Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut, nestled between a slew of states across New England, is often overlooked. Though it may be small, the state is jam-packed with a variety of unique adventure spots. All you have to do is dig a little deeper.
We’ve compiled a list of hidden gems waiting to be explored.
Bradley Mountain Farm | 537 Shuttle Meadow Rd., Southington
Calling all animal lovers to visit the goats at Bradley Mountain Farm in Southington. The farm offers a variety of fun goat-filled activities including yoga, cuddle therapy, and even a full moon goat walk. Additionally, it also offers workshops to create goat milk soaps.
Buttonwood Sunflower Farm | 473 Shetucket Tpke., Griswold
Sunflowers, sunflowers, and more sunflowers! Walk through a maze of beautiful yellow flowers at Buttonwood Sunflower Farm. There’s an annual festival running from July 24 through August 1 where guests can admire 14 acres of sunflowers and enjoy a hayride and ice cream. Not only is it picturesque – and definitely Instagram-worthy – a bunch of fresh-cut flowers for $10 goes directly to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Lavender Pond Farm | 318 Roast Meat Hill Rd., Killingworth
The fields at Lavender Pond Farm are a breathtaking sight. They are filled with over 10,000 lavender plants over a 25-acre property. The purpose of the farm is to help “make the world a more beautiful place.” Starting on June 1, the lavender fields will be in bloom and will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thorncrest Farm, LLC & Milk House Chocolates | 280 Town Hill Rd, Goshen, CT 06756
Thorncrest farm offers a unique experience for both chocolate and animal lovers alike. Milkhouse chocolates are made right on the property from the farm’s dairy cows. Customers have an opportunity to handpick truffles and chocolates from the Milk House Chocolate Menu. The stable is also open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday, for customers who would like to meet the cows.
Wicked Tulip Flowers Farm | 382 Rt. 164, Preston
Pick out your own flowers at the beautiful tulip fields at the Wicked Tulip Flowers Farm in Preston. You can set up an appointment time online from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. while the flowers are in season, seven days a week. The flower farm also offers a special opportunity to take yoga classes out in the tulip fields.
Wildrose Horse Farm | 536 Raymond Hill Rd., Uncasville
Wildrose Horse Farm isn’t just a regular farm; the nonprofit organization offers equine-assisted therapy, dubbed Healing With Horses. The program rescues horses from abuse, neglect, or bad situations, and offers therapeutic services to people with emotional and cognitive challenges. The organization notes that their horses have “been through hard times just like you.” Appointments must be made in order to stop by.
Castle Craig | 1 Peak Dr, Meriden, CT
Here’s a castle with a view! Meriden’s Hubbard Park is home to Castle Craig, a 32-foot-tall stone tower. Guests can either drive or walk up Reservoir Road to reach the tower, which includes an indoor winding stairway that leads to the observation deck. From the top of the castle, visitors can look out onto the city and even catch views of the Long Island Sound.
Hidden among the trees of Goshen’s Mohawk State Forest sits a little piece of history. After driving – or walking – up the winding roads of Mohawk Mountain, there’s a little trail that leads to a 20-foot tall tower. Cunningham Tower, built in 1912, was first purchased for sheep farming. Now, its inside only includes a picnic table and stone fireplace.
Gillette Castle | 67 River Rd, East Haddam, CT 06423
Have you ever wondered what an elegant castle from the early 1900s would look like? Right in East Haddam is Gillette Castle State Park, overlooking the Connecticut River. The now-closed castle was built in 1914 for actor William Gillette. Walk the grounds and relish in the history of this castle while taking in the charming architecture.
Hearthstone Castle | 18 Brushy Hill Rd, Danbury
The stone masterpiece is known as Hearthstone castle, originally a three-story, 16-room home, now sits in ruins. The abandoned castle can be found following a three-mile hike in the woods of Tarrywile Park in Danbury, fully forgotten among the forest. While it’s surrounded by overgrown vegetation, it offers a scenic view from the park: a quaint, enchanting memory.
Saville Dam | 27 Saville Dam, Barkhamsted
While it’s not necessarily a castle, Saville Dam’s structure is fit for royalty. The 135 ft. earthen embankment dam creates the Barkhamstead Reservoir and sources Hartford’s water. Its masonry work and turret-shaped top make the dam look like a small castle, adorned with doors reminiscent of the Medieval era. Take in the view of the dam overlooking the Farmington River.
Niche shopping spots
Book Barn | 41 W Main St., Niantic
Readers, this one’s for you! The Book Barn in Niantic offers a unique experience for any book-lover. Stroll outside through the hundreds of used books for sale, sectioned off by genre. Along the way, walk through gardens, a haunted book shop, and an indoor store.
Orchardworks Wand Shop | 13 Furnace Ave, Stafford
Remember: the wand chooses the wizard. That’s the case at Orchardworks Wand Shop, where your inner witch or wizard can pick out a personalized wand for all your magical needs. The wandmakers craft all wands in-house from various types of wood, and the unique shop’s atmosphere pays homage to the Harry Potter series.
