Best of Connecticut 2021 | The Outdoors Edition

Yankee editors pick the top Connecticut attractions, dining, and lodging that highlight having fun in the New England outdoors.

By Yankee Editors

Apr 26 2021


Lobster Landing in Clinton, CT

Photo Credit : Kelsey Liebenson-Morse
TRAVEL NOTE:Before setting out to visit any of our Best of New England winners, please contact them or check online for updates on hours and operations this summer.
Lobster Landing | The Best Lobster Roll in CT?
Lobster Landing | The Best Lobster Roll in CT?
Photo Credit : Kelsey Liebenson-Morse

Best Connecticut Outdoor Attractions

DRIVE-IN THEATER Mansfield Drive-In Theatre and Marketplace, Mansfield Though this 40-acre complex hosts eastern Connecticut’s largest flea market, the main attraction since 1954 has been cinema under the stars. Three screens show first-run features and old-school flicks via digital projection, while the snack bar serves up everything from clam fritters to fried Oreos. mansfielddrivein.comFARM ANIMAL FUN Silverman’s Farm, Easton It’s not just the usual suspects like llamas, sheep, and goats that approach you for a pat and a nibble of grain. Meet shaggy Highland cattle, rams with extravagant horns, and pot-bellied pigs—all adoptees given a forever home by the Silverman family. Allow plenty of time for picnicking and for picking fruits and veggies. FLEA MARKET Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market, NewMilford With about 500 vendors, this is reputedly New England’s largest weekly flea market—and it’s certainly among the best-known, thanks to HGTV’s Flea Market Flip. Scour the displays for collectibles, then stop at the farmers’ market stands and food trucks for provisions. Sundays from April to December. etflea.comOUTDOOR MUSEUM Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic America’s preeminent maritime museum preserves not only two million artifacts but also the heartbeat of the golden age of wooden shipbuilding on the Mystic River. Interact with artisans and storytellers as you wander the 19th-century village, and climb aboard vessels like the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaleship afloat. mysticseaport.orgPUBLIC GOLF COURSE Richter Park, Danbury These 180 acres lie beside a reservoir and a pond, and water offers a challenge on nearly all holes. Fairways winding through woods bordered with stone walls lend the feeling of being in a New England landscape painting. While long a magnet for locals, nonresidents can play anytime and also can reserve tee times nine days in advance. richterpark.comPYO FRUIT FARM Lyman Orchards, Middlefield At one of America’s oldest family businesses (c. 1741), all of your faves are on the roster: blueberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, apples, pumpkins, and jostaberries. Never heard of that last one? Lyman is the Northeast’s only commercial grower of these sweet-tart hybrids.

Best Connecticut Outdoor Dining

CITY PATIO DINING La Terrasse, NewHaven The Union League Café has always set a high-water mark for fine dining in New Haven, and La Terrasse, its Paris-inspired outdoor eatery, brings that excellence to an alfresco setting. The menu is more streamlined, but there’s a lovely progression from small bites to raw bar to prix fixe dinners. unionleaguecafe.comCRAFT BREWERY New England Brewing Co., Woodbridge Here, tangy IPAs like Sea Hag and Fuzzy Baby Ducks plus myriad other tasty ales and lagers lure beer hounds off the Merritt Parkway before they head to nearby New Haven for their requisite pizza order at Frank Pepe, Sally’s, or Modern. newenglandbrewing.comFARM STAND Sport Hill Farm, Easton At the height of the season, you’ll find nearly 100 varieties of produce to choose from, along with fresh eggs from free-ranging hens. The stand also carries a curated assortment of items from other local producers, including bread and honey. sporthillfarm.comICE CREAM STAND Ferris Acres Creamery, Newtown Standing in line for a scoop, you may well spot the herd of cows in the nearby rolling hills that call Ferris Acres home. This luscious ice cream is made daily in inventive flavors, drawing locals and visitors alike since the creamery was founded in 2003. ferrisacrescreamery.comLOBSTER SHACK Lobster Landing, Clinton From his shack’s waterfront setting to its clamshell driveway, owner Enea Bacci could probably cash in on atmosphere alone, but his care in producing a perfect hot-and-buttered roll is almost heroic: Lobster meat par-cooked in a rich broth, then gently finished in butter with a squeeze of lemon and stuffed into a custom-made, griddled bun. DINING Millwright’s, Simsbury In a beautiful post-and-beam dining room with tall windows framing the river and waterfall below, chef-owner Tyler Anderson delivers the kind of innovative, seasonally driven food that’s made him a seven-time James Beard nominee. millwrightsrestaurant.comWINERY Gouveia Vineyards, Wallingford It would be worth a visit to this vineyard for the views alone: a 360-degree panorama encompassing vineyards, woodlands, and fields. Sample your way through the award-winning lineup of more than a dozen wines year-round; in summer you can also try Gouveia’s Portuguese-inspired sangria and, in winter, mulled wine.

Best Connecticut Lodging: The Outdoors Edition

FARM STAY Chatfield Hollow Inn at Chatfield Hollow Farm, Killingworth Set beside a koi-filled pond, this log-cabin inn has three woodsy-chic suites with spa-style bathrooms and optional attached single rooms. Explore 26 acres, the domain of black swans, hens, and peacocks, where the chief crop is shiitake mushrooms, grown using traditional Japanese techniques. chfbandb.comHOTEL ON THE BEACH Madison Beach Hotel, Madison A Hilton-family boutique property that was rebuilt nine years ago to emulate its historic predecessor, Madison Beach Hotel’s private stretch of sand, jaunty navy-blue shade umbrellas, balconied rooms, alfresco dining, and peachy-pink sunsets combine to make it the ultimate on-the-water escape. PORCH The West Lane Inn, Ridgefield Rich mahogany floorboards on the full-length front porch are one of many discoveries that new owners have made while refreshing this 1849 inn, located a quick stroll from downtown. Locally baked scones and iced local coffee accent warm-weather breakfasts on the porch. westlaneinn.comLAKESIDE CAMPGROUND Lake Waramaug State Park, Kent Tucked away in the Litchfield Hills is one of the most cherished campgrounds in the Nutmeg State. The 76 sites are set in a forest near the waters of majestic Lake Waramaug. Go swimming at the beach, fish for bass, or grab the canoe in the early morning hours for a quiet paddle. LODGE Legends on the Farmington, Barkhamsted Just downstream from 4,000 acres of state-protected forest, this post-and-beam lodge with six B&B rooms lures serious anglers and mainstream vacationers alike. Outside flows the Farmington River, renowned for year-round fly fishing. One lesson with a hired guide, and you’ll be hooked.

See More: Best of New England 2021 | The Outdoors Edition