Explore These Specialty Trails
• Hartford’s Elizabeth Park has the nation’s oldest municipally operated rose garden, which is abloom in June with flowers from more than 15,000 rose bushes. Here you can find 800 different rose varieties including a heritage garden of historic roses, as well as an official test garden, where you can see the roses of tomorrow before they’re introduced to gardeners everywhere. (860) 231-9443, elizabethpark.org
• The Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden in Bethlehem is a 100-acre farmstead. The garden’s pastoral landscape was shaped under the stewardship of Eliza and Caroline Ferriday, mother-and-daughter gardeners who together created an evocative parterre garden featuring fragrant trees and shrubs, sweeping lawns and stately evergreens. (860) 247-8996, ci.bethlehem.ct.us/bellamy_ferriday.htm
• The Connecticut College Arboretum in New London includes the college campus as part of 750 spectacular acres of specialty gardens and plant collections. Visitors can explore: the native plants garden, which features wildflower, azalea and mountain laurel gardens; The Caroline Black Garden, a stately four-acre garden with ornamental trees and shrubs; and the historic 3,000-square-foot Lord and Burnham greenhouse, brimming with lush tropical plants and a cactus collection. (860) 439-5020, conncoll.edu/the-arboretum
In Connecticut there is plenty to “wine” about. The number of wineries in the state has grown over the past few years and each year there are throngs of visitors eager to explore Connecticut’s viticulture. You can tour the facilities, sample the wines and spend a day soaking up the picturesque surroundings. Many of the 25 vineyards on the Connecticut Wine Trail have picnic areas; some have restaurants and gift shops, while others offer lessons in winemaking or cooking. And of course, each has plenty of its own wine to take home. (860) 677-5467, ctwine.com
• Tubing on the Satan’s Kingdom stretch of the Farmington River in New Hartford is an essential Connecticut experience. Ideal for all ages, the scenic 2.5-mile ride ranges from chilling to thrilling (depending the river’s water level); three sets of rapids ensure a bit of white-water excitement. (860) 693-6465
• The Housatonic River winds through the rolling hills and forests of Northwestern Connecticut, and in West Cornwall, passes under the iconic covered bride. Clarke Outdoors organizes 10-mile canoe, kayak and raft tours that feature flatwater and white-water runs—plus multiple picnicking opportunities. (860) 672-6365, clarkeoutdoors.com
Fun in the sun along the Connecticut coast:
• Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park. It offers more than two miles of beach where guests enjoy swimming and strolling along the boardwalk. The park also offers many grassy campsites that are perfect for nature enthusiasts.
• Ocean Beach in New London is a 50-acre park with a white-sugar sand beach that is a favorite summer gathering spot for Connecticut families. The park also has an Olympic-size freshwater pool, a banquet hall, carousel, rides and an 18-hole miniature golf course.
• Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme is a beautiful, gently sloping beach on Long Island Sound with soft white sand, offering picnic areas, train watching, diverse trail systems and salt marsh-viewing platforms. Try crabbing or fishing and watch out for ospreys, cranes and herons.
• Silver Sands State Park in Milford has something few other beaches can match—buried treasure, or at least the rumor of buried treasure. According to local lore, Captain Kidd (who definitely stopped in Milford) buried his plunder on Charles Island, but try as they might no one has found it. However, over the years visitors have found lots of fun in the sun. There’s plenty of beach for sand-castle building, suntanning and swimming.
Lovers of theater in Connecticut have plenty to sing about—the state is home to a treasure trove of production companies that provide everything from outdoor musicals under the stars to works by Shakespeare and premieres of new plays.
