WHY GO: Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Day Lewis and Oliver Platt all have homes in Salisbury CT and other surrounding towns on the Northwest Connecticut Border.
Paul Newman was a frequent visitor – mainly to race his cars at Lime Rock Park. In California or New York, A-List stars are hassled and harried. Not here.
So it’s no surprise that even stressed out New York Paleface Names come up to the extreme Northwest section of Connecticut to hide out. Most of the area’s attractions revolve around its many lakes. But the Racetrack remains its main draw.
We introduce you to the places we love to paddle, shop, race cars (well, dream of racing), and eat, along with a couple of renovated inns worthy of the Getaway Mavens traveler.
Add on a stay a bit south in the Litchfield Hills of CT
What to Do in Salisbury CT and other Northwest Border Towns
BOAT: O’Hara’s Landing Marina, Twin Lakes, Salisbury CT
Fish, canoe, kayak or just cruise around the larger of the “Twin Lakes” (562.3 acres). And then come back for a quick meal in O’Hara’s restaurant.
It’s a small town, small lake marina and particularly mesmerizing at dawn and dusk. Canoes, kayaks, rowboats, $20/day, 14 ft. rowboat with motor $65, pontoon Boats for 8 – $295 per day. Consult website or call 860-824-7583 for reservations and for other rental rates and hours.
DRIVE: Between the Lakes Rd., Salisbury CT
On your way to downtown Salisbury CT, from O’Hara’s, take the self-explanatory Between the Lakes Rd. – a dirt road that cuts through East and West Twin Lakes.
RECREATE: Salisbury Town Grove, Lakeville CT
The only place to launch a boat (10HP or less) into the fish-rich Lake Wononscopomuc is at Town Grove Park in the Lakeville section of Salisbury.
A public park, Town Grove also has a small beach with lifeguard, a small store, and a fishing pond for kids. Open 7am-8pm daily, $10 per person. $10 to launch trailer boat.
The tiny Salisbury Association Museum is located inside the 1833 Salisbury Academy Building. Exhibits illuminate the town’s obscure history as an iron mining and manufacturing center that supplied cannons and munitions to George Washington’s army during the American Revolution. Open 9-1 Mon-Fri., free.
SHOP: Passports, Salisbury
Find a great selection of reasonably priced home accessories, gifts and clothing cultivated from the owner’s world travels
SHOP: Salisbury General Store and Pharmacy, Salisbury
The Salisbury Pharmacy has a whiff of old-fashioned Florida souvenir shop meets 1800’s apothecary about it. You’ll find “period” children’s toys, sundries, and a real old-fashioned hometown pharmacist.
GO: Lime Rock Park Racetrack, Lime Rock
Catch a car race or special event at what was Paul Newman’s “home away from home,” Lime Rock Park. Newman last raced on this 1.53-mile course at age 82, a year before he died. There are still swashbucklers that age taking the wheels of high performance cars here.
Various prestige car clubs (e.g. Porsche) rent the track for a few days for “Driver’s Ed.” And of course Lime Rock hosts important races. But the vibe is friendly, inclusive and welcoming – especially towards drive-by tourists who hear the roar of the engines and just want to gawk for a while.
Unless there’s a mega race going on (tickets required), you can enter for free. And if you have the guts, sign up for the Summer Autocross Series and enjoy 4-5 hours of track time with a coach as co-pilot, in your own car for “your own personal track day.”$500 per driver. Track open various times during the season – check website for details.
WALK: Industrial Walking Trail, Falls Village
This quarter mile trail that passes by a hydro-electric power plant and foaming waterfalls tells the story of this industrial center with pictures and signage. It also happens to be the entrance to the Appalachian Trail. Take a 16 mile hike (8 miles back and forth) to get to Rand’s View, called the “Jewel of Connecticut” by AT through hikers.
DRIVE/PICNIC: Dennis Hill State Park, Norfolk
Drive to the top of the hill for sweeping vistas of the Berkshires, New York’s Hudson Valley, and northern CT. There’s a covered pavilion with picnic tables. So, enjoy some local wine and cheese with the view. Open daily 8-sunset.
MUSIC/ROCK. Infinity Hall, Norfolk
This fully restored 1883 theater hosts world famous rock, folk and jazz bands on a regular basis. It sits right across the road from….
MUSIC/CLASSICAL: Yale School of Music Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk
Listen to some of the best orchestral music in the hills of CT during the summer.
VISIT: Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument, Canaan
Though not usually identified with heavy industry, this section of Connecticut was once rich in iron ore. It must have positively glowed with the light of dozens of iron furnace fires.
One of the last of these furnaces to operate in the USA (from 1847-1919) is now a marvelous State Park with interpretive signs. This particular furnace produced the ingots used to make the wheels of newfangled railroad cars in the mid-1800’s.
My favorite quirky remnant; a “salamander.” These multi-ton chunks of melted iron were formed through leaks in the masonry.
SHOP: Freund’s Farm Market, East Canaan
Buy plants, baked good, produce, preserves, cheese and lots of ancillary products at this farm-side market. On its surface, it may look quaint, but the adjacent Freund’s Farm was the first dairy farm in Connecticut to incorporate “Robotic Milkers” to milk its 300 cows.
Freund’s is a multi-generational family farm with focus on sustainability and ingenuity. Thus inspired, the Freunds created the best-selling bio-degradable manure-based seed-starter, CowPots ©.
Where to Eat in Northwest CT Border Towns
EAT: Morgan’s at the Interlaken Inn, Lakeville CT
Morgan’s excels in farm-to-table cuisine, winning raves from both tourists and locals. Though located inside a hotel, Morgan’s is a destination restaurant in its own right, with fresh from field, ranch, stream, and sea ingredients and a relatively new chefs, James and Daire Rooney Corcoran.
