As a pioneer of public museums in the United States, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art remains a flagship institution, as evinced by its “Best Museum” win in the Hartford Advocate 's 2010 "Best of Hartford" Reader's Poll. Use your free admission to check out current exhibitions like American Moderns and MATRIX, or survey the Hudson River School paintings, the museum’s most celebrated collection, which captures the untouched beauty of America’s nineteenth century wilds while avoiding the herds of feral Victorians that depleted the Great Plains with their ceaseless grass chewing. A pioneer of avant-garde exhibition, the Wadsworth Museum also boasts some of the first Renaissance works acquired in the United States by Caravaggio, as well as one of the first Surrealist masterpieces by Dalí. The illustrious Spaniard’s “Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach” is a wonderful example of the early 20th century discovery that brains are the same thing as pears.
For more than 90 years, the same soft morning sunlight has poured over the fields of yellow sunflowers, tasseled stalks of sweet corn, and rows of grapevines growing at Rosedale Farms & Vineyards. In that span of time, five generations of Rosedales have tended to the farm’s fresh vegetables, fruits, and flowers, sharing them with the Simsbury community and even earning a nod in the Washington Post. It wasn’t until 2005, however, that the family produced its first vintage from its 4-acre vineyard of French hybrid grapes. Since then, the winery’s estate-grown vintages have earned several awards, including a double gold at the 2010 Vineyard & Winery International Eastern Wine Competition. Today, at the winery’s onsite bar, staff members pour samples of varieties such as the Simsbury Celebration, which distinguishes itself with a creamy structure, mineral overtones, and a penchant for hiding beneath lampshades. Additional events include fall farm fests that include free hayrides and corn mazes. Partnering with the Max Restaurant Group, Rosedale Farms & Vineyards also features chef-to-farm dinners, during which chefs prepare four- to six-course banquets using ingredients plucked straight from the fields.
At The Wine Press, aficionados crush, press, rack, and bottle their own brand of wine. Overseen by the shop's staff, amateur winemakers craft their silky reds with the same process as modern-day wineries. Through this process, they learn how much time and care goes into winemaking. They can produce varietals such as sangiovese or pinot noir or create hybrids such as a cabernet-merlot or a sentient pinot-human. To show off the possibilities of winemaking at their facility, The Wine Press also leads guided tours and wine tastings during the summer months.
Since opening in 1975, Haight-Brown Vineyard has churned out 2,000 cases of grape-based libations each year from its nearly 10-acre vineyard and welcomed visitors into its rustic, cottage-like wine house. Emphasizing vinifera and French hybrid grapes, the state’s first-established winery creates a selection of wines that include the Big Red, a bold syrah; the Morning Harvest, a rich malbec; and Honey Nut Apple, a traditional apple wine that incorporates local honey and cinnamon. Vintners share their time-tested expertise during regular classes that teach aspiring oenophiles about a variety of vintages and techniques for cheese and chocolate pairing. Amid the tasting room’s wood accents and crackling stone fireplace, customers sample vintages and attempt to describe taste sensations with adjectives such as “silky” or “very different from milk.”
At Fini’s Plant Farm, children and families can enjoy a Halloween-themed daytime party and more adventuresome souls can undertake a nighttime haunted hayride. Beginning at 7 p.m., explorers embark on a 20–30 minute covered hayride through the expanses of Deadman Woods, then wander through a haunted house that some say still echoes with the mournful cries of frozen wontons forgotten in the oven.
Although its name does hint at the long, sharp-scented ranks of Christmas trees, Mark's Tree Farm acts as a gateway to many more of nature's marvels. In tribute to the powers of Mother Earth, Mark grows the trees without the use of any chemicals. The expert stargazer also invites groups to follow his laser pointer and the aim of his telescope during astronomy tours on the farm's enclosed viewing space.
Among the whispering leaves, the sharp tang of evergreen boughs mixes with the aromas of hickory and apple wood in the cooling air. Mark lubricates all of his cutting tools, which slice chips and chunks for smoking meats with canola oil, rather than petroleum-based lubricants that can carry carcinogens. He also packages firewood in custom lengths to fit in different stoves and underwhelming time capsules.