Meriden, a working town between New Haven and Hartford, was an important manufacturing center in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The city is known for its silverware and cutlery, but also produces glassware, guns, musical instruments and kitchen utensils.
Since then, many of the world’s industrial design icons have been conceived here, and Meriden has architectural evidence of its boom in its grand city centre buildings and stately homes on Broad Street.
Now, the city deserves your attention to the natural beauty that surrounds it.
Crossing Meriden is the narrow and steep Metacomet Ridge, an epic basalt fault that stretches from Long Island Sound to Massachusetts-Vermont 100 miles north.
The ridges create some awe-inspiring scenery on majestic rock faces, with unique microclimates and rare plant species.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Meriden:
1. Hubbard Park
Walter Hubbard, president of Meriden’s Bradley & Hubbard Manufacturing Company, donated much of the land to the splendid park at the turn of the 20th century on the condition that it would remain free and open to the public.
Over 1,800 acres of hanging hills, Hubbard Park is the basalt subrange of linear Metacomet Ridge.
Frederick Law Olmsted, known for Central Park, was invited to help beautify Hubbard Park so man-made and natural features merged in gardens, streams, woodlands and towering on the cliff.
The Metacomet Trail, which we’ll discuss below, runs through Hubbard Park, where bands and gardens host a series of summer concerts and festivals.
A highlight of the calendar is the Daffodil Festival, held on the last weekend of April since 1978, and brings parades, fireworks, craft booths and a food tent with live music.
2. Craig Castle
Walter Hubbard, who has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the beautification of Hubbard Park, also donated this romantic observation tower on the 297-meter-high East Peak.
Castle Craig (1900) was built from local basalt and there are different theories about its similarly designed fortification style.
Walter Hubbard traveled extensively, so Craig Castle could be a replica of a Norman tower, an Ottoman defense on the Danube, or, as the name suggests, a tower in the village of Craigellachie in Mali, Scotland.
There is a 1900 dedication plaque at the base of the tower, and when the weather is nice, you can see Long Island and the Berkshires, as well as the Sleeping Giant Mountains just south of New Haven.
3. Trail of Comet Meta
Adventures are always planned in Meriden, where you can take the two famous Blue-Blazed trails.
The town is near the southern entrance of the 62.7-mile Metacomet Trail, which runs north through Hubbard Park to Suffield and crosses most of the narrow fault Metacomet Ridge.
This 100-mile formation is composed of volcanic basalt, formed during the Triassic/Jurassic period about 200 million years ago.
The great thing about the Metacomet Trail is its proximity to many built-up areas and no more than a few miles from public roads for lodging or supplies.
Still, the walk is wild and scenic, and you’re likely to be exposed to high winds on a bare ledge.
4. Mata Basset Trail
If one long trail isn’t enough, the 61-mile Mata Bassett Trail follows a horseshoe route through Meriden, through New Haven County and into State Forests, Municipal Parks and Land Trust Preserves.
This Blue-Blazed trail connects some of the most beautiful spots on our list, such as Fanling Ski Resort, Higby Mountain, Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain.
You’ll follow steep ledges, over creeks and swamps, and into haunting hardwood forests overgrown with mountain laurels.
Along the way, you’ll come across a string of colonial-era stagecoaches, such as Wadsworth Farm Road, believed to have been used by George Washington in 1775 and 1789. The Mata Bassett Trail joins the Metacomet Trail and the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in Massachusetts to create the 215-mile New England National Scenic Trail.
5. Higby Mountain
Another exciting feature on Metacomet Ridge, Mount Higby reaches a total height of 272 meters and rises 180 meters of cliffs above the Quinnipiac Valley.
As mentioned above, this ridge is on the Matar Bassett Trail, which continues uninterrupted views of Meriden along a two-mile ledge.
The 158-acre reserve surrounding Higby Mountain is open from dawn to dusk.
If you’re coming from downtown Meriden, there’s a trailhead in the parking lot off Connecticut Route 66, about 1.5 miles from town.
Blackpool State Wildlife Refuge on the south side of Route 66 allows fishing and boating.
6. Quinnipiac River Canyon Trail
Long-abandoned railway beds around Meriden are being turned into walking trails, all as part of a movement to reinvent the place as a lively, naturally rich town.
As of 2019, there are six trails, the most scenic being the 1.3-mile Meriden & Waterbury Railroad, which was laid in 1888 along the Quinnipiac River Gorge.
The line was never heavily trafficked and closed in 1966. You can head on the trails along the west bank of Hanover Pond, then spend an hour or two on an easy walk or horseback ride through the flat, paved trails of this scenic gorge.
Hanover Pond was built in 1855 when a dam was built to power the Meridian Cutlery Company factory.
The Hanover Pond Linear Trail is less than a mile and follows Sodom Creek from the north shore of the Pond to Orville H. Platt High School.
7. Meriden Green
The 14 acres of polluted commercial and industrial wasteland that once stood at the old “Hub” site is now Meriden Green, a verdant park in the middle of Meriden, right next to the Amtrak station.
After nearly a decade of planning and construction, the park opened in 2016 at a cost of $14 million.
