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It seems like it’s been a long, long wait this time, but the warm weather is here at last, and summer—official summer—is just around the corner.
These are fleeting days, so it’s best to make some plans. With that in mind, we’ve gathered some ideas on the pages that follow: attractions and events that will make your summer nights special, cool moves for hot days, and Connecticut islands that should be on your itinerary.
Experience it all, enjoy it all—and happy summer!
“Summer sun, something’s begun
But, oh, oh, the summer nights.”
Just like in that old song from Grease, summer days are great, but the real fun heats up once the sun goes down. Sure, the nights are shorter, but that doesn’t mean there’s less to do.
From cruising at drive-ins with classic cars to enjoying Shakespeare in the park to spreading a blanket on the beach to watch fireworks, the nighttime activities this summer are seemingly as numerous as the stars in the sky.
So grab a sweater, hop in the car and head out for the night—there’s plenty to do until the sun comes up!
We love our cars, and although the days of deuce coupes and roadsters are gone, the appreciation for classic vehicles is as strong as ever. For those who enjoy preserved and restored gems from the American roadways—Corvettes, Cadillacs and more GTOs than you can shake a pair of fuzzy dice at—there’s a cruise night happening somewhere in Connecticut almost every summer night, every night of the week:
• Saybrook Point Inn, Old Saybrook, Mondays, 6-9 p.m.
• The Center at Split Rock, Shelton, Tuesdays, 6-9 p.m.
• Glenwood Drive-In, Hamden, Wednesdays, 6-10 p.m.
• Pleasant View Golf Center, Somers, Thursdays, 6-9 p.m.
• Guida’s Drive-In, Middlefield, Fridays, 5-8:30 p.m.
• The Sycamore Drive-In, Bethel, Saturdays, 6-9 p.m.
• Heavenly Donuts, Derby, Sundays, 5-9 p.m.
Movies Under the Stars
Some of our most lasting summer memories are of the local drive-in—the towering outdoor screen, the speaker in the window, the glow of the snack bar, the fogged windows . . .
Drive-ins, although nearly forgotten, are certainly not dead in Connecticut. The Mansfield Drive-In (mansfielddrivein.com) has three screens and offers double features—usually current releases—every night. Wednesday is “Carload Nite”: $18 per car, no matter how many friends you jam in the trunk. Over in Barkhamsted, the Pleasant Valley Drive-In (driveinmovie.com/CT/PleasantValley/schedule) has only one screen, but also runs double features; “Carload Nite” is Thursday, and is only $16.
A few other outdoor movie-night venues:
• Stratford Public Library (stratford.lib.ct.us) screens “Film Classics Under the Stars” starting July 6.
• Brookfield Town Hall (brookfieldct.gov) hosts the “Drive-In” Friday night movie series starting July 22.
• Every Tuesday night is movie night at Ocean Beach Park (ocean-beach-park.com) in New London, starting June 28.
Shakespeare in the Park
“Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,” William Shakespeare wrote about a summer’s day. But when the temperature cools, a beautiful summer night is the perfect time to enjoy an outdoor performance of one of the Bard’s plays. Here’s a list of some of the best offerings around the state:
Shakespeare on the Sound’s production of Much Ado About Nothing will be staged along the shore at Pinkney Park in Rowayton June 16-26, and also at Baldwin Park in Greenwich July 5-10 (203/299-1300; shakespeareonthesound.org). It’ll be so easy to catch a presentation by Shakesperience Productions with its newly expanded season. The company brings A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life June 22-26 at Library Park in Waterbury, and Aug. 11-21 at Festival Stratford! on the hallowed grounds of the storied Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford. The troupe also takes the show around the state to a variety of Connecticut vineyards—July 16 at Miranda Vineyard, Goshen, Aug. 27 at McLaughlin Vineyards, Sandy Hook, Sept. 10 at Chamard Vineyards, Clinton and Sept. 17 at Haight-Brown Vineyard, Litchfield (203/754-2531; shakesperience.org). In New London, The Flock Theatre puts on King Lear July 15-31 at the Connecticut College Arboretum, and then performs The Comedy of Errors Aug. 11-21 on the Custom House Pier (860/443-3119; flocktheatre.org). Last, but not least, The Elm Shakespeare Company presents Measure for Measure Aug. 18 through Sept. 4 in Edgerton Park, New Haven (203/393-1436; elmshakespeare.org). Most performances are free; donations are suggested.
