15 Things to Do in Middletown (CT)

Located on the west bank of the Connecticut River, Middletown dates back to 1650 and is a mid-sized university town with a history of manufacturing and shipping.

Life in Middletown is largely centered on tree-lined Main Street, just a block from the river, lined with restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

Downtown Middletown has elegant 19th-century buildings, as does Wesleyan University on the Hill, which houses an art museum in a sprawling 1830s mansion.

For a treat, there’s a well-known craft brewery and a brewery across the river, while the ancient forests, ridges and waterfalls of Middletown’s countryside are ripe for outdoor adventure.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Middletown:

1. Wadsworth Falls State Park

Wadsworth Falls State Park

In the early 20th century, this beautiful land, including waterfalls, streams, forests and meadows, belonged to Clarence C.

Wadsworth (1871-1941), a member of the New York National Guard, was also a linguist and environmentalist.

His palatial home, Wadsworth Mansion in Long Hill, on the Middletown side of the state park, is rented out for events.

The park’s main attractions are, of course, two waterfalls, both easily accessible via trails: Wadsworth Big Falls falls over 9 metres from a Hampden basalt shelf, and Wadsworth Little Falls on the eponymous creek slides down a 12-metre high sandstone outcrop. shelf.

The park also has a pond and sandy beach for swimming in summer, a stream for fishing, and a well-kept picnic area.

2. Brownstone Discovery and Discovery Park

Brownstone Discovery and Discovery Park

A day filled with adrenaline-pumping activity at this flooded quarry on the east bank of the Connecticut River.

Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park features 11 ziplines, an inflatable water park full of crazy obstacles, a rock climbing wall, “extreme” rope swings, cliff jumps and wakeboards.

Paddle boards and kayaks can be rented for anywhere from half an hour to a full day.

Of course, all of this will give an appetite, with a concession stand selling hungry sled food, snack shacks around the park and a brick oven for baking pizza.

3. Kidcity Children’s Museum

Kidcity Children's Museum

For children aged 1-7, Kidcity is a three-level experiential learning venue in the historic Camp-Sterns House (1835), which was lifted onto a truck and moved several hundred meters to the site in 1997. All of Kidcity’s exhibits are handcrafted – built by the in-house team and not found anywhere else, which is just an explanation for the attraction’s loyal following.

To give you an idea of ​​what’s in here, at the fishing grounds, kids maneuver pulleys and conveyor belts to haul their catch, while Middleshire is a kid-sized miniature village with a castle, and the toddler’s sea cave is the most museum-friendly A space for young tourists, inhabited by dancing mermaids.

There are replicas of typical high streets and farms, and all kinds of things to play with, from trains to costumes, puppets, blocks and dolls.

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4. Davidson Arts Center

Davidson Arts Center

Wesleyan University’s own art museum opened in 1952 in the stately Alsop House, built in the late 1830s.

Open from September to May, the Davidson Art Center has collected approximately 25,000 works over the past 70 years.

Besides photography, most of the collection consists of original prints by European (20th century Renaissance), Japanese and American artists.

Select from this vast inventory to enter the gallery’s themed exhibitions featuring works by Jacques Carlot, Lucan Cranach the Elder, Albrecht Dürer, Otto Dix and more.

All exhibitions are accompanied by gallery talks and lectures.

5. Higby Mountain

Higby Mountain

The western boundary of Middletown is bounded by this 272-meter-long basalt ridge of the larger Metacomet ridge that runs north to south across Connecticut and 100 miles into Massachusetts.

The fault on Mount Higbee continues for two miles, creating a panoramic ledge facing west, with stunning views of the neighboring city of Meriden and the Hanging Mountains beyond.

A 15-minute drive from downtown Middletown, the Southern Trailhead begins, which takes you into a unique landscape of ecosystems created by faulted alkaline soils (predominantly acidic).

6. Tenacious Brew

Stubborn Beauty Brewing

Middletown’s most popular craft brewery has been in business for over a decade and is located in an unpretentious spot in the old Remington Rand typewriter factory in the city’s industrial north.

Stubborn Beauty Brewing is open Thursday through Sunday for tastings, pours and refills, with extended hours Friday and Saturday.

As of this writing in the summer of 2019 there is a typical eclectic selection of beers such as Conqueror brown ale, Happy Treez IPA, Secret Agent (Belgian stout), Sour Tiddy’s (Old Bruin), The Fist (double IPA) ) ) and my love is warmer than chocolate fudge (stout).

7. Harbour Park

Harbour Park

Take a break in Middletown, and your best bet is to head to the west bank of the Connecticut River.

There are a few hundred meters of boardwalks in the harbour park, decorated with sculptures, where you can linger for a while to watch the river glisten in the sun and look north at the steel arches of the Arrigoni Bridge.

The park faces east and is a great spot to watch the sun rise, and the open skies make it a convenient vantage point for Middletown’s 4th of July fireworks display.

In summer, the Essex-based Lady Catherine Cruises docks at Harbour Park for a range of themed cruises, from murder mysteries to Gatsby parties.

