This town on the west bank of the Connecticut River between Hartford and Springfield takes its name from a canal built in the 1820s.
Although abandoned for over 150 years, the Enfield Falls Canal is largely intact and its towpath runs through Windsor Locks Canal State Park.
In terms of transportation, the town is home to Bradley International Airport, the second largest airport in New England and the busiest airport in Connecticut.
In a series of hangars here, you can explore the New England Aviation Museum, which houses some of the awesome aviation heritage unique to Connecticut and the wider region.
Let’s explore the best things to do in and around Windsor Locks, Connecticut:
1. New England Air Museum
New England, and Connecticut in particular, has a wealth of aviation heritage that you’ll discover in the first-rate museums at Bradley International Airport.
Here you can dive into the history of Sikorsky aircraft and check out nine models from the Stratford-based manufacturer, including the oldest surviving Sikorsky aircraft and the last remaining Sikorsky VS- 44 Airships.
Dozens of planes and helicopters are displayed in three huge display hangars, along with hardware such as ejection seats and missiles.
A remarkable machine worth considering is the WWII-era B-29 Superfortress.
Smaller museum exhibits reveal interesting topics such as the era of airships, the Wright Brothers and the stories of New England women in aviation.
2. Windsor Lock Canal State Park Trail
At Windsor Locks and Suffield, you can walk the 4.5-mile tow road along the Enfield Falls Canal, completed in 1829. The waterway was built to help river traffic avoid a section of rapids that can only be navigated with the help of the “Waterfall Man”, who would be equipped with a long stick.
The canal is well preserved, retaining the locks that have been out of use since the 1970s.
On this easy walk, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the Connecticut River, as well as some fine examples of 19th-century engineering and stonework in the bridges and aqueducts on the canal.
3. Noden-Reed Museum
The historic house, along with its rare brick barn, is tended by the Windsor Historical Society and is open for guided tours on the last Sunday afternoon of every month.
The older of the two buildings is actually a barn that dates back to 1826 and contains many beautiful old carriages, as well as farm implements from the Connecticut Valley tobacco growing trade.
The farmhouse next door boasts a thriving Greek Revival, built in 1840, and displays historic military uniforms, clothing and a variety of quirky items, including hand-stitched blankets and antique bed quilts.
The property is even older, dating back to the 18th century, and is home to the cottage of Hessian soldier Hendrick Roddemore, which, by tradition, was New England’s first decorated Christmas tree in 1777.
4. Northwest Park
If you’re interested in the area’s tobacco-growing heritage, Windsor’s North West Park is the place to be, just across the Farmington River.
The park includes 473 acres of sports facilities and forests, meadows and wetlands on a landscape that was once dominated by tobacco farms.
You can delve into this history at the CT Valley Tobacco Museum, travel back to the origins of the New England tobacco plant, and follow a new timeline exhibit that culminates with the Connecticut Valley boom in the early 20th century.
Elsewhere, you can learn about the area’s geology and natural history at the Northwest Park Nature Center, which keeps farm animals in the barn next door.
The Park’s Café Concert Series features live music every year, and the Northwest Park Country Fair in the fall has become a fourth decade tradition.
5. Farmington Canal Heritage Walk
You can follow the route of a longer former canal on this trail, which runs through East Granby and Suffield, just west of Windsor Locks.
Completed in 1835, the Farmington Canal provided rapid water trade links between New Haven and Northampton.
But more than a decade later, the railroad had become cheaper and more efficient, and the exact route became the track that would later become the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad.
The line was phased out at the end of the 20th century, and as of 2019, about 85% of the route between New Haven and Northampton is a trail.
In northern Connecticut, you’ll have access to the longest uninterrupted stretch of road, 24.6 miles north of the Massachusetts border to Plainville.
6. Connecticut Trolley Museum
America’s oldest electric railroad museum is located across the Connecticut River in East Windsor.
The Connecticut Trolley Museum was established in 1940 and is located to the right of the Rockville branch of the Hartford and Springfield Street Railroad.
The museum maintains a complete catalog of old carts and streetcars from all over the country.
Some are in working order and can be ridden all day on the museum’s 1.5 miles of historic railroads.
Others are displayed as beautiful static displays in the main hall of the visitor center, tracing the history of this vehicle, or in various stages of renovation of the restoration shop.
