This town of less than 20,000 people in wealthy Fairfield County is mostly residential and is within easy reach of New Haven and Bridgeport.
Monroe exudes small-town charm, with numerous well-appointed local parks and inspiring remote natural spaces.
The quieter north side of town faces Zoar Lake, one of Connecticut’s largest inland bodies of water, and is surrounded by the Zoar and Paugusset trails in Monroe.
Local family-owned businesses in and around Monroe will welcome you with open arms in orchards, creameries, ciders, vineyards and craft breweries.
1. Webb Mountain Park
The 135 acres are located on the west bank of the Housatonic River.
Head here in spring and fall to hike the steep trails and enjoy the views from the top.
This wilderness is appreciated for the diversity of its woodlands, including sugar maples, eastern hemlocks, tulip trees, paradise trees, eastern black oaks, and more.
The Collinsville Formation rocks are also geologically significant, consisting of layers of gneiss and amphibole, popular with climbers.
Part of the Blue-Blazed Paugusset Trail winds through Mount Weber Park to the end of its route along the Housatonic River.
2. Webb Mountain Discovery Area
Parents with school-aged children will be delighted at this 170-acre nature center on the south side of Webb Mountain Park.
The Discovery Zone enriches and links to the school curriculum in history, science, and natural subjects through after-school programs and lessons for preschoolers.
If you’re just here for a visit, admission is completely free, and kids can take part in a scavenger hunt with 27 stops on 3 trails, solving clues related to local ecology and human history.
Little ones can also look for salamanders and frogs in the spring pond, go bird watching, and have a family picnic at the shaded table at the entrance.
3. Beardsley’s Cider Mill & Orchard
From the beginning of September, you can visit the farm during autumn weekends and pick your own apples.
The orchard is planted with more than two dozen varieties, all coming into season at slightly different times.
As a rough guide, varieties like Gala, Macoun, Honeycrisp and Liberty are ready by mid-September; early October is the time for Empire, Mutsu and Red Delicious, while Granny Smith, Braeburn and Winesap can be picked later in the season.
Beardsley’s Orchard uses short trees, no larger than 3.5 meters, for easier picking.
Meanwhile, the farm stand is open daily selling these apples and ciders, along with peaches, fruit breads, scones, local raw honey and delicious honey cider doughnuts.
4. William E. Wolfe Park
This 300-acre park on the west side of Monroe has many advantages.
There is a municipal outdoor pool, open from Memorial Day weekend, for a daily fee for non-members (which can be quite steep for non-residents). There is also a man-made lake with a beach, which we will discuss below.
There are several playgrounds for children on the east side of the park, as well as tennis, soccer, baseball and soccer facilities.
Alternatively, you can stroll through the park’s woodlands: the Wolfe Park Hiking Trail departs from the entrance to Cutler’s Farm Road and wraps around the lake, while the Housatonic Railbed Trail follows the park’s western boundary (more on that below).
5. Big Hollow Lake
When the weather arrives, the 16-acre lake on the west side of William E. Wolfe Park is ready for a variety of activities.
There’s a 210-meter long, well-tended beach on the north side, and if you’re looking for a bite to eat, nearby is the Wolfe Park Concession Pavilion.
The beach and shallow lake are just the tickets for a lazy day, and there is a play area for youngsters in the back next to the gazebo.
Non-motorized boating is allowed on the lake, and the lake is also plentiful for trout fishing.
6. Veracious Brewing Company
This wouldn’t be Connecticut without high-quality craft breweries in town, and Monroe’s is one of the best.
The bar is beautiful, lined with 29 converted church pews, and has karaoke every Friday night.
Almost every Friday and Saturday there is a food truck out front serving tex mex, hot dogs, etc.
As for beer, some choices are Grady’s Better Bitter, an English pale ale with aromas of caramel and hops, Golden Summer, a light Belgian-inspired single, and the spicy Hoppy Ending IPA.
Veracious Brewing Company’s local pride shines through in 1823 Inc, an English pale ale made from four grains and hops that hit the market in 1823, the year Monroe was founded.
7. Housatonic Rail Trail (Rails-to-Trails)
This 5-mile hiking and biking trail follows a former railway through forest, past wetlands and high rock faces to Botsford’s Newtown Town Line.
The trails are paved with finely crushed stones and of course with slight gradients, making it a pleasure to walk or ride.
This is the final stop on a 13.6-mile system of trails that begins at Long Island Sound at Bridgeport Waterfront Park, all cobbled together from existing paths that were once the Housatonic Railroad Line.
8. Zor Lake
The northern boundary of Monroe is grazing on the south and west banks of this reservoir on the Housatonic River, which was created by the hydroelectric Stevenson Dam built in 1919. The dam is 50 meters long and 25 meters high, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and carries Route 34 across the river.
