Best of New England: Connecticut
Live Performance Venue
GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE
Since 1963, Goodspeed Musicals has produced Broadway classics out of this stunning gingerbread Victorian castle along the Connecticut River. This was the original home of shows like Annie and Man of La Mancha, and the company, which has won two Tony Awards for outstanding achievement, produces about half a dozen musicals per year. Don’t miss the annual “Festival of New Artists” if you want to get an early look at tomorrow’s Broadway hits. // 6 Main St., East Haddam, 860-873-8668, goodspeed.org.
THUMBLE ISLANDS CRUISE ON THE SEA MIST
Off the coast of Branford, the Thimble Islands archipelago has long attracted the rich, famous, and private, including William Howard Taft and Gary Trudeau. There are 25 inhabited islands and about 365 in all, depending on whether you count large rocks and whether you’re counting during high or low tide. Scheduled boat tours depart from the village of Stony Creek May through October, and though they don’t stop (the islands are all private), they do provide an incredible view. // Stony Creek Dock, thimble island road, Stony Creek, 203-488-8905, thimbleislandcruise.com.
WADSWORTH ATHENEUM MUSEUM OF ART
For some reason, this sizable institution is not on the radar of many New Englanders. But the depth and breadth of its collections (more than 50,000 items) is always a surprise to newcomers. The oldest public art museum in the country, the Atheneum is known for its impressive Baroque and Hudson River School collections, but its evolving “Matrix” program keeps up with contemporary art. Kids love the “To Catch a Thief” program, which guides them through art-saving missions. // 600 Main St., Hartford, 860-278-2670,wadsworthatheneum.org.
MYSTIC AQUARIUM AND INSTITUTE FOR EXPLORATION
At this aquarium, kids and adults can watch a marine theater show, enjoy a face-to-face encounter with an African penguin, or — for an extra fee — get in the water with a beluga whale. And for the rest of 2011, the facility is hosting “Crittercam,” an exhibition that allows visitors to see nature through the eyes of camera-equipped marine animals in the wild. // 55 Coogan Blvd., Mystic, 860-572-5955, mysticaquarium.org.
Pick your own berries, peaches, pears, apples, and pumpkins at the charming farm, which has been in the Lyman family since 1741. The 1,100-acre property lies just about midway between Hartford and New Haven, and also boasts two 18-hole golf courses, a market/bakery, and weekend breakfasts on the deck from May through October. Don’t miss the apple pie — many say it’s the best in the state. // Routes 147 and 157, Middlefield, 860-349-1763, lymanorchards.com.