THE BEST FOLIAGE TOWN IN NEW ENGLAND? YANKEE MAGAZINE PICKS KENT, CONNECTICUT

Kent, Connecticut has many claims to fame—two state parks, a 250-foot waterfall, rural beauty combined with sophisticated shops, galleries and museums.  But this fall there is new reason to boast.  Yankee Magazine has named this charming village in the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut the peak spot for leaf-peeping in all of New England.

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In one day in Kent, says Yankee, you can drive through rolling hills beside a twisting river, stop for thick hot chocolate and an pastry, hike the Appalachian trail, picnic with a panini by a waterfall, shop for Buddhas or modern art and bite into a crisp native Cortland apple, perhaps in the shade of a historic covered bridge.

This praise is no surprise to those who know Kent and its unique blend of attractions.  A newly published free color brochure with map will help newcomers find their way around.

Foliage watchers who like their leaves close-up on a hiking trail should head for Macedonia Brook State Park, where 2300 acres offer extensive leafy trails.  For views, the Blue Trail is hard to beat with its fantastic vistas of the Catskill and Taconic mountains.

In Kent Falls State Park you can admire the falls from the bottom or hike a quarter-mile up the hill and feel the mist on your face as the water cascades down 250 feet on its way to join the Housatonic River.

The Appalachian Trail runs through this area, and hikers who want scenery without stress will enjoy the Housatonic “river walk,” a peaceful stretch beside the river that is the longest essentially flat section along the entire trail.

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For more worldly diversions, take a walk along Route 7, Kent’s Main Street, lined for miles with irresistible stops.  Five antiques shops beckon, including Pauline’s Place and Koblenz & Co., known for their antique jewelry.  Among the many shops and galleries, Heron American Craft Gallery shows the best work of American craftsmen, Foreign Cargo offers unusual clothing, jewelry and art from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands and the Kent Art Association is just one of five fine art galleries in town.

Take out the camera for Bulls’ Bridge, one of three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut dating from the 19th century.  George Washington crossed the Housatonic River near the site of the present bridge in 1781.

Just north of town is the Sloane-Stanley Museum.  Eric Sloane (1905-1985) was a prolific artist, author and illustrator and an avid collector of Americana. The museum includes the artist’s studio, examples of his art and his extensive collection of early American handmade tools, beautiful objects of wood that are virtual works of art.  On the property are the remains of the Kent Iron Furnace and a diorama explaining the once-booming local iron industry.  Next-door is the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association Museum, a unique display of steam and gas tractors, a working narrow gauge railroad, an industrial hall with working steam engines and mining exhibit building.

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When hunger pangs strike in Kent, the Panini Café is the place for a tasty picnic sandwich, and for a treat the Kent coffee and Chocolate Company offers the “best hot chocolate in Connecticut.”  For dinner, the Fife & Drum is a long time favorite for continental dinners with nightly music, Bull’s Bridge Inn has a choice of fine dining or pub fare, and Doc’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian fare and has a pleasant patio for fine fall days.

For a copy of the new free guide and map of Kent and a free copy of UNWIND, a 163-page color guide to lodging and dining and other regional attractions in all of the Litchfield Hills contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, www.litchfieldhills.com.

Amazing Mazes Beckon Autumn Visitors to Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County

The mazes are amazing. Imagine acres of tall corn cut into twisting paths in whimsical shapes from crossword puzzles to bumblebees. Finding your way amidst these mazes of maize is a fun-filled adventure for all ages at four beautiful family farms in western Connecticut. Located in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties, the farms also offer hayrides, animals for petting, and apples and pumpkins ripe for picking to make for a perfect fall weekend outing.

Ellsworth Hill Farm in Sharon may take the prize for originality this season with a crossword puzzle maze covering four acres. Pick-your-own apples is another favorite activity at this berry farm and orchard. On hayrides at Ellsworth Hill “Farmer Mike” shows off the glowing foliage-covered hills of northwestern Connecticut and tells about the fruit varieties he grows on the farm.

One of the most elaborate maze designs is the bumblebee at Plaskos Farm in Trumbull. Plaskos is known for the imaginative designs cut each year through four acres of ten-foot-high corn. Crazy Cows, Spider Webs, and Lady Liberty are among the past creations. The twisty mazes provide some 15 miles of trails, but frequent escape hatches mean everyone can choose their own distance. Once again, hayrides are a scenic way to the fields.

Littlest guests will find a new treat this year at March Farm in Bethlehem, where a new Sunflower Maze designed for children is ready for action along with the traditional five-acre corn maze. This year’s main maze theme is designed to teach the value of composting. Along with the chance to pick your own apples, treats at this family-friendly farm include hayrides, and an animal farm where pygmy goats, lambs and llamas can be visited. An expanded Hayloft Playscape invites youngsters to enjoy a mini-hay loft, school and farmhouse, slides, a climbing wall and a tractor-themed sand play area.

Families also enjoy the six-acre corn maze in a unique triangle shape and the four-acre pumpkin patch awaiting visitors to Castle Hill Farm in Newtown. As an added treat, hayrides at Castle Hill bring visitors through a stream to the corn and pumpkin fields. Farm animals for petting and pony rides provide more treats for youngsters.

All of the mazes are open weekends through October, some into November. For exact hours and admission fees, check with each farm listed below or contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, http://www.visitwesternct.com.

Information:
Castle Hill Farm 40 Sugar Lane, Newtown, 203-426-5487, http://www.castlehillfarm.biz
Ellsworth Hill Farm, 461 Cornwall Bridge Road (Route 4), Sharon, http://www.ellsworthfarm.com
March Farm, 160 Munger Lane, Bethlehem, 203-266-7721, http://www.marchfarms.com
Plaskos Farm, 670 Daniels Farm Road, Trumbull, 203-268-2716, http://www.plaskosfarm.com

Hills, Fall Foliage, and Family Fun in Litchfield Hills Connecticut