Bed and Breakfast
The Inn at Kent Falls
Kent, (860) 927-3197
(theinnatkentfalls.com)

Attention to detail is the key at this perennial favorite. The revamped 1700s B&B maintains a balance between old and new, mixing in sophisticated touches of French antiques and modern amenities. A Colonial fireplace is the centerpiece of the living room. Original wood floors anchor the inn’s six unique guest rooms—three of which are suites—all outfitted with spalike baths, clawfoot tubs and Frette linens. Guests gather for a hearty gourmet breakfast every morning; a spa and pool are also on site.
 

County Inn
Copper Beech Inn
Ivoryton, (860) 767-0330 (copperbeechinn.com)

You’ll find country-inn charm and more at this lovingly restored inn, with four rooms in the original Victorian manor house, and nine each in the onetime carriage house and two-year-old Comstock House, the latter with a Tara-worthy double staircase. Settle in comfortably in your graciously appointed room, wash your cares away in your luxurious marble bath and relax over dinner in award-winning Brasserie Pip, the place for sparkling raw-bar fare, bistro classics and inspired locally sourced dishes. A welcome antidote to life in the fast lane.
 

City Hotel
The Study at Yale
New Haven, (203) 503-3900 (studyhotels.com)

One of the keys to a successful city hotel is location, and being on Chapel Street in New Haven, literally steps away from world-class dining, art, music and theater, The Study at Yale is situated better than most. Add in 124 guest rooms, each with great views, featherbed, leather chair, flat-screen TV and Italian linens—as well as award-winning restaurant Heirloom, featuring chef Carey Savona’s “coastal farm” cuisine—and the result is a hotel experience that’s among the best anywhere.
 

Action Park
Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park
Portland, (866) 860-0208   (brownstonepark.com)

This action park offers adventurous aquatic activities—available to individuals, groups and prime for families—including scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and wakeboarding. Action-packed land-based activities include cliff jumping, rock climbing and ziplining and more. The quarries that Brownstone was built upon add historical value: Quarrying began on the site in 1690 and continued until 1936.

Bookstore: New Books
RJ Julia Booksellers
Madison, (800) 74-READS (rjjulia.com)

Bookstores may come and go, but long live RJ Julia, where owner Roxanne Coady’s belief in the magic of books is the guiding force and she and her staff see matching you to “just the right book” as a sacred mission. Whether you are a regular or a first-timer coming for a reading by a well-known or new-to-the-scene writer (Coady finds and often helps launch them), you’ll quickly find your comfort level in this bookstore/gathering place. Here you’re likely to find not only the right book, but kindred spirits—be they staff or other readers—who share your passion for the written word.

UConn Co-op
Storrs, (860) 486-3537   (bookstore.uconn.edu)

More than just an on-campus bookstore, the UConn Co-op sells not only textbooks, but also a wide range of contemporary and classic titles. The two-story store also offers computer repairs for students, all kinds of apparel and merchandise, a café and a convenience store, making it the hot spot on campus—a place where you can explore for hours or just stop in to browse the aisles and grab a bite to eat.

Hickory Stick Bookshop,
Washington Depot, (860) 868-0525 
(hickorystickbookshop.com)

For more than a half-century, the Hickory Stick Bookshop has been the beating cultural heart of Washington Depot and an increasingly welcome shelter against big-box consumerism. The shop these days is also the very special province of Fran Keilty, the owner, who has long been a good and helpful friend to readers, writers and the world of books in general, and who, along with her knowledgable staff, can make the mere acts of browsing and asking questions a pleasure. The many readings, book signings and other book-related events are just the icing on the cake.

Bookstore: Used Books
The Book Barn
Niantic, (860) 739-5715 (bookbarnniantic.com)

There are barns, sheds, shelves and wagons galore stacked with books from classic to contempory at The Book Barn. In fact, there are so many titles (over 500,000) that the main Book Barn area expanded to two other venues: The Book Barn Downtown and Midtown, where different classifications of books are kept and sold. All titles are grouped by genre, making it simple to find what you’re searching for. Plus, they’ll buy your books back for cash or store credit. Truly the spot to find your inner Hemingway or Kerouac.
 