COFFEE/BREAKFAST: Sweet Williams Coffee Shop and Bakery & Dessert and Scoop Shop, Salisbury CT
First thing in the morning, locals, second home owners, and tourists gather at Sweet Williams for warm, ethereal, just out of the oven Ginger Apricot scones, croissants, and cookies, and deeply flavored coffee and freshly squeezed lemonade.
Next door, the Ice Cream Shop doles out Bette Midler’s favorite brand of frozen sweet stuff – Kingston NY based Jane’s Ice Cream, seemingly made of 1000% butterfat.
Dine in either the restaurant or more casual Tap Room. Locals love it for consistently good food. I adored it for the quick and friendly service, decent house wines by the glass, reasonable prices, fresh “from down the street” produce and meats, and the fact that my comfy, cute room was right upstairs (see below).
Dishes range from Fried Oysters ($13), Shrimp Satay ($13), Fish and Chips ($18), Steak ($28), Chicken Francaise ($24), and “The Whip” – a grass-fed beef burger from Whippoorwill Farm “just down the street.”
EAT/BREAKFAST: Mountainside Café
Right on Route 7, this restaurant attracts attention for its fresh cuisine in a modern-country space. Basic breakfasts (eggs, toast, home-fries, bacon) are delish, served on handcrafted inlayed wood tables.
Even better, Mountainside café is affiliated with the Mountainside Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment Center, providing extended stay clients with a supportive work environment. Service is friendly, and the chef knows his stuff. Eating here is a win-win for all.
EAT: The Woodland, Lakeville CT
Thirty-something years ago, this place was a shake shack (no, not that one). But it eventually became the local hangout it is today. Trendy places might come and go, but “everyone ends up here,” says one patron who lives nearby.
The chef does wonders with a range of food. Munch on specials like the Caprese Salad on Baguette ($16), Sushi ($18) or burgers – always on the menu. It was packed on a mid-summer Tuesday and the busy bartender stated that it’s “like this year round.”
Where to Stay in Northwest CT
STAY: Interlaken Inn, Lakeville
Just 2 miles from Salisbury CT, the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville CT (not to be confused with the one in Lake Placid NY) has hosted parents and friends of next-door Hotchkiss School, along with newlyweds and other romantics, for decades.
With a relatively new celebrated “Lobster chef” (as of December ’15) at in-house Morgan’s Restaurant, the Interlaken is drawing foodies and travelers seeking rural rustic-luxe peace and quiet as well.
With expansive property encompassing the Main building (40 rooms and suites of various sizes), several cottages, an outdoor pool, tennis courts, and a separate waterfront beach and dock on Lakeville Lake (aka Lake Wononscopomuc), some guests don’t even leave the compound once settled in.
First Impressions of Interlaken Inn CT
From the driveway, the Interlaken Inn looks less like the upscale hotel it is than a 50’s ski lodge, with it’s weathered grey siding and modernist design.
Not to fear. Walk inside and you’ll find a warm greeting and several striking landscape paintings – often the first thing visitors comment on when checking in.
Rooms and Suites at Interlaken Inn CT
Most rooms have been renovated, or at least updated and refreshed with soft and comfy new bedding and furniture.
But in the Paul Newman Suite at least, both the bathroom, and screened-in-porch with pool and landscape views, are the stars of the show.
Though small, the beautifully designed bathroom, with iridescent glass backsplash, bead-glass sconces, granite sink-top, and sizeable glass/subway tile walk-in shower is a funky-cool departure from and nice counterpoint to the earth-toned bedroom.
Why a Paul Newman Suite? Until his death in 2008, the Hollywood star lived in Connecticut, and came to Lakeville often to race his cars at Lime Rock Racetrack, just 4 miles from the Interlaken Hotel. The Suite, in homage to him, features several photos and paintings of the philanthropic and well-liked celebrity.
Honeymooners – and brides preparing for an on-site wedding – prefer to stay in the contemporary Penthouse Suite, with its own entrance and enclosed hot-tub deck.
The Penthouse bathroom, with soaking tub inside a massive mosaic-tiled shower, is in a luxury class all itself.
Travelers looking for even more privacy should check out the Lakeside Cottage – with small beach, fire-pit, dock with loaner canoe, screened in porch, King Bedroom and pull out-couch in the living room.
Dining at Interlaken Hotel/Morgan’s
(See “Where to Eat” Above)
Amenities at Interlaken Inn
Complimentary Breakfast with Omelet Chef Johnny Carlson
Ellora Spa with Workout Room
Outdoor Heated Swimming Pool (Memorial Day to Mid-Sept)
Canoes, Kayaks and Floating Rafts on Lake Wononscopomuc.
Rooms from $249. Suites and Cottages from $649 per night plus tax (Penthouse Suite $709). Include fresh custom omelet breakfast, wi-fi, use of kayaks, canoes, parking.
STAY: Falls Village Inn, Falls Village
When gutting a disintegrating flop house and revamping it into a stylish inn, it pays to be friends with a renowned New York City Interior Designer – in this case, Bunny Williams, queen of cozy-comfy chic.
The NY Times wrote of a typical William’s interior – it’s “a place to put your feet up and your drink down.” This is precisely how you’ll feel at this newly renovated boutique inn just a few miles from Lime Rock Racetrack.
Across from a package store and Jacobs Garage, Falls Village Inn has delivered a bit of elegance and outside interest to this quiet hamlet.
The restaurant is a draw in itself, but rooms are lovingly and beautifully redone with wainscoting, colorful art, fine antiques, soothing pastel colored walls and soft luxe bedding. It’s Ralph Lauren Country with a lighter, more feminine hand.
Each room is a perfect retreat after a meal downstairs – and an excellent base for those heading to Lime Rock Park or learning to race at the Skip Barber Racing School.