Best of Connecticut 2010: Diversions
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White Flower Farm
Litchfield, (800) 503-9624 (whiteflowerfarm.com)
White Flower Farm is an experience worth a drive from anywhere. Spend the day touring the five acres of display gardens, browsing the magnificent begonia greenhouse and attending events, like tomato expert Scott Daigre’s “Tomatomania,” which features over 100 varieties of tomato seedlings. And experts are on hand to answer all kinds of gardening questions. An extensive selection of annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs, vines and houseplants, as well as gardening tools and supplies, is available at the retail shop, and can also be ordered through the farm’s website.
Lake of Isles
Foxwoods Resort & Casino, Mashantucket, (888) 475-3746 (lakeofisles.com)
Lake of Isles is more like a golf vacation than just a golf course. There are 36 Rees Jones-designed holes here, running through 900 acres and angling around and across a 90-acre lake. Indeed, there’s so much acreage that each hole seems like a world of its own. The South Course is for members only, but the North Course is open to all, and it stands as one of Connecticut’s must-play golfing destinations. The meticulously tended layout is varied, with interesting challenges for all levels of golfers and stunning views (the 10th, 11th and 12th holes offer one of the state’s best consecutive par-4, par-3, par-5 combinations).
Trail of Terror
PNA Park, Wallingford (trailofterror.com)
We’ve been to our share of haunted houses across the state, but there are none that can match the sheer quality and quantity of thrills, chills and scares of Wallingford’s Trail of Terror. Each October, scream-seekers get to experience more than 45 minutes worth of heart-stopping excitement as they try to survive the nightmarish journey through three terrifying acres of spooky buildings, creepy characters and blood-soaked scenes. Add in that the Trail of Terror is a fundraiser, providing over $100,000 a year for the Red Cross and other local charities—putting the “care” in “scare”—and you’ll never again wonder where to go for the best bad time.
Hartford, (860) 297-CINE (cinestudio.org)
After 40 years (the theater celebrated its anniversary in March with a screening of Up in the Air), Cinestudio is still one of the best-kept secrets—and most worthwhile diversions—on the Trinity College campus. Nestled within the school’s 1935 McKim, Mead, and White-designed Clement Chemistry Building and graced movie-palace style with a dramatic red interior, gold Austrian shade curtain and 70mm projection capability, it’s become the go-to community destination for fans of all films: classics, foreign, animé, Hollywood and indie releases.
KIDS' AMUSEMENT (INDOOR)
Coco Key Water Resort
Waterbury, (866) 754-6963 (cocokeywaterresort.com)
Want to escape to a warm tropical paradise without leaving Connecticut? Coco Key Water Resort inside the Holiday Inn Waterbury has something for everyone, from the exciting Parrot’s Perch, an interactive play area for the little ones, to thrilling waterslides like Barracuda Blast. The kids will also love playing in the awesome Key Quest Arcade. For mom and dad, there are relaxing indoor and outdoor whirlpools in Palm Grotto. When you’re ready for some grub, Coco Key has two food stands and a drink stand.
KIDS' AMUSEMENT (OUTDOOR)
Quassy Amusement Park
Middlebury, (203) 758-2913 (quassy.com)
Affordable fun is the name of the game at this 20-acre amusement park, now celebrating its 102nd year. It’s the perfect place for little ones who are into swimming, ferry boat rides, paddle boats (all on Lake Quassy) and other watery pleasures (Saturation’s two Tunnel Twister water slides and Big Flush raft-tunnel ride). Back on land, there are 20-plus rides, from the Grand Carousel and Mad Mouse coaster to the new Free Fall ’N, a tower that moves up and down, and the Galleon, a giant swing with a pirate-ship motif.
Mystic Aquarium/Institute for Exploration
Mystic, (860) 572-5955 (mysticaquarium.org)
We turn into an inarticulate 5-year-old sea dog, lost in wonder, every time we visit Mystic Aquarium. We’re all, “Gah! That’s what rays feel like?” and “Man, those South African penguins are awesome” and “Gee, I wish I had a sea lion that could do tricks!” (Well, maybe not that last one.) Anyway, the aquarium provides visitors a first-rate nose-to-snout education on the denizens of the deep while inspiring not just fascination, but compassion—yes, that’s the word—for all creatures, even sharks and jellies. For similar reasons, visiting the institute’s vibrant and playful exhibits on deep-sea exploration (especially the fare at the XD Motion Ride Theater) makes us stand in awe of Robert Ballard.
New Britain Museum of American Art
New Britain, (860) 229-0257 (nbmaa.org)
The country’s first museum dedicated exclusively to American art doubled its size in 2003, allowing it to showcase its 10,000 works as never before. Colonial-era portraits, Hudson River School landscapes, Impressionist paintings, Thomas Hart Benton’s “Arts of Life in America” murals, more recent works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and Edward Hopper, as well as Connecticut’s own Cleve Gray and Sol LeWitt—they’re all here, in a grand venue finally worthy of the extraordinary collection. Bonuses are Jordan’s café (run by Jordan Catering) and the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Walnut Hill Park next door.
PLACES TO STAY: BED & BREAKFAST
The Inn at Kent Falls
Kent, (860) 927-3197 (theinnatkentfalls.com)
You might expect to see a gentleman farmer walking the property at this revamped 1700s B&B, where an air of understated elegance hovers outdoors and in. The French antique living room features a Colonial fireplace with a large open hearth, and six unique guest rooms—three of which are suites—are outfitted with spalike baths, claw-foot tubs and luxurious linens. Brioche French toast stars at breakfast. Amenities include a spa, a pool and customized itineraries. Antiques, galleries and magnificent nature trails beckon nearby.
PLACES TO STAY: CITY HOTEL
The Study at Yale
New Haven, (203) 503-3900 (studyhotels.com)
This elegant glass-fronted gem in the heart of Yale’s lively Arts Campus invites all guests to read, rest and reflect in one of their 124 hospitable guestrooms, including eight roomy studios and a magnificent Presidential Suite. Each accommodation contains a comfortable leather reading chair, a spacious work area, a cozy feather bed, a glass-enclosed shower, a flat-screen television and complimentary wireless Internet. The hotel also offers abundant reading materials (after all, it is The Study) and a small café in the lobby. Heirloom, the 100-seat restaurant and lounge, serves “Coastal Farm” cuisine.
PLACES TO STAY: COUNTRY INN
Morris (860) 567-9600 (winvian.com)
It was good to be an Academy Award nominee last March, even if you didn’t take home the Oscar. Your “condolence” gift bag included nearly $100,000 worth of goodies, including a getaway to Winvian, right here in Connecticut, said to be worth $17,000. So George Clooney or Helen Mirren might have stayed in one of the resort’s many unique cottages (Beaver, Log Cabin, Helicopter, etc.), dined on the four-star cuisine of chef Chris Eddy and had their cares whisked away by Winvian’s capable staff. And so might you, if the mood is right and you’ve got some extra dough socked away for a splurge. Who knows who you might bump into?