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Fall-ing in Love With Connecticut

I love the fall! That was one thing I missed when I moved back to Miami.  The leaves are always green there, which is nice, but doesn't get you into the spirit of the holidays the way a New England fall can.  So now that fall is in full swing, for those of you that want to appreciate the colors and see what Connecticut has to offer, I want to tell you about a part of CT I knew nothing about when I was a student and only discovered after I moved back- the Connecticut River Valley.

It is an easy drive, about 30 miles, from New Haven with several charming towns to explore for a day.  You can start off in Essex by exploring the shops at Essex Village.  The Connecticut River Museum, which highlights the history and biology of New England's largest river, is also in Essex.  Or you can take the Essex Steam Train and River Boat Ride, which takes you for a ride on a 1920's steam train and then onto a boat to cruise up the river.  I have yet to do this or one of the other CT River cruises, but I have heard it is a great way to spot eagles, especially in the winter months. 

What I've done when I have explored the area is simply drive and stop at the various cities.  When leaving Essex for instance, rather than taking Route 9, it is worth driving along some of the smaller roads that boarder the river just to see the river and the fall colors.

The next stop up the river from Essex is Chester, which again has some cute shops to explore.  You can also get a bite to eat or a drink at River Tavern.  I had a wonderful meal there last winter and recommend it. 

From Chester, I would also recommend crossing the river.  One option is to take the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which runs during the daytime between April 1 and November 30.  The toll is $3 per vehicle.  The other option is to cross the bridge to East Haddam, which will take you right by the Goodspeed Opera House.  The Goodspeed, like the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, sometimes puts on musicals before they appear on Broadway.  Next to the Opera House is the Gelston House, another great place to stop for a bite to eat or a drink. 

Once you pass East Haddam, you can explore the other side of the river as you head back to 95.  One stop along this route is Gillette Castle.  I must confess that I have not yet visited, but I hear it is an interesting place.  The castle looks like a medieval fortress from the outside and has all sorts of oddities inside custom built by the original owner, such as unusual doorknobs and locks and a system of mirrors for surveillance. 

So for those of you that want a study break or an excuse to enjoy the fall, I recommend a drive up 95 to the Connecticut River.