8. Arrigoni Winery

Arrigoni Winery

Connecticut has a small but healthy wine industry that dates back to 1788. There is a vineyard and winery in Middletown producing Malbec, Merlot, Franc, Marquette, Black Buck and Catawba red wines, as well as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling white wines, Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.

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Arrigoni Winery produces about 20 award-winning wines that you can call to taste Friday through Sunday.

The Classic Package ($10.95) pours five different wines, including the highly recommended Ruby (Merlot) and Rozzi (Pinot Noir). There is an indoor tasting room, and when the weather is nice, you can relax under an umbrella on the patio, watch the sun go down over the vineyards, and enjoy some live music.

9. Mata Basset Trail

Mata Bessette Trail

Part of Connecticut’s 800-mile Blue-Blazed Trail System, the Mattabesett Trail is a 50-mile U-shaped trail that travels in and out of Middletown.

From the Connecticut River, which marks the eastern end of the U, you can follow the metamorphic landscape south to Guildford.

The trail then turns north, hugging the famous Metacomet Ridge, re-entering Middletown at its western end, and admiring Mount Higby and other spectacular basalt formations on the way to Mount Lament in Meriden not far away.

This part of the walk offers a near-constant amount of exhilarating scenery that is surprisingly forgiving despite the rocky terrain.

The Matta Bassett Trail recently became part of the New England National Scenic Trail, extending 233 miles north to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire line.

10. Empowering Leadership Sports and Adventure Center

Empowering Leadership Sports and Adventure Center

The ancient hardwood forests south of Middletown are ripe for adventure, and this is where Empower awaits.

Here, you can ride hundreds of meters of ziplines and take part in various treetop experiences.

The signature experience is the 2-hour Zip Line Canopy Tour, where you’ll ride a half-mile trail through the forest canopy, riding a 200-meter-long zipline, bravely challenging cargo nets and tight wire crossings.

There’s also a popular map and compass scavenger hunt, where you’ll climb a huge 150-year-old oak tree and swing between two giant pecans on a tree-climbing adventure.

You can also book special nighttime experiences, such as the twilight zipline canopy tour at sunset, and the moon zipline tour after dark from May to November.

11. McCutcheon Park

McCutcheon Park

The hills on the southern shore of Crystal Lake are a largely undeveloped park that still features marked hiking trails, beach areas, gazebos, grottoes, basketball courts, baseball fields, boat launch pads, and horseshoe pits.

The woodland feel of McCutcheon Park is almost pristine, but you might be surprised to learn that a century ago, the place was busier and had a large outdoor stage for vaudeville, skydiving, and even skydiving.

The red trail is the most scenic, taking you past mountain laurel groves to a rugged overhang.

There are lifeguards on the beach in summer, and the beach is shaded by foliage.

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12. General Mansfield House

General Mansfield House

Home to the Middletown Historical Society is a beautiful five-bedroom Federal-style house built in 1817 for Samuel and Catherine Livingston Mather.

Their daughter, Louisa, married Joseph K. Mansfield, a Confederate general in the Civil War who was killed at the Battle of Antietam in 1862.

As we put together this list in 2019, the Historical Society put on a long-term exhibit that uncovered Middletown’s role as a port for the Caribbean slave sugar industry, while you also learn about Middletown’s history during World War I Life.

The house’s gardens are also open to the public during the day, with a herb bed at the front and a boxwood hedge, a rose garden and 150-year-old ginkgo trees at the rear.

13. Seven Falls State Park

At the more remote southern end of the city, the Mata Bassett Trail traverses rugged, wooded surroundings close to the Connecticut River.

Seven Falls State Park takes its name from a waterfall not far from Saybrook Road.

It’s a photo-worthy flight of seven waterfalls flanked by boulders littering the park.

You can try jumping from rock to rock for a fun time or embark on a full bouldering adventure, it’s your thing.

There are picnic tables near the falls and other marked trails in the park for short to mid-range hikes.

14. Plane Tree

plane tree

Buttonwood Tree is a community arts venue in the north end of Middletown, a multidisciplinary space that hosts intimate art exhibitions, live music performances, dance performances, open mic nights, lectures, poetry readings and a series of workshops from youth watercolors and Classes and teens meditation, self-help and yoga.

As a community-oriented hub, the plane tree means many things to many people, whether it’s a coffee place, a second-hand bookstore, an art gallery or a performance venue.

15. Indian Hill Cemetery

Indian Hills Cemetery

If you’re wondering why the cemetery is on the list, Indian Hill Cemetery is one of the most scenic and peaceful places in Middletown.

It is located west of the Wesleyan University campus and offers stunning panoramic views of the Connecticut River.

The cemetery was established in 1850 as a result of the American Beauty Movement in a rural area on the western outskirts of the town.

Although Indian Hill is still active as a cemetery, when the gates are open there is a steady stream of walkers, especially from neighboring universities, immersed in the calming greenery and views beyond.

A monumental monument here is the brownstone neo-Gothic church, which grew up in the late 1860s and is full of stained glass and beautifully carved woodwork.

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