There is a pedestrian bridge over the stream, and a meandering path crosses the lawn surrounded by newly planted trees.
On the east side is an amphitheater for public concerts and a driveable lawn that hosts a pop-up market every June and is visited by a fleet of food trucks throughout the year.
8. Jufrida Park
This park northwest of Mount Higby gives you access to the west side of the 210-meter Chauncey Peak, another 210-meter-high basalt mountain (with a working quarry on the east side). Chauncey Peak on the Mata Bassett Trail looms over Meriden’s eastern horizon, facing the town a vertiginous cliff towering 90 meters above Crescent Lake.
The soil at the foot of the cliffs is alkaline, so it grows plants not commonly found in the acidic soils of New England.
After the snowfall, people flock to the 600-acre Giuffrida Park for hiking, biking, picnicking and cross-country skiing.
North of Crescent Lake is the long Lamentation Mountain ridgeline, also within the park, connected by the Mata Bassett Trail.
It was named in 1636 when a member of the Wethersfield Colony was found here three days after he disappeared.
The peak to the south of Mount Higby at Metacomet Ridge is the 260-meter-high Mount Besek, which is home to Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort.
It opened in 2013 after its predecessor closed six years ago, with a total of 80 skiable acres and 19 runs.
In addition to the pistes, there are facilities for snowboards, freestylers and snow tubing.
Summer is here. Powder Ridge is an active sports haven with ziplines and funding for mountain biking, disc golf, tubing, synthetic skis and snowboards.
On Sundays, you can visit the Mountainside Market, trading from 11:00 to 15:00, a beer and music festival with up to 30 breweries at the end of July.
10. Traffic Control Tower
Just off the level crossing at Colony Street and Hanover Street is a piece of historic roadside infrastructure that you’ve probably never seen before.
Built in 1925, Meriden’s Traffic Control Tower is a raised glass-paneled structure framed in blue and white steel, with road traffic lights on all sides.
These are manually operated by controllers to direct traffic across level crossings and this busy intersection.
The tower was in use until 1967 and is marked with interpretive placards and directions to nearby towns.
11. Hunter Golf Club
One of the top ten public golf courses in Connecticut, Hunter Golf Club is a relatively simple but perfect 18-hole par 72. The front nine is trickier as it has a very narrow fairway and a dogleg third fairway.
Your approach at 11 needs to be accurate, as the green is protected by water barriers on three sides.
A full round will cost you $38 during the week and $44 on weekends and holidays, and you can end the day with an Italian meal at Violi’s restaurant on the course.
12. Solomon Goff House
Meriden’s oldest building is at 677 North Colony Street, where it has stood since 1711. The property is 8 bays long, has 5 street facing skylights, is wood framing with duplex roof and clapboard cladding.
Little is known about its namesake builder, Solomon Goffe, but the building is as close as possible to its early 18th-century façade and features a charming herb garden.
You can visit the interior on the first Sunday of each month from April to November.
13. Farmer Joe’s Garden
This local farm stand provides the Meriden community with baskets as part of the Farmers Harvest Program (CSA), but if you’re just passing by, there’s a great independent store selling super fresh seasonal produce, snacks and groceries.
There’s honey, meat cubes, pickles, preserves, vanilla, flowers, homemade pies, eggs and organic milk (including chocolate and strawberries). The store also sells handcrafted Adirondack chairs, and a food truck passes by every Wednesday and Thursday to prepare meals with the farm’s own produce.
If you come here with the kids check out some farm animals in the back to meet.
14. Wadsworth Falls State Park
Just a 15-minute drive from Meriden, in a state park bordered by two beautiful waterfalls, you can experience the splendor of another nature.
Wadsworth Big Falls and Wadsworth Little Falls are easily accessible via trails.
Wadsworth Falls tumbles from a 9.1-meter basalt shelf on the 16-meter-wide reach of the Coginchaug River.
Wadsworth Little Falls is smaller, but a little higher, at Wadsworth Brook, a 12-meter drop from a sandstone flight.
The waterfall is nestled in a dense forest with trails for hiking and mountain biking.
In summer, the pond here has a small sandy beach that is patrolled by lifeguards.
Located on the former Long Hill estate, the park belonged to Colonel Clarence C. Wadsworth (1871-1941), an environmentalist and member of the New York National Guard. Wadsworth’s Classic Revival mansion dates back to 1911 and is on the east side of the park, rented for weddings.
15. Westfield Meriden
The seventh largest mall in Connecticut has been here since 1971, but has undergone several renovations over the past 50 years.
The largest occurred in 1997 when Westfield took over, adding a brand new floor and increasing the number of stores to between 30 and 142. The anchors are Macy’s and Boscov’s, a department store in the Northeast, as well as national chains such as American Eagle, Foot Locker, H&M, Old Navy and TJ Maxx.
Food court on the 2nd floor serving Burgers (Burgerim), Jambalaya (Cajun Cafe), China Panda (China Panda), Pizza (Cosimo’s Brick Oven), Burritos (El Toro Grill), Hot Dogs (Frankie’s) and Subway of Branch .
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Meriden, Connecticut (CT)
Lowest price guaranteed.