Community Theater
Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury,
(203) 757-4676 (sevenangelstheatre.org)

Community theater is alive and well in Waterbury at Stage II, the non-Equity, community division of that city’s Seven Angels Theatre. Notable productions in the past year have included My Fair Lady and To Kill a Mockingbird, and the new season kicks off this month with Annie, directed by local radio-show host Tom Chute, with musical direction by Richard DeRosa. All communities should have such a place for talented local amateurs to gather and put on a show.
 

Dance Troupe
Pilobolus Dance 
Theatre
Washington Depot,
(860) 868-0538 
(pilobolus.com)

Brilliantly imaginative and still innovative after 40 years, Pilobolus keeps pushing the extremes of movement and emotion in its unique and upbeat choreography (not to mention the Guinness World Record they set this year by fitting 26 people into a Mini Cooper). Modern technology shows up in the form of robots and rockers in the troupe’s offerings this season: “Seraph,” a collaboration with professor Daniela Rus and the students of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and its Distributed Robotics Lab (DRL), and “All is Not Lost,” a live companion piece to the music and dance video they created with rock band (and YouTube sensation) OK Go and choreographer Trish Sie. On Sept. 17, head to Mortensen Riverfront Plaza in Hartford, where the group will perform for free.
 

Equity Theater
Hartford Stage
Hartford, 
(860) 527-5151 
(hartfordstage.org)

New artistic director Darko Tresnjak has some terrific credentials—he was the AD of San Diego’s Old Globe Shakespeare Festival 2004-09 and has worked with Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company (as director in residence), the Joseph Papp Public Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Los Angeles Opera. He’ll still have to stay on his toes to match the legacy of Hartford Stage’s Mark Lamos and the just-departed Michael Wilson, largely responsible for the theater’s record of eight plays transferred to Broadway, 11 to off Broadway and 55 world or American premieres—not to mention sterling productions of classics by Shakespeare, Molière, Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee. For now, we’re especially looking forward to this season’s Water by the Spoonful, a new drama by Pulitzer finalist and Tony winner Quiara Alegría Hudes (In the Heights).
 

Family Amusement
Lake Compounce
Bristol, (860) 583-3300 (lakecompounce.com)

Since opening its gates 166 years ago as the nation’s first family theme park, Lake Compounce has continually found new ways to entertain patrons, be it by adding an action water park like Splash Harbor or the “world’s 
No. 1 wooden roller coaster” Boulder Dash. The new addition this season: The Rev-O-Lution, a rollicking ride that both spins and moves in two directions along a five-story-high, half-pipe-shaped track making riders feel like they’re hurtling through the air.
 

Ballet
Connecticut Ballet, Stamford,
(203) 964-1211 (connecticutballet.com)

Celebrating its 30th season this year, Connecticut Ballet is the state’s premier classical and contemporary ballet company. Next month, watch in awe as the graceful dancers tell Tchaikovsky’s story of The Sleeping Beauty, presented Oct. 16-30 at various venues around the state. The company also develops future artists through its affiliated school, Connecticut Ballet Center and Center for Dance Education, serving all ages.
 

Festival
International Festival of Arts & Ideas
New Haven, (203) 498-1212 (artidea.org)

For 16 sweet years, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas has brought some of the world’s greatest minds and talents together. Two heady weeks in June are jam-packed with performances, lectures, screenings and interactive events, each loosely conforming to an overall theme (“Across Borders, Beyond Time” was the theme for 2011, and Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble kicked off the festival on the New Haven Green). It’s the only festival of its kind under the sun and moon.
 

Farmers’ Market
City Seed Farmers’ Market, New Haven,
(203) 773-3736 (cityseed.org)

Since 2004, City Seed has been bringing the best in Connecticut-grown produce and farm products to those who can’t necessarily get out to the country. Each week on different days and in five different New Haven locations, fresh local fruits and vegetables are available, as are cheeses, milk, eggs, seafood, meats, herbs, syrup, honey, baked goods and much, much more. City Seed also supports Buy CT Grown, which represents local farms and food organizations, and works to promote the state’s agricultural community.
 

