If you live in Connecticut, not only have you felt the impact of a global pandemic, you also understand it can be difficult to find a relaxing spot to get away with your thoughts. With all the noise, it can be hard to just focus and have conversations with yourself. So, I have compiled a list of cozy and relaxing Connecticut spots, to find your center and go on an adventure. Whether it be comfort food or a nature-infused walk, Connecticut has a lot to offer. You just need to find it!
Elizabeth Park- West Hartford, Connecticut
If you love gardens, flowers, and beautiful scenery, Elizabeth Park is the perfect location for you to relax and regroup. With expansive plots of grass, picnics here are wonderful. The park has a lot of gems, both out in the open and hidden. My personal favorite is the Julian and Edith Eddy Rock Garden, which is now more commonly referred to as the Shade Garden. This spot is a bit off the beaten path, but is not too far from the main drag of roses and gardens you will be greeted with when you first arrive. First designed around 1911, the Shade Garden provides the perfect refuge from the sun and the crowds, making for the ideal reading nook.
Gillette Castle State Park- East Haddam, Connecticut
Not only is the caste beautiful, but the drive to it is breathtaking. Gillette Castle was the brainchild of William Hooker Gillete, an actor, playwright, director and, apparently, brilliant home owner. The inside of the estate is marked by incredible woodwork, high ceilings, and incredible attention to detail. The outside is something out of a movie and, if you happen to own a big ballgown, I would bring it for a breathtaking photo op. Not only is the castle itself the pinnacle of adventure and relaxation, the trails surrounding the estate feature bridges, a vegetable cellar, a rail station, and more. If you find hiking to be relaxing, Gillette Castle State Park will be perfect for you.
Olde Mistick Village- Mystic, Connecticut
Perhaps my favorite spot in Connecticut, Olde Mistick Village will transport you back in time to colonial New England. The village contains historical based shops, such as the cozy Franklin’s General Store, a classic Gaelic heritage shop, Irish Eyes, and the always tasty Munson’s Chocolate. You can get a bite to eat at Mango’s Wood Fired Pizza Co. or the Steak Loft (a personal favorite). You may even be lucky enough to be greeted by particularly friendly ducks. Overall, Olde Mistick Village offers anything and everything you need, with a side of retail therapy.
Horsebarn Hill- Storrs, Connecticut
If you are/ have been a UConn student, Horsebarn Hill is a staple in your memory book. With over a mile of greenery and barns, this hidden gem on campus is the perfect exercise and relaxation spot. In the spring and summer months you can take a stroll over to the historical Dairy Bar, and perhaps even wave hello to the cows out in the pasture. If you walk along Horsebarn Hill Road, you will be greeted by a host of sweet animals, from lambs to (of course) horses! A well-known spot of Animal Science Majors, Horsebarn Hill offers some of the most beautiful sunsets you will see in the state.
Yale University Art Gallery- New Haven, Connecticut
Located in the heart of New Haven, the Yale University Art Gallery offers its patrons a deep dive into vast art history, from Chinese hanging scrolls from the 17th century, to a legitimate sculpture of a snow shovel in the Modern and Contemporary Art exhibit. The University truly hits every aspect of art and includes just about anything an artist would ever want to see. My favorite is the American Decorative Arts exhibit, which includes pieces such as the chrome plated Electrolux Coprotation vacuum cleaner, a la 1940s and 1950s.
Ferris Acres Creamery- Newtown, Connecticut
Ironically nestled on Sugar Street in Newtown, Ferris Acres Creamery is a family run to a tee. The Ferris Acres farm was originally purchased, according to their website, in 1864, by William David Balwin Ferris. It began as an apple farm, and has evolved over the decades into a dairy farm, still family run and orientated. Their homemade ice cream menu features classic flavors, such as chocolate chip or vanilla, but also includes local favorites, such as “Route 302 Chocolate Moo”. In 2019, Thrillist included Ferris Acres in its “The Best 33 Ice Cream Shops in America” article. The same year, Travel + Leisure named it to be the best ice cream shop in the entire state. So, if your idea of relaxation is amazing ice cream and a quaint town, Ferris Acres Creamery is perfect for you.
Talcott Mountain State Park- Simsbury, Connecticut
Relaxation takes many forms. This form is beautiful views and hours of hiking. Talcott Mountain State Park is free, but the experience is priceless. The historical Heublein Tower that sits at the end of a 1.25 mile hike was originally built in 1914 to serve as a summer home, but has since become a staple of Connecticut. The hike is perfect for beginners and can end with a scenic picnic atop the mountain. The best time of year to take on the mountain is fall, as you will be greeted by color and vibrancy everywhere you look.
Lyman Orchards-Middlefield, Connecticut
If you live in Connecticut, it is safe to say you are familiar with Lyman Orchards. Located in beautiful Middlefield, Lyman Orchards offers everything from golfing to raspberry picking. It has been a Connecticut gem since the mid 1700s. During the fall, you can get lost in the corn maze, then visit the Apple Barrel to pick out some fresh apple fritters. In the summer months, you can explore the beautiful sunflower maze, and end your day picking peaches! The orchards offer a relaxing atmosphere, with kind staff and breathtaking views. Happy picking!
Hammonasset Beach State Park- Madison, Connecticut
First opened in 1920, Hammonasset Beach State Park sees approximately one million visitors each year. If your idea of relaxation includes sunshine and waves, it is pretty obvious why Hammonasset is the best place to chill out. However, the state park offers a variety of opportunities for fun and adventure. For the nature lovers, the Meigs Point Nature Center offers education, but also a look at the friends of the area, such as turtles, a groundhog, and even a falcon. Once you’re done there, you can ride your bike along the paths, and finish your day by pitching a tent in the campsite.
West Cornwall Covered Bridge- Cornwall, Connecticut
For many historians, such as myself, this hidden gem is truly the epitome of relaxation and exploration. Over 140 years old, this is one of the last remaining covered bridges in the state. If driving is your deal, then this is perfect. If photography is your niche, then this is perfect. If you like really anything at all, this is perfect for you. It still carries cars across it, but it is nestled atop the beautiful Housatonic River, and is ideal for fishing and reading. While you’re in the area, you can even visit When Pigs Fly, a classic BBQ joint in Sharon.