Connecticut in a Day

For the last two weeks, Megan and I have been relentlessly pestering our clients and coworkers for ideas on what to do in Connecticut. We had never been there and wanted to get the inside take from long-time New Englanders on unique or unknown things to do. The only problem- literally every single person told us one of these three answers: “Don’t go”; “Why would you go there?”; or “I think they have a good aquarium”… We have honestly never seen such unknowing disdain for a state like this before! No one had anything good to say and we were left with no confident recommendations. So, we decided to make our uncharted trek into the Constitution State just a day trip. FYI- this was a whirlwind day of events- hope you can keep up!

Sleeping Giant Blue and Violet Loop Trail

We woke up bright and early to hit the road for our longest drive of the day (two hours) so we could make it to one of central Connecticut’s top-rated hikes in Sleeping Giant State Park. Located right next to Quinnipiac University, this state park is made up of 3-4 rocky mounds that from a distance resemble a giant snoozing on his back. We chose to hike the Blue and Violet Loop Trail as this was one of the harder hikes in the park, but if you feel like switching trails at any point, there are multiple intersections throughout for a change in difficulty. The loop we did came out to be a little over four miles with ~1500 ft elevation change. In the middle of the park is a nice tower you can climb up to have an amazing 360-degree view of what we liked to assume was all of Connecticut! If you don’t want to take the hard route up to the tower like us, there is a very nice gravel Tower Path that will lead you to these views. The violet trail on the way back was much more calm but also kind of boring- a tornado came through here about two years ago and all you see is downed tree after downed tree.

Notice the outline of the hills being a sleeping giant!

The start of the blue trail which is the most difficult one in the park.

You basically go straight up for the first mile, but the rock scrambling is a blast!

And then there’s some up and down along the ridge while traversing the different parts of the “giant.”

This is the tower in the middle of the park you can climb to the top of!

For 360 degree views of what we are convinced is all of Connecticut!

The violet trail returning to the parking lot is much flatter.

And was mostly destroyed after a tornado came through.

Notice the outline of the hills being a sleeping giant!

The start of the blue trail which is the most difficult one in the park.

You basically go straight up for the first mile, but the rock scrambling is a blast!

And then there’s some up and down along the ridge while traversing the different parts of the “giant.”

This is the tower in the middle of the park you can climb to the top of!

For 360 degree views of what we are convinced is all of Connecticut!

The violet trail returning to the parking lot is much flatter.

And was mostly destroyed after a tornado came through.

Louis’ Lunch

In a widespread search for lunch after our hike, we came across… Louis’ Lunch! This very small roadside like restaurant is located in the heart of downtown New Haven, only a few blocks from Yale University (which was kind of cool to also walk around). It is one of the multiple claimants to creating the 1st hamburger in America and therefore immediately has a line forming outside its doors 20-30 minutes before opening. They only allow cheese, onion, and tomato on top of their burger, no condiments, and it is placed between two slices of toasted white bread. The burger itself is broiled on the same grill as 100+ years ago, but it still leaves something to be desired. It’s not the best burger we’ve ever had, but the historical aspect to it was fun! FYI– this spot is cash only.

The line outside of Louis’ Lunch before it even opened.

The order area is quite small, but the small menu makes the line go decently quick.

Seating is limited, but still cool to check out this historical site.

And here it is: America’s first burger.

A glimpse of Yale’s campus.

The line outside of Louis’ Lunch before it even opened.

The order area is quite small, but the small menu makes the line go decently quick.

Seating is limited, but still cool to check out this historical site.

And here it is: America’s first burger.

A glimpse of Yale’s campus.

Alvarium Brewing

After lunch we went on a search to find a couple good breweries near Hartford that would possibly be playing the Minnesota-Penn State football game- the biggest game in our lifetime. We first came across Alvarium Brewing, located about 15 minutes outside of downtown. This brewery is in a warehouse district and they have done a nice job with creating a fun indoor atmosphere. They have little to no curb appeal, but their beer more than makes up for it. Our favorite beer here was the Glory Hole, a mini cinnamon donut flavored ale. Unfortunately, they did not have any college football on, so we did not stay long.

Alvarium Brewing

Our favorite beer was the Glory Hole.

Alvarium Brewing

Our favorite beer was the Glory Hole.

Thomas Hooker Brewing at Colt

Our next destination was very close to downtown Hartford, near the old manufacturing and testing factories of the Colt pistols. The Thomas Hooker Brewing at Colt instantly became the ideal choice we were looking for. They were showing the Minnesota game, they offered a great view of downtown Hartford, and the beer was very good. We especially enjoyed their winter lager, Nor-Easter, while we were the only two people in the place actively cheering for the Gophers.

