7 Awesome Autumn Activities in Connecticut Last Updated 9/17
By Julie Barker
How do you “fall”? In Connecticut, we’ve got so many ways to make the most of the fall season—all so close to each other. By day, you can enjoy scenic foliage views, pick-your-own apple orchards and pumpkin farms. By night, take a haunted tour or a zip-line through a dark forest. Here are just a few great ideas for visiting Connecticut this fall!
See a Fall Classic
In northeastern Connecticut, peep at leaves from National Scenic Byway Route 169, which passes through 32 miles of rolling terrain and towns such as Woodstock (established in 1686) and Canterbury, home of the state’s Official Heroine, Prudence Crandall. Roadside farm stands sell fresh eggs, apples and cider, while ubiquitous stonewalls display the hard work of early settlers. Traversing the populous southwestern corner of the state is Route 15, the Merritt Parkway, a 37-mile highway bordered by maples, oaks, white ash and sweet gum, among other trees vibrant in fall. The oldest scenic highway in the United States, Route 15 keeps the 21st century at bay, thanks to the historic landscape design and the Art Deco bridges, each one a little different.
Explore Gardens of Delight
Providing a feast for the eyes in any season, sculpture gardens can be at their most dramatic in autumn. On eight acres in Ridgefield, nine sculptors’ works dot woodlands and meadows and circle a marsh at Garden of Ideas. In Old Lyme at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds, more than 100 pieces adorn the gardens and courtyards. The Sculpture Mile in downtown Madison features more than 20 works by nationally acclaimed East Coast artists.
Follow Our Trails
Head out on multi-use trails for some of the best days of the year for hiking. The air is crisp and bright, amazing colors surround you and spectacular views pop up along the way. Among the options: Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam is known for bird-watching and 60-foot Chapman Falls. Don’t miss the cave called Devil’s Oven, or the round holes near the falls said to have been made by the Devil’s hot feet. At Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden, climb to the observation tower at the summit of 739-foot Mt. Carmel; it’s not hard. Kent Falls State Park in the Litchfield Hills offers a series of waterfalls cascading 250 feet in a quarter of a mile. Kent Falls is a trout park; all three parks offer fishing. And don’t miss the views from Heublein Tower atop Talcott Mountain in Simsbury.
Visit Ghostly Places
Go to a graveyard at dusk and you’re likely to get goosebumps, especially if you’re in the company of an empathic medium. Seaside Shadows offers lantern-light tours through the end of November that visit Whitehall Burial Ground in Mystic, focus on the darker doings in downtown Mystic’s history or give you chills in New London’s Ye Antientist Burial Ground. Private tours can be arranged in winter.
Don’t Miss the Fruit Course
Pick your apples right off the trees at Beardsley’s Cider Mill & Orchard in Shelton, where from row to row you can harvest Cortlands, Galas, Macouns and a dozen others. Purchase a starter kit to make hard cider (Why not? You’ve got apples.). On the property is a bakery that turns out luscious pies and pumpkin cheesecake. Cider doughnuts are so tasty, the dozen you promised to take home may not make it that far.
Go Pumpkin Hunting
Whether you plan to carve it, use it for decor or deseed and cook it, the perfect pumpkin lies in wait for you at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield. One of the oldest family-owned businesses in America, Lyman Orchards dates from 1741. In addition to pumpkins, the family grows many different fruits and bakes pies from the plumpest and juiciest. Looking for something a little different? Ride a vintage trolley to the pumpkins during the Annual Pumpkin Patch Event at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven.
Zip Into the Night
Awesome activities don’t fear the night. Ride zip-lines late on Fridays and Saturdays through November at Adventure Park at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport. The zip-lines are part of a network of aerial pathways and bridges, providing challenging fun at six difficulty levels. Mystic’s Fields of Fire Adventure Park opens their aerial park after dark on Friday and Saturday nights on a seasonal basis. Each night culminates with hot chocolate around a huge fire pit. At EMPOWER in Middletown, zip-line through the tress and experience their fall foliage tours on Tuesday through Sundays in September and October. Attach the harness and zip away on 200-foot or 650-foot courses. Stamford-based writer Julie Barker often hunts cider doughnuts on autumn weekends.