Flower/Garden Center
White Flower Farm, Litchfield,
(800) 503-9624 (whiteflowerfarm.com)

No matter how far you are from Litchfield, nationally known White Flower Farm is certainly worth the drive. Spend the day exploring five acres of lush display gardens, venturing through the begonia greenhouse, or meeting horticulturists at any of the various events hosted by the farm. Choose from a vast selection of annuals, bulbs, shrubs, perennials, vines and houseplants, which can be purchased at the retail shop and online.
 

Golf Course
Lake of Isles, Mashantucket,
(888) 475-3746 (lakeofisles.com)

Feel like gambling? Head to Foxwoods Resort & Casino and drive up the road opposite the entrance to the casinos, where you’ll find Lake of Isles, home to two of the most challenging, beautifully tended and visually stimulating golf courses in the Northeast. The Rees Jones-designed North Course (the one open to public play) is ranked among “America’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play” by Golf Magazine. The layout winds ingeniously through woods and around water with views at every turn. And yes, depending upon the state of your game, every shot can seem like a gamble.
 

Haunted Attraction
Trail of Terror
Wallingford (trailofterror.com)

Maybe it’s the screams that you can hear echoing in the dark as soon as you pull into the parking lot; or possibly, it’s the chill of a crisp October night on the back of your neck; or it could just be the fear that’s palpable in the air—even before you step inside the gates, you’ve already got goosebumps, and they’re only going to blossom into all-out screams and scares as you wind your way through the trail itself. This year marks the 17th year that the trail will be terrorizing thrill-seekers by the thousands from across the Northeast, as well as donating thousands of dollars to worthy local causes.
 

Independent Cinema
Cinestudio, Hartford,
(860) 297-CINE (cinestudio.org)

In 1969, when a group of Trinity College students tacked up bedsheets in the basement of the Clement Chemistry Building to begin screening movies for other campus cinephiles, no one thought the initiative would last beyond semester’s end. What’s best about Cinestudio is not how sophisticated its operation has become—beginning with a permanent location in Clement, the addition of a beautiful Austrian shade curtain, eventual state-of-the-art (70 mm) film projection and sound, etc.—but how little its grassroots “labor of love” character has changed. Two of its student founders (James Hanley and Peter McMorris) still oversee the theater’s daily operations, along with a staff of 50 student and community volunteers. And the schedule remains both remarkably innovative—veering from mainstream/forgotten classics and indies to foreign films, animé and exclusive screenings—and stunningly astute.
 

Indie Music
Acoustic Cafe, Bridgeport,
(203) 335-3655 (acousticafe.com)

The Acoustic Cafe, originally owned by Rich Franzino, helped put the Black Rock arts scene on the map and gave many local musicians their start (including Darian Cunning, Dave Ross, Kenny Owens, John Pioli, Mike Falzone, the Step Kids and Saint Bernadette). Larissa DeLorenzo, who played her first gig here, and William Vega now own the club and continue to showcase musicians from acoustic singer/songwriters to full electric bands that play everything from alternative rock to zydeco. A cross section of music is represented at the club’s Open Mic Night every Tuesday; acts are scheduled Wednesdays through Saturdays.
 

Kids’ Amusement
Indoor
CoCo Key Water Resort
Waterbury, (203) 706-1000 (cocokeywaterbury.com)

Summer may be coming to an end on the calendar, but the wet and wild fun never ends at CoCo Key. No matter the weather outside, there’s water-park excitement inside, with something for everyone in the family, from Parrot’s Perch, a splash-and-play island for the little ones, to the three exciting 40-foot body and raft water slides for the tweens and teens, to the lazy river and hot tubs, ideal for mom and dad to soak a little, while keeping an eye on the action.

Outdoor
Quassy Amusement Park, Middlebury,
(203) 758-2913 (quassy.com)

For over a century, it’s been a Connecticut rite of passage—visiting the quaint 20-acre park nestled on the shore of placid Lake Quassapaug, riding the train and carousel, navigating a paddle boat across the lake and experiencing your first “real” amusement park fun. Of course, Quassy has expanded over the decades, adding attractions like the “Tunnel Twister” waterslides to its water park and the Wooden Warrior roller coaster, but it’s still the best first place for a little kid to discover the thrill of visiting an amusement park.
 

