As a native Connecticuter (along with Lizzie B), I am a huge fan of this New England state. I grew up in the quiet northeastern corner of Connecticut and while I live in New York City now, I always make time to visit. I have a host of wonderful childhood memories in Connecticut, including visiting the polar bears at the Mystic Aquarium, climbing in the giant whale sculpture in front of the Connecticut Children’s Museum in West Hartford, visiting the horse barns at University of Connecticut, and frolicking freely through Connecticut’s many parks and natural landscapes. Connecticut enjoys a rich history, a beautiful natural landscape characterized by rolling hills, and has many well-known and sometimes hidden treasures. Here are five very good reasons for visiting my lovely home state of Connecticut.
1. The Connecticut Wine Trail
Did you know that Connecticut is one of the fastest growing wine regions in the US? The CT Wine Trail is composed of twenty-five wineries, boasting diverse wine styles and nestled away in Connecticut's scenic landscape. Connecticut's cool and mild climate fosters healthy growth for a wide variety of grapes, allowing the production of wines ranging from Cabernet Franc to Riesling. Members of the CT Wine Trail also participate with other Connecticut farm wineries in the “Passport to Connecticut Farm Wineries”—a program offering a number of prizes annually to patrons who visit between sixteen and thirty-three of Connecticut's wineries within a designated one-year time frame. Patrons may obtain a passport at participating wineries; each winery has its own passport page available for stamping upon a visit to the corresponding winery. I recently visited Preston Ridge Vineyard and greatly enjoyed their 2013 Sunset Farm Dry Rose! Now I only have to go to a few others (okay, more than a few. It’s fine, I don’t mind) to be eligible for those prizes!
2. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Founded in 1842 and located in Hartford, the Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest continually-operating public art museum in the US! Holding over 50,000 works of art that span across 5,000 years, the museum features Greek and Roman antiquities and European decorative arts; world-renowned baroque and surrealist paintings; the premiere collection of Hudson River School landscapes; European and American Impressionist paintings; Ballets Russes drawings and costumes; American colonial furniture and decorative arts costumes and textiles; African American art and artifacts; and modernist and contemporary art. One upcoming exhibit that I want to see is Warhol & Mapplethorpe: Guise & Dolls, which focuses on New York in the 1970s and early 80s. While the museum has been undergoing a major renovation for the past five years, the grand reopening is slated to occur next month on September 19 (free admission from 10am-5pm!), which will be a lovely time to visit (hint, hint) as fall is a beautiful time in this state.
The village of Mystic, Connecticut is amazing. There is so much to do including art galleries, the aquarium, shops, and pizza, but specifically Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival. Mystic Seaport is the nation's leading maritime museum. Covering nineteen acres on the Mystic River, it includes a recreated 19th-century coastal village staffed with period-appropriate actors and storytellers, a working shipyard (featuring the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America's oldest commercial ship still in existence), formal exhibit halls, and facilities home to over two million artifacts. The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival is a juried art show that takes place annually and is the oldest festival of its kind in the Northeast. Showcasing fine art and crafts from over 270 artists and with booths and displays stretching a two-mile span in historic downtown Mystic, the event attracts over 85,000 visitors annually, so you know they must be doing something right.
4. Literary History
Connecticut is home to several national historic landmarks, among them two significant literary homes: The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center and Mark Twain House. Harriet Beecher Stowe, of course, was the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a historically significant book that helped changed the public’s perception of slavery (and has sold the most copies out of any book after the Bible). The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center has made her Hartford home into a 21st century museum and program center committed to social justice and positive change. Mark Twain House & Museum preserves the Hartford home where the famous author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and other classics lived from 1874 to 1891, and provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about his personal life and literary works. Twain said of this house: “To us, our house…had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and the pace of its benediction.”
5. Farms and Creameries
Connecticut has a strong agricultural industry and has many working farms of all kinds—in my opinion, the best farms to visit are the ones that produce their own ice cream! Connecticut is home to many farms that have their own creameries, resulting in delicious locally-made ice cream available in every imaginable flavor. Some of my favorites include: Buttonwood Farm (which is also surrounded by huge gorgeous sunflower fields), Arethusa Farm, The Collins Creamery, The Farmer's Cow (a collective of six farms producing their dairy together), and the University of Connecticut Dairy Bar.
So hop on the Metro-North, buy a bus ticket, or rent a car and zip on up to Connecticut for an enjoyable day trip or weekend getaway! You’ll be glad you did.