South Windsor, a small town inhabited by Europeans in the late 17th century, is located on the east bank of the Connecticut River, near Hartford.
Tobacco has been grown in the Connecticut River Valley since colonial times, where the industry peaked in the first half of the 20th century before falling back again.
South Windsor may not be on the usual tourist radars, but there are three centuries of architecture on Old Street to admire, while within town limits there’s a craft brewery, a high ropes course, Connecticut’s largest indoor recreation center, and critically acclaimed escape room.
You don’t have to travel long distances to get to Hartford’s big city culture and attractions, or to shop next door in Manchester.
1. Connecticut Valley Brewing Company
Opened in 2018, this shiny new craft brewery is now part of the community, welcoming the public to its stylish yet unpretentious bar Wednesday through Sunday.
Live music, craft workshops, guided walking tours, book clubs and even fitness clubs help a lot.
A new food truck stops every day, serving everything from baba ghanoush to chicken wings, burgers, lobster rolls, pizza or delicious grilled cheese.
We’ve come this far without mentioning beer, with up to 17 beers to choose from at any one time.
For summer 2019, the offerings include a range of citrus-flavored IPAs, coffee stouts, stouts, ports, cologne pale ales and a variety of creative sours.
2. Puzzle Theory
Puzzle Theory is a fresh and fun escape room with four imaginative rooms of varying difficulty and team size.
As always, all issues had to be resolved within an hour and required close teamwork and keen problem-solving skills.
As an all-encompassing theme, all the games come out of Doctor Who’s mind.
Xavier “X”. For starters, the first is the Dimension Gate (a group of 2-5 people), which has an electromagnetic lock and expandable difficulty levels that can even be changed at any time.
In Jungle Dimension (2-6) you travel to a new unknown dimension in search of a rogue engineer, while Wizarding Kingdom (3-8) takes you into a magically real dimension with plenty of references to Harry Potter Fans will get it.
Experiments (3-10) require you to participate in Dr. X’s experiments, which are divided into two stages, the first stage is moderately difficult, and the second stage is more difficult.
3. Foster Family Farms
In the fall, this farm in the South Windsor countryside is transformed into a theme park with fun for young family members.
The Foster Family Farms store has corn mazes, hay machines, farm-themed playgrounds, bicycles and many farm animals for you to visit.
These two corn mazes are a true feat, covering 8 acres with 4 miles of trails to get lost in.
Each year, the exhibit maze is painted with a new theme, and in 2017, it was a detailed tribute to the UConn Huskies team, with a giant image of mascot Jonathan Huskies rendered from a cornfield.
The Foster family has been cultivating the land since 1790, and it opened earlier in the season to sell flowers for Mother’s Day.
4. Nevers Park
Opened in 2007, Nevers Park is a prized local facility spanning nearly 140 acres with over two miles of walking and biking trails.
One of the best things about the park is its huge “Infinity Playground” with lots of equipment for toddlers and older kids alike.
For adults, Nevers Park is a place to hang out, pack a picnic and stroll to Jacob’s View, a great place to while away the hour.
Dog owners will appreciate the attention to detail at Bark Park, which has designated areas for small and large dogs, water and cleaning stations, and agility equipment.
5. Windsor Farms Historic District
On Main Street between Interstate 291 in the south and Strong Road in the north, you’ll find many beautiful buildings spanning three centuries.
The Windsor Farms Historic District includes South Windsor’s gorgeous old town centre and pre-1970s agricultural tracts dominated by tobacco farms.
The oldest house in the area was built as early as 1695, while more notable buildings include the Greek Revival style First Congregational Church (1845), and the 1926 Classic Revival Wood Memorial Library and Museum at No. 783 No. Visit the museum’s fascinating exhibits of local natural history, Native American history, fine art, and furniture.
6. Major Michael Donnelly Land Reserve
Like all public natural spaces in South Windsor, this reserve is impeccably maintained and consists of fern-rich hardwood forests, pine forests, meadows and wetlands along the Podunk River.
Entering the forest through the wetlands is an expansive boardwalk system, with freshly mowed lawns in the more formal areas of the reserve during spring and summer.
In summer, you’ll encounter a gazebo for resting in the sun, and the trails have carefully positioned wildlife viewing areas to spot deer and waterfowl.
The reserve is named after Gulf War veteran Major Michael Donnelly, who died in 2005 from complications from ALS believed to be related to the conflict.
7. Capstone Golf Course
South Windsor has a well-regarded 18-hole public golf course.
Set on rolling, wooded terrain, Topstone has the lush fairways you’d expect to find at any country club.
This is a course for nimble players because the greens are lightning fast.
Almost everyone is surrounded by bunkers and the t-shirts are in a very awkward position to keep you on your toes.
Get ready for the extremely narrow fairway on 16th 5th and the dogleg on 18th, a relentless par 4. With a green fee of $43 on weekdays and $46 on weekends for an 18-hole green fee, you can grab a bite to the 3-season BBQ after a round.
