The “New England” states, in the Northeast region of the United States, is the premier destination for observing the Fall foliage! When the summer air gives way to the crispy cool Autumn weather, we await the tree leaves to turn into their splendid hues of golden yellows, burnt oranges, and deep reds!
My goal for this year is to visit two regions: one in the early to mid-peak and another during peak foliage. Last weekend’s journey to western Connecticut’s “Litchfield Hills” gave me the opportunity to view the state’s foliage during its earlier stages. For many years, I experienced the “turning of the leaves colors” in my own state of Massachusetts or in one of the northern New England states. This year, it was about time to see what southern New England had to offer!
Online research and a quick google search revealed the “Connecticut Tourism” site (Connecticut Tourism). The Route 7 drive along western Connecticut’s “Litchfield Hills” region was recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the premier foliage drives in the United States! Hence, the reason I chose this destination, along with the fact that I had never visited there in the past.
As any seasoned vegan traveler, I preceded my journey with research on the best vegan-friendly dining in the area. My first stop that morning was a visit to “The Sweet Beet”(The Sweet Beet). This vegan bakery and cafe offers a nice selection of mini-sized treats and many savory options for a filling meal.
My breakfast purchase included a mini pumpkin spice muffin. The kind waitstaff gave me a mini apple cider doughnut ‘gratis’. Both were absolutely delicious! Moist and tasty bites satisfied my hunger for breakfast! Apple cider donuts are a New England favorite, so I was thrilled to find a vegan version!
The refrigerated cases of homemade meal options caught my eye. I purchased a savory carrot pie with potato crust for my lunch. The vegan ricotta and pesto filling was smooth and tasty. It was a filling and delicious meal!
My final purchase at the bakery was a box of four mini cupcakes. Know as “sweeties”, these mini-treats are a delightful offering for customers! I purchased the Fall flavor “Pumpkin Pie”, Coco Beet Chocolate, Coconut, and Snickerdoodle. I took a couple of bites(prior to my onward drive) and enjoyed them immensely!
It was time to “hit the road”! I started my day of exploration in the town of Ridgefield, Connecticut at the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. The town was settled in the year 1708 by English colonists. The Battle of Ridgefield; a Revolutionary War skirmish, took place within the Main Street area. The town militia fought alongside Benedict Arnold.
The Keeler Tavern and Inn maintains a Revolutionary War cannonball still lodged into the side of its structure. It was built as a home by Benjamin Hoyt around the year 1713. His grandson Timothy Keeler purchased the property in 1769 and converted it into an inn three years later. Mr. Keeler operated the town’s post office from the tavern building. Napoleon’s younger brother was a guest there for a brief period. The architect Cass Gilbert purchased the property as a summer home in 1907 and added some gardens and cherub fountains.
After I had made the rounds about Ridgefield to embrace its place in US history and to peruse the various architectural styles represented in its buildings, I was ready to forge ahead to another section of the Route 7 corridor!
My drive took me next to the city of Danbury. Its nickname is Hat City, because at one point time, it did indeed manufacture a large percentage of hats in the United States.Settled in 1765, it played an important role in Revolutionary War due to its military stockpile.
The first hat factory in town was established in the year 1780 by Zadoc Benedict. The early part of the 20th century was Danbury’s heyday as a hat manufacturer leader!
Within the perimeter of a small square on Main Street, one finds several structures of historic significance.
I visited the John Dodd Hat Shop built in 1790. It is the oldest commercial building in this district.
Next on my agenda was the John Rider House, adjacent to the hat factory. The wooden home was built in the year 1785. Mr. Rider was a carpenter who served in the Revolutionary War. The home remained in his family until the early 20th century. It is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.
Also located within the same block, is the “Little Red Schoolhouse”. Built as a one room schoolhouse during the 18th century, it was rebuilt during the 1950s on the same spot after some structural damage had destroyed it. The desks and interior layout represent what it would have resembled during its day.
The final building on the block was the Marian Anderson Studio. Marian Anderson was a noted African American opera singer of the 20th century. Singing a variety of genres, she frequently toured the United States and Europe between the 1920′s and 1960s. She resided in Danbury during the 1940s. The studio houses her piano, her opera ball gowns, her music compositions, and photos of