Halfway between Boston and New York, Connecticut is in the heart of New England and makes a great break from both cities. There’s plenty to do, see and enjoy.
With eight hectares of land and a wooden dock full of boats that date back some 200 years, Mystic Seaport, below, makes for a fun museum. Stroll around the seafaring village, wander into the shipsmith’s workshop and learn how vessels were built at the turn of the century. The seaport’s pride and joy is the Charles W Morgan, the oldest commercial ship still floating. An afternoon here will literally sail by. (75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic, +1 860 572 0711 mysticseaport.org)
Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain, raised his children and wrote some of his classics, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in this beautiful, Gothic-style home in the Hartford suburbs. The Mark Twain House, left, is full of stories, including those of parties held and its famous guests. The interiors, top left, have been meticulously restored and you get a definite sense of the fun and family man behind one of America’s greatest writers. You can complete the literary Civil War period nicely by popping next door to the house of abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe. (351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, +1 860 247 0998;?marktwainhouse.org)
Thorncrest Dairy Farm is a bovine Zen zone. The Thorn family tend to their cows like staff wait on clients in an upmarket spa – their comfort and tranquillity are paramount. This is because each cow here serves a specific purpose, or rather, a specific chocolate: each unique flavour of milk lending itself to different bars. So only Queen’s milk goes into the Lime and Lime Liquorice, and only Daydream’s makes the caramel. Kate and Viola, however, are personal cow-favourites, their milk producing the Madagascar Vanilla chocolates – all bought as souvenirs that were, oddly, never gifted … (280 Town Hill Road, Goshen, +1 860 309 2545; milkhousechocolates.net)
Sandwiched between the emerging Front Street District and the Connecticut River, the soaring Hartford Marriott Downtown has views towards Bushnell Park and the golden-capped State Capitol building. Take a dip in the swimming pool on the top floor for the best panoramas, and ask the super helpful staff for the best walks in the city. Rooms from $159. (200 Columbus Boulevard, +1 860 249 8000; marriott.com)
For a totally bonkers twist to your quaint vacation, check out the whopping 34 floors at Mohegan Sun. However, it’s actually what lies underneath the hotel that’s impressive. Down the escalator and past the cascading waterfall you’ll find one of the world’s largest casinos, a 10,000-seater stadium and a shopping mall. Rooms from $159. (1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard, Uncasville, +1 888 777 7922; mohegansun.com)
If all-out kitsch is your thing, book yourself into the House of 1833 in Mystic. The sweeping driveway, beautiful landscaping, imposing Greek-columned entryway and the most delicious cookies in the parlour, means that the five suites of this historic home fill up quick – so don’t hang around. Rooms from $129. (72 North Stonington Road, +1 860 536 6325; houseof1833.com)
Just outside of Mystic, right on the waterfront, is the local favourite Red 36. With a broad terrace jutting out over the mouth of the river, it’s a busy spot with a vast menu. Go for drinks and the fish tacos appetiser and soak up the spectacular view as the sun sets right in front of the main balcony. The homemade ice cream is also superb. (2 Washington Street, +1 860 536 3604; red36ct.com)
Set up by Ted Turner (Jane Fonda’s former squeeze) to reinvigorate the bison meat market and protect the national mammal from extinction, Ted’s Montana Grill has become a national institution since it opened its first restaurant in Ohio in 2002. With a huge range of bison burgers, local brews and a chilled-out atmosphere, this CT enclave in the all new Front Street District outlet is guaranteed to be a student hub. (35 Front Street, +1 860 692 1167; tedsmontanagrill.com)
With views out over its private marina at the mouth of the Long Island Sound estuary, Saybrook Point Inn does a number of things right –sweet staff, charming rooms but its waterside restaurant is a particular highlight. It serves, hands down, the best lobster roll this writer has ever had. (2 Bridge Street, Old Saybrook, +1 860 452 0035; saybrook.com)
Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Hartford four times per week.