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Rest & Relaxation

Rest & Relaxation

Spring is a time for unwinding in Connecticut, with whatever pursuit you desire. A romantic inn by the sea? Great. The best places to see Connecticut in spring bloom? Check. And always, great food and wonderful places to stay. Come during blossom time and you may never want to leave!

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 not only highlights the glorious blossoms but also includes 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 from 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 go 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. You can find a listing of Connecticut orchards here and figure out which have stores 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.

Romantic Inns by the Sea

Romantic Inns by the Sea

Few things feed romance like a warming spring sea breeze and a room with a view. Whatever it is you choose to do during the day, you can count on a romantic inn at night. It’s just one of those things that we do extremely well.

Inn at Stonington. Stonington Borough is one of Connecticut’s most charming areas – walkable, historic, surrounded by water and dotted with shops and restaurants. The Inn at Stonington is the perfect spot right in the middle of it all.

Bee & Thistle Inn. Old Lyme is a venerable old Connecticut seashore town, replete with wonderful old houses and views on both the Sound and the Connecticut River. The Bee & Thistle Inn on the Lieutenant River has garnered many “Most Romantic” accolades over the years.

Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. Located right where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound in Old Saybrook, the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa offers fine dining, a terrific spa and comfortable rooms – not to mention romantic walks along the water. True romantics should check out the inn’s newly opened, adults-only guest house called Three Stories.

Water’s Edge Resort & Spa. Do you crave waterfront lodging with all the bells and whistles? Water’s Edge Resort & Spa in Westbrook fills the bill with sea-view rooms, extensive grounds, fine dining (including an extraordinary brunch) and a welcoming spa. Your romance will get all the back-up it needs.

Madison Beach Hotel. Do you like the idea of being right on the water, with nothing between you and Long Island Sound except for a strip of sand? Then the Madison Beach Hotel is for you, with fine dining, seaward views galore and the sound of the waves lapping at night.

Covering the Casinos

Covering the Casinos

Connecticut is home to a pair of truly world-class casinos - Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods - separated by only a few miles in Southeastern Connecticut. There are many good reasons to visit them both, of course, (live shows, great food, comfy rooms, lots of games to play) and here we cover some of them in detail. Come hide away on a long spring weekend!

Pampering. What’s a casino without a luxury spa? Not much, we’d guess, but our casinos are more than prepared to pamper. The Elemis Spa at Mohegan Sun offers a complete menu of services and beauty treatments, while the G Spa & Salon at Fox Tower Hotel gets very high grades from Internet reviewers. There’s even the Norwich Spa at Foxwoods for those who’d like to overnight in a spa setting.

Live Shows. Among the shows scheduled at Foxwoods this spring are Sinbad, Engelbert Humperdinck, Bill Engvall and Barry Manilow. Mohegan Sun features Kevin Hart, The Who, Seth Meyers and Kenny Chesney (not to mention nightly free concerts in the Wolf Den).

Golf. Foxwoods built 36 holes at Lake of Isles – 18 are private, but the other 18 holes are open to the public in one of the finest layouts in New England. You can find a golf package that includes lodging, a round of golf, vouchers for food and gaming and a complimentary drink. Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun is pumping millions into its Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug. If you like uniquely challenging greens, it’s a great place to try.

Shopping. Whether you’re browsing or buying, there’s a vast array of shops at Connecticut’s casinos. At Foxwoods, you’ll find Bulgari, Chopard, Pandora, Michael Simon and Hugo Boss. In addition, in May, the casino expects to open up its own 80-store cluster of outlet stores, including Nike, American Eagle and Calvin Klein. Mohegan Sun, meanwhile, offers everything from Coach and Chico’s to Puma and Tommy Bahama.

Steak. Do you like steak and other steakhouse fare? If so, the casinos will satisfy your hunger in the most remarkable ways. At Mohegan Sun, there’s Michael Jordan’s Steak House and Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain. At Foxwoods, there’s Craftsteak, David Burke Prime and Cedars Steak House. Make sure your appetite is sharp!

Island Hopping

Island Hopping

With some 253 miles of shoreline on Long Island Sound and countless others along and around its rivers and lakes, Connecticut is a good place for islands. By one count, there are 180 of them large enough to be named, more than there are Connecticut cities and towns. So why not enjoy one or more of the state’s islands this spring? Call it your own. Name it after yourself. Have fun.

Connecticut is home to 23 lighthouses along the Sound, but not many are open to the public. That’s not the case with Sheffield Island, off Norwalk, where visitors can hike, picnic and climb up into the lighthouse for a tour. From May through September, the Norwalk Seaport Association runs scheduled cruises to the island.

Depending upon how you define what an island is, there are possibly more than 100 Thimble Islands, off the coast of Branford, but only a couple dozen that are large enough to be inhabited. The Indian name for them translates to “beautiful sea rocks,” and on a calm summer morning you can see why. With their pink granite heads poking above the high-water mark (barely, in some cases), they scatter like a handful of charms across the Sound from Indian Neck to Sachem’s Head. Want a closer look? Take a cruise through the islands, complete with history and great stories, by going to thimbleislands.com or thimbleislandcruise.com. Or you can just take out a kayak and make up your own stories.

If you’re looking for a river island, it’s hard to ignore Selden Island in the Connecticut River – at 607 acres, it’s the largest island in the state. Selden was once the westernmost extremity of Lyme that jutted into the river, but an 1854 flood altered the landscape and turned it into an island. Today, as Selden Neck State Park, it’s Connecticut’s only island state park. Its features include marked hiking trails (which pass by the ruins of an ancient farm and a stone quarry, and four boating camp areas – primitive in nature (outhouses and pit fireplaces) but blissfully removed from the workaday world.

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