You are the owner of this article.

Summer vacations we long to take in CT, the Northeast and around the world

  • 23 min to read
Summer vacations we long to take in CT, the Northeast and around the world
travelopener.jpg

What a year for a daydream.

If ever there was a time we could all use a vacation, it is now. But in one of 2020’s many cruel twists, travel has never been more complicated. And yet here at Connecticut Magazine we find ourselves thinking about it more than ever. Whether longing for a worry- (and mask-) free stroll down one of Connecticut’s quintessential main streets or reminiscing about the beauty of a beach in Europe, we’ve spent a lot of time dreaming of both the places we’ve been and the locales we can’t wait to see for the first time. We asked our staff, contributors and some of the state’s most prominent residents to indulge in these flights of fancy and share the places they are most looking forward to visiting, if not this summer, then sometime soon. 

IN CONNECTICUT

Mystic Seaport 3.jpg

Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic Seaport Museum

My parents first brought me to Mystic Seaport Museum when I was about 8 or 9. It was Camelot. A village by the sea where off-white sails bellowed in the wind. In 2014, during my first few months as a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine, I started writing about the 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the world’s oldest wooden whaleship which the museum took out to sea that summer for the first time in more than 90 years. Every time I’ve visited either as a kid or for work as an adult, I’ve left inspired and with a richer picture of nautical history. In March, the museum closed temporarily, but it reopened its outdoor areas in late May. Employees are masked, 6 feet of social distancing is required, and indoor exhibitions including the museum’s historic vessels are closed. Even in this COVID-19 adjusted form, I clan’t wait to get back. • EO

ctmagRidgefield-866.jpg

The food scene in Ridgefield includes the acclaimed French restaurant Bernard's.

Ridgefield

Ridgefield is not a large town but it packs a powerful punch in charm and amenities, from arts and culture to a wealth of fine restaurants and shopping. I always love sipping a mug of hot chocolate and walking around Main Street during the town’s annual Holiday Stroll in December. It’s like a winter wonderland.

An art lover, I enjoy spending a few hours at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which has indoor exhibits as well a sculpture garden on 2 acres. To see where Impressionist master Julian Alden Weir and many of his colleagues were inspired, I like to make time to visit the Weir Farm National Historic Site, which straddles the Ridgefield-Wilton border. Even just walking the property here is inspiring. I also try to take in a show a few times a year at A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) of Connecticut, an Equity-union theater presenting Broadway-caliber shows here.

The restaurants are first-class and the variety of eating options will delight foodies. I’ve had everything from great burgers, pasta and tacos to spinach croissants, sushi and tapas. Walking off the calories from all this yummy food, I usually head to the trails at Seth Low Pierrepont or Bennetts Pond state parks. • AV

017_HILLSTEAD.jpg

The drawing room with Claude Monet’s “Grainstacks, White Frost Effect,” at Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington

Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington

Whenever I visit the Hill-Stead Museum I feel as though I have stepped back in time, and this is what its creator, Theodate Pope Riddle, intended. One of the first female architects in the country, she built the Colonial Revival as a retirement home for her parents in 1901. Later, it became a museum with the stipulation that “the house and all its contents remain intact.” So when I go on a docent-led tour, it’s as if I am a guest in the Pope’s house, peering into the past. I always learn something new because each tour is unscripted and tailored to interest and age (including for children).

Theodate’s father Alfred was an art appreciator and amassed a collection of European and American art that includes Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, James McNeill Whistler and several Claude Monets. The textiles, colors, decor and placement of the furniture in each room were thoughtfully selected to complement the pieces. The rooms are a work of art as well. I can stare at Monet’s Grainstacks for hours. The subtlety of the color and light is exquisite. 

