Best of Connecticut 2020 | Hall of Fame

Yankee editors pick the top dining, lodging, and attractions in Connecticut in our first-ever Hall of Fame list.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 06 2020

hartford mark twain house

The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut.

Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey

A note from the editors: After Yankee published its summer travel guide, many of the terrific destinations that it showcases have changed their operations in light of COVID-19. But while you may not be able to dine out, book a stay, or go explore shops, museums, and other attractions right now, you can help ensure they are ready to go when the current crisis recedes. Just contact your favorite New England small business or nonprofit attraction, and they’ll be happy to tell you how. 

hartford mark twain house
The Mark Twain House in Hartford
Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey

For almost half a century, Yankee’s summer travel guide has showcased New England’s must-visit destinations and diversions. This year, our first-ever Hall of Fame salutes 230 past winners that continue to wow us today.

Best of Connecticut | Hall of Fame


Arethusa al Tavolo

Arethusa Farm owners and Manolo Blahnik execs George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis added this casual-elegant eatery to their agrarian empire in 2013. Chef Dan Magill styles dishes such as foraged mushrooms and Camembert ravioli with primo ingredients, including dairy from Arethusa’s pampered cows. 860-567-0043;

Community Table

Community Table may be home to the most forward-thinking Nordic-inspired cuisine in the state, but the ingredients are proudly New England. The frequently changing menu reflects collaborations with nearby farms and fishermen, as well as foraged wild ingredients and house-made honey and bread. 860-868-9354;

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
New Haven

The big rivals in New Haven’s pizza wars, Frank Pepe and Sally’s Apizza, are both masters of the thin-crust, coal-fired pie. But we have a serious weak spot for the white clam pies at Pepe’s: the crispy yet chewy crust, the briny little clams, the gobs of minced garlic. And while Pepe’s has other franchises around New England, nothing beats the original. 203-865-5762;


Chefs and farmers Mark and Ami Shadle are driven to make healthful, sustainable cuisine accessible and inventive. At their all-organic eatery, things like burgers and pastas are ingeniously crafted without animal-derived ingredients. The same conscientiousness goes into the lineup of elixirs, cocktails, wines, and craft brews. 203-208-0443;

Lobster Landing

This marina-side shack is tricky to find but worth the effort. The menu board typically features just three items, and the headliner is the superlative lobster roll: toasted sub rolls loaded with a quarter pound of freshly shelled, lemon-spritzed, butter-slathered lobster. 860-669-2005; Facebook

Louis Lunch
New Haven

Few eateries can survive with just 25 seats and a handful of menu items, but this one, on the National Register of Historic Places as the birthplace of the hamburger, has been going strong since 1895. A trip to New Haven isn’t complete without a Louis burger. 203-562-5507;

O’Rourke’s Diner

The next-level fare that springs from the mind of chef-owner Brian O’Rourke makes the battle for diner supremacy in Connecticut no contest. Beloved dishes such as Irish soda bread French toast are available all day, but once lunchtime kicks in, steamed cheeseburgers are the “when in Connecticut” choice. 860-346-6101;

The Place

They arrive at your table in a bath of buttery cocktail sauce, still on a grill grate, straight off the wood fire. Instantly you understand why folks have been pulling off Route 1 to savor roasted littlenecks here since 1971. Actually, this casual, seasonal clambake restaurant’s origins stretch back to the 1940s, and one other thing has never changed: tree stumps for seats. 203-453-9276;

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale

Educated palates enjoy each season’s diverse pairings, such as parsnip and apple soup, tamarind-glazed squab, and spiced bread pudding. Owner Tim LaBant, who worked under Ming Tsai and Frank McClelland, recently handed off chef duties to Michelle Greenfield, who honed her skills at other top Connecticut restaurants. 203-834-9816;

UConn Dairy Bar

Students, professors, and local families—who insist this is the state’s best ice cream—have flocked here for over 50 years. Look for the famed basketball team’s namesake: Husky Tracks. 860-486-1021;


Boardman House Inn
East Haddam

An expertise in architectural restoration makes Swedish innkeepers Andre and Mia Hymander ideal stewards of this 1860 mansion. You’ll perceive only comfort—in touches like downy bedding and heated bathroom floors—and none of the labor that the Hymanders put into fashioning this peaceful retreat. 860-873-9233;

The Copper Beech Inn

With 22 spacious, distinctly different rooms in three buildings; four indoor and garden-view outdoor dining spaces; seasonally and locally influenced menus; and an exceptional beverage list, no two stays at the Copper Beech Inn are the same—but they’re always memorable. 860-767-0330;

The Goodwin Hotel

If you require plush digs while in Hartford, this is the place. The 1881 Queen Anne–style Goodwin building, located across from the Hartford Civic Center, has been fully rejuvenated with high-tech amenities, enticing dining, and a contemporary design aesthetic. 860-246-1881;

The Inn at Harbor Hill Marina

As Niantic’s stature has swelled to rival Mystic’s, this perfectly situated B&B has expanded too. You’ll love sitting down to breakfast with a view of boats in the harbor before you select one of the innkeepers’ secret-filled itineraries and set out on a coastal escapade. 860-739-0331;

The Inn at Stonington

Situated in a picturesque seaside village, the Inn at Stonington offers 18 cozy rooms, many with fireplaces and Jacuzzis as well as balconies and views of the village and Fishers Island Sound. Restaurants, shops, a lighthouse museum, and a little beach are steps away. 860-535-2000;

