The Litchfield Hills region of northwestern Connecticut is a rolling, forested landscape of hidden treasures. Here are historic villages and an unspoiled countryside with more state parks and public lands than any other area in Southern New England. While Connecticut residents view their back-woods playground as charming and sophisticated, the New York celebrities who make it their second home find it quiet and quaint.
Off the beaten track, Riverton became a destination following the restoration of the old Lambert Hitchcock chair factory on its original site beside the Farmington River. Employees can be observed weaving, woodworking, rushing and stenciling behind the gift shop and furniture showroom at the Hitchcock Chair Co. Factory Store. Store personnel open the fine Hitchcock Museum in the Old Union Church by appointment. The People's and American Legion state forests along the Farmington River provide picturesque picnicking, camping and fishing sites.
Sweet Pea's, 6 Riverton Rd., Riverton. (860) 379-7020. Click here to read capsule review.
A wealthy early summer colony, the Norfolk area along the Massachusetts border includes secluded estates and a lively summer music season that once gave it the title "the Lenox of Connecticut." The Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and the Yale Summer School of Music carry on the century-old tradition with summer concerts in the redwood-lined Music Shed on the hilly grounds of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel estate west of the village green.
>> Norfolk Lodging Suggestions
Manor House, Maple Avenue, Box 447, Norfolk. (860) 542-5690.
Angel Hill Bed & Breakfast, 54 Greenwoods Road East, Box 504, Norfolk. (860) 542-5920.
The Hotchkiss and Salisbury preparatory schools, lakes and nearby cultural attractions have drawn residents and weekenders to these adjoining towns in the northwesternmost corner. Music Mountain in the Falls Village section of Lakeville hosts the oldest continuous summer chamber music festival in the United States. Lime Rock Park, one of America's oldest sports car tracks, is a bucolic setting for summer races.
>> Salisbury/Lakeville Lodging & Dining Suggestions
Interlaken Inn, 74 Interlaken Road (Route 112), Lakeville. (860) 435-9878 or (800) 222-2909.
>> Salisbury/Lakeville Lodging Suggestions
The White Hart, The Village Green, Box 545, Salisbury. (860) 435-0030 or (800) 832-0041.
>> Salisbury/Lakeville Dining Suggestions
Pastorale Bistro & Bar, 223 Main St., Lakeville. (860) 435-1011. Click here to read capsule review.
Woodland Restaurant, 192 Sharon Rd., Lakeville. (860) 435-0578. Click here to read capsule review.
Cornwall and its related hamlets are as rustic and quaint as Connecticut gets a touch of Vermont in Southern New England. Hills rise sharply on either side of the Housatonic River, which is known for good canoeing, kayaking and rafting. A covered bridge leads into West Cornwall, which has something of the air of a small Wild West mountain town. A panoramic view is offered from an observation tower in Mohawk State Forest atop 1,683-foot Mohawk Mountain, site of Connecticut's largest ski area.
>> Cornwall Dining Suggestions
Cornwall Inn, 270 Kent Road (Route 7), Cornwall. (860) 672-6884 or (800) 786-6884. Click here to read capsule review.
This charming hamlet of exotic shops and galleries hugs the bank of a river just beneath Lake Waramaug. The boomerang-shaped lake reminds some of those in Austria and Switzerland, and the surrounding inns capitalize on it. Set astride a hill overlooking the lake is Hopkins Vineyard, one of the state's best farm wineries. Lake Waramaug State Park at the west end of the lake is a wonderfully scenic site, its picnic tables scattered well apart along the tree-lined shore, right beside the water. It's also good for swimming, fishing and boating, and is blessedly uncrowded. On the north and east sides of the lake are the forested Above All and Mount Bushnell state parks. Not far from Lake Waramaug on Route 202 toward Litchfield is Mount Tom State Park, with a 60-acre spring-fed pond for swimming and picnic tables poised at shore's edge.