Once a working farm, Hill-Stead’s 152 acres are laden with hiking trails, fields and stonewalls. I walk around the property to view its many vistas and then end at the gazebo in the sunken garden, which was restored from a Beatrix Farrand design. It’s a decadent way to pass an afternoon. • CBD

mohegan2_646448.jpg

Mohegan Sun

The Casinos: Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket and Mohegan Sun, Uncasville

As far as destinations in Connecticut go, I’m not sure if anything has been missed by a larger group of people than the casinos in the southeastern part of the state. Whether it’s Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun, and whether your game is poker, blackjack, craps, roulette or the slots, I can’t even imagine what the sensory overload of a casino floor is going to feel like after the sensory underload of my living room floor. But it’s not just the gambling. The HighFlyer Zipline at Foxwoods is a truly unique thrill and the Topgolf Swing Suite is quite possibly the perfect way to kill an hour or two. I’ve seen a few shows over the years at Mohegan Sun Arena and I scored a sweet pair of tickets to see Dave Chappelle back in May. That’s been rescheduled for Aug. 22, so fingers crossed. Ahh, who am I kidding? As much as I can’t wait to get back to the fantastic restaurants and awesome entertainment, I need some action. Betting $1 with the wife on what time the Amazon delivery arrives isn’t cutting it. • MW

099_LYMANORCHARDS.jpg

The corn maze at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield

Lyman Orchards, Middlefield

Lyman Orchards is great any time of year. They always have something going on, but I like to go in late August to experience the annual corn maze. It’s a tradition that began two decades ago and each year they create a different design with the proceeds benefiting a charity of their choosing. The maze takes up about 4 acres and has 2½ miles of paths. Along the way there are trivia questions related to the design. It can be challenging but sometimes getting lost can be fun. • CBD

StoningtonBurough.jpg

Stonington Burough

Stonington

I go to Stonington Borough because I love authentic Mexican food, margaritas, history and architecture. The Milagro Café pretty much just serves tacos and enchiladas, and has a huge assortment of tequila that make the best margaritas. I like walking around this seafaring village, which is home to the state’s last commercial fishing fleet, and checking out the immaculately restored Colonial and Federal-era homes. Some have plaques bearing the names of the mariners who once occupied them. It’s like a mini walking-history tour along cobblestone streets with panoramic views of Little Narragansett Bay, Fishers Island Sound and Stonington Harbor. • CBD

GlassHouse6atnight.jpg

The Glass House in New Canaan, designed by architect Philip Johnson

The Glass House, New Canaan

It’s unlikely that legendary architect Philip Johnson coined the phrase, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” but it certainly applied to him. Johnson enjoyed his Glass House, now a National Trust Historic Site in New Canaan, as mostly a weekend retreat with longtime companion David Whitney, an art critic and curator who helped design the landscaping and largely collected the art displayed there. The house’s building and decor remain today as they were since its completion in 1949. Johnson died there in 2005 at age 98. 

Until you are actually inside the house, as I once was, it’s hard to grasp the uniqueness of it, and the lovely views of the pastoral acreage that surrounds it from all sides, which Johnson called “expensive wallpaper.” The stark, Modernist furniture seems dated until you comprehend that it was groundbreaking for its time.

There are many other buildings on the property designed by Johnson, featuring paintings, sculptures and more. A visit to the Glass House, combined with a stroll through New Canaan’s charming and picturesque downtown area, makes it the perfect day trip. • MC 

GilletteCastleHero_3.jpg

Gillette Castle in East Haddam, Connecticut

Gillette Castle, East Haddam

The interior of this castle overlooking the Connecticut River is currently closed but there is still much to enjoy here. Built by the eccentric stage actor William Gillette between 1914 and 1919, the castle is a striking architectural wonder even from the outside. The grounds also offer lots of hiking and views of the river, and you can trace the trail of Gillette’s steam train which used to snake around the property. To learn more about Gillette, the first actor to portray Sherlock Holmes on the stage, and get an online tour of the castle, visit Friends of Gillette Castle State Park on Facebook @friendsofgillette. • EO

PHOTO-3.jpg

The Racetracks: Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs and Thompson Speedway, Thompson

Many of my summer Saturday nights growing up were spent at Riverside Park Speedway, a mile over the Connecticut border in Agawam, Massachusetts. That park is better known these days as Six Flags New England, and there’s no racetrack in sight. But two other speedways along the state line have endured through the years, Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs and Thompson Speedway in Thompson. At the moment all is quiet up in that corner of Connecticut, but it’s easy to conjure up the sounds of roaring engines and screeching brakes, and the smells of gasoline and burnt rubber mixed with fried foods and stale beer. Not your thing? I understand, but this is my dream. Drop the green flag. • MW

Sherwood Isnad Beach, Westport, CT

Sherwood Island Beach in Westport, Connecticut

Sherwood Island State Park, Westport

Said to be Connecticut’s first state park, dating back to 1914, Sherwood Island State Park has a mile and a half of shoreline that has mostly been underutilized when compared with the overflow summer crowds at nearby Compo Beach, also in my hometown of Westport. Unlike Compo, there’s a lot more to do at Sherwood Island, with its 235 acres including multiple slow-traffic roadways that were perfect for when I helped teach my son to drive. A nature center, fishing and picnicking are worthy options.

