Amusement Parks Nature Centers and History!
Start your family fun trip through Litchfield Hills in in Bristol, Connecticut at the Lake Compounce Theme Park, America’s first family theme park. Opened in 1846, this newly renovated and expanded park now combines an attractive lakeside setting and Victorian charm with some of the the most thrilling up-to-date rides found anywhere.
Rides of special interest include a historic 1911 Carousel, a 1927 “Wildcat” wooden roller coaster, and “Boulder Dash,” the fastest, longest wooden roller coaster on the East Coast (it spans 4,500 feet and is the only roller coaster that has ever been built into the side of a mountain). Other popular rides are Top Spin and The Zoomerang and the new Phobia, the first triple launch coaster in New England with an inversion at 150 ft in the air a 180 degree vertical twist on the lift and a ride that goes 65 miles an hour.
Lake Compounce Theme Park is also home to Connecticut’s largest water park and Bear Creek Campground with tent and RV sites, deluxe tipi’s, a cub hut, and one and two bedroom cabins.
Next, visit the Carousel Museum of New England, which displays New England’s largest collection of carousel art from brightly painted antique carved horses to band organs and chariots encrusted with shimmering glass jewels. Different carving styles of famous carousel craftsmen are highlighted by the variety of carousel horses and menagerie figures on display. The Museum also has two Fine Art Galleries, one with changing shows and the other featuring the work of Glo Sessions.
Upstairs, you will find the newly opened Museum of Fire History, which houses memorabilia and collections from firehouses all over the world as well as the Carousel Museum’s Restoration Area. When the shop is open, visitors watch craftsmen painstakingly bring carousel pieces back to life. The Greek History Museum is also located upstairs.
A visit to Bristol would not be complete without a stop at the American Clock and Watch Museum where you will find the nation’s finest collection of American manufactured clocks on public display in the Miles Lewis House (circa 1801) and adjoining galleries. Today, this impressive legacy is preserved through the Museum’s display of over 3,000 timepieces, watches, case clocks, shelf clocks, wall clocks, precision regulators, novelty clocks, tower, church clocks, and alarm clocks.
The exhibits trace the beginning of the clock industry from an old clockmakers’ shop to an early factory to show how Connecticut clock manufacturing gave rise to commercial mass-production techniques. The primary emphasis of the museum remains the Connecticut manufactured clock, and the museum’s collection is the world’s leading public display in this field.
Your next stop is Quassy Amusement Park, which is located in Middlebury on Rte. 64, a short ride on I-84 and within 40 minutes of Lake Compounce. This 108-year-old family owned amusement park located on beautiful Lake Quassapaug has many fun-filled classic and newer theme rides as well as a lakeside water park. Quassy also has a wide-selection of kiddie rides including a carousel and a wooden roller coaster.
Leaving Middlebury, take Rte. 64 to Rte. 6 east through scenic Woodbury. Here you can stop in to watch a pewter making demonstration at Woodbury Pewter Factory Outlet (located on Rte. 6) and stop by the Glebe House (located just off Rte. 6 on Hollow Rd).
The Glebe House dates back to the 1740’s; visitors learn how John and Sarah Marshall and their nine children and three slaves lived during the Revolutionary Era. The house is furnished with period furniture and has the only garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll, one of the most famous 20th century British gardeners. The Glebe House is also where the first Episcopal Bishop was elected only weeks after the American Independence in a step that assumed the separation of church and state.
Continuing on Rte. 6 east, take Rte. 47 to Washington, one of the first towns in the United States to be named after General Washington. Here you will find the Institute for American Indian Studies (Rte. 199 off of Rte. 47 to Curtis Rd.). The Institute’s primary exhibit is “As We Tell Our Stories,” a collection of artifacts, art, stories, and maps on the enduring connections to the land, the spirits of ancestors, knowledge of clay, corn, and deer, living spaces, exchange, and caring for the earth.
Additional exhibits include a re-creation of an indoor Algonkian longhouse, containing both original and replicated artifacts, a mural depicting daily life of the Algonkian peoples prior to the arrival of Europeans, children’s discovery room, and two Native American Art Galleries with changing shows. Located in a pristine setting, the Institute also offers a variety of outdoor activities including hikes on four signed Nature Trails, a simulated archaeological site; gardens, and a life size outdoor 17th century replicated Algonkian village with wigwams made of bark and other local materials.
Retrace your steps back to Rte. 47 and continue on Rte. 47 through Washington Depot to Rte. 202. Then take Rte. 202 east toward Bantam and Litchfield.
In Bantam, you may want to stop for a delicious ice cream at Arethusa dairy located right on Rte. 202 in the village of Bantam. Arethusa ice cream is made right in Litchfield and is fresh, natural and deliciously farm to table.
White Memorial Foundation, located just off of Rte. 202 on Alain White Road, is the state’s largest nature sanctuary with 35 miles of trails to hike and explore. The natural history museum offers dioramas of scenes found along the hiking trails and offers excellent natural history displays of the area.
In the center of Litchfield, end your visit with a stop at the Litchfield History Museum and the first Law School in America. The interactive law school tour teaches guests about being a law student in the early 1900’s by taking them on a journey of a real life student. Other hands-on areas and interpretive exhibits that explore the timeless issues of travel, communication, education and community.
Thanks to Janet Serra for submitting this lovely guest post. Janet is the Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
For more area information on planning your own road trip through Litchfield Hills, Connecticut visit: www.litchfieldhills.com.