Written by Lisa Lenkiewicz
Sometimes all it takes is a little planning to have a great family outing. When routine exploits just aren’t cutting it anymore, shake things up by exploring new terrain, taking in an exhibition, or visiting a landmark and learning a little something about our local history. Here are awesome events to attend and places to visit around town before fall ends. Best part? All of them can be done on the cheap and on one tank of gas—or less!
Lyman Orchards, Middlefield
32 Reeds Gap Road, Middlefield
Why Go? Head to this expansive apple orchard before picking season ends in late October. Located within 30 minutes of Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury, Lyman Orchards offers a little something for everyone, including a new Golf Center driving range and legendary corn mazes. This year’s corn maze is the Statue of Liberty, with two miles of pathways on more than four acres. John Lyman III, executive vice president and 8th-generation family member, said, "Our crop is outstanding this year. Flavor is superb.”
Insider Tip: Save $1 per ticket for the maze by ordering online at www.lymanorchards.com using discount code: liberty. Call the hotline (860) 349-6015 for up-to-the-minute crop and field conditions, varieties and prices.
Must Do! Stop by the unique indoor Apple Barrel market for tasty fresh-baked products such as hi-top apple pies, apple cider, donuts and homemade breads. Purchase fresh vegetables or fruit gift and gourmet food baskets.
The Fine Print: The maze is open until Nov. 3. Hours are: Wednesday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10, with children age 4 through 12 admitted for $5, and children 3 and under admitted free. Lyman’s will donate $1 of every ticket to the American Cancer Society.
Riverfront Miniature Golf & Ice Cream
218 River Road, Unionville
Why Go? Located right off Route 4 next to the Farmington River, Riverfront is consistently rated as the No. 1 mini-golf facility in Hartford County by Connecticut Magazine. Enjoy the scenic view of the Farmington River while you play the challenging 18-hole course. “We have a straight-up, no-gimmick track,” manager Adam Blum says. “If you are an avid player of miniature golf, you will appreciate playing at this facility.”
Must Do! Top your day off at the ice cream shop on the premises. Pick from 18 varied flavors of ice cream or soft-serve or yo-cream frozen yogurt.
Insider Tip: If you get a hole-in-one on the 19th hole, you win a free game!
The Fine Print: Hours change depending upon the season and the weather.
Rt. 185, Simsbury
Why Go? Take a hike to the familiar Farmington Valley River landmark Talcott Mountain, where the 165-foot high Heublein Tower awaits at the top. The Tower Trail is 1.25 miles, and the walk takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes, according to a spokeswoman for the state parks unit headquarters. Hikers may encounter a variety of wildlife, including deer, fox and rabbits in this natural sanctuary. Bird watchers enjoy occasional sightings of the turkey vulture and bald eagle. The 1,000-foot-high promontory provides a beautiful view and you can see Mount Monadnock, 80 miles away in New Hampshire, on the horizon. To the northwest, the Berkshires dominate the landscape, and the Long Island Sound is revealed as a thin blue streak to the south. Those with sharp vision can see an area estimated to be 1,200 square miles.
Insider Tip: Tables, grills and toilets are available for picnickers. Pets on a leash are permitted in picnic areas and on hiking trails. Try to go during the fall foliage season, when the scenery is at its most spectacular.
Must Do! Climb the 120 stairs to get to the top of the tower for a 360-degree view.
The Fine Print: The park closes Oct. 31. Until then, it’s open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the park and tower is free.
247 S. Main Street (Route 83), Manchester
Why Go? Every visit to this museum is exciting because the exhibits change frequently and special programs are offered daily, with most designed for children age 2 through 10 and their families. Bob Eckert, museum executive director, said this museum provides a “wonderful opportunity for young children to explore in a safe environment.” Hands-on displays take small children through Main Street, Farm, Art and Live Animals areas.
Insider Tip: Every hour on the half hour there are informal programs—either meeting a live animal or doing an activity.
Must Do! Make sure you say hello to the official Connecticut state groundhog, who lives at the Lutz Museum!
The Fine Print: Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $6, with children 1 year old and under admitted free. Museum members also are admitted free. Visit for more information.