Thomas Hooker Brewing at Colt

The blue top of the building next door is the old Colt pistol manufacturing plant!

Great views of downtown Hartford right from the brewery!

Thomas Hooker Brewing at Colt

The blue top of the building next door is the old Colt pistol manufacturing plant!

Great views of downtown Hartford right from the brewery!

Gillette Castle State Park

Following our triumphant victory, we made a game-time decision to visit the Gillette Castle State Park in the waning late autumn light. This park is about 40 minutes southeast of Hartford, so we arrived with maybe 25 minutes of daylight left before the park closed. Luckily, the Gillette Castle Loop Trail we wanted to do was only 1.2 miles with very little elevation. We finished just in time before the park rangers gave us the boot. The Gillette Castle was actually owned and inhabited by a well-known actor who famously portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the early 1900s’ plays on this side of the pond. The grounds are quite impressive and feature an outstanding overview of the Connecticut River. The castle’s interior sounds quite interesting as well with secret rooms, puzzle locks, and theatrical balconies, but it was closed by the time we arrived.

Gillette Castle

Part of the Gillette Castle State Park grounds.

We ran the trails in order to get out of the park before it closed at sunset!

Great views of the Connecticut River from the castle!

Gillette Castle

Part of the Gillette Castle State Park grounds.

We ran the trails in order to get out of the park before it closed at sunset!

Great views of the Connecticut River from the castle!

UCONN Dairy Bar

In our never-ending journey for good ice cream, we headed back up north to UCONN’s campus to trial their Dairy Bar. We were told this is the best ice cream in the state, and while our sample size is one, we now have a tough time arguing this point. Each flavor we devoured, including cookie dough, brownie, coconut chocolate chip, and husky tracks, was perfectly creamy and had great gobs of treats in each one.

The ice cream shop on UCONN’s campus.

They have so many flavors that we had to try four!

We thought this was a clever take on Thanksgiving dinner!

They have a window so you can see where all the magic happens!

The ice cream shop on UCONN’s campus.

They have so many flavors that we had to try four!

We thought this was a clever take on Thanksgiving dinner!

They have a window so you can see where all the magic happens!

Mystic Pizza

With dessert out of the way, we drove back down to the Connecticut coast to the small town of Mystic for some pizza. Little did we know (before more research) that this Mystic Pizza joint was the same one made famous by the 1988 movie “Mystic Pizza!” They had tons of memorabilia hung up all around related to the movie and all their famous customers. The pizza itself does not look too appetizing, but the taste is spot on. I think they do something to their crust to keep you craving more. If you’re ever on the Connecticut coast, this is a must visit.

Mystic Pizza!

We agree with the slice of heaven slogan!

Doesn’t look great, but tastes awesome!

Mystic Pizza!

We agree with the slice of heaven slogan!

Doesn’t look great, but tastes awesome!

Mohegan Sun

To cap off our day, we decided to do one of the most Connecticut things a person can do- head to one of their world-class casino resorts. It was either Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun. We ended up choosing Mohegan Sun as they had a Cole Swindell concert going on that night and we snagged last minute tickets! And we had a blast! We self-parked in the Indian Summer ramp and took the Autumn entrance into the Casino of the Earth. This worked out quite well as we got to see most of the Earth casino before arriving at the Mohegan Sun Arena. The arena itself is pretty small so it makes for a great event even if you didn’t pay absurd amounts to grab floor seating. The opener for Cole was Chris Lane who came on a little after 8 p.m. and he also did an outstanding job. Following the concert, we strolled around their Casino of the Sky after we worked our way through the mall area around the lines at Krispy Kreme and Ben & Jerry’s. Seriously these resorts are massive, and I think they cater to everyone in the New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island region. They usually offer up some great shows so when in the area do a quick Google search.

Earth Casino

Sky Casino

Chris Lane at Mohegan Sun Arena

Cole Swindell at Mohegan Sun Arena

A clip of the concert!

Earth Casino

Sky Casino

Chris Lane at Mohegan Sun Arena

Cole Swindell at Mohegan Sun Arena

A clip of the concert!

I think that about sums up Connecticut! We had no clue what to expect and we were delightfully surprised by it all! Yes, it doesn’t have really cool cities or big mountains, but it seemed like quintessential New England to us Midwesterners!

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