>> New Preston Lodging & Dining Suggestions
The Birches Inn, 233 West Shore Road, New Preston. (860) 868-1735 or (888) 590-7945. Click here to read capsule review.
The Boulders Inn, Route 45, New Preston. (860) 868-0541 or (800) 552-6853. Click here to read capsule review.
>> New Preston Dining Suggestions
The Hopkins Inn, 22 Hopkins Road, New Preston. (860) 868-7295. Click here to read capsule review.
Oliva, 18 East Shore Road (Route 45), New Preston. (860) 868-1787. Click here to read capsule review.
Thomas Moran's Petite Syrah, 223 Litchfield Tpke., New Preston. (860) 868-7763. Click here to read capsule review.
Few Connecticut places are so charming as Washington Depot or so postcard-perfect as Washington, the former nestled in a valley and the latter perched on a hilltop. Large houses and prominent churches surround the hilltop green in Washington, and off to one side is the Gunnery School's interesting campus. The Gunn Historical Museum, housed in a 1781 wooden structure near the green, features period rooms, a fine thimble collection, dollhouses, spinning wheels and western Indian baskets.
The Institute for American Indian Studies, 38 Curtis Road (off Route 199), Washington.Dedicated to Indian relics and archeological digs, this establishment made history some years back when a team uncovered a fluted "clovis" spear point, which they say confirms Indians at the spot 10,000 years ago. A mastodon skeleton inside the contemporary museum shows the type of animal they would have hunted. There are arrowheads, very early Indian pottery, sandstone dishes and dioramas of early Indian life. Also on the premises are an Indian longhouse, a simulated dig site and an unusual, specialized museum shop with handcrafted copies of items in the collection. A twenty-minute habitat trail takes the visitor through stages of geological and botanical development in Connecticut.(860) 868-0518. Open Monday-Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday noon to 5, April-December. Closed Monday and Tuesday in winter. Adults $4.
>> Washington/Washington Depot Lodging & Dining Suggestions
G.W. Tavern, 20 Bee Brook Rd., Washington Depot. (860) 868-6633. Click here to read capsule review.
Mayflower Inn, Route 47, Washington Depot. (860) 868-0258. Click here to read capsule review.
The Pantry, Titus Rd., Washington. (860) 868-9466. Click here to read capsule review.
Considered the state's finest example of a typical late 18th-century New England village, Litchfield is the place to which we steer first-time visitors to Connecticut. The entire center of the village settled in 1720 is a National Historic Landmark. While Williamsburg had to be restored, Litchfield simply has been maintained by its residents as a living museum. Most of the old homes and buildings are occupied. Some are opened to the public on Open House Day one Saturday in July.
The Litchfield Historic District is clustered around the long, wide green and along North and South streets (Route 63). The statuesque, gleaming white Congregational Church is said to be the most photographed in New England. Note the bank and the jail sharing a common wall at North and West streets. Along North Street are Sheldon's Tavern, where George Washington slept (he visited the town five times), plus the birthplace of Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Pierce Academy, the first academy for girls. South Street is a broad, half-mile-long avenue where two U.S. senators, six Congressmen, three governors and five state chief justices have lived. Here too is the Tapping Reeve House and Law School (1773), the first law school in the country. The house with its handsome furnishings and the tiny school with handwritten ledgers of students long gone are open in conjunction with the Litchfield Historical Society Museum at 7 South St., which has four galleries of early American paintings, decorative arts, furniture and local history exhibits.
Just east of town are Haight Vineyard & Winery, the oldest farm winery in Connecticut, and Topsmead State Forest, a 511-acre preserve atop a knoll a mile east of Litchfield Center offering scenic views, picnic sites and trails as well as an English Tudor mansion that was once the summer home of the Chase brass family of Waterbury.
South of town along Route 63 is White Flower Farm, one of the nation's more unusual nurseries. Famed almost as much for its erudite catalog as for its nursery stock, it welcomes visitors to the ten acres of display gardens and a sales center from which few go home empty-handed. The gardens are especially gorgeous in late spring and summer, and the begonia display in the greenhouses is viewed from July through September.