Madison Beach Hotel

This AAA Four Diamond property has roots that stretch back to the 1800s, but the original building was razed in 2009 to make way for the current 32-room getaway that’s right on the beach (and just a short drive from Hammonasset Beach State Park). It offers all the mod cons and fantastic views of Long Island Sound—and Rover is welcome, too. 203-245-1404;

The Riverwind Inn
Deep River

Wake up to a gourmet breakfast (think pesto-splashed poached eggs Caprese on homemade English muffins) and relax in a front porch rocking chair or by the fire pit out back. When you’re ready for a change of scenery, innkeepers Stacie and Mike DiNello are eager to suggest local meals, theaters, and outdoor adventures. 860-526-2014;

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa
Old Saybrook

It’s more than just luxury and water views all around at this 82-room travel trifecta (inn, spa, marina). Saybrook Point’s nearly 30 years of eco-innovation has reduced its energy use by half. Noticeable initiatives include solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, and locally focused cuisine. 860-395-2000;

The Spa at Norwich Inn

At this former Georgian manor turned luxe getaway, the R&R comes via state-of-the-art spa treatments, a health-conscious restaurant, tennis, and swimming. Sound too tame? You’re just five minutes from the action at Mohegan Sun, and 15 from Foxwoods and the MGM Grand. 860-425-3500;

Steamboat Inn

Visitors to Mystic will do well to book a room at the Steamboat Inn, the only waterfront digs in a historic town surrounded by water. Outside the door are shops, restaurants, and an iconic drawbridge. Most of the 10 tastefully decorated guest rooms have a working fireplace, whirlpool tub, and windows that frame views of boats plying the Mystic River. 860-536-8300;


This over-the-top resort had tongues wagging the minute it debuted in 2007. Its 18 lodging options are one-of-a-kind architectural gems that include a fully restored 1968 helicopter and a treehouse cottage. Winvian is a Relais & Châteaux property (as you’ll realize at dinner, a four-course feast), and it’s no surprise the place books up quickly with summer weddings. 860-567-9600;


Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

The young and young at heart love this nostalgic trip through the Connecticut River Valley, which begins with coal-fired locomotives pulling vintage railroad cars through historic river towns. At Deep River Landing, passengers board the Becky Thatcher, a Mississippi-style riverboat, for a cruise upstream before returning home on the rails. 860-767-0103;

Florence Griswold Museum
Old Lyme

As the landlady to many of America’s most famous plein air painters, Florence Griswold served as midwife to American Impressionism. A painstaking restoration has returned her home to its circa 1910 heyday, when Childe Hassam and other artists painted scenes on the dining room walls and doors in lieu of rent. Today it anchors an 11-acre museum complex that celebrates creativity with a packed calendar of programs and exhibits. 860-434-5542;

Gillette Castle State Park
East Haddam

High above the banks of the Connecticut River, actor William Gillette (known for portraying Sherlock Holmes) built this quirky fieldstone fortress as a 24-room home with handcrafted locks (47 in all) and spy mirrors. Now a state park, it offers great picnicking, hiking, and overnight camping. 860-526-2336;

Goodspeed Opera House
East Haddam

A hallowed ground for musical theater buffs, this Victorian wedding cake of a theater was the birthplace of Tony winners Annie and Man of La Mancha, and it has even won two special Tony Awards itself. The play’s the thing here, though there’s also drama in the river views from the lounge and vintage charm in the Green Room. 860-873-8668;

Hammonasset Beach State Park

With over two miles of sand, Hammonasset checks in as Connecticut’s largest beach, a golden crescent perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing. Inland, the park’s 1,100 acres are prime real estate for all kinds of recreation. Don’t miss the Meigs Point Nature Center, which offers hands-on fun with a touch tank and environmental programming. 203-245-2785;

Mark Twain House & Museum

Though we generally ascribe qualities of modesty and frugality to New England’s old houses, this magnificent 25-room mansion speaks of Hartford’s heyday as a commercial powerhouse, and its exuberance expresses its famous owner’s larger-than-life personality. 860-247-0998;

Mashantucket Pequot Museum

The tribe that brought us the world’s biggest casino also gives us a state-of-the-art museum. The exhibits, stunning dioramas, and re-created Pequot village, complete with sound effects, enhance our awareness of and appreciation for this remarkable nation’s story. 860-396-6910;

Mystic Seaport

The state’s no. 1 attraction continues to pack ’em in. It’s a living museum, re-creating a 19th-century seafaring village with restored houses, all manner of shops, and tall ships. What makes it all work are the interpreter-cheerleaders in period dress who staff the shops, do hearth cooking, and lead sea chanteys. 860-572-0711;

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

America’s oldest continuously operating public art museum has been growing its collection since the brushstrokes on Hudson River School landscapes were barely dry. A $33 million renovation completed in 2015 revitalized exhibit spaces for some 50,000 works spanning 5,000 years of human creativity. 860-278-2670;

Yale University Museums
New Haven

The Yale University Art Galleryshowcases classic canvases by Hals, Trumbull, and van Gogh, among others—world-class art, all for free. Across the street, and also free, is the Yale Center for British Art, the premier collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. There’s more than enough to keep you occupied until Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural Historyreopens in 2023 after a $200 million renovation.

See More:
Best of New England 2020 | Hall of Fame