Exploring Connecticut’s Farmington Valley
With friends flying to Hartford, Connecticut I can’t resist the urge to recommend a number of attractions, activities and historic sites we’ve experienced and enjoyed in the nearby Farmington Valley.
- Hill-Stead Museum – history, art and gardens. The home of the Alfred Pope family during the first half of the 20th century is a National Historic Landmark complete with the family’s furnishings, sculpture, photographs, ceramics and art. I loved seeing the extensive French Impressionist collection –Monet, Degas, Cassatt – hanging in a home environment instead of a sterile gallery. The Sunken Garden blooms from mid-April into October with flowers and plants historically based on the original garden plan. Guided tours of the house give insight into the Pope family, art, collectables and architectural details. A Poetry & Music Festival highlights five Wednesday evenings during the summer.
- The town of Farmington has a fascinating history from early Colonial settlement dating to 1640, the Revolutionary War, Underground Railroad and the Amistad. Learn about many of the interesting citizens of the past during a historic walk through the Riverside Cemetery. The hospitality of local inns and restaurants make Farmington an ideal hub for a visit to the region.
- The 1st Company Governor’s Horse Guard, in Avon, is the oldest continuously mounted Calvary unit in the US. The public is welcome to watch them drill on Thursday evenings at 7pm.
- Phelps Tavern Museum in Simsbury provides a look into the home of Capt. Elisha Phelps where three generations of innkeepers (1786 – 1849) welcomed travelers arriving by stage, canal boat or horseback to the tavern and inn. One can imagine historical figures from America’s early years seeking respite from their journey between Boston and Philadelphia.
- Stanley-Whitman House Built circa 1720 the Colonial home relates aspects of everyday life during that period in Connecticut. The living history center and museum encourages an interactive experience for visitors.
- Canton Historical Museum This place is chuck full of "stuff" and every item has a story that one of the volunteers is eager to share. Collinsville was just what I expected from a New England village. The nearby LaSalle Market makes a good sandwich and salad for lunch.
- Abigails Grille and Wine Bar, – because of the building’s history. It was built in 1780 as a stage stop between Hartford and Boston. Abigail is the guest who won’t go away – tales of Abigail give lots of haunting history. This was known as Pettibone Tavern when we were there and has since experienced a fire, come under new management and been renamed so I don’t know about the food, service, etc. today. I loved the building, haunted tales and sense of stepping back in time to walk in the footsteps of earlier guests such as John Adams.
- A real piece of New England is the Canton Auction Barn. When one goes the first thing you want to do is reserve a piece of pie from the night’s selections. They’re homemade, very good and sell out. I’m not really an auction aficionado and didn’t buy a thing (my house is already filled to the brim) but this was still a fun experience. Housed in a circa 1820 barn the Saturday night weekly auction attracts serious collectors and casual observers. No reserves or buyer’s premiums; all items are owned outright by the Richard Wacht and Susan Wacht. Doors open at 5pm for inspection of items up for sale that evening – the Wachts encourage questions before the auction begins at 7:30. Reserve a seat by placing a cushion on a chair. Don’t forget to indulge in a slice of pie.
- Salmon Brook Historic Society – Buildings include the Abijah Rowe House (circa 1732), Weed Enders House (circa 1790), Cooley School (circa 1870), and the Colton/Hayes Tobacco Barn (circa 19114). Located in Granby, the National Register of Historic Places site is open Sunday afternoons from June through September.
- Old Avon Farms School – The buildings and grounds of this private boy’s boarding school makes one think they will meet Harry just around the next corner.
- Flamig Farm – Young and old learn about farm life at Flamig Farm. Who can resist the Farm Animal Zoo populated with bunnies, piglets. llamas, peacocks, emus, ducks, draft horses and sheep? Plus, happy egg laying chickens. Open April through November, pony rides on weekends, old fashioned hay rides by reservation. Fresh eggs for sale in the store.
- Kayak the Farmington River with a guide from Collinsville Canoe & Kayak. See the Farmington Valley from a new perspective – meadows, farmland and Hublein Tower atop Avon Mountain during a gentle 8.5-mile flat water paddle. Numerous other guided trips available as well as equipment rental and sales.
- New England Air Museum – Aviation buffs will love the collections including over 125 aircraft, 200 aircraft engines and outstanding array of aviation artifacts. The museum is located at the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.
Each of these recommendations brings back treasured memories of an area rich in natural beauty, historic preservation and cultural enrichments. I’m ready to plan a return visit to Connecticut’s Farmington River Valley.