8. Nomadic Adventure Missions
A godsend for families, Nomads Adventure Quest is the largest indoor recreation center in the state.
Activity options include black light miniature golf, indoor rock climbing, bowling, laser tag and bumper cars, all in an environment themed around lost Mayan ruins.
There’s a video arcade with 80 machines, a billiards room, two full-size basketball courts and a huge bounce house area where kids can entertain themselves in a soft play environment with ten bounce houses and lots of other equipment exhausted.
All this is complemented by an adult cafe and a full bar.
Nomads Adventure Quest has no entry fees, you only pay for what you play.
9. Nomad Outdoor Adventures
Known as one of Connecticut’s top high rope centers, Nomads Outdoor Adventure features 6 aerial walks in 9 acres of beautiful deciduous forest.
The trails are color-coded by difficulty (yellow, green, blue and black) and are cleverly designed to start off from a central platform.
On average, there are 14 transitions to overcome per route, and at the end of each transition, you’ll zipline down to the forest floor.
The course uses a passive gravity braking system that eliminates the need to install catchers on each platform, so you can continue your adventure at your own pace.
10. The Promenade Store at Evergreen Walk
At the southernmost point of town, where South Windsor meets East Hartford and Manchester on I-84 is a huge hilltop retail precinct that includes shopping centers, individual stores and restaurants.
The most sophisticated of these is the outdoor shopping centre, The Promenade Shops on Evergreen Walk, which focuses on specialty stores, upscale brands and restaurants.
Here you’ll find an Apple Store, L’Occitane, Williams Sonoma, Sephora, Gap, Clarks, Old Navy, LL Bean and New Balance, to name a few.
For food, you have American cuisine (Burtons Grill, Ted’s Montana Grill), Flatbread Co. Earth Oven Pizza, Sakura Garden Japanese Steakhouse and Panera.
11. Buckland Hills Mall
The Shoppes in Buckland Hills is part of the same huge retail precinct, a large shopping mall with nearly 150 tenants.
These include stalwarts such as Foot Locker, JCPenney, Barnes & Noble, Gamestop, H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
For food, there are dozens of chains in and around the mall, from Red Robin to Taco Bell, Five Guys, Olive Garden, Chili’s and Friendly’s.
Opposite I-84 is Buckland Hills 18 and IMAX in Cinemark, and if you want live comedy, Hartford Funny Bone has a street entrance at the mall.
12. South Windsor Arena
The town’s hockey rink has been around since the early ’70s, and while it’s starting to show its age, it’s still a place to hit the ice.
Check the South Windsor Arena website for details on public skating classes (usually on Sundays), as well as fixed times, hockey schools and camps, and special tuition fees for freestyle skating and learning the basics.
One of the arena’s best features is its specialty store, Hockey 1, which is open as long as an ice rink and is one of the best places to buy hockey gear in the state.
The snack bar is also highly recommended, especially its donuts.
13. Rye Street Park
This local park on Rye Street spans over 160 acres and has everything you want for outdoor recreation.
All told, there are four tennis courts, two softball fields (one with lights), a full-size soccer field, three intermediate soccer fields, a basketball court, and two combined fields for soccer or lacrosse.
Beyond that, there are some highly rated mountain bike trails with tight turns and steep climbs.
On the quieter side, you have a pond, picnic area, and a playground if you have young kids who need to burn off some energy.
14. Wickham Park
Located just south of Buckland Hills, this luxurious 280-acre park presents a patchwork of small gardens alongside family amenities.
During spring and summer, wander as much as you can to explore the Botanical Gardens, Lotus Gardens, Oriental Gardens, English Gardens, Italian Gardens and Wetland Gardens, to name a few.
The Cottage Garden is located at the highest point in Wickham Park and offers a satisfying view west of the Hartford skyline.
Go to the aviary to see peacocks, pheasants, turkeys, turkey buzzards and waterfowl.
There are three playgrounds in total, one near the aviary, a nature center, and facilities for tennis, volleyball, horseshoes, and disc golf.
Open April-October, Wickham Park is privately run, and admission is $5 per vehicle on weekdays and $7 on weekends.
The state capital is just minutes from I-84 and is worth a visit for its culture and history.
In the decades after the Civil War, it was the wealthiest city in America, a thriving industrial home led by brands such as Colt Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company.
At the time, one of the city’s many respected residents was Mark Twain, who wrote his most famous works in an ornate neo-Gothic house that is now a museum.
The Wadsworth Atheneum, America’s first public museum, houses a wonderful collection of American, Decorative, and European art from Caravaggio Dali, including Joseph Wright of Derby, Renoir, Monet, Max Enns and Joan Miro.
The Connecticut Science Center has the best high-tech practice museums, and historic Bushnell Park has a carousel that has been spinning since 1914.
Where to Stay: Best Inn South Windsor, Connecticut (CT)
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