Shopping In A Winter Wonderland

As the Holidays Arrive, Connecticut’s Main Streets, Museums, Farms and Vineyards Offer A Treasure Chest Of Shopping Opportunities

HARTFORD — December 4, 2006 — One of the most enjoyable ways to experience Connecticut is to shop – in the small stores along historic Main Streets, in picturesque towns and villages, in unique museums and some of the finest arts and crafts galleries in America, at wineries, farm shops and specialty stores across the state. Combined with a stay in a delightful B&B and a visit to some of the town’s distinctive festive events, shopping for holiday treasures in Connecticut can become a seasonal getaway to add to the list of winter traditions.

Off the Main Road

A Norman Rockwell Main Street, a village green, a small town tucked away far from the main road: these are some of the best places in Connecticut to find distinctive shopping opportunities. At Sawmill Pottery in South Woodstock, visitors design their own gifts and in Pomfret, the Old Wood Workshop sells handcrafts fashioned from antique wood. In Hampton, there are the woven crafts of the Safe Haven Alpaca Farm and Solomon Mines in Stonington is known for its hand-blown glass and award-winning jewelry.

Downtown Mystic is typical of many shopping experiences in Connecticut – only minutes away from major thoroughfares yet a world apart. Visitors will be charmed by a bustling waterfront community filled with history, bridges and boats, restaurants and stores offering everything from fashion to toys. Mystic Seaport’s large gift shop is an ideal choice for all things relating to America’s maritime history and traditions, including books, art, replicas and toys. And, Olde Mistick Village is a collection of 60 specialty stores and restaurants on the edge of downtown Mystic which features items from around the world including selections of artisan hand crafted gifts.

Other examples include Chester a small village nestled in the hills on the Chester River filled with antique shops, high quality arts and crafts galleries, restaurants and the Goodspeed Musicals’ Chester Norma Terris Theatre. Situated on the West Bank of the Connecticut River, Essex boasts specialties including high end clothing and jewelry boutiques within a quaint Maritime setting. No visit would be complete without a wander through Bethlehem, which is known as Connecticut’s “Christmas Town.” Visitors come from all over to mail their Christmas cards at the Bethlehem Post Office where they are hand-stamped with special Christmas cachets and mailed with the Bethlehem post mark.

Down on the Farm and in the Vineyards

For a gift that truly says “Connecticut,” visitors to the state’s farms and vineyards can find unforgettable items. The Connecticut Wine Trail offers not only the perfect excuse to escape for the weekend but a series of gift shops at the vineyards along the way are overflowing with wines of all varieties produced locally and earning high marks nationally. Taylor Brooke Winery offers an “Adopt a Vine” program that is a great gift for wine lovers as it gives them the opportunity to own a vine, (Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Vignole, Melody, St. Pepin, or St. Croix) participate in the harvest and take home a bottle at each season for the next three years. There is also the one-of-a-kind ice wine from Hopkins Vineyard which is also the only winemaker in the state to produce sparkling wines.

In addition to stopping in at any number of Christmas tree farms – the Jones Family Farms in Shelton being one of the most popular – shoppers will discover that Connecticut’s natural bounty takes the form of many food products perfect for a holiday gift. These include jams and preserves – a “Jam-o-gram” from Woodstock Hill Preserves – relishes, specialty breads, fruit, salsas, cheeses and home-made desserts. Many farms and gourmet food stores make their unique products all the more attractive by packaging them in lovely gift baskets.

Antiques Everywhere

Antiques and vintage items are very popular, and finding that perfect piece can be exhilarating. With a history stretching back some 300 years, it should not be surprising that Connecticut ranks as one of America’s top antiquing destinations with countless shops filled with undiscovered treasures.

Clustered at the mouth of the Connecticut River there are more than 400 dealers including the Essex Saybrook Antiques Village and the Antiques Depot. In Fairfield County, shoppers have numerous choices: Cannondale Village in Wilton, a collection of historic buildings with antique shops as well as arts and crafts; the Stratford Antiques Center, with approximately 200 dealers; and the Antique & Artisan Center in Stamford, offering 150 dealers. In the northwestern part of the state, some of the cities in the beautiful Litchfield Hills are known as the Antiques Capital of Connecticut and are home to the District of Seymour Arts & Antiques, a collection of shops and galleries in the historic mill town of Seymour, and the Woodbury Antiques Association, offering 45 dealers throughout the town. In the Mystic region, Putnam is a paradise for treasure hunters with hundreds of dealers and tens of thousands of antiques to choose from.

Better than the Stock Market

There is no better investment than the purchase of a fine example of contemporary art or crafts. Nowhere in America will shoppers find finer arts and crafts than in Connecticut where nationally and internationally acclaimed artists have settled to work in virtually every artistic medium.

Among the best places to look for the best quality arts and crafts are the state’s major art centers. These include Wesleyan Potters in Middletown, offering outstanding pottery, weaving and other crafts; the Farmington Valley Arts Center featuring 20 studios housed in historic brownstones in Avon; the Brookfield Craft Center, which enjoys a national profile as a school for fine craftsmanship; the Connecticut River Artisans Cooperative, and the Guilford Arts Center, with a craft shop representing more than 300 artists.

Museum Quality

The shopping opportunities in Connecticut’s museums are as varied as the museums themselves. All these institutions have gift shops offering museum-quality art and crafts, memorabilia, toys and more. The Carousel Museum in Bristol showcases New England’s happy tradition of wooden carousels as well as firehouse and fire department memorabilia. The Danbury Railway Museum is one of several in the state celebrating historic trains and trolleys and the Connecticut River Museum in Essex captures the fascinating history of maritime life in coastal Connecticut. The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport is dedicated to Phineas Taylor Barnum, the larger-than-life promoter and impresario who almost single-handedly invented the American circus.

Connecticut’s art museums are an ideal source for fine quality gifts. The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, home of American Impressionism, offers fine art reproductions, books, jewelry, crafts and art supplies. The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, America’s oldest public art collection, features gifts inspired by its collections of Old Masters, the Hudson River School, Impressionism, American furniture and cutting edge contemporary art. The New Britain Museum of American Art features over 5,000 American works of art dating back to 1740, with a gift shop offering a good selection of art, books and gifts.

Complete information about all these unique shopping opportunities and about Connecticut’s 52 Getaways, country inns, B&Bs and other places to stay, please call 1-888-CTvisit (1-888-288-4748) or log on at www.CTvisit.com. Connecticut offers visitors a multi-faceted wealth of attractions, historical, cultural and recreational activities, diverse and beautiful natural landscapes, parks, beaches and wilderness sure to fulfill any getaway need.

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