Maritime Attraction
Mystic Aquarium
Mystic, (860) 572-5955  (mysticaquarium.org)

If you’re like many Connecticut residents, you lost track long ago of the number of times you’ve visited Mystic Aquarium—five, 10, 15-plus? And yet we return time and again to play peek-a-boo with those dapper African penguins (perhaps they’ll share what it was like to “star” alongside Mr. Popper), marvel at the mighty belugas, tickle a cownose ray as it glides by, giggle as Coco bellows a big “hello” at the California sea lion show and, let’s face it, wish we were underwater archaeologist extraordinaire Robert Ballard.
 

Museum
New Britain Museum of American Art,
New Britain, (860) 229-0257 (nbmaa.org)

When its $26 million expansion was completed in 2006, the New Britain Museum of American Art—the first museum in the country dedicated to American art—became a state-of-the art facility of national importance and a destination for art lovers everywhere. Ten separate galleries showcase art from Colonial times to the present, including Hudson River School landscapes, Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Arts of Life in America” murals, modern works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol and New Britain native Sol LeWitt and a comprehensive collection of illustrations. The museum also presents changing exhibits as well as a variety of educational programs and social get-togethers such as Art Happy Hour and First Friday live jazz performances.
 


 

Night at the Ballpark
New Britain Rock Cats, New Britain, (860) 224-8383 (rockcats.com)
As the state’s oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise—since 1983—the Rock Cats have played a lot of minor-league baseball games, entertaining thousands of fans in the process. Whether it’s by the special events that accompany each home game (like fireworks after every Friday night contest or kids-eat-free days) or the quality of baseball on the field (Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau all have worn a Rock Cats uniform), when you buy your ticket, hot dog and Cracker Jack, you know you’re in for a fun night.
 

Splurge
Restaurant
Rebeccas, Greenwich, (203) 532-9270 (rebeccasgreenwich.com)

What may be Connecticut’s most expensive restaurant (and is undoubtedly one of its finest) is top-drawer all the way. Why not start with caviar (Sevruga with toast points, $95 an ounce, Golden Ossetra $155), move on to Maine sea scallops with preserved Perigord black truffle risotto and/or twice-baked potato with lobster and the risotto (both $90), finish with three French cheeses ($18), a lovely Mission fig Pavlova ($14) and/or fallen chocolate soufflé cake ($15). Consider toasting it all with a Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, Mareuil-Sur-Ay ($24 a glass). And why not? As a wise man once said, “You’re dead too long.”

Overnight
Winvian, Morris,
(860) 567-9600 (winvian.com)

Described as “over the top” and “whimsically wonderful,” this Relais & Chateax inn is both, with a price tag to match ($1,250-$1,900 a night, virtually all-inclusive). In a class apart, it offers 18 cottages, each with a different theme, e.g., Treehouse (adult model with full bar), Greenhouse (perfect for bird-watching/stargazing) and Woodlands (with a waterfall and tree-trunk sinks). There’s also a four-star restaurant, a spa, biking and hiking trails, and cooking classes. A country setting for R&R on a grand scale.

Spa
Mayflower Inn & Spa,
Washington, (860) 868-9466 (mayflowerinn.com)

“A destination within a destination, offering nourishing, energizing, purifying and restorative treatments, as well as the finest in soul-restoring rituals,” this 20,000-square-foot spa is the place for self-renewal to the nth power—if you can afford the tab. The “Above and Beyond Package” willl set you back $4,800 for three nights, including plush accommodations, all meals and unlimited treatments. It’s clearly not for the faint of wallet, but worth it given the superb facilities, personalized treatments and the chance to reset your compass to a wiser, healthier course.

Shopping
Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich   
LA may have Rodeo Drive, but we have Greenwich Avenue. Connecticut’s prime shopping mecca is a little less haute—but that’s what we like about it. It’s got heart. Sure, there are big names—Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Coach, Baccarat, Saks, Kate Spade—but there are also Connecticut originals like Richards, Betteridge Jewelers, Mis en Scene and Lux Bond & Green. Sprinkled in between are florists, nail salons, home-grown restaurants, etc. Someone cared enough to see it didn’t turn into wall-to-wall chain stores like some other towns, and that has made all the difference.

Best of Connecticut 2011 Diversions

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Best of Connecticut 2013

Best of Connecticut 2013

Best of Connecticut 2013

It's our annual survey of all our favorites in the state, from food and drink to places to visit and things to do.

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