Rhythm of the Night
Nights heat up when the music starts in a variety of summer concert series. Take a seat in the amphitheater or relax on the lawn at Ives Concert Park in Danbury. This season’s lineup includes Peter Frampton on July 1, Earth, Wind & Fire on July 2, Steely Dan on July 25, Alison Krauss and Union Station with Jerry Douglas on July 27 and The Beach Boys on Aug. 14 (203/837-9227; ivesconcertpark.com). In Westport, more than 50 nights of free music, dance, comedy and family entertainment take place by the Saugatuck River at Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts June 26 through Aug. 28. Series highlights include the Alternate Routes on July 9, the Connecticut Ballet on July 28 and South African rockers Civil Twilight on Aug. 27, as well as the free dance lessons, offered before the RiverSwing concerts. Kids shows feature The Magic of Lyn on July 6 and Trout Fishing in America on July 20 (203/221-2153; levittpavilion.com). Evening concerts have become a tradition at Music Mountain, the venerable music festival that comes to life each summer in Falls Village. Enjoy chamber music by the Daedulus String Quartet July 16, the Amernet String Quartet Aug. 6 and the Shanghai String Quartet Sept. 3; on Saturdays at 6:30, Twilight Concerts feature dancing to big-band swing, jazz and country music June 25 through Aug. 27. For a complete schedule, call 860/824-7126 or visit musicmountain.org.
Skies above towns around the state will explode in color in honor of Independence Day. Some of the most elaborate displays take place after the Fourth of July. Riverfest—Mohegan Sun’s daylong extravaganza of family entertainment that takes place July 9 in Morten-sen Riverfront Plaza in Hartford as well as in Great River Park in East Hartford—ends with a grand finale of spectacular fireworks over the Connecticut River (860/713-3131; riverfront.org). And Sailfest—The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Resort Casino’s weekend-long celebration that runs July 8-10 in New London—presents one of the largest fireworks displays on the East Coast over the Thames River also on July 9. Arrive early for best parking (860/444-1879; sailfest.org).
Connecticut is home to dozens of professional teams and sporting events throughout the summer, many of which compete during the evening.
Minor-league baseball is popular, perhaps nowhere more so than in New Britain, home of the New Britain Rock Cats, the state’s oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise. It’s the AA affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, and current major leaguers such as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau got their starts wearing the Rock Cat uniform; Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Jeff Bagwell also spent time in New Britain before breaking into “the show.” There are special promotions, themes and giveaways at every game, and after every Friday night contest, there are fireworks.
For faster-paced action, the Waterford Speedbowl (speedbowl.com) offers NASCAR racing on Saturday nights, featuring SK modifieds, stock cars, legends and more. The 3/8-mile asphalt track—where racers in certain divisions can exceed 100 mph—celebrates its 60th season this year with all sorts of special events, including a throwback racing night on July 30. The bowl also hosts Wild ’n Wacky Wednesday nights, where amateur racers battle it out, as well as “show and go” drag racing on Friday nights—open to anyone with a license, street-legal car and a need for speed.
On Aug. 19, the New Haven Open at Yale (newhavenopen.com), formerly the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament, serves up two weeks of exciting women’s tennis, with both day and night action. Although the field isn’t set until a few weeks before the event, this year’s tourney has already drawn a commitment from World No. 1 player Caroline Wozniacki, who walked away with the trophy last year. In addition to the terrific hard-court action, there are plenty of family activities and fun. The WTA Tour event also energizes downtown New Haven for two weeks with all sorts of related happenings, including concerts and shows, plus unique dining and shopping opportunities.