Wednesday, July 6, 2016
We Visit the Real Center of Connecticut Along the River in Middletown, Middlesex, and Portland...
There's a portion of the whole wide world that collides in the middle of Connecticut. Whether it be history, recreation, water, kids, arts, or the F40 Motorsports Garage featured on Chasing Classic Cars on the Velocity Channel; there's a little something for everyone in this very central area of Connecticut. So, pull up a taxi and have a hotdog while I explain myself.
Portland, CT is the home of the garage for Chasing Classic Cars, but it's more than that. It's the city on the east side of the Connecticut River on Route 66 (Yes, that Route 66). It's the first city you visit when you cross the Charles J. Arrigoni Bridge from Middletown to Portland. This amazing high and beautiful bridge connects the two sides of the river in this area and on the Portland side there is a park along the river that is ready to have a concert or a wedding reception--your choice. But, Portland has so much more. Everything in the center of Portland is called Brownstone. Brownstone is the name of the quarry that used to be the hinge pin of the working class of the town. Now, what do you do with an old quarry? Well, you make it into Brownstone Park. Here you can do all things water, and some other cool stuff too. They have zip lines, and scuba diving, wake boards, and all kinds of stuff to do. It's the biggest attraction in the area, running out some old favorites like Dinosaur Mini Golf (Sorry world, but I loved that place) and becoming the most popular spot around. There are three parking lots to support the place and the parking is currently not that convenient, but they are making the best of it. It's a little new here, but they are making improvements all the time and soon they will be the well prepared Disney of Connecticut.
MIddletown is really something when you think about it. The view of the bridge from along the river bank alone is worth the trip. But, it's more than that. It's about Wesleyan University and their rowing team that practices here close to their campus. It's about Connecticut's first children's museum, Kid City. My son used to go there when he was little, before it became a huge trend in this area. You can take a theme cruise on the Lady Katherine from Harbor Park. You can visit Wild Bill's Nostalgia Shop. You can find your way out of an adventure room with that growing trend to bring excitement to your life. You can visit an observatory and see what's going on in the universe. There's no end to the things to see in this area.
Then there's my favorite spot, lunch with a view. Along the river in Harbor Park is the Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park. In my lifetime this place has had a dozen names, but us old timers call it Harbor Park. This one comes with a story. When I first moved to Connecticut back in 1992; this is the place that I used to come on the weekends to hear live bands. They get some of the best local bands in the state to perform here, no matter who the current owners are. There's also the fact that you can park your boat outside this club. They also have amazing food. It's always been one of my favorite places in the world, and I have now introduced it to my son. He loved it too. You can't miss it. It's right below Route 9; the central road through Middletown. Don't miss this one.
So, we went looking for some local state parks around Middletown to write about today. First thing to know about Connecticut State Parks in Middletown is that all the signs seem to be missing. We looked for Dart Island State Park which is only accessible by boat on the Connecticut River; however, we didn't find any way to access this place even with a map. This also made it impossible to find Hurd State Park right down the road. These are a mystery and not worth the search; I promise. Dart Island might be worth it if you have a boat. What we did find was the Wadsworth collection. There is a mansion that resembles the White House a bit, but it seems to only be available for rent for special occasions. We found Wadsworth Falls State Park, but discovered that it has two distinct parts. The first part was a lovely beach on a pond. It seemed very popular on the hot day that we visited. There were lifeguards, but there was only a fee on the weekends.
As we wondered for the second time in as many weeks where the waterfalls were that the park was obviously named for, we found a map. There was a whole other section of the park. You could hike there on trails, or you could take the lazy way and drive there. We were all over the driving idea, since we hadn't had the best of luck with finding parks at all that day. What we found at the other end was beautiful. Wadsworth Falls looks beautiful even during a drought like the one we're currently having. The locals were there swimming in the cool cascading waters. There was also a little falls, but the main falls were the drawing point. They were gorgeous, and easily accessible. Once again, the signs are non existent. Be prepared to use your GPS app.
There's an awful lot to do in the middle of Connecticut. I know that the traditional center of the state is supposed to be Hartford, but I learned on my very first trip here, back in the 1980's that Middletown is the center. There's a lot to do in this mid sized city. The people are great. It's so close to most things, that you can't help but stick around for a while. And why wouldn't you stay? Where else can you glide on zip lines over a quarry, play in a waterfall, and park your boat at the best restaurant in town? In the evening, you can run up to New Britain and see the Minor League Baseball Team; The Bees. There's something for everyone here, and great music to go with it. This is my summer of Connecticut, so don't miss out on my great advice on how to visit my state; Connecticut. The tourist board here should be so lucky as to have me to help them draw you to this fabulous state. So, welcome to the center of the microcosm that I call Connecticut. Enjoy!