• The Connecticut Repertory Theatre will present the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Chorus Line (June 5-14); Neil Simon’s classic comedy The Sunshine Boys (June 19-29); and the story of the ultimate stage mom, Gypsy (July 10-20). crt.uconn.edu
• Methinks fans of the Bard wilt not want to miss the Elm Shakespeare Company production of Pericles, a lesser-known Shakespeare play about the Greek general and statesman (Aug. 14-31). elmshakespeare.org
• The Gary—The Olivia Performing Arts Center is part of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem. This open-air theater (which seats 300) was built in 1982 with the financial support of the late actress Patricia Neal. This year’s lineup opens with a production of two one-act comedies written by American playwright Horton Foote, Blind Date and The Actors (June 13-22). The season continues with the iconic Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun (Aug. 1-27). thegarytheolivia.com
• Goodspeed Musicals’ production of Damn Yankees opened in April and will run through June 21. Upcoming shows include Fiddler on the Roof (June 27-Sept. 7); Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn (Sept. 19-Nov. 30); and The Circus in Winter (Oct. 23-Nov. 30). goodspeed.org
• Ivoryton Playhouse’s summer lineup features the tap dance-filled Fingers & Toes (June 4-22); the Elvis Presley-inspired production All Shook Up (July 2-27); and the Tony Award-winning musical La Cage Aux Folles (Aug. 6-31). ivorytonplayhouse.org
• Musicals at Richter is Connecticut’s longest-running outdoor theater and will start this summer season with the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes (June 27–July 12); then Dorothy will follow the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz (July 25–Aug. 9). musicalsatrichter.org
• Shakespeare on the Sound will present The Two Gentleman of Verona in Rowayton’s Pinkney Park (June 13–30). shakespeareonthesound.org
• TheaterWorks in Hartford will produce the regional premiere of Love/Sick, a new play by John Cariani featuring funny and sad love stories (May 16–June 22); the season continues with the musical Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie (Aug. 8 –Sept. 14). theaterworkshartford.org
• Westport Country Playhouse will kick off its summer with the world premiere of Sing for Your Shakespeare, a musical review (June 3–22); the season continues with Nora, Ingmar Bergman’s adaptation of A Doll’s House (July 15–Aug. 2); and Things We Do For Love, the Alan Ayckbourn comedy (Aug. 19–Sept. 6). westportcountryplayhouse.org
Towers of Power
See the state from on high:
Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden is named for the mountain that resemble a giant lying in repose, which is a popular feature of the south central Connecticut skyline. The park was created in 1924 and features a stone observation tower that offers sweeping views of the New Haven area and Long Island Sound.
Mount Tom State Park in Litchfield offers one of the best views in the state from atop the 34-foot-tall stone observation tower on Mount Tom’s peak. The 360-degree view provides a breathtaking panorama of Massachusetts, New York and a large part of Connecticut after a short-but-hearty hike. If you’re looking to cool down afterward, spring-fed Mount Tom Pond is open for swimming, boating (non-motor) and scuba diving.
Standing 165 feet tall and situated 1,000 feet above the Farmington Valley, Heublein Tower in Simsbury was built in 1914 for food magnate Gilbert Heublein. The tower is located in Talcott Mountain State Park and is accessible by a mile-long trail where you’ll see a variety of wildlife. From the tower, hikers can enjoy views of the Hartford skyline and the Farmington River Valley.
Woodbury is known as the “Antiques Capital of Connecticut” and is home to more than 40 dealers, most of whom do business out of charming historic buildings up and down Main Street. Wares of every style from virtually every period are offered making it a hotspot for dealers and designers as well as everyday collectors. antiqueswoodbury.com
Another destination for antiques lovers, albeit less-known is the town of Putnam, in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner, an hour from Woodbury. This quaint downtown is home to more than 10 shops, including the four-story Antiques Marketplace.
Dancing with Dinosaurs
For a small state, Connecticut has some big dinosaur connections. Jurassic junkies can roar through Connecticut while learning about the creatures that once roamed the earth on the Connecticut Dino Trail.
At Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History guests come face to face with 150 million-year-old dinosaur skeletons. Or literally walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs at the Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill, a site where hundreds of footprints of dinosaurs from the late Jurassic period are preserved. At the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford guests can see a life-size automated dinosaur that moves and roars and enjoy an additional four floors of hands-on fun. Explore a unique dinosaur-themed park or unearth minerals and fossils at The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village in Oakdale. ctdinotrail.com
The Thimble Islands are a unique archipelago off the Connecticut coastline. Some of the more than 100 islands are visible only at low tide, while others are home to extraordinary residences. The boat captains who offer narrated tours in season tell tales of the 32-home village on Money Island, the summer White House of President Taft on Davis Island, and legends concerning Captain Kidd’s buried trove of treasure. thimbleislands.com, thimbleislandcruise.com, thimbelislander.net
Connecticut is home to more than 100 public golf courses and no matter what your skill level you’ll find that the courses here are definitely up to par. The golfing experience includes links-style gems and nationally recognized municipal operations and challenges designed by an all-star roster of golf architects including Robert Trent Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Donald Ross and Pete Dye. ctgolfer.com
(This article was originally published on a different platform. Some formatting changes may have occurred.)
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of Connecticut Magazine
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