All visitors should consider spending some time at Connecticut’s 9/11 Living Memorial, located here. Every Sept. 11 a memorial service is held at Sherwood Island to remember what happened, including honoring the 161 people with Connecticut ties who perished. • MC

NEW ENGLAND AND THE NORTHEAST

White mountains

The White Mountains in New Hampshire

The White Mountains, New Hampshire

During our recent forced house arrest, we’ve watched a lot of North Woods Law on Animal Planet, which follows the activities of the conservation officers of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. It’s been a cruel reminder of the lovely, wide-open spaces awaiting our return visit. From the otherworldly heights of Mount Washington to the plunging, cliff-walled passages of Franconia Notch State Park, the wilds of the Granite State offer that feeling of away-from-it-all freedom and exploration we could use a bit more of these days. • AY

182017837

Curtis Island in Camden, Maine, is among the most iconic lighthouses in the state.

Camden, Maine

I long to hear the sound of waves crashing over the rocks abutting Curtis Island lighthouse. On the horizon a thin fog line plays tricks on the mind, leaving you to turn to the damp, salty smell of ocean air. Even on the warmest days, a sweatshirt is required at sundown. But those are just distant memories of last year’s pre-COVID visit. My best friend moved to Camden six years ago; that’s when I discovered it was my favorite place. We are expecting twins, and now, more than ever, I long to feel normal again in mind, body and spirit. We have adapted easily to many things over the past few months, but not being able to travel, even just a day trip, is something I hope we never get used to. This summer I will be daydreaming of Camden. The small shops and decadent seaside restaurants. I can taste savory buttered lobster rolls and imagine my friend and I sitting at one of our favorite hangouts overlooking Penobscot Bay and Camden Harbor. This is going to be a time in history where we realize how much we take for granted. It’s my greatest hope that soon, everyone’s getaway dreams will become their getaway realities. • ND

1180435771

The Norman Rockwell Museum and studio, Stockbridge, Massacusetts

Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

When my wife insisted we take a day trip here several years ago I sighed and nodded. Like most people, I knew of Rockwell’s work, the Americana images of people, animals and everyday life. But to see the images close up, to be able to focus in on the actual canvases Rockwell touched with his magical talent and genius, takes you to a higher level. Thanks, Eve!

Founded in 1969, the tranquil museum has the world’s largest and most significant collection of Rockwell drawings and paintings. His work is famous for evoking emotional and nostalgic feelings from viewers. The facial expressions he captures in his subjects are amazing and often poignant. I remember it was tiring going from one painting to another and starting over. Tiring, exhilarating and unforgettable.

Rockwell lived in Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life, and determined to make sure his studio and works remained local, and he succeeded. 

Stockbridge, located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, was founded in 1739 and still retains the charm of a colonial village. It’s a fun walk with lots of open spaces. A great day trip from Connecticut. • MC 

819731266

The Adirondack Mountains, Lake Placid, New York

The Adirondacks, New York

I fell in love with the Adirondacks on my first visit when I hiked Giant Mountain and slept on top. As I watched the sun set below the clouds at eye level, I felt at home in a way I had never felt before. That was decades ago and I’ve been going to the Adirondacks at least once a year ever since. What started as a trip with a high school boyfriend morphed into marriage with a man who became a 46er and a family of now-adult children who love it as much as we do. My granddaughter climbed her first 46er — the Adirondacks has 46 peaks over 4,000 feet — last summer on the day her grandfather climbed his final one to reach his 46er milestone. The largest park in the contiguous U.S., the Adirondack Park is the original social-distancing vacation. You can hike mountains that range from family-friendly to rigorous, canoe miles and miles of lakes and ponds, fish to your heart’s content, paddleboard, waterski — the list of outdoor fun is endless. Tired of the outdoors? Check out the Adirondack Experience in Blue Mountain Lake, the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, or hang out in Lake Placid for the day and check out the many Olympic options. Skate, take a bobsled or luge ride, or watch Olympic hopefuls ski jump. There’s pretty much something for everyone. • JR