White Memorial Foundation and Conservation Center, Route 202, Litchfield.Just west of Litchfield are 4,000 acres of nature sanctuary bordering Bantam Lake, the state's largest natural lake. Thirty-five miles of woodland and marsh trails are popular with hikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. This is a great place for observing wildlife, birds and plants in a variety of habitats. The conservation center in a 19th-century mansion contains a natural history museum with good collections of Indian artifacts, 3,000 species of butterflies, live and stuffed animals, and an excellent nature library and gift shop.(860) 567-0857. Grounds open free year-round. Museum, Monday-Saturday 9 to 5, Sunday noon to 5, April-October; Monday-Saturday 8:30 to 4:30, Sunday noon to 4, rest of year. Adults, $4.
>> Litchfield Lodging & Dining Suggestions
The Litchfield Inn, Route 202, Litchfield. (860) 567-4503 or (800) 499-3444.
>> Litchfield Dining Suggestions
3W & the Blue Bar, 3 West St., Litchfield. (860) 567-1742. Click here to read capsule review.
Toll Gate Hill, 571 Torrington Rd. (Route 202), Litchfield. (860) 567-1233 or (866) 567-1233. Click here to read capsule review.
West Street Grill, 43 West St., Litchfield. (860) 567-3885. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Torrington Dining Suggestions
Venetian Restaurant, 52 East Main St., Torrington. (860) 489-8592. Click here to read capsule review.
Kent's largest presence, except for the Kent School campus, are the shops and galleries strung along Main Street (Route 7). The most distinguished, perhaps is Belgique, an exceptional new patisserie and chocolatier at the main intersection. Pierre Gilissen, a former embassy chef from Belgium, and his wife Susan turned a rundown property into a destination for gourmands from across the region. North of town is Kent Falls State Park, a 200-foot cascade ending in an open meadow with picnic tables.
Sloane-Stanley Museum, U.S. Route 7 North.When artist-writer Eric Sloane died in 1985, he left an enormous legacy, including the museum that bears his name and displays a collection of his beloved early American tools. He designed the barn-like structure for the purpose. Wooden shovels and bowls, baskets and pitchforks, axes and scythes are grouped in ambient settings. Horse-drawn sleighs and other artifacts are shown along with Sloane paintings in the gallery. A wing houses a reproduction of the artist's studio from nearby Warren. Adjacent is a rustic cabin that Sloane built in two weeks when a TV film was being made of his book, The Diary of an American Boy. Below the museum are the remains of the Kent Iron Furnace, which produced pig iron in the 1800s. (860) 927-3849. Open Wednesday-Sunday and holidays, 10 to 4, mid-May through October. Adults, $3.50.
>> Kent Dining Suggestions
Fife 'n Drum, 53 North Main St., Kent. (860) 927-3509. Click here to read capsule review.
Restaurant Moosilauke, 23 Maple St., Kent. (860) 927-4145. Click here to read capsule review.
>> New Milford Dining Suggestions
Adrienne, 218 Kent Road, New Milford. (860) 354-6001. Click here to read capsule review.
59 Bank, 59 Bank St., New Milford. (860) 350-5995. Click here to read capsule review.
Danbury was known in its early industrial heyday as the Hat City of the World. Thanks to its proximity to New York, it has made a dramatic transition from hat production to a range of corporate headquarters and high-tech businesses that contribute to urban-exurban sprawl. A concert park is named for Danbury native Charles Ives, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. The Danbury Museum and Historical Society, 43 Main St., is comprised of the 1785 John and Mary Rider House, the 1790 John Dodd Hat Shop and the Charles Ives Birthplace.Attractions appealing to specific interests are the Danbury Railway Museum, 120 White St., and the Military Museum of Southern New England, 125 Park Ave.
>> Danbury Dining Suggestions
Ondine, 69 Pembroke Rd. (Route 37), Danbury. (203) 746-4900. Click here to read capsule review.
