Middletown is a mid-sized manufacturing city, pop. 47,000, situated along the Connecticut River in central Connecticut. The city and nearby communities are rich in cultural and natural resources. Below are some of Middletown’s main attractions; find a complete guide here.
Broad Street Books (formerly Atticus), 45 Broad Street, 860-685-7323. The bookstore schedules readings throughout the year and offers discounts on a selection of new hardcovers and paperbacks. The café serves overstuffed sandwiches, soups, and salads.
The Buttonwood Tree, 605 Main Street, 860-347-4957. This local arts venue/used bookstore sponsors about 250 cultural events per year, including concerts, literary readings, storytelling, and exhibitions. www.buttonwood.org
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (North Campus), 860-685-3355. Central Connecticut’s hub for world-class and cutting-edge arts experiences, CFA offers music, theater, and dance performances, as well as gallery exhibitions. For a calendar of CFA events visit wesleyan.edu/cfa.
Connecticut aMAIZEing MAZE, 278 Chamberlain Rd., 860-346-3360. You can stroll through two miles of winding paths in a living, growing cornfield, with a different theme each year.
Destinta Movie Theatres, Metro Square, Main St., 860-346-4000. A 12-screen theater that shows first-run Hollywood releases and independent films.
General Mansfield House/Middlesex Historical Society, 151 Main St., 860-346-0746. A restored 1810 Federal-style home with exhibits of Civil War artifacts and decorative art.
Harbor Park. Located right on the bank of the Connecticut River, this park is the site for Wesleyan’s boat house—the warehouse for the Wesleyan Crew team's equipment. The park also serves as the background for Wesleyan’s annual Black Arts Festival in the spring.
KidCity Museum, 119 Washington Street, 860-347-0495. Two floors of hands-on exhibits designed to spark the imaginations of children ages 6 months to 10 year old. www.kidcitymuseum.com
Main Street. A variety of clothing and jewelry stores, restaurants, and banks. Closest shopping area to Wesleyan (easy walking distance). Check out Bob’s Stores for discounted clothing and Amato’s Toy Store.
Main Street Market, 386 Main St. Recently renovated mini-mall with a range of stores selling food, clothing, jewelry, and more.
Mattabesett Blue Trail, Seven Falls Roadside Park, .8 miles south of Aircraft Rd. (exit 10 off Rte. 9) on Rte. 154. Hike up ledges to caves and good views of the city or climb Bear Hill.
Middletown Roller Skating Rink, 547 Main St., 860-704-0064. One of the old-time amusements still left on Main Street. www.middletownrink.com
Oddfellows Playhouse, 128 Washington St., 860-347-6143. This nonprofit youth theater and performing arts program serves more than 2,500 central Connecticut young people each year though classes, workshops, full productions, and special events, including a summer circus. Wesleyan students often volunteer here. www.oddfellows.org
O'Rourke's Diner, 728 Main St., 860-346-6101. This classic boxcar diner with a mini-jukebox at every booth attracts locals and Wesleyan early birds with its gourmet breakfast specials and scrumptious homemade breads. www.orourkesmiddletown.com
Russell Library, 123 Broad St., 860-347-2528. A delightful place to read and catch up on the latest books, magazines, and newspapers.
Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, 424 Main Street, 860-347-6971, ext. 3777 (24-hour recorded information). This nonprofit community dance hall, committed to health and wellness, has lessons and open sessions in swing dancing, country line dancing, salsa mambo, Argentine tango, hip-hop dance styles, and more. www.vinniesjumpandjive.com
Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate, 421 Wadsworth St., 860-347-1064. Built at the beginning of the 20th century as the summer residence of "Long Hill" for Colonel Wadsworth—an authority on the emerging science of forestry and conservation—this mansion was designed by the New York architecture firm of Hoppin and Koen to rival the estates of Lenox, Massachusetts and the "cottages" of Newport, Rhode Island. In the late 1990s, the mansion and immediate grounds underwent a complete historic rehabilitation, funded by Middletown citizens; the mansion is once again a center for ceremonial and cultural activity. The parklands are open to the public for walking, and mansion tours are offered on Wednesdays. www.wadsworthmansion.com
Washington Street Cemetery, Washington St. This site on the Freedom Trail contains the graves of local African-Americans, including men who fought with the Connecticut 29th Regiment and other Civil War units.
Wesleyan Potters, 350 South Main St., 860-344-0039. Shop here for wares by local artisans. www.wesleyanpotters.com
Attractions in Nearby Communities
The following towns are within a 30-minute drive or less of Middletown.
Galleries. Chester has a number of art galleries, including The Caron Gallery (4 Maple St., 860-526-1526), Chester Gallery (76 Main St., 860-526-9822), Connecticut River Artisans Cooperative (4 Water St., 860-526-5575), and Photographic Works of Art (41 Main St., 860-526-3870).
Goodspeed-at-Chester, The Norma Terris Theatre, North Main St., 860-873-8668. A 200-seat theater dedicated to the development of new musicals. www.goodspeed.org
Deep River Navigation—Mark Twain Cruises, 152 River St., 860-526-4954. The company provides fall foliage cruises from Middletown, sightseeing excursions from Old Saybrook and Hartford, summer-fall sunset cruises, and winter-spring nature cruises. The riverboat service connects with the Essex Steam Train (see Essex, below). www.deeprivernavigation.com
Comstock Covered Bridge, near Rte.16 at the Salmon River, East Hampton, 860-267-2519. One of the few remaining covered bridges in the state. Across the highway from Salmon River State Forest (see below).