Redscroll Records | 69 S Turnpike Rd., Wallingford
Thousands of records are up for grabs at Redscroll. Search the rows and rows of vinyl – and even score some $1 oldies – for classic and modern music. While music enthusiasts will be able to snag some records from artists on the radio today, there’s an abundance of 45s to match the vintage atmosphere.
StellaLuna LLC | 264 Queen St., Southington
Have you ever wondered how crystals can influence your life? Interested in the Wiccan lifestyle, or an herb enthusiast? StellaLuna, a metaphysical shop, offers all of the above, with tarot cards, sage, and various homeopathic remedies at your disposal. Get in tune with your inner self – and maybe even beyond.
Weirdo Wonderland | 225 Bridgeport Ave., Milford
Every day is Halloween at Weirdo Wonderland. The little hole-in-the-wall shop is nestled in-between a busy Milford street but has a lot to offer on the inside. Stickers cover the walls, dozens of vintage posters are stacked throughout the store, and horror film nostalgia fills the air.
Devil’s Hopyard | 366 Hopyard Rd., East Haddam
Devil’s Hopyard is well known for its name as some people who’ve gone to the park report a supernatural experience and some have theories the “devil” himself has been seen at the park. Despite its scary name, Devil’s Hopyard offers great spots for hiking, camping, and bird watching. The park is also one of the best spots for stream fishing in the state!
Kent Falls | 462 Kent Cornwall Rd., Kent
Kent Falls is a great spot to hike with family or friends as it not only offers walking trails but a view of one of the state’s only covered bridges overlooking a beautiful waterfall. The rushing water, nestled between the trees, offers a picturesque view.
Roaring Brook | 827 Roaring Brook Rd., Cheshire
Roaring Brook Falls is a great hiking spot for those who love a bit of a challenge! The hike can be a bit steep on the climb up, but it’s worth it in the end as leads to a view of one of the state’s tallest waterfalls with an 80 ft drop.
Uncas’ Leap at Yantic Falls | 232 Yantic St., Norwich
At Yantic Falls, explorers can get a breathtaking view of some of the most powerful waterfalls in the state with a natural rock fall formation and a man-made dam. The falls are incredibly beautiful and offer a mile-long hiking trail. Yantic Falls is deeply connected to the history of the Mohegan Tribe as it was the site of the Battle of Great Plain.
Wadsworth Falls | 721 Wadsworth St., Middletown
Wadsworth Falls is one of the most popular state parks to visit. It offers varied hiking trails, views of scenic waterfalls, and swimming in designated areas. There are locations to see the falls from above, and even spots to sit, surrounded by water.
State & local parks
Talcott Mountain State Park | 1 Summit Ridge Drive, Simsbury, CT 06070
Talcott Mountain Memorial Park | Photos courtesy Ellie Stamp
Dying to go on a hiking trip to Vermont or New Hampshire but just don’t have the time? Then you’re in luck! The climb up Talcott Mountain State Park could not be more rewarding for those who love the outdoors. On your way up the mountain, you’ll become encapsulated by the beauty of the forest and views from the mountainside. Once you make it all the way up to the top, check out the Hueblein Tower and explore the different levels of the museum. On the very top floor, you get an incredible view of the Connecticut mountains.
Dinosaur State Park | 400 West St., Rocky Hill
Reopening in August 2022, Dinosaur State Park is a must for those with children to visit. Originally, the park opened after 2,000 dinosaur tracks were uncovered while a new state building was under construction. Now the park offers a multitude of activities for families including a museum on the history of dinosaurs, and an arboretum. The park also has a discovery room for children and offers seasonal activities such as mining for gems and track casting.
Elizabeth Park Rose Garden | 1561 Asylum Ave., Hartford
Flowers from Elizabeth Park | Photos courtesy Ellie Stamp
Hartford is home to the country’s first public rose garden that is still standing today. The park is filled with beautiful roses in numerous shades, making it the perfect place to bring your camera and practice your photography skills. Aside from the beauty of it all, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic or date.
Harkness Memorial State Park | 275 Great Neck Rd., Waterford
Harkness Memorial Park | Photos courtesy Ellie Stamp
We’re calling all ocean lovers to check out Harkness Memorial Park for some amazing views of the Long Island Sound. With the backdrop of the seaside, you may feel like you’re in an episode of Bridgerton while walking through the gardens of the Harkness Summer Mansion, Eiola. The mansion is named after the home of the ruler of winds in ancient Greece. There are also many photo opportunities, including a detailed gazebo, rock garden, and stone benches underneath the trees.
Lover’s Leap State Park | 178 Short Woods Rd., New Milford
The park features hiking trails, scenic vistas, and historic ruins. The views at Lover’s Leap State Park are not to be missed. The hiking trail offers some spectacular sights including a breathtaking view of the park from one of the last 895 Berlin Iron Bridges in the state. It’s also a great spot to do some bird watching!