519013029

Watch Hill in Rhode Island

Watch Hill, Rhode Island

The first thing I do when I get to Watch Hill is inhale. I love the smell of the salty sea. That, and the smell of coconut suntan lotion, tells me summer has arrived. I come to this tiny coastal village to body surf in the waves, stick my toes in the silky sand, and feel like I am on a long vacation even if it’s only for a few hours. That’s how relaxing it is, and extraordinarily beautiful. Most people head to East Beach where the waves are bigger than at Napatree Point, where I go. I never walk the 1½-mile barrier beach like many do. I’m too lazy. The only time I leave is midday, to go into town to get a mouth-watering tuna melt from St. Clair Annex and some homemade ice cream. Every year I expect the prices to go up exorbitantly since they have a captive audience, but they never do. Perhaps this is why they have managed to remain open since 1887.

My favorite time of day is late afternoon. I like the light then. After I get off the beach, I stroll over to the pre-eminent Ocean House resort and sit on their veranda with a TitoRita (made with Tito’s vodka) that I helped make by riding one of their new blender bikes, to mix the frosty concoction. I sip. I watch the sun set. I exhale. • CBD

160018506

Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine

There’s a reason they call Maine “Vacationland.” The state’s sandy shores and historic lighthouses are right out of a postcard. My favorite place to visit in our picturesque neighbor to the north is Portland. On the drive up, take the road less traveled to stop at Chauncey Creek in Kittery Point, Maine. Though I admittedly don’t eat seafood, it’s worth it for the river views and authentic New England flair, and my husband loves the steamed mussels. 

About an hour away, downtown Portland charms with its brick, ivy-covered facades and waterfront location. During the day, we dig for vintage treasures and rare vinyls at Moody Lords Vinyl/Vintage, Strange Maine, and Little Ghost. Post shopping, happy hour haunts beckon, like Shays Grill Pub with its $5 martinis or Liquid Riot Bottling Co., serving up housemade beers and spirits on the wharf. 

On a sunny afternoon, nothing beats a day trip to Peaks Island, just a 20-minute ferry ride from the city. Bicycles are the best way to explore the perimeter, and you can rent one for a few bucks at Brad’s. Before heading back to the mainland, sip a local beer over a sandwich on the deck at Island Lobster Co. 

If the excursion has worked up an appetite, there are restaurants galore in this foodie city. Of course, there’s plenty of seafood, but you can also try a new spin on Greek at Emilitsa, riffs on Middle Eastern at Evo Kitchen + Bar, or southern Italian at Piccolo. When the sun sets, we put on our hipster best and catch comedy night at Lincolns, then check out the local music scene at Blue. After a nightcap, it’s time to walk back to our Airbnb along the cobblestone streets to rest before our journey home. • ALB

1096753424

Cliff Pond in Nickerson State Park on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

My daughter named the turtle Larry. If I had to guess I’d say he was an Eastern painted turtle — we were in Cape Cod, after all, and Larry did appear to be a snappy dresser. We were traveling via kayak across the smooth surface of Flax Pond at 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster when Larry popped his head out of the water to say hello. He was kinda cute, so we decided to follow him. We could do that because, No. 1, Larry was, well, a turtle, and, No. 2, because Flax Pond, one of 365 kettle ponds on The Cape that were formed some 15,000 years ago by retreating glaciers, is that incredibly clean and clear. We started coming to Nickerson when the kids were little and the crashing waves on Cape Cod National Seashore beaches were too much for their tiny bodies and our fragile nerves. We blinked, our sticky-faced toddlers turned into teenagers and still we come to Nickerson. Blue sky, still waters and fresh green forest. Paddleboards, handstands and, yes, we still build sandcastles on the beach. A good book, a float with my name on it and my face turned toward the sun. There’s nothing to worry about here, and here is where I’ve gone in my mind countless times over the past few pandemic months. We’ll be back soon — that I know. Larry misses us. • MBA

903702710

Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the third oldest city in the United States and is a historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

