Rest & Relaxation
We’ve got all the right ways for you to enjoy a restful, relaxing and, if you choose, romantic stay in Connecticut – from inns by the sea to foodie outposts to a guide to our most charming towns. All wrapped in the invigorating glow of autumn!
Romantic Inns by the Sea
Few things feed romance like a crisp 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 in Connecticut.
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, 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. 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.
EXTRAS: All lovers or would-be lovers please note that on this website there are many other suggestions for romantic interludes in Connecticut. Among the suggested getaways for this fall you can find right now are River Valley Autumn Romance, Autumn Only, Shore Thing, Fall Romance in the Litchfield Hills and “Downton Abbey” Romance. There should be plenty there to keep your campfires burning all the way till the snow flies.
Connecticut’s Endless Options
One of the great things about Connecticut is that you can experience so many different pleasures within such a small and easy-to-get-around-in space. After all, your interests are not limited to one area, so neither should be your exploration of Connecticut’s attractions. Here are a few “variety packs” to get you started.
Shopping and Bopping. For antiques lovers, there’s nothing quite like a ride down Route 6 in Woodbury on a fall afternoon. This is the home of the Woodbury Antiques Trail, offering dozens of shops along the way, as well as historic houses and places to eat. And when your day is done, get ready for an evening at Norfolk’s wonderful, intimate Infinity Hall, where you can dine and catch a show from the likes of Nick Lowe, Don McLean and The Yardbirds, to name just a few of this fall’s acts.
Penguins and Poker. By day, satisfy your curiosity about Connecticut shoreline and maritime history with a visit to Mystic, where the many pleasures of Mystic Aquarium and Mystic Seaport await. There is no shortage of restaurants or other attractions in Mystic, either. Then by night, make your way a short distance either to Uncasville or Mashantucket, where the very different vibes of Mohegan Sun Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino await. Here you can dine, take in a show, throw down a pair of aces, get a spa treatment, shop to your heart’s content and spend a memorable overnight.
Stage and Stream. Laze away an autumn day on and around the Salmon River, an eastern-central Connecticut stream not only prized for its cleanliness and fast, cold current, but also for its resident population of trout. It’s one of the state’s top spots for kayaking and hiking through the foliage. Later, as dusk approaches, get yourself prettied up and head out to the theater – the musicals at the nearby, nationally acclaimed Goodspeed Opera House have been a Connecticut staple since 1963. The show this fall is A Wonderful Life, an adaptation of the famous Frank Capra movie. For nearby dining and lodging info, look here.
Ancient and Modern. Connecticut’s story is a long, multifaceted one, but you can get a good handle on both ends of it without ever leaving Ridgefield’s Main Street. First of all, there’s the Keeler Tavern Museum, housed in a 1713 structure building that survived an attack by the British in 1777 and now serves as a popular museum that still has a cannonball lodged in one of its walls. Meanwhile, just up the street is The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, for more than 50 years as an avatar of modern art and design. Don’t believe it? Current exhibits include one called “Shallow Sun,” another called “Flower Mutations,” and a third called “Ghost Versions.”
With its appealing historic architecture, village greens and tidy shops, Connecticut still does “charming” very well. In fact, there are immensely attractive little towns all across the state that - with their shops, restaurants, galleries and inns - are perfect for a visit and even an overnight this fall.
Chester is a lovely little town on the west bank of the Connecticut River, surrounded by colorful valley hills and with a center of town that’s right out of central casting. You’ll find yourself charmed by places like the country French Restaurant L&E or New American River Tavern, galleries such as Connecticut River Artisans and Chester Gallery, and shops like Ceramica. Find a list of all the merchants here. And be sure to make a river crossing on the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry.
Stonington Borough is unlike any other place in the state - in fact someone once wrote that it’s as if a piece of Nantucket had somehow separated itself and floated down to this southeast corner of Connecticut. Here, among its narrow lanes, the story of Stonington and the sea is everywhere, and it’s even home to Connecticut’s last remaining fishing boat fleet. Try an overnight at The Inn at Stonington, a meal at Noah’s and a visit to the Old Lighthouse Museum and you’ll soon feel right at home.
New Preston is situated on the shore of Lake Waramaug, arguably Connecticut’s loveliest lake, where the colors blaze in the fall. There are shops in the tiny town, and a restaurant or two as well, such The Hopkins Inn or the nearby Community Table. And you should certainly drive, bike or hike the 8-mile loop around the lake and stop at Hopkins Vineyard along the way.
Rowayton and Southport are affluent villages that are part of the larger Fairfield County towns of Norwalk and Fairfield respectively. Each features a MetroNorth station, water views in all directions, quiet streets and lanes, interesting residential and civic architecture and just enough shops and restaurants to make life interesting. The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood has long been noted for its fresh seafood and river views, while The Gray Goose in Southport is a nice way to end your local touring.
Pomfret will give you a real taste of how charming Northeast Connecticut can be. There is history at every turn of the road here, and much of it has been preserved in the houses and public buildings. There are long views and fall foliage treats in Pomfret, but also galleries and shops (check them out here) and bed & breakfasts such as Hickory Hill or Feather Hill that are, in a word, charming.
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:
Orchard Stores. What’s higher on your autumn to-do list than a visit 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. But they tend to shine their brightest in autumn. 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. You can find many more possibilities for your fall pick-your-own wanderings right here.
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. First of all, mark your fall calendar for the 6th Annual Wine & Cheese Festival on Oct. 24 at Hopkins Vineyard in New Preston. There’ll be demonstrations, pairing advice and lots of local cheese to eat. In the meantime, here are a few other places to get to. 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 why not consider putting one of these 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.
