With summer upon us, it’s time to take full advantage of all the beautiful and unique places and spaces Connecticut has to offer. We are lucky to have a truly outstanding array of destinations to choose from, here in the Nutmeg State. People come from all around to enjoy the charm of Mystic Seaport, photograph our iconic lighthouses, and live it up at Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun.
While each of these high-profile locations offers a wonderful experience, some of our most delightful treasures are less well-known spots that are a little off the beaten path. Here are ten of our favorite “insider” destinations:
A must-see for anyone who venerates the written word, this world-renowned rare book and manuscript library houses one of the largest collections, including treasures ranging from ancient papyri and medieval manuscripts to the archived personal papers of modern writers, artists’ books, photographs, avant-garde, audio-visual and born-digital material. The library’s permanent collection includes The Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, and John James Audubon’s Birds of America. And the library also hosts special exhibits covering a wide range of topics and interests.
Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, Stamford
This 93-acre sanctuary is home to a diverse collection of trees, gardens, and plants reflecting the biodiversity of southwest New England. With hundreds of species in twelve beautiful gardens, the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens has something for everyone. They even welcome four-legged friends! Explore trails, take an audio tour, catch a concert, or participate in one of the many educational programs offered by the expert staff.
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven
Boasting a collection that includes more than 2,000 paintings, 250 sculptures, 20,000 drawings and watercolors, 40,000 prints, and 35,000 rare books and manuscripts, this public art museum and research institute can legitimately lay claim to having one of the largest collections of British art outside the United Kingdom. In addition to all the individual artworks, one of the Center’s greatest treasures is the building itself—the last structure designed by the internationally acclaimed American architect, Louis I. Kahn.
The Glass House, New Canaan
A National Trust Historic Site, this unique destination includes fourteen structures set on a bucolic 49-acres of Connecticut countryside. The most stunning building is the Glass House itself (1949), which was specifically designed as a pavilion for viewing the natural beauty of the landscape. In addition to the architecture, The Glass House features a permanent collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture as well as traveling exhibitions that change throughout the year.
Enders Island, Mystic
A perfect little world unto itself, this 11-acre island gives visitors a 360 degree ocean view that complements beautiful walking gardens, a seaside chapel, outdoor stations of the cross, and several iconic facilities including Enders House, the early 20th-century arts and crafts style mansion from which the island takes its name. The island’s Sacred Arts Institute offers workshops and residencies in iconography, illumination, stained glass, and other creative pursuits.
The Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington
Quintessential New England, this beautiful property sits on 152 acres of wooded hiking trails and meadows, complete with rambling stone walls, historic barns, and a gorgeous Sunken Garden. The museum’s extensive collection includes French Impressionist works from such iconic artists as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, James M. Whistler and Mary Cassatt. The country estate also showcases a great many original furnishings and decorative arts.
Sheffield Island Lighthouse, Norwalk
While there are plenty of lighthouses to see in Connecticut, Sheffield Island Lighthouse is one of the most unusual. The stone mid-Victorian style house was built in 1868 and earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. A major 1993 storm caused major damage, but—thankfully—with the support of The Norwalk Seaport Association, this beautiful artifact of the past was repaired and restored. It now features a solar-powered light that is not technically a navigation aid, but which is a lovely reminder of days gone by.
Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Hamden
Located at Quinnipiac University, this unique museum explores the Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852 and its impact through the art of both contemporaneous and contemporary artists. Featuring work by some of the most eminent Irish and Irish-American artists of the past 170 years, this collection is meant to educate viewers about the underlying political, social, economic, and historic causes of the Great Hunger.
Mill House Antiques, Woodbury
While antique shops abound in Connecticut, Mill House Antiques and Gardens offers an experience that’s a cut above the rest. Founded in 1964, this establishment continues to attract an international clientele of discriminating collectors and dealers. Seventeen showrooms are filled with pieces of extraordinary quality, and the entire place is surrounded by well-groomed gardens and lawns that often host glamorous fundraising and other events.
Finally, when you have worked up an appetite with all your adventuring, treat yourself to an extravagant dining experience on the 20th floor of One State Street. Voted one of the Top Ten restaurants for service in the country by Open Table diners and named one of the top scenic-view restaurants, this lavish destination restaurant promises a culinary experience you won’t soon forget.
So those are ten of our favorite Connecticut destinations to savor in the summertime. There’s a little something for everyone, and we hope you’ll add at least a few of them to your bucket list and plan a visit soon.