This seaside city on New Hampshire’s border with Maine is one of my favorite vacation destinations. A 3- to 3½-hour drive from where I live outside Danbury, it is 150 miles from Hartford. Sometimes described as a mini Portland, Maine, it has everything you want in a New England town — great coffee shops, breweries, restaurants and a sense of history paired with a nautical feel. Caffe Kilim, a popular Turkish coffee shop in town, is a must-visit. EO

034_MAGICWINGS.jpg

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield, Massachusetts

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, Deerfield, Massachusetts

A butterfly just landed on my shoulder. I’m trying not to move so I have a moment to marvel at it before it flies off. The butterflies are fantastical to watch as they flutter through the air. They come in all sizes, patterns and in varying degrees of luminosity. I find joy in observing them and the other creatures here, which is why I come. It’s magical inside this 8,000-square-foot glass conservatory and serenely beautiful. It’s a delight to the senses. There are fruit trees, exotic plants and flowers, waterfalls, a Koi pond and walking paths, all set against a backdrop of lush vegetation. I smell jasmine and other fragrances, and can hear the shrill chirps of finches, lovebirds and parrots. An assortment of reptiles make their homes inside glass terrariums for safe and easy viewing. There is movement and color everywhere. It’s like being in the jungle (my favorite ecosystem) without the bugs or the price of airfare. • CBD

nyc

New York City

New York City

On Sept. 10, 2001, I was in New York City. My parents worked in Manhattan and in those days, I’d often hitch a ride in with them in the morning and spend the day exploring. Though there was always something going on in New York, even on a Monday, I have never felt the need when visiting to do anything in particular. Maybe I’d wander over to Tannen’s Magic Store, where I learned the tricks of the magician’s trade, or stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. There was my favorite falafel shop in Midtown, a favorite coffee shop downtown, and a cupcake place that made better cupcakes then I’ve had before or since. But none of these were the main draw: The city itself was the star of its own show. Just walking its streets, getting caught up in its current and feeling its mad, majestic clamor, was and is enough. 

The next day, on Sept. 11, everything changed, but what made the city so amazing remained. A week or so later, when I was back in Manhattan, the city was reeling and mourning, but it was still the same in many ways, still bursting with kinetic energy and life. 

This past March 9, 19 years later, I was back in New York. By this time fear of the coronavirus had crept through society, but we were woefully unaware of the extent to which the virus had already spread through the city. In a few days the nightmare would begin in earnest and the city that never sleeps would get as close to slumber as ever — its streets becoming eerily quiet as hospital ERs and ICUs were crowded with patients.

As I write this in early June, New York City has yet to return to any semblance of normalcy, and I haven’t been able to return, but as soon as I can, as soon as it’s reasonably safe to, a visit to New York is at the top of my travel list. As it was after Sept. 11, New York will still burst with energy and life, even in the face of so much death. • EO

126970103

The USS Intrepid

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, New York City

I have no excuses. I’ve wanted to visit this amazing American military treasure forever, but never have. Maybe this will finally be the spur. The museum showcases the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the cruise missile submarine USS Growler, a Concorde SST, a Lockheed A-12 supersonic reconnaissance plane, and the Space Shuttle Enterprise. On the lower deck there is a reproduction of a World War I biplane. • MC

139_ROCKPORT.jpg

Motif No. 1, an old fish house on Bradley’s Wharf in Rockport, Massachusetts, is said to be the most-painted and photographed building in America.

Rockport, Massachusetts

I am completely enthralled with Bearskin Neck in Rockport. It’s a tiny spit of land at the edge of town jutting out into the sea. Picture a narrow jetty surrounded by two harbors with sweeping views. There is one main lane with a few offshoots, crowded with colorful, ramshackle structures. Some are homes but most are seafood eateries, boutiques, art studios and galleries. I have never been a big shopper, but I like wandering in and out of these establishments because their wares are unique. (There are no chain stores here.) Plus, I love architecture, so I want to see what the inside of these antique buildings look like. Everywhere I look are reminders of Rockport’s ties to the sea, with fishing boats anchored in the harbor, old buoys adorning weathered doors, and lobster pots piled on docks after a day of fishing. 