Motorized water activities are permitted, and families flock in summer for jet skiing and water skiing, as well as kayaking and paddle boarding (Kettletown State Park on the east coast is the best entry point). Fishing is also on the agenda, and the water is teeming with smallmouth, largemouth, rainbow trout, white catfish and more.
You can hike into the Woodland West Bank via the 6.5-mile Blue-Blazed Zoar Trail, which winds through the lower neighborhoods of the Paugussett State Forest, just outside Monroe’s town line in Newtown.
9. Stepney Cemetery
More than 1,400 men, women and children are buried in this cemetery, including many of Monroe’s earliest settlers.
Stepney Cemetery was established in 1794 when early landowners Noah and James Burr, Jr. donated the land.
The earliest identifiable headstone is for Nathaniel W. Knapp (d.1787). From the American Revolution to Vietnam, you’ll come across the marks of veterans in almost every war the US has been involved in.
The cemetery has an informative plaque, and during the day you can spend a few minutes deciphering headstones dating back more than two centuries.
10. Jones Family Farm
The Jones family has worked on these lands near Shelton for over 150 years.
Head to this 400-acre farm, now in its sixth generation, to pick your own strawberries and blueberries in the summer.
Pumpkins are ready in the fall, when the kids will have a great time on the hay wagon.
Then at Christmas you can pick the perfect tree for your home.
Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Vidal Blanc, French Can, Zinfandel, Merlot and more vines planted about 20 years ago, winery tasting room Thursday through Open on Sundays, it offers white and red wines to suit every taste.
There is live music on Sunday afternoons as part of the Sunday Serenade.
Finally, Harvest Kitchen is a farm-to-table cooking studio offering cooking classes, food and wine pairing classes, and farm education programs.
11. Old Mine Park
As the name suggests, this park on the Pequonnock River south of Monroe is home to a once nationally significant tungsten mine that was mined between 1828 and 1946, interrupted between the two world wars.
Tungsten wasn’t the only valuable material at the Hubbard mine at the time: tourmaline, topaz, and more than 60 other crystals and minerals were shipped in varying quantities from the grounds of the old mine park.
Today, you can take advantage of the 11-mile loop trail for hiking and biking, as well as two gazebos, a multipurpose field, a picnic area and a pedestrian bridge over the stunning Pequonnock River.
12. EverWonder Children’s Museum
This small but professionally designed museum in nearby Newtown lets children discover the wonder and beauty of science through hands-on experiments.
Many of EverWonder’s exhibits have been developed by some of the region’s leading interactive children’s museums, such as the Rochester Museum and Science Center and the Ithaca Science Center.
There are many things to inspire young minds, such as Tornado Tubes, Theramin, three-wheel racing tracks, swinging pendulums, and Lego Tables, Dinosaur Dig, Digital Media Labs and Studios, Tinker Stations, and more may be listed here.
The museum also houses a small collection of animals, including albino clawed frogs, bearded dragons and ball pythons.
13. Rowanwood Farm
Now, camel hiking is an activity you probably wouldn’t associate with Fairfield County.
As it happens, Rowanwood Farm is a USDA licensed and approved llama trekking company in Connecticut.
You’ll venture on scenic trails through Newtown’s forests and vineyards in the company of these furry animals.
Camels walk slowly and steadily, so the pace is always comfortable and there will be plenty of opportunities for interaction.
Level 1 trekking experiences include a camel-handling class followed by a one-hour hike, while Level 2 requires an extended two-hour hike with regular stops for photos with new furry friends.
14. Wells Hollow Creamery
If you’re on cheat day, Wells Hollow Creamery should be on your radar.
This 5th generation dairy farm in Shelton produces 40 different flavours of ice cream, served in cups or cones, as well as a menu of sundaes, puddings and shakes.
You can also take time to see the farm’s cattle and chicken coops when you come.
The hardest part of any visit will be choosing a flavor: Some of the more decadent offerings include Black Cashew Caramel, Campfire S’mores, and Blackberry Cobbler.
15. Warren Occult Museum
The Warrens, Edward Warren Miney (1926-2006) and Lorraine Rita Warren (1927-2019) are the oldest ghost hunting groups in the area. Founding member of the English Association for Psychological Research.
Self-taught “democracy”, they were one of the first investigators of the so-called Amityville Haunting and wrote the books that inspired numerous movies and TV shows.
Their mystery museum behind the house at 30 Norwood Street is stuffed with creepy artifacts assembled over decades.
The star of the show is the doll Annabelle, who appeared in The Conjuring (2013). The museum, a mecca for occult lovers, was recently closed due to zoning laws.
As of summer 2019, the museum is looking for a new location.
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