By Yankee Magazine
Jun 01 2017
Yale Peabody Natural History Museum | Best Things to Do in Connecticut
Weekends with Yankee cohost Richard Wiese may be a world-class explorer, but he still calls Connecticut home. Since he’s seen a fair share of the Nutmeg State on both solo and family adventures, we asked him for a handful of his picks for the best things to do in Connecticut.
Trout Brook Valley Preserve in Weston is a great place to hike and admire nature, with a nice variety of in-terrain difficulty. It’s also home to my favorite spot to cross-country ski during the winter. The 1,756-acre Lucius Pond Ordway/Devil’s Den Preserve, in both Weston and Redding, is another favorite for outdoor exploring. For fly fishing, the Saugatuck River, which flows from above West Redding to the Long Island Sound, is a perfect spot; the mammoth trout that dwell in a stretch just off Ford Road Westport are a well-kept secret. For skiing, Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall is Connecticut’s best (and most affordable) ski mountain resort. It’s ideal for beginners and just big enough to keep advanced skiers interested, too.
Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent is a beautiful park where you can camp right along the brook. Silver Hill Campsite on the Appalachian Trail in Cornwall Bridge offers scenic backcountry seclusion along with great sunrise views of the Housatonic River; it’s also close to other trails and sights like St. John’s Ledges. Finally, Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam is a cool state park with interesting rock formations known as Scotland schist. Camp near the park’s scenic waterfall in one of 21 wooded campsites.
The Westport Playhousein Westport is the go-to for first-class shows at very reasonable prices, and truly offers a big-city feel in an otherwise small town. For fantastic architecture and beautiful grounds, try Grace Farms in New Canaan: This incredible new center dedicated to faith, nature, arts, community and justice initiatives is worth visiting whether you have a few minutes or a few hours. Programs include deep and enlightening lectures on topics ranging from nature to human rights. Insider tip: The coffee in the café is fantastic.
As a lifelong fan of natural history museums, I love the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven. Founded in 1866, it has exhibits dedicated to evolution, Egyptian history, minerals, wildlife, and the Native Americans of Connecticut. My favorite “hidden gem” museum is the Glass House in New Canaan, one of the most interesting modern house museums around, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling glass exterior.
I crave the tacos at Bartaco in Westport (additional Connecticut locations are in West Hartford and Stamford). The food, which includes more than a dozen taco varieties, is delicious, and the eatery is located right on the water. The wood-fired pizza at Bufalina in Guilford comes in traditional styles like margherita as well as weekly specials in interesting combinations like lamb and mint; the salads are great, too. For barbecue, the Wire Mill Saloon & Barbecue in Georgetown serves up awesome smoked baby back ribs in portions big enough to take home leftovers. It’s especially nice in summer, when you can sit outside.
For dessert, the homemade ice cream at Ferris Acres Creamery in Newtown, a 2017 Yankee Editors’ Pick for best ice cream in Connecticut, is by far the best I’ve ever had. Flavors include New England favorites like black raspberry and maple walnut, plus a host of rotating special flavors.
The Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton is my pick for the most romantic restaurant in Connecticut. Housed in an old schoolhouse, this farm-to-table spot offers delicious dishes in an intimate dining room. If you like fireside dining, Tavern on Main in Westport is the place to go for clam chowder and grilled cheese during another cold Connecticut winter. In summer, the outdoor BYOB seafood dining experience at the Place in Guilford makes it one of my all-time favorite Connecticut dining spots. Try the fire-roasted clams!
In addition to its farm stand and Christmas trees,Castle Hill Farm in Newtown offers a seven-acre corn maze in the fall that’s a great family activity. Top it off with a visit to the farm’s pumpkin patch. From spring through the fall, Lake Compounce amusement and water park in Bristol (opened in 1846, it’s America’s oldest amusement park) is a favorite among families and kids of all ages, thanks to a dizzying collection of water rides, thrill rides, kiddie rides, shows, and more. I think my kids would live there if they could…
Finally, bring the whole family to a Connecticut Tigers game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich for a fun minor league baseball experience. If you like the thought of catching a ball game (maybe with a hot dog and cold beer?) on a warm summer night with minimum hassle, the Tigers experience is tough to beat.
The Hickories in Ridgefield is a terrific stop for local farm produce (take a minute to enjoy the picturesque surroundings, too). On the organic side, Wells Hill Farm in Weston utilizes model organic growing practices with bonus views of Long Island Sound. Jones Family Farms in Shelton is another favorite for a day of family berry picking (both strawberry and blueberry).
What would you include on a list of best things to do in Connecticut? Let us know!
Learn more about Weekends with Yankee cohost Richard Wiese.