Leaf Peeping In Connecticut

A colorful weekend in The Nutmeg State

Fall foliage in Connecticut is a sight to behold! (Photo by Kimberly Dijkstra)

The changing of the seasons from summer to fall is one of the most wondrous things to experience on this planet. All that green we enjoyed for the past six months gives way to vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. For a few short weeks in October, New England glows and people come from all over the world to see it for themselves.

Connecticut epitomizes autumn in autumn. Just thinking of it brings up those good feelings of leaves crunching under your feet, a brisk breeze on your face, sipping a warm drink by a fireplace, driving over colorful hills and strolling through covered bridges. Long Islanders are fortunate to be only a short distance away—about 1 to 3 hours by car or a hop, skip and a jump by ferry. Spending a weekend among the fall foliage is an absolute must for all leaf peepers and outdoors seekers.

Open fields and rolling hills (Photo by Kimberly Lovisi)

The Nutmeg State

If you’re wondering why Connecticut is sometimes called The Nutmeg State, you’re not alone. The answer would be obvious if nutmeg trees (Myristica fragrans) grew in abundance in Connecticut, but they don’t. They grow in various tropical locales such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Caribbean. The answer lies back hundreds of years ago when the spice trade was booming. Connecticut merchants imported nutmeg, a spice prevalent in early American cuisine. The term “nutmegger” may have come about when salesmen sold fake nutmeg seeds to unsuspecting buyers. Alternately, the nutmegs may not have been fake—it’s possible the buyers didn’t know nutmeg must be grated to impart its flavor and they claimed to have been swindled due to the misunderstanding.

The official nickname of Connecticut is The Constitution State. Another one that pops up from time to time is The Land of Steady Habits. However, The Nutmeg State is most apropos, especially in autumn when it describes the warm colors and comforting spiced scents and flavors closely associated with the season.

From Oct. 9 to 15, Connecticut is expected to have lots of colorful trees on view in the northernmost parts of the state, according to Visit CT’s Fall Foliage Tracker. (Image source: www.ctvisit.com/articles/connecticuts-foliage-tracker)

Fall Foliage Finder

If all goes according to plan, in early October, the northernmost eastern and western corners of Connecticut will be at peak vibrance. By mid-October, the northern two-thirds of the state will be overtaken by the colors of fall. By late October, every part of the state will be touched by the palette leaf peepers lust after.

Visit CT, Connecticut’s Office of Tourism, offers a handy week-by-week guide to fall foliage on its website at ctvisit.com. The maps are based upon historic field observations by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Foresters. The Foliage Finder is a very helpful guide to planning your trip to the state that boasts New England’s longest foliage season.

Be A Gilmore Girl

Gilmore Girls, which ran on The WB and The CW from 2000 to 2007 and Netflix in 2016, is known for taking place in the quaint small town of Stars Hollow, CT. Though fictional, the setting was inspired by the charming towns in the Litchfield Hills area of Connecticut.

The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, CT, served as inspiration for the fictional Independence Inn run by Lorelai Gilmore on the television show. While in Washington, also stop at Marty’s Café (aka Luke’s Diner), the Washington Food Market (aka Doose’s Market) and The Hickory Stick Bookshop (aka Stars Hollow Books).

Between the gazebo, the library and the independent shops, New Milford feels even more like Stars Hollow than Washington. For a coffee fix—and you can’t be a Gilmore Girl without fueling up with a cup of coffee or six—stop into the cozy River & Rail Café. Spend the rest of your morning at the Town Green and the afternoon at Lovers Leap State Park with magnificent views of the Housatonic River.

Litchfield, which is mentioned by name on Gilmore Girls, is a lovely place to stop if you enjoy antiquing. Nearby Kent also has a Stars Hollow vibe with a cute downtown area, and features Bulls Covered Bridge which sits atop a waterfall. A ways away on Connecticut’s shoreline, Guilford also resembles the home of the Gilmore Girls, and even has a Taylor’s Old-Fashioned Soda Shoppe lookalike called The Village Chocolatier. Not far from Guilford is the Essex Steam Train, a vintage locomotive that weaves its way through the unspoiled Connecticut River Valley and gives you a front row seat to the blazing foliage.

A quiet drive around the Nutmeg State is the perfect way to spend an autumn weekend. (Photo by Kimberly Dijkstra)

The Quiet Corner

The northeast portion of Connecticut has been dubbed “The Quiet Corner” by locals for its rolling hills, farmlands and scenic views throughout. On the relaxing drive around this area, you will encounter Route 169, a National Scenic Byway designated as such for its intrinsic historical value. The road passes through Colonial homesteads, churches, stone walls and meeting houses of classic New England towns. Maples and pines stand tall along the byway, interspersed with open fields and glacially deposited boulders.

Visit the Prudence Crandall Museum in Canterbury, a former boarding school historically significant to Civil Rights and education equality in this country. The museum will close for renovations after Oct. 20, 2019. Antiques Marketplace in Putnam is one of Connecticut’s oldest antiques mega-malls, with more than 130 exhibiting antiques dealers in the large space. Creamery Brook Bison is a working farm in Brooklyn where the buffalo really do roam. The farm offers wagon rides to the public and has several events coming up this October.

For lunch, enjoy some comfort food at the Vanilla Bean Café, located in a restored, early 19th-century barn in Pomfret. For dinner, don’t miss a gourmet meal and wine tasting at Sharpe Hill Vineyard.

Also spend some time in the town of Woodstock, which is known for its tranquil, pastoral scenery. The Inn at Woodstock Hill Bed and Breakfast is a restored country estate on 19 acres, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with working fireplaces and a bar/lounge on site. A stone’s throw from other points of interest in the Quiet Corner, the inn is an ideal place to spend your evenings during the perfect autumn weekend in Connecticut.

For more ideas on fall foliage drives through Connecticut, visit www.ctvisit.com.

Kimberly Dijkstra
Kimberly Dijkstra is the web editor for Anton Media Group, a writer for Long Island Weekly and recipient of several Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) and New York Press Association (NYPA) awards.

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