To collaboratively support Connecticut tourism, the CT Wine Trail and CT Art Trail have come together to offer mini regional itineraries, great for one-day road trips or a weekend getaway.
The best thing about both trails is that each individual vineyard-winery and museum offer unique styles [of wine/art, respectively], gifts, scenery and architecture. All have incredible staff, knowledgeable on their offerings and the greater area for tourists and locals alike.
The Wine Trail offers various seasonal passport programs for free (see Passport to CT Farm Wineries – May to Nov.; and Winter Wine Trails), while the CT Art Trail offers an Art Passport for $25 (an $100+ value), which covers admission to all CT Art Trail-members once within one year’s time. It can be purchased online or at any member museum.
The itineraries below do not highlight specific timing, accommodation or transportation ideas, but rather connect you with great Wine and Art Museum pairings!
If you’re coming up I-95 from NYC:
Unfortunately, the large presence of art museums and historic sites in Fairfield county is not matched by CT vineyards and wineries. Not to worry! There are quality wineries just north of the Connecticut “panhandle”, via Rt. 8. After stopping by one or more of the many museums, you’ll come across Jones Family Farm and Winery in Shelton and Savino Vineyards in Woodbridge.
Fairfield County museums include:
- Center for Contemporary Printmaking. A multimedia studio and gallery located in Matthews Park in Norwalk – near the Lockwood-Matthews Mansion and the Stepping Stones Museum for Children. It’s the only printmaking studio of its kind between NYC and Boston. Open Tue-Sun 9-5.
- Fairfield University Art Museum. Located on Fairfield University Campus, this museum hosts permanent collections and rotating exhibits in Bellarmine Hall, and special exhibitions in the Walsh Gallery within the Quick Center for the Arts. Open Mon-Fri 11-4.
- Greenwich Historical Society/Bush-Holley Historic Site. For those with interest in history, American Impressionism, gardens, and interior design and furnishings, GHS is the place for you! Located within GHS’s site on Cos Cob Harbor in Greenwich. A unique presentation provides visitors with two distinct time periods — the New Nation (1790-1825) and the Cos Cob Art Colony (1890-1920). The Storehouse museum gallery features changing exhibitions, and GHS offers fabulous events. Open Wed-Sun 12-4.
- The Housatonic Museum of Art. This museum in Bridgeport has one of the most significant collections of any two-year college in the country and includes original works by master artists such as Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Miro and Chagall. Open Mon-Fri 8:30-5:30, Thu 8:30-7, and Sat 9-5 (not open Saturdays June-August).
- Weir Farm National Historic Site. The only National Park Service site dedicated to American painting, located in both Wilton and Ridgefield, was home to three generations of American artists including Julian Alden Weir, a leading figure in American art and the development of American Impressionist. Today, the 60-acre park, which includes the Weir House, Weir and Young Studios, barns, gardens, and Weir Pond, is one of the nation’s finest remaining landscapes of American Art. Grounds open year-round. Visitor Center open May-October Wed-Sun 10-4.
- The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. The Aldrich is renowned as a national leader for its presentation of outstanding new art, cultivation of emerging artists, and innovation in museum education. The Aldrich is one of the few independent, non-collecting contemporary art museums in the United States and the only museum in Connecticut devoted to contemporary art, and engages its diverse audiences with thought-provoking, interdisciplinary exhibitions and programs. Open Sun-Mon 12-5, Wed-Fri 12-5. Sat 10-5.
- Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Bring friends and enjoy a picnic on the Meadow, walk over 80 acres of nature trails, visit Heckscher Farm to say hello to the farm animals, and stop into the Stamford Museum Galleries to view rotating exhibitions. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of art and popular culture, the natural and agricultural sciences, and history. Museum galleries open Mon-Sat 9-5, Sun 11-5.
Heckscher Farm open Apr-Oct everyday 9-5; Nov-Mar every day 9-4.
Further along I-95, there are many more options between New Haven and the Baldwin Bridge.
The renowned Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery on Chapel Street in New Haven present works from ancient times to present day and are open year-round free of charge. Both buildings were designed by American architect Louis I. Kahn.
A bit further along, you can stop in at Bishop’s Orchards Winery in Guilford, which features a Farm Market, Pick Your Own (seasonal), and a winery with great fruit wines. There is also Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, located on a beautiful property 1 mile away from the Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets. Chamard has great wine, a wonderful farm-to-table French-American Bistro, weekly live music, and an outdoor farmers market in the summer.
As you cross the Baldwin Bridge from Old Saybrook to Old Lyme, stop off at Florence Griswold Museum, one of the founding museums of the Art Trail. FloGris is known as the home of American Impressionism with a wonderful collection in their riverfront gallery. Surrounded by landscaped gardens and grounds, the museum also features the Florence Griswold House, award-winning Café Flo, a landscape center and an education center. Old Lyme has a charming downtown as well, located near the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, and directly across the street from the Old Lyme Inn with the Sidedoor Jazz club. The museum is open Tue-Sat 10-5 and Sun 1-5.
If you’re visiting Mystic Seaport:
There are many more quality museums located around the living history museum of America and the Sea…including Mystic Museum of Art. MMoA is located along the river in downtown Mystic, and recently restored and converted the old Emporium to become the 15 Water Street Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art, installation, and pop-up exhibitions. The Museum’s permanent collection contains work in all media, including paintings and illustrations by Old Lyme Art Colony founder Henry Ward Ranger, New Yorker artist Garrett Price, noted portraitist Robert Brackman, and MMoA founder Charles H. Davis himself, including a recent bequest depicting a trademark “Davis sky.” Open Mon-Sun 11-5.