The lobster, clam chowder and shucked oysters of the Roy Moore Lobster Co. call to me. These are among my favorite foods. But what really seals the deal is the outdoor, no-frills, wooden deck overlooking Rockport Harbor. You can’t beat the view while dining on freshly caught seafood. • CBD

THE U.S. AND AROUND THE WORLD

74858643

Court of Myrtles, The Serallo at the Alhambra in Spain

Spain

I expected to enjoy Spain when we visited our son who was working there. What I did not expect was to fall in love. The tapas and cervezas. The communal eating outside in plazas lit by candles. The open warmth of the people. The history — the Alhambra in Granada, Seville, Madrid and its parks and museums! The countryside. I would go back in a heartbeat and spend a month wandering the many places we did not get to visit in our eight short days. On my list is walking part of the Camino de Santiago. Want to get a hint of Spain? Watch The Way with Martin Sheen. You’ll book the first plane ticket you can get. • JR

AB11023

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada

Where did I go the day after I turned 21? Vegas. Where did I go for a weekend bachelor party right before my wedding? Vegas, baby, Vegas! Where did I go on the second leg of my honeymoon after the requisite week at a Caribbean resort? Las Vegas. That’s the beauty of Vegas. You can go with friends for a wild party weekend, drinking and gambling up and down the Strip. Or you can go for a honeymoon or anniversary, holding hands in front of the Bellagio’s famous fountain show on your way to a romantic dinner at any one of the hundreds of upscale restaurants. Not to mention it’s always in the 80s or 90s (or 100s) with no humidity. One of the most all-encompassing destinations is the rotating Top of the World restaurant 1,000 feet above the desert floor at The Strat. Book a table right before sunset and, as you spin slowly, enjoy views of the mountains and the Strip as it begins to light up against a darkening sky. The food is incredible and people bungee jump past the windows while you dine. Outside of the never-ending gambling and dining options, there really is something for everyone. In my five trips I’ve seen Cirque du Soleil, a Rodney Carrington show, a NASCAR race, the Bodies exhibit, the Mob Museum, laid by the MGM pool, went on a gondola ride at the Venetian and attended a pool party at the Wynn DJ’d by Ruby Rose. VEGAS! • MW 

New Zealand, Otago, Skippers Canyon, river in mountainous landscape

Skippers Canyon in Otago, New Zealand

New Zealand

I’ve wanted to visit New Zealand for about 20 years. That’s when the first Lord of the Rings movie came out and I — along with much of the rest of the globe — was exposed to the South Pacific island nation’s stunning scenery. Just about every geographical feature imaginable can be found between the main North and South islands, including towering, snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, rugged beaches, wild rivers, lush forests, majestic fjords, crashing waterfalls, jetting geysers and more. As of early June, New Zealand declared itself free of coronavirus. As if I needed another reason to get there … • AY

shutterstock_1254387388.jpg

Masada National Park, Israel

Masada National Park, Israel 

One of the highlights of my trip to Israel was Masada National Park, a massive plateau in the heart of the Judean desert. I was fascinated by the history and how a community made its final stand against the Romans here in 73 CE. The biggest protection of all was the treacherous cliffs in the middle of the desert in the unbearable heat. And, in the end, a struggle for freedom ended in mass suicide to avoid a life of slavery. 

On the drive from Arad on Route 3199 to the Masada National Park entrance I was lucky to see camels and bedouins for the first time in their natural surroundings. And the desert, all that sand. It went on forever.

We parked and traveled the Roman Ramp to the top. Others might choose the Gondola to visit without the climb or the more challenging Snake Trail. As we reached the top of the fortress I looked over the desert ahead of me. Like mountains in the forest.

Originally built to protect the family of King Herod, Masada has many sites of interest including the Northern Palace, the synagogue, the “Lots room,” the Byzantine church, the Western Palace, the bathhouse and the southern cistern.

Masada looks over the Dead Sea with amazing views of the Judean desert. The salty sea was the next stop on our journey, as we stood 1,388 feet below sea level looking up at the towering plateau of historical beauty.

Our day ended in Petah Tikvah for my first Shabbat dinner of delicious Yeminite dishes and cheerful singing. • AB

582780630

Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland

Iceland

Iceland has long been a bucket list destination for my son and me. We were planning a trip this fall when the pandemic hit. We’re keeping in touch with my travel agent (a family friend) as to when we can safely book our trip. We’re excited to see the Northern Lights, but the striking Nordic landscape is just as much of a draw. Iceland truly is the “Land of Ice and Fire” with glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, lava fields and geysers. This remote island, just northwest of Norway, is less than a 6-hour flight from Hartford to Reykjavik.

