EXPERIENCES

 
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Rest & Relaxation

Rest & Relaxation

Why not come to Connecticut to rest, relax and enjoy each other’s company? Make it a day in the city, in the country or on the water, take in a lifetime of spring blooms or an armful of fresh local foods.

 

Make It a Day

Make It a Day

Sometimes the best visits and vacation days are the ones that don’t involve a lot of logistics and driving around. With that in mind, we’ve devised some days that are simple in design but full of things to see and do: something for the morning, lunch, then something for the afternoon. You may need comfortable shoes, but you definitely won’t need a GPS to get around.

Twin Museums. One of the great luxuries of downtown New Haven is that Yale’s great art museums – Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art – are practically right next door to each other, and each is filled with treasures. Spring exhibitions at the Center for British Art include Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting and Art in Focus: Wales. In addition, there are pieces in the permanent collection (Turner, Hogarth, Gainsborough, etc.) that will send you tripping off delightedly into the realm of Empire. Meanwhile, up the street, the Yale University Art Gallery’s recent renovation set the art world buzzing, and its eclectic collections, ranging from Coins and Medals to Modern and Contemporary Art, will easily fill your afternoon. Spring exhibitions include Contemporary Art/South Africa and Jazz Lives: The Photographs of Lee Friedlander and Milt Hinton.

Two by the Sea. If your interests run to salt water, you’ll be very pleased to learn that two of Connecticut’s top attractions, Mystic Seaport and Mystic Aquarium, are located right up and down the street from each other. At Mystic Seaport, the focus is on America’s long and colorful relationship with the sea. You’ll find a recreation of a 19th-century whaling village, historic boats and ships, classes, workshops and demonstrations. This spring, everyone is looking forward to the 38th voyage of the Charles W. Morgan, the 1841 whaling vessel that has just emerged from a five-year restoration. Go see her before she sets sail. Another famous ship, Titanic, is a focus at Mystic Aquarium. The exhibit Titanic – 12,450 Feet Below takes you on the unsinkable ship’s fateful voyage, right down to the bottom of the sea. Elsewhere at the Aquarium, you’ll find marine life of all kinds, including penguins, beluga whales an fish of every stripe and size.

Dens of Antiquity. If you like antiquing, you’ll think nothing of making a full day of it, and one of the best places is America to undertake such a trip is on Route 6 in Woodbury. Along a five-mile stretch of road between the Watertown line and the junction with Route 64, more than 30 professional dealers have set up shop, selling virtually all categories, periods and styles, related accessories, gifts and bench-made reproductions. Woodbury is also known for its Colonial architecture (the 1750 Glebe House is a real standout), art galleries and a wide array of restaurants. The day will be over before you know it.

Hartford Trifecta. There is plenty to see in downtown Hartford – in fact, you can make a day of it without ever getting into your car. Start at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, one of America’s first and consistently great art museums. There is work going on in the galleries right now for a grand reopening set for 2015, but the Avery building continues to showcase the Wadsworth’s acclaimed MATRIX series, contemporary art, 20th-century European art, and 18th- and 19th-century American art, including its beloved collection of Hudson River School paintings. More than enough for a morning. After lunch, it’s on to the Old State House, built in 1796 after a design by Charles Bullfinch, and long a seat of Connecticut government. Inside, you’ll find exhibits relating to Connecticut and Hartford history, and an old-fashioned Museum of Oddities and Curiosities. Finally, there’s the Connecticut Science Center, set in a spectacular location overlooking the Connecticut River. On four levels, the Center offers 165 ahnds-on exhibits, a state-of-the-art 3D theater (Hidden Universe is one of the current films) and daily programs events. The big special exhibit this spring is Lost Egypt, featuring actual mummies, ancient artifacts, hieroglyphics and more.

Connecticut in Bloom

Connecticut in Bloom

The winters in Connecticut are long, but more often than not, spring makes it all worthwhile. There are a number of places in the state where spring is sprung in full glory – indeed, there are special havens where specific flowers and flowering plants dominate the landscape. If you love life and color, here are some spots to take it all in.