Lyman Allyn Museum of Art is also nearby in New London. Located next to Connecticut College and across the street from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Lyman Allyn has been a cultural gem in the region since 1932. Today it houses a collection of over 16,000 objects from ancient times to the present from all around the world, 11 acres of gardens and lawns, incredible enrichment programs for children, and rotating exhibitions. Open Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5.
Because of the incredible mineral-rich soil in southeastern Connecticut, there are a number of wineries to visit on this trip. In Stonington, just east of downtown Mystic, you can find both Stonington Vineyards and Saltwater Farm Vineyard. Jonathan Edwards Winery is located in nearby North Stonington as well. All feature incredible estate-grown wines and beautiful atmospheres.
If you’re visiting the casinos:
Close to both Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, and just 15 minutes north of Mystic, you can find three wineries and another great art museum. Slater Memorial Museum is located on Norwich Free Academy’s campus, a beautiful local high school. The Slater Museum’s collection includes fine and decorative art representing 350 years of Norwich history; 20th century Connecticut paintings and sculpture; African art; Asian and Islamic objects; a plaster cast collection of ancient monumental sculpture, and rotating exhibitions. Open Tue-Fri 9-4, Sat-Sun 1-4.
Nearby are Preston Ridge Vineyard, Holmberg Orchards & Winery, and Maugle Sierra Vineyards in Ledyard. Maugle Sierra is the only in this region open year-round, offering live music twice each week. You can actually see the Earth Tower hotel at Mohegan Sun from the orchard-lined hills at Holmberg. It’s a great family-friendly farm for Pick Your Own, great cider, and has a beautiful porch for sipping wines, sparkling wines and ciders in the summer. Wineries in this area are probably the most vastly different from each other, and are all charming places to bring a picnic and enjoy.
If you’re dropping your student off at UConn or visiting Jorgensen theatre:
William Benton Museum of Art is a beautiful state art museum located on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. They present a wide variety of changing exhibitions, drawing on the museum’s collections of art from the 15th to the 21st centuries, as well as faculty and MFA installations. Open Tue-Fri 12-4:30, Sat-Sun 1-4:30 and revolving on university schedule.
Heading directly east, you will come across Sharpe Hill Vineyard and Pomfret Center, makers of Ballet of Angels. Continuing northeast towards the antiques district and great restaurants in Putnam, you can stop by Taylor Brooke Winery in Woodstock, located near many historic landmarks, inns, and well-known fairgrounds in the beautiful “quiet corner” of the state… though with small businesses humming, it’s a great place to go for great cuisine, art and sightseeing.
If you went south instead of north, you can visit Priam Vineyards in Colchester, off of Rt. 2 heading back into Hartford or towards Norwich.
If you’re grabbing dinner or seeing a show in Hartford:
If you’re in Hartford area, make sure to stop by the Art Museum at the University of Saint Joseph. The Museum, which opened in 2001, houses a collection of over 2,000 diverse works of art including 20th century American paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Milton Avery; sixteenth century European prints; nineteenth century Japanese woodblock prints; and contemporary American works. With six exhibition galleries and the Turco Print Study Room, the Art Museum has made the University’s historic collection more accessible to the public. Frequent loan exhibitions feature art outside the scope of the permanent collection. Open Tue-Wed and Fir-Sat 11-4, Thu 11-7, Sun 1-4.
From June to December, head just northwest to Rosedale Farms & Vineyard in Simsbury. They have been offering great estate-grown wines since 2005 at their wine bar.
If you head further west to Farmington, Hill-Stead Museum features an incredible 33,000-square-foot 1901 home, filled with art and antiques (featured image of their dining room at the top of this post). Set on 152 hilltop acres, a centerpiece of the property is the c. 1920 sunken garden designed by landscape architect Beatrix Jones Farrand, which is today the site of the acclaimed summer-long Sunken Garden Poetry and Music Festival. Open Tue-Sun 10-4.
Thirty to 45-minutes to the west, there are five wineries within reach. Jerram Winery, Connecticut Valley Winery, Haight-Brown Vineyards, Sunset Meadow Vineyards and Miranda Vineyard in the Litchfield Hills. There’s a whopping eight additional wineries in this region if you go a little further!
If you’re looking to go to central Connecticut:
So much culture and charm can be found within a triangle in the center of the state. From the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, up to the New Britain Museum of American Art, to two great wineries in Wallingford! Be sure to check out Paradise Hills Vineyard & Winery and Gouveia Vineyards on this trip. Both are beloved and award-winning. Middletown is nearby, New Britain has a vibrant shopping center on Corbins Corner as well as a great Little Poland community, and you could also take the family to Lake Compounce in Bristol, across the street from ESPN. Opportunities are endless in this region!
Many wineries and museums have varying seasonal and holiday hours. Call each destination in advance for details before planning a trip, and if your group includes eight or more people.
Both organizations (CT Art Trail and CT Vineyard & Winery Association/Wine Trail) are not travel planners. Please do not contact them about booking tours. If visiting multiple vineyards, we do recommend having a designated driver, hiring a limo company or taxi, or using a car service app.
For more information on the Connecticut Art Trail, visit ctarttrail.org.