I’ve been told the best time to see the Northern Lights is late August to May and to plan at least five days here as solar cycles can last about this long. There are plenty of activities here to keep busy while you await the light show. I’m planning to book a whale-watching boat ride and also relax in the geothermal hot springs the country is well known for. I can’t wait to see the Strokkur geyser and the glaciers in the Snæfellsjökull and Vatnajökull national parks. • AV

143287558

Arches National Park just north of Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah

My one and only trip to Moab just happened to be by chance. My father-in-law had completed a marathon in under four hours in 49 states, and Utah was last on the list. The whole family flew out to Salt Lake City for moral support. The day after he finished the race we made the four-hour drive southeast to Moab, stopping only at roadside jerky stands. All I could do was stare out the window. I thought I was on Mars. We would drive for miles and miles and the distance between us and the mountains never changed. As we arrived at Arches National Park, if not for the Colorado River I would have been convinced I was on Mars. To someone who’s never been out West, that’s the only way I can describe it. No wonder they film so many movies out there. The scenery is astounding. I took tons of photos with whatever version of the iPhone I had back then and every shot was a disappointment. The phrase “you gotta see it to believe it” was created for places like Moab. • MW 

london

London, England

London, England

A long-time bucket-list item of mine is to visit London. I’ve been lucky to travel to Paris and Milan but never the city that once ruled America. When I go, I of course want to see the can’t-miss landmarks, like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, but I don’t plan on ticking off every sight and museum in the Zagat guide. Rather, I want to explore the stalls at Kingsland Market (a “waste” market trading goods since 1880), dig through vinyl in the city’s many record stores, and eat my way through Street Food Union. • ALB

punta cana

Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

My husband and I have had two romantic getaways on this gorgeous island. It’s safe, picturesque, yet more affordable than other Caribbean locales like Jamaica or Aruba. The best thing about the DR is its many all-inclusive resorts. On our last trip, we stayed at the Catalonia Royal Bávaro, an adults-only hotel right on the ocean.

Nothing beats a day sunning and sipping rum cocktails on the beach (servers will come to you), taking breaks to splash in the water or haggle with locals hawking handmade goods. For active folks who want a day out of the sun, take an excursion to Santo Domingo, the country’s capital. You can learn about the nation’s history (it was founded by Christopher Columbus), see one of the world’s oldest sundials, and tour Alcázar de Colón — the home of Diego Columbus, Christopher’s first-born son.

After a long day sunning or exploring, nothing beats the all-you-can-eat dining at one of the resort’s restaurants or buffets. Or, embrace your new slow lifestyle and order room service, also included. I’ll be thinking of passion fruit, plantains, and fresh mojitos until my next visit. • ALB

Santorini CT Mag 0720 Single Use Image.jpg

Red Beach, Santorini. One of the most famous and beautiful beaches in Santorini located near the village and ancient site of Akrotiri.

Santorini, Greece

No one can pinpoint the lost city of Atlantis, but Santorini is in the lineup. Noted for the famous caldera which sank a chunk of the island into the sea and for the most beautiful sunsets in the world, Santorini draws lovers and adventurers from far and wide.

Whether you rent a car or go wild on a 4-wheeler around the island, there is plenty to do and see. A stay at the Blue Dolphins Apartments & Suites, just outside the tourist-soaked capital of Fira, offers plenty of walking paths among the beautiful white-washed homes capped with their cyan-blue domes hanging from the cliffs overlooking the sea.

Visiting the Red Beach was quite the experience as it involves a treacherous hike up one side and then down the other side, all while being serenaded by a lonely violinist sitting at the plateau of the hike. The Red Beach is now closed to tourists due to rock slides but the hike offers amazing views of the Aegean Sea.

One trip to Santo Wines and we were sure this was the place for retirement. Relaxation, sea breezes and local wine could not be better anywhere else. 

On our way to Oia to catch the world-famous sunsets, we noticed a lot of undeveloped land just waiting for sun-seekers like us to come and build. Of course, in our wandering we managed to miss all three sunsets on our short visit to Santorini. Which is the very reason we will be going back. • AB

This article appeared in the July 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.