7. CT Museum of Vintage Broadcasting and Communications
You can learn about the history of modern communication technology in this lovely museum in Windsor.
In a seemingly huge building filled with artefacts, the timeline begins with a 19th-century gramophone and guides you through the development of radios (including one in the fridge!), TV and film-making equipment, and computers.
The memorable exhibit is a clunky 1970s TV camera, and the museum has its own ham radio station, which you can operate if you bring a valid license.
Other greats include the 1940s Wurlitzer Jukebox and the Kodak VP-1 Video Player, one of only five prototypes from the early 1970s.
8. The Phelps-Hathaway House
On weekends, take a 10-minute trip to Suffield for another piece of Connecticut heritage.
The oldest part of Phelps-Hatheway House in South ell was built in the 1730s, but the house was expanded throughout the 18th century and is now a 1760s central block and a 1795 north ell. This gives an expansive aspect of the property, with each section covered with an elegant duplex roof.
These final changes were designed by architect Asher Benjamin early in his career and ordered by wealthy land speculator Oliver Phelps.
The interior is rich in 18th century antiques, and outside is a formal flower bed and a spacious herb garden, all planted with flowering shrubs and tended by the Suffield Garden Club.
9. Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine
A bit grim but fascinating, this National Historic Site in East Granby started as a copper mine in the early 18th century and operated until the 1740s.
Afterwards, the tunnel network was converted into Connecticut’s first official prison and was also used for British prisoners of war and royalists during the Revolutionary War.
You can enter about half of the existing tunnels on the tour to explore a place called “hell” by the prisoners.
On the surface are architectural remains from the turn of the 19th century, including five masonry buildings and prison walls.
The Old Newgate Prison and Copper Mine reopened in 2018 after nearly a decade of renovations, and you can visit from Wednesday to Sunday.
10. Southwest Family Park / Veterans Memorial Park
Covering over 40 acres, the two parks are actually located southwest of Windsor Lock and feature a variety of recreational facilities.
Here, you’ll find baseball and softball fields, soccer, soccer, basketball, and volleyball fields, many of which are lit up.
The larger Veterans Memorial Park also has a children’s playground and pavilion, as well as an outdoor ice rink in winter.
In early July, the park is home to the popular annual Windsor Lock Fire Department Carnival, which has been going on since the 1940s and is accompanied by a fireworks display.
11. Brignole Vineyard
In East Granby, Brignole Vineyards has a stunning Greek Revival winery that was purpose-built and surrounded by rows of vines.
The wine selection is handcrafted from estate-grown grapes that thrive in the Connecticut climate, as well as California varieties, bringing a slice of Napa Valley to New England.
The bottles range from sweet white dessert wines to full-bodied reds, and you can find your favorite while basking in the sun on the double deck and pergola.
12. Windsor Locks in Spare Time
This old-fashioned bowling alley was formerly known as Bradley’s Bowling Alley, and it’s been around for as long as most people in the area can remember.
When we wrote this list in 2019, this attraction had just reopened as Spare Time after a complete makeover, turning it into a fun destination for all the family.
Of course, the alleys are still here, but with stylish benches and lots of LCD screens.
In addition to alleys, you now have escape rooms, laser tags and an expanded state-of-the-art arcade with VR gameplay.
13. Connecticut Firefighters Memorial
At Bradley International Airport, seconds from the New England Air Museum, there is a poignant monument honoring the state’s firefighters who died in the line of duty.
The monument was commissioned in 2002 after it was first conceived ten years ago.
At its centre is a piece of polished Impala black granite measuring 3.7 x 1.8 metres and engraved with the image of four firefighters fighting the blaze.
More than 300 names are engraved on a granite tablet around the pedestal, and a little further back are eight granite benches, one for each Connecticut county.
14. Broadbrook Brewing
As of this writing in September 2019, this prized craft brewery is expanding, moving from across the East Windsor River to nearby Suffield.
Founded in 2010, Broad Brook Brewing produces year-round, seasonal and one-off beers, from IPAS to porters, stouts, red beers and Oktoberfest beers.
At the old location, which was limited to narrow opening hours, there are plenty of live music and tours on Saturdays, and you can bring your own food with your pint or sample flight.
In the last update, the shiny new brewery is taking shape, and the announcement of the grand opening will be made any day.
Where to Stay: Best Inn Windsor Locks, CT (CT)
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