Bulls Covered Bridge | 248 Bulls Bridge Rd., South Kent
Take a look back in time while walking under the single-lane vehicular wooden covered bridge in Kent. While the current Bulls Bridge was constructed in 1842 from timber, the first instance of a bridge at the location over the Housatonic River was built back in 1760. It’s only one of three surviving covered bridges in the state.
Cross Sound Lighthouse Cruises | 2 Ferry St, New London
See the best parts of New England and Long Island – while gaining some history lessons along the way – with Cross Sound Ferry Lighthouse Cruises out of New London. Guests will have the chance to see 12 different lighthouses. There are different cruise options, including one that passes the mansions in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
Riverquest | 67 Main St., Essex
Enjoy a narrated journey along the Connecticut River aboard the Riverquest, which docks at the Connecticut River Museum out of Essex. There are special themed cruises including a full moon cruise observing the river at twilight, a cruise to the Old Saybrook lighthouses, and a cruise that searches for fireworks in July.
Holy Land USA | 60 Slocum St., Waterbury
Holy Land USA | Photos courtesy Olivia Casey
The once-known religious amusement park from the ’50s is now a desolate, abandoned trail leading up to the highest point in Waterbury. Following a winding uphill climb, visitors are met with a 65-foot cross adjacent to three smaller crosses. See the “Holy Land USA” sign and mysterious grounds for a fun hike.
Safari Golf | 2340 Berlin Tpke., Berlin
Mini golf is taken to another level with Safari Golf. The fun environment is great for either children or adults, as each course is adorned with various safari animals. Overlooking the Berlin Turnpike, the course is set on a hillside, making each of the 18 holes a challenge. Waterfalls, streams, and caves add to the atmosphere.
Unusually fun eateries
Alice in the Village | 27 Coogan Blvd. #26A, Mystic
Experience your own version of Alice in Wonderland at this mystical shop and tea room. The walls and decor are reminiscent of the whimsical experience in Wonderland, offering niche goodies like macrons and mini desserts, as well as custom tea, at the ‘EatMe!/DrinkMe!’ counter.
Bell City Diner | 782 Pine St., Bristol
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at Bell City Diner, but they’re most sought-after for their incredible shakes. Each handmade shake is topped with goodies like candy, fruit, chocolate, or whipped cream, overflowing with frosting and sprinkles for décor. Plus, there are shakes designed for certain holidays; a Friday the 13th shake is available in the fall, while a Memorial Shake was for grabs last month.
Cava | 1615 West St., Southington
Cava isn’t just a restaurant; the Southington Italian eatery has several different dining experiences throughout the year, creating a unique, themed atmosphere. Each year, the entire building is transformed into a winter wonderland with 250,000 lights. Throughout the rest of the year, the room changes; currently, they’re offering a wizard room with candles hanging from the ceiling like Hogwarts.
Mew Haven Cat Cafe | 904 Whalley Ave., New Haven
Mew Haven Cat Cafe | Photos courtesy Sara Tewksbury
What’s better than petting some furry babies while drinking hot coffee? That’s the deal at Mew Haven Cat Cafe. Located right within the middle of Elm City, guests can get caffeinated and cuddle up with cats for 50-minute visits or three-hour work/study sessions to ease the nerves.
NewSylum Brewing Co. | Keating Farms Ave., Newtown
What’s the perfect way to end a trip to the abandoned insane asylum? A beer, of course! NewSylum Brewing Co. is located right on the historic Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, offering aptly-named taps like “Therapy Session” New England Style Pale Ale, “Wit’Drawls” Belgian Style Wit, and “Counting The Days” Hazy IPA.
Spa Soli | 945 Farmington Ave, West Hartford, CT 06107
Dealing with anxiety, allergies, asthma, inflammation, or even the common cold? Take a shot at salt therapy, also known as Halotherapy, an alternative treatment offering peace and serenity amid negatively-charged, ionized salt particles. Book an appointment to meditate or nap while surrounded by Himalayan salt and look up at the night sky.
High Rollers Luxury Lanes | 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket
You’ve heard of bowling, but what about luxury bowling? Aptly placed within Foxwoods Resort and Casino is High Rollers Luxury Lanes, offering bowling fans a ritzy experience with comfortable seating, velvet decor, and even table service.
Katharine Hepburn Museum | 300 Main St., Old Saybrook
The Kate, a museum paying homage to the actress Katharine Hepburn, is located right in her hometown of Old Saybrook. The museum not only offers a look into Hepburn’s life, but it is also home to various concerts, film showings, theater performances, and comedy gigs.
It’s time to break out the rollerskates and let the magic begin at Waterbury’s Roller Magic, where skaters of all ages can hit the dance floor. This summer, the roller rink will host special adult skate nights on the first and third Friday of the month, featuring various DJs. Dance the night away under a disco ball!
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art | 600 Main St., Hartford
In need of some good art? Not only does the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art contain beautiful pieces, but its castle-like building offers an aesthetically pleasing exterior. The building, which opened back in 1844, is the oldest continually operating public art museum in the country, and the largest museum in the state. Whether you’re going for the views or art, your eyes will thank you later.