Hurd State Park, Rte. 151, straddling the East Haddam and East Hampton line, 860-526-2336. This 884 acre-park on the east side of the Connecticut River offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, picnicking, and cross-country skiing.
Salmon River State Forest, Rte. 16. Fishing, hiking, picnicking, boat launch, and cross-country skiing.
Devil’s Hopyard State Park, 366 Hopyard Rd., Rte. 82 (off I-95 North or South, Exit 70), 860-873-8566. Nice woodland hiking by Chapman Falls (60 feet high), mountain bike trails, fishing, and picnicking.
Gillette Castle State Park, Rte. 9 North or South to Exit 7 (Rte. 82), 860-526-2336. The 184-acre park’s startling 24-room fieldstone castle was designed by stage actor William Gillette, well-known in the early 20th-century for playing Sherlock Holmes. The park has pleasant river views, walking trails, and picnic areas.
Goodspeed Opera House, Goodspeed Landing, Rte. 82, 860-873-8668. Take Rte.9 to Exit 7, then follow Rte. 82 across the Swinging Bridge. This wonderful, intimate Victorian (1876) playhouse overlooking the Connecticut River specializes in musical productions. www.goodspeed.org
Hadlyme Ferry, Rte. 148 between Chester and Hadlyme, 860-594-2550. Selden III, a small car ferry, crosses the Connecticut River from the foot of Gillette Castle State Park (see above).
Nathan Hale Schoolhouse, Main St. Rte. 149, 860-873-9547. Restored one-room school building where American Revolutionary hero Nathan Hale taught before his arrest by the British for spying.
Connecticut River Museum, 67 Main St. on the river in Essex, 860-767-8269. Fine exhibits on early ships and industry in the region, including a reproduction of a Revolutionary War submarine.
Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Ride, Valley Railroad Company (Rte. 153 west of Rte. 9, Exit 3), 860-767-0103. The scenic train ride takes passengers north along the Connecticut River and past the towns of Deep River and Chester. Travelers can connect to a riverboat at Deep River Landing for a ride up the Connecticut River to East Haddam. Excursions are scheduled every day in summer, weekends in fall and spring. www.essexsteamtrain.com
West Farms Mall, I-91 North to Rte. 9 North to Exit 30. Make a right off ramp, take left at second traffic light, 860-561-3024. This huge regional mall encompasses 160 stores, including anchors Filene’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and JC Penney. www.shopwestfarms.com
Cockaponeset State Forest, Rte. 148, 860-245-8521. This 15,000-acre forest has hiking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for fishing and hunting.
George D. Seymour State Park, off Haddam Neck Rd. south of Hurd State Park (see East Hampton, above). An undeveloped park on the east side of the Connecticut River with meadows, wetlands, and a handsome forest with hiking trails.
Haddam Meadows State Park, Rte. 154, three miles south of Higganum, 860-566-2304. 175 acres of meadowland on the west bank of the Connecticut River. Sports field, picnicking, boating, fishing, and cross-country skiing.
Hubbard Park and Castle Craig, West Main St., 203-630-4259. This Olmsted-designed 1,802-acre park has hiking trails, a lake, tennis courts, a pavilion, and a playground. Castle Craig is a replica of an ancient castle and stands 1,002 feet above sea level.
Westfield Shoppingtown Meriden, 470 Lewis Ave., off I-691, 203-235-3343. 130 stores from which to choose, including Sears, Filene’s, JC Penney, and Lord & Taylor.
A.J.’s Putt-Putt, 1 Lorraine Terrace (corner of Rte. 66), 860-344-1926. Minature golf.
Lyman Orchards, Rte. 157, 860-349-1793. Farmed by the Lyman family for more than 200 years, this popular destination has lovely hilltop orchards and pick-your-own berry fields. Visit the large, busy Farm Market (which sells fruits, vegetables, and baked goods), the golf course, and the corn maze. www.lymanorchards.com
Wadsworth Falls State Park, Rte 157. Take Long Lane to the first stop sign, and turn right onto Wadsworth St. (about 5 minutes from Wesleyan campus), 860-566-2304. Swimming, picnicking, fishing, hiking trails, swimming, and a lovely waterfall.
Dinosaur State Park, West St., (east of I-91, Exit 23), 860-529-8423. The park features 190 million-year-old (Jurassic) dinosaur trackways exposed inside a geodesic dome, as well as related exhibits, nature trails, slide talks, and other activities. You can make plaster casts of real tracks.
Rocky Hill Ferry, Rte. 160 between Glastonbury and Rocky Hill. Historic old crossing, cable-guided, inexpensive.
Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline Council, 860-347-0028. Information on the historic towns along the Connecticut River, and on nature, cultural, and historic activities.
Hartford and New Haven are the two major Connecticut cities near Middletown. Hartford is about a 25-minute drive north of Middletown, and New Haven is about a 35-minute drive south of Middletown.
Greater Hartford Guide: www.hartford.com
Greater Hartford Tourism District, 860-244-8181 or 800-793-4480.
Citysearch Hartford: hartford.citysearch.com
Visit New Haven, 203-777-8550 or 800-332-STAY: www.visitnewhaven.com
City of New Haven: www.cityofnewhaven.com