Lovely Drive, Sweet Surrender
What could be more romantic than a meandering autumn drive through the Connecticut countryside followed by something sweet to eat in a charming setting? Here are three itinerary ideas, all beginning at exits off I-84:
North by Northwest. Leave I-84 at exit 15 in Southbury and head up Route 6 toward Woodbury. You’ll go by Colonial houses and barns, especially once you enter Woodbury. Consider a stop at Glebe House there and its unique Gertrude Jekyll garden. Or you may want to drop in at one of the many antiques shops that line the road – George Champion Modern Shop provides a cool visit back to mid-century design ideas. Up the road a bit, hang a left onto Route 47 for the nice drive to Washington Depot. There, Hickory Stick Bookshop is a superior independent book store well worth a browse and a buy. Get back on Route 47 and at the end go left onto Route 202. About a mile up the road, you can take a right to explore the charming tiny village of New Preston and adjacent Lake Waramaug. Otherwise, continue along until you come to your dessert destination, The White Horse Country Pub, where the very English sweets include Banoffi Pie, Bourbon Bread Pudding and The Grand Duchess Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake.
Stars in the East. Jump off I-84 at exit 73 in Union and take Route 190 to Route 171, perhaps detouring right away into beautiful Bigelow Hollow State Park, where you can hike or even take in a mountain laurel sanctuary. Anyway, continuing on 171 will take you to Route 169 in Woodstock. Here you can take a turn north for the short drive to see fascinating Roseland Cottage, where the house and gardens depict the summer life of a prosperous family in 19th-century America. Or just head south on 169, one of Connecticut’s most picturesque roadways. You’ll go through Pomfret, Brooklyn, Canterbury (check out the Prudence Crandall Museum there) and Lisbon, where you’ll want to go east on Route 138, then right on Route 201 in Griswold to a left on Route 165 and your sweet surrender at Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream, one of Connecticut’s best for homemade ice cream.
Up the Housatonic. Here, you exit I-84 at exit 5 in Danbury and head off north on Route 37. You’ll pass through some of the city and outskirts until you get to New Fairfield. At an intersection there, you can choose between staying on Route 37, which will take you up into the country toward the New York line, and Route 39, which will take you over and around picturesque Candlewood Lake. In any case, the two roads meet up again in Sherman (you might drop in at the White Silo Farm & Winery here), where you should take 39 north to Route 55, and soon you will be joining Route 7 north. In this part of Connecticut, Route 7 hugs the Housatonic River – and you will, too, right into the town of Kent, where you’ll gorge on chocolate at the Kent Coffee & Chocolate Company. See if you don’t take a pound or so of Sea Salt & Walnut Dark Chocolate Caramels home with you.
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.
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 David Burke Prime and Cedars Steak House. Make sure your appetite is sharp!
Golf. There are wonderful golfing days in September, October and even into November. Try your game out at Foxwoods’ Lake of Isles, considered by many to be the finest course in Connecticut that’s open to public play. Mohegan Sun has recently entered the game as well, with an interesting revamp at its Country Club at Pautipaug.
Learning. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, easily one of Connecticut’s best museums. This state-of-the-art facility focuses on the history and culture of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and other indigenous people in North America. Among the wow factors: an amazingly realistic walk through a 16th-century Indian village complete with the aroma of a campfire and sounds of woodland animals.
Pampering. What’s a casino without a luxury spa? No 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 at MGM-Foxwoods 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 fall are Diana Ross, A$AP Rocky and Mark Knopfler. Mohegan Sun features Rascal Flatts, Straight No Chaser, Joe Walsh and NCAA basketball (not to mention nightly free concerts in the Wolf Den).
Antiques in Autumn
One of Connecticut’s great autumn treats is take in the changing fall foliage and the treasures of our antiques shops, all on the same road trip. It is likely that nearly every one of the state’s 169 towns has at least one antiques shop in its midst, and you are most welcome to poke along at your own pace and find them all. In the interest of time, however, we have a few highlights to tell you about.
The best-known of all Connecticut’s antiques alleys is undoubtedly the one that runs along U.S. Route 6 through the historic town of Woodbury. From the north end of town all the way south, the roadside, also known as the Woodbury Antiques Trail, is lined with dozens of shops, some grand and others quite modest in nature. According to the Woodbury Antiques Dealers Association, Woodbury “has over 30 professional dealers, offering virtually all categories, periods and styles of antiques, related accessories, gifts and bench-made reproductions from every corner of the world.”
At the other end of the state, in Putnam, you’ll find the Antiques Marketplace, an enormous affair with 350 dealer booths all under one roof in a 22,000-square-foot space. The merchandise runs from the local to the international, and the prices from affordable to, well, less affordable. Best of all, you never know what you might stumble into when there are so many places to explore.
And the Canal Street/Jefferson Street area of downtown Stamford has become a wonderful place for browsers and buyers to explore as well. The goods run from the 80 or so dealers on display at the Stamford Antique and Artisan Center, the high-end Greenwich Living Antiques & Design Center, and the anything-goes United House Wrecking (if need a vintage gasoline pump, barbershop pole or confessional kneeler - this is the place).
Sometimes, small antiques districts pop up in unexpected places. Bank Street in Seymour is home to a cluster, including Seymour Antiques Co. and Sher’s Bounty. You can park your car and easily walk to them all. In Old Saybrook, you can take in the pleasures of the waterfront as well as a handful of good antiques shops - Old Saybrook Antiques Center, for example, is a multi-dealer center specializing in American and Continental furniture.
For a good list of many other venues, check out the Connecticut Antiques Trail.
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