Daffodils. One of the season’s early risers, daffodils are a welcome presence in nearly every suburban yard in Connecticut. But if you prefer daffodils by the acre rather than the bunch, we’ve got a little-known sanctuary that amaze you when it’s at its peak. Back in 1941, Remy and Virginia Morosani began planting daffodil bulbs on their property at Laurel Ridge on Wigwam Road in Litchfield, near the Thomaston line. Today, each spring, the golden blooms cover some 15 acres. Magnificent!

Azaleas. One of Connecticut’s annual joys is the period in spring when it seems every azalea is in bloom. One place where you can witness the profusion of color is in the Nancy Moss Fine Native Azalea Garden at the Connecticut College Arboretum in New London. Established in 1978, the garden houses about 15 different species of azaleas native from Florida to Connecticut. While you’re there, be sure to take in the adjacent Josephine Hooker Shain Mountain Laurel Garden as well.

Mountain Laurel. Connecticut’s State Flower is everywhere in the state, as only seems appropriate, but one of the great displays anywhere can be found in Union’s Nipmuck State Forest. Here you’ll find a mile-long Mountain Laurel Sanctuary where the plants reach heights of 15 to 20 feet. First planted in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Sanctuary offers spots for picnicking and joyful contemplation as well.

Dogwood. In 1938, after a weekend visit to Fairfield, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote that there “is an avenue of pink and white dogwood on Greenfield Hill such as I have never seen anywhere else in this country.” That’s still true today, and every May Fairfield’s Dogwood Festival highlights not only the glorious blossoms but also a barbecue and dance, walking tours, art and crafts shows and concerts in the sanctuary.

Rhododendron. This wonderfully generous plant grows in profusion throughout Connecticut, and they are well worth a “stop and see the flowers” moment late every spring/early summer. You can find a half-mile-long sanctuary within Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown. The native rosebay rhodies grow to heights of 10 to 15 feet, with leaves up to 10 inches long – all nestled among hemlock and Atlantic white cedar.

Foodie Frenzy

Foodie Frenzy

One way to enjoy a relaxing stay in Connecticut is to explore its many outlets for fresh, native foods. In the last 10 or so years, the state has experienced an explosion of outlets offering local treats ranging from cheese and meat to ice cream, fruit and vegetables. Here are a few of the most notable offerings:

Cheese. Suddenly, Connecticut cheese is on everyone’s lips. Small dairy farms now make and sell their own cheeses or pack them off to retailers. There’s even a Connecticut Cheese Festival every fall. For now, we’ll concentrate on a few outlets you can get to this spring. Cato Corner Farm in Colchester raises 40 free-range Jersey cows and makes and ages farmhouse cheeses for sale in its Cheese Room Store ranging from “mild and milky to runny and pungent to sharp and firm.” Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme offers a variety of cheeses (Feta, Pleasant Cow and Nehantic Abbey, for instance) as well as yogurt and raw milk. Litchfield’s Arethusa Farm raises champion dairy cows, and their products are available at its farm store in Bantam. Cheeses include Al Tavolo, Bella Bantam and Camembert. Fresh milk, yogurt and ice cream are also available.

Meat. If you’d like to take a break for the supermarket meat selections, there are all sorts of meats and meat products now on sale from small Connecticut farms, including beef, bison, lamb, chicken, pork, turkey and veal. You can get a complete rundown on them all here, but here are a few to consider putting on your shopping list. The bison meat offered at Creamery Brook Bison in Brooklyn is hormone- and antibiotic-free and lower in calories and cholesterol than beef. But if it’s beef you prefer, you might head for Eagle Wood Farms in Barkhamsted, where pork and eggs are also on sale. In Granby, Maple View Farm sells its own grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork as well as local eggs and maple syrup. Finally, there’s Nodine’s Smokehouse’s retail store in Goshen, where its wonderfully tasty hams, bacon, sausages and other treats can be found.

Orchard Stores. It doesn’t have to be fall for you to do to an orchard store. These are now year-round retailers, offering the best of Connecticut farms, orchards and fields, and often with baked goods and other products as well. The Apple Barrel farm store at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, for example, has its own bakery as well as mounds of their own orchard apples, pears and berries. Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford goes back 140 years, but the farm market there is totally up to date, with local honey, eggs, flowers, bread and more to go along with the orchard’s own fresh produce.