Exploring Connecticut's Historic Main Streets, Museums, Farms

    Imagine a Norman Rockwell Main Street, a village green, a small town tucked away far from the main road: these are some of the best places in Connecticut to find distinctive shopping opportunities.

    One of the most enjoyable ways to experience Connecticut is to shop – in the small stores along historic Main Streets, in picturesque towns and villages, in unique museums and some of the finest arts and crafts galleries in America, at wineries, farm shops and specialty stores across the state.

    At Sawmill Pottery in South Woodstock, visitors design their own gifts and in Pomfret, the Old Wood Workshop sells handcrafts fashioned from antique wood. In Hampton, there are the woven crafts of the Safe Haven Alpaca Farm and Solomon Mines in Stonington is known for its hand-blown glass and award-winning jewelry.

    Situated on the West Bank of the Connecticut River, Essex boasts specialties including high end clothing and jewelry boutiques within a quaint Maritime setting. No visit would be complete without a wander through Bethlehem, which is known as Connecticut’s “Christmas Town.” Visitors come from all over to mail their Christmas cards at the Bethlehem Post Office where they are hand-stamped with special Christmas cachets and mailed with the Bethlehem post mark.

    Downtown Mystic is typical of many shopping experiences in Connecticut – only minutes away from major thoroughfares yet a world apart. Visitors will be charmed by a bustling waterfront community filled with history, bridges and boats, restaurants and stores offering everything from fashion to toys. Mystic Seaport’s large gift shop is an ideal choice for all things relating to America’s maritime history and traditions, including books, art, replicas and toys. And, Olde Mistick Village is a collection of 60 specialty stores and restaurants on the edge of downtown Mystic which features items from around the world including selections of artisan hand crafted gifts.

    Then there's Chester, a small village nestled in the hills on the Chester River filled with antique shops, high quality arts and crafts galleries, restaurants and the Goodspeed Musicals’ Chester Norma Terris Theatre. Situated on the West Bank of the Connecticut River, Essex boasts specialties including high end clothing and jewelry boutiques within a quaint Maritime setting.

    For a gift that truly says “Connecticut,” visitors to the state’s farms and vineyards can find unforgettable items. The Connecticut Wine Trail offers not only the perfect excuse to escape for the weekend but a series of gift shops at the vineyards along the way are overflowing with wines of all varieties produced locally and earning high marks nationally.

    Taylor Brooke Winery offers an “Adopt a Vine” program that is a great gift for wine lovers as it gives them the opportunity to own a vine, (Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Vignole, Melody, St. Pepin, or St. Croix) participate in the harvest and take home a bottle at each season for the next three years. There is also the one-of-a-kind ice wine from Hopkins Vineyard which is also the only winemaker in the state to produce sparkling wines.

    Combined with a stay in a delightful B&B and a visit to some of the town’s distinctive festive events, shopping for holiday treasures in Connecticut can become a seasonal getaway to add to the list of winter traditions.

    By Melody Schubert

    Getting There:

    To explore, attractions, events, and plan your visit to Connecticut visit the Connecticut Tourism site online at www.ctvisit.com or call 1-888-CTvisit.