people can explore at their own pace. The trail has seven routes that highlight the presence of barns at farms and farm stands, orchards, wineries, and historic sites. The routes travel along beautiful roads with barns scattered in the landscape. Trail guides are through the barn project website. Phone: 203-562-6312.

High-Tone Shopping in Outlet Form

Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets with 70 upscale stores features an impressive collection of the finest designer labels and brands for you, your family and your home. Located on Killingworth Turnpike in the town of Clinton, an easy stop directly off of I-95, this is Connecticut's only upscale outlet center, making it the perfect destination for a day of shopping activities. A VIP Shopper Club offers exclusive savings, like 50 Plus Shopper Perks. Lots of individual in-store promotions are happening all the time. Seasonal entertainment for shoppers and even for the children. Phone: 860-664-0700

Kate, in Spirit

The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center at 300 Main Street in Old Saybrook is a performing arts organization located in an historic theater and town hall. Opened in 1911 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building has been renovated and now includes a 250-seat theater and a small museum full of attractions honoring Katharine Hepburn, Old Saybrook’s most celebrated resident. The building, known locally as “the Kate,” has just turned 99 and, like good wine, it has improved with age. Trained docents lead tours and fill you in on its rich history as they guide you through Old Saybrook’s crown jewel. (for tours, call 60-510-0473). The theater itself offer offers programming for all ages and tastes. Phone: 877-503-1286.

Dig Into Science at This Riveting Museum

Fly to Mars. Forecast a blizzard. Play with solar energy. Turn yourself into art. Manage brainwaves -- maybe your own! Build a wind machine. Diagnose injuries. See what it’s like to live in a 4-dimensional world. This is a list of experiments you can learn and try at the Connecticut Science Center on Columbus Boulevard in Hartford. This dynamic place is a whirl of learning in action. Consider the titles of some of the exhibits: Sight and Sound, River of Life, Exploring Space, Invention Dimension. Wow. Come and enjoy. Phone: 860-SCIENCE.

Animals of the Forest, Explained by Experts

The White Memorial Conservation Center at 80 Whitehall Road in Litchfield is a place to enjoy the great outdoors and also to learn more about it. The 4,000-acre preserve includes a Nature Museum. Plan a visit here with the amateur biologist of the family. The museum takes has dioramas and fine works of illustration to help tell the story of this wild place. Huge photo murals and animal mounts illustrate the marshes, fields, and forests on this preserve. A special exhibit on the Art of Taxidermy tells the secrets of this craft. A children's room has a live snake home, a beaver dam, a fluorescent rock cave, a bird sculpture garden, and other awesome stuff of the great outdoors. Open year-round, daily. Phone: 860-567-0857

Beauty, History of Connecticut River on Display

If you are drawn to the Connecticut River by the beauty of its unspoiled marshlands, the Connecticut River Museum on Main Street in Essex offers an exceptional vantage point in all seasons. From its docks you can see bald eagles, migratory birds, and a wide variety of waterfowl. The tidal wetlands that surround the Museum are an environmental treasure and a beautiful natural attraction. The family-friendly exhibits are filled with art and artifacts that link the river’s stories to our lives today. Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Phone: 860-767-8269.