By Anastasia Mills Healy
In-state scenic drives and close-to-home explorations provide safe opportunities to venture out of lockdown and support local businesses. Connecticut’s “trails” – tourism routes – package the state’s history, art, gardens, antiques stores, barns, food, and beverages; elements from the different trails can be combined to personalize a day trip. Some of these trails can be accomplished now (e.g., the barns trails are drives that don’t require getting out of the car; some of the gardens are accessible now; and most food and beverages can be ordered for take out), some can be explored virtually as entertainment and education, and others are to note for when they re-open. When leaving your car, protocols should be followed such as wearing a mask and keeping social distance from others. Note that organizations’ Facebook pages often have more up-to-date information than their websites.
CT Dino Trail
Did you know that in Connecticut you can walk an easy, stroller-friendly trail that winds past 50 life-size dinosaur models (Dinosaur Place re-opens May 20) and see 2,000 actual 200-million-year-old dinosaur footprints (the trails and outdoor facilities at Dinosaur State Park are open now)?
CT Beer Trail
There are 110 breweries in Connecticut and all have been cleared for curbside pick up, take out, and delivery. A few breweries have even opened during the pandemic including Dockside Brewery on the Housatonic River in Milford. All are on track to open May 20 with outdoor seating only, with tables spaced six feet apart; most will require reservations, so plan ahead.
CT Wine Trail
Twenty-four wineries throughout Connecticut are highlighted with details on styles, pick up and delivery, and special events. A passport that’s stamped at the fourteen vineyards participating in the Winter Wine Trail promotion will be eligible for lots of great travel and gift card prizes; the deadline is May 31 so get driving!
CT Spirits Trail
Connecticut produces craft spirits from moonshine in Canton to bourbon in Litchfield. Most are open for pick up and many are producing hand sanitizer as well to make sure you’re disinfected inside and out.
CT Pizza Trail
What better way to spend lockdown than taste testing the state’s best slices?
Seven routes guide cars or bicycles along scenic roads with barns as well as public sites like farm stands, orchards, wineries, and historic sites.
Connecticut’s Historic Gardens
Fifteen gardens across the state, mostly on the grounds of historic homes that are open to the public, have banded together to raise awareness of their special features. They are different in style, composition, and time period and include the historic gardens of the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme. The museum is closed until at least May 31 but visitors are welcome to walk around the riverfront and gardens.
Florence Griswold oversaw an American Impressionist art colony where artists including Childe Hassam were inspired by the property’s Colonial Revival gardens and bucolic setting on the Lieutenant River. In the gardens, visitors can walk among the beds of climbing roses, peonies, daylilies, foxglove, hollyhock, and delphinium; and follow the half-mile Artists’ Trail that winds past hedgerows, cart paths, riverfront meadows, and woodland thickets.
CT Art Trail
The best deal in the state is a passport to 22 museums for only $25. These cultural organizations – including Greenwich’s Bruce Museum and Greenwich Historical Society, the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, and the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury—all now have virtual tours and will really need your support when re-opening becomes possible.
CT Antiques Trail
There is no lack of antiques dealers in Connecticut, and the tourism bureau has put together a trail to highlight areas around the state that have concentrations of antiques and collectibles shops, flea markets, and auction houses covering a wide range of styles, periods, and prices. For variety, a good place to start is a multi-dealer location such as Antiques Marketplace in Putnam, Antiques on the Farmington in Collinsville, The Past Antique Marketplace in Montville, Clinton Antique Center, Essex Saybrook Antiques Village in Old Saybrook, and Stratford Antiques Center. Keep an eye out for when opening is possible and head out to hunt for one-of-a-kind items.
Connecticut Humanities has developed an app that presents seven trails introducing people and places of renown in the state. This is a great tool for parents to use for distance learning.
Architectural Wonders Trail
The Phillip Johnson Glass House is an expected stop but lesser-known structures like Hartford’s Boat Building and Austin House are interesting subjects for architecture and history buffs.
From stops on the Underground Railroad and the important history of the Amistad to a school that taught African American girls in the early 1830s, the state’s rich African American history is introduced.
This section explores the history of the state’s leisure spaces including amusement parks and noteworthy theaters.
Most Connecticut residents know that Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were Hartford neighbors, but did you know that you can stand in the room where the events of Long Day’s Journey Into Night happened and in the study where Noah Webster wrote America’s first dictionary?
The homes of Connecticut residents who contributed to the fight for independence like the state hero Nathan Hale (“My only regret is that I have but one life to live for my country”) and Roger Sherman, the only person who signed all four of America’s founding documents, are on this tour as are statues and the world’s first submarine.
War of 1812 Trail
After the Revolutionary War, Connecticut got caught up in a battle between France and Great Britain; places on this trail include Stonington to see a tattered 16-star flag that was displayed in defiance of a British raid, and Derby to learn about the feats of the captain of the USS Constitution.
Women’s Heritage Trail
Two of the many illustrious women on this trail are Mabel Osgood Wright, who founded America’s first bird sanctuary and the Connecticut Audubon Society; and Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the country’s first female architects whose home is now the wonderful Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington.