connecticut gems

For as much as I’ve grown into a Manhattanite, I love my roots.  Visiting Connecticut is much like snuggling into a warm bed after a long day – familiar, safe, and comforting.  I went to college ten minutes from home, and now get super nostalgic for places I fell in love with when I have the opportunity to visit home.  Over the past year, it has become a lot more difficult to find pockets of time to revel in my hometown, so I’m always trying to pack in as much activity as I can while I’m here.

Amongst the immediate five-mile radius, these are the places that feel like home.

Rosy Tomorrows | Danbury, Connecticut

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If there was a Chipped Cup equivalent to my home in Connecticut, it would be this place. It certainly isn’t a hole-in-the-wall coffeeshop, but if there’s one place I spend my time more than my house when I’m home, it’s Rosy Tomorrow’s.

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Name a cocktail – any cocktail, Pat the bartender will make it.  They’re home to the best spinach and artichoke dip in the Northeast, their long island iced tea will kick your ass, and sitting around the fire pit with my college buddies is still a tradition, no matter the distance or time that has passed.  I also had my first legal drink here (as well as a handful of illegal ones before I turned 21).

Bagelman | Brookfield, Connecticut

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I can maybe count on one hand the New York City bagels that possibly hold a candle to this place.  Even still, there is genuinely nothing like a Bagelman bagel.  My mother raised us on these bagels – it’s the only one worth shaking up my post-Whole30 diet.

Dubl Twister & Soho Pizza | Danbury, Connecticut

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Oh, this duo.  It was dangerously satisfying to have an amazing Pizza Joint steps away from campus with a homemade Ice Cream Shop to match right next door.

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Soho Pizza is still better than most I’ve had in New York, and there are very few memories fonder than trying Dubl Twister‘s Cookie Monster Ice Cream on my third day of college.  There is also no better comfort food than that of pizza and ice cream, so, bravo, White Street.  Bravo.

Molten Java | Bethel, Connecticut

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In the immediate five-mile radius, there are very few options to get a real good latte that will settle my caffeine fix at home (I am spoiled by Manhattan’s coffeeshops).  Luckily, Molten Java has been around since my high school years, serves a damn good latte, and is tucked away in one of the cutest surrounding towns, Bethel, Connecticut.  You’ll now find it amongst many shops and restaurants in the center of town close to the Danbury border.

Tarrywile Park & Mansion | Danbury, Connecticut

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Woof, I love this place.  Stating the obvious – it’s beautiful, it’s perfect for summertime picnics, and a great way to reconnect with nature.  Tarrywile Park was the go-to spot in my young-adult years for outdoor adventures and celebrations.

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I watched two of my friends get domestically partnered on the lake two summers ago (Yes, we threw them a ceremony.  Yes, they also got engaged in this exact spot eighteen months later.  Yes I hope their real wedding is here).  I discovered around this time last year that I can actually throw a frisbee in the center of their giant field.  I climbed the abandoned castle on the other end of the park and scraped my knee crawling down my senior year of college.  This place is super special; to many and also to me.

The Cheesecake Factory | Danbury, Connecticut

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This place is magical to most – basically if you like any sort of food, you enjoy The Cheesecake Factory.  But I was lucky enough to open the second Connecticut location and hold a job there as a hostess for almost three years before moving to Manhattan.  I made a lot of friends, took a lot of names, and got a pager thrown at my head once.  This place has a lot of fond memories (especially that lucky pager).  Also, the Red Velvet Cheesecake is the best.  No arguments.

Ives Concert Park | Danbury, Connecticut

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Tucked away behind the west side campus of Western Connecticut State University is a beautiful gazebo along a lake named after local composer Charles Edward Ives.  Ives Concert Park has hosted a laundry list of famous artists during their summer concert series, as well as countless theatrical productions from the university’s theater program.

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I have had the pleasure of performing there many times, seeing a few concerts on the lawn, and was even once taken there at midnight two summers ago to dance rom-com style in the center of the park.  My heart fills to the brim with joy and nostalgia when this place comes to mind.

Lake Lillinonah | Brookfield, Connecticut

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My mom used to take my brother and me here every year to use as a backdrop for our annual “Fall Photo” when we were younger.  Somewhere around my freshman year of high school, we stopped.  But I still love driving down here every fall to take in the beautiful view.

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Stew Leonards | Danbury, Connecticut

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Okay, it’s a grocery store.  Who has a fondness for a grocery store? This gal.

Stew Leonards is monumental – it has soft-serve ice cream, prepared food, free samples, hay rides in the fall, an ornament shop during the holidays, and an outdoor BBQ over the summer.  They also have a singing band of animatronic milk cartons every fifteen minutes.  I don’t think I need to explain any further.

Blue Jay Orchards | Bethel, Connecticut

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It was simply one of the best field trips that Huckleberry Hill Elementary School could offer in the early 2000’s.  Blue Jay Orchards is small, but mighty.  It’s stunningly equipped with two apple tree-lined orchards and a pumpkin patch across from its adorable market.  People flock there for their apple cider, donuts and home-made jams.

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And apparently travel from Manhattan just to sit in their wheelbarrows.

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