Café on the Green, 100 Aunt Hack Rd., Danbury.(203) 791-0369. Click here to read capsule review.
Bangkok, 1 Division St., Danbury.(203) 791-0640. Click here to read capsule review.
Bentley's, 69 Pembroke Rd. (Route 37), Danbury. (203) 778-3637. Click here to read capsule review.
Sesame Seed, 68 West Wooster St., Danbury. (203) 743-9850. Click here to read capsule review.
Ciao! Cafe & Wine Bar , 2-B Ives St., Danbury. (203) 791-0404. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Bethel Dining Suggestions
Emerald City Cafe, 269 Greenwood Ave., Bethel. (203) 778-4100. Click here to read capsule review.
San Miguel, 8 P.T. Barnum Square., Bethel. (203) 748-2396. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Newtown Dining Suggestions
The Inn at Newtown, 19 Main St., Newtown. (203) 270-1876. Click here to read capsule review.
G.P. Cheffields Grille & Bar, 97 South Main St., Newtown. (203) 270-6717. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Southbury Lodging Suggestions
The Cornucopia at Oldfield, 782 Main St. North, Southbury 06488. (203) 267-6707 or (888) 760-7947.
>> Southbury Dining Suggestions
Cafe Grappa, 900 Main St. South, Southbury. (203) 262-8001.
Seemingly every other house along Main Street in the Woodbury historic district bears a sign for an antiques shop. The Woodbury Antiques Dealers Association details 32 in a brochure touting it as the "Antiques Capital of Connecticut."
>> Woodbury Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Longwood Country Inn, 1204 Main St. South, Woodbury 06798. (203) 266-0800. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Woodbury Dining Suggestions
Good News Café, 694 Main St. South, Woodbury.(203) 266-4663. Click here to read capsule review.
John's Café, 693 Main St. South, Woodbury. (203) 263-0188. Click here to read capsule review.
Surrounded on all sides by steep hills, Waterbury gained fame as the Brass City and is identified today by a clock tower soaring above its old railroad station and an illuminated cross on a rocky outcropping above Interstate 84. The Connecticut Store preserves the tradition of the former Howland-Hughes store, the state's oldest department store, today celebrating Connecticut-made products and Yankee ingenuity. The state-of-the-art Timexpo Museum opened in 2001 in a restored late 1800s building in the Brass Mill Commons, a new edge-of-downtown shopping mall. It traces the history of Timex and its predecessor, the Waterbury Clock Co.
Mattatuck Museum, 144 West Main St., Waterbury.Located along the majestic green in downtown Waterbury, this exceptional museum focuses on three centuries of local industrial heritage and the master artists of Connecticut. "Brass Roots," a fascinating contemporary exhibit on the main floor, traces the lives of leaders and workers who transformed Waterbury from a Puritan village into a leading industrial center. Brass buttons, clocks, wooden works, art deco tableware and Charles Goodyear's rubber desk are highlights of one of New England's finest regional collections, along with early housewares and furniture made in western Connecticut. The museum's considerable art collection is housed on the second floor. The third floor is devoted to the Waterbury Button Museum, which displays 10,000 buttons from Waterbury and around the world. The museum café is a good place for lunch.
(203) 753-0381. www.mattatuckmuseum.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 to 5, Sunday noon to 5 (closed Sundays in July and August). Adults, $4.
>> Waterbury Lodging Suggestions
House on the Hill, 92 Woodlawn Ter., Waterbury 06710. (203) 757-9901.
>> Waterbury Dining Suggestions
Diorio, 231 Bank St., Waterbury. (203) 754-5111. Click here to read capsule review.
Carmen Anthony Steakhouse, 496 Chase Ave., Waterbury. (203) 757-3040. Click here to read capsule review.
>> Naugatuck Lodging Suggestions
The Milestone Inn, 18 Neuman St., Waterbury. (203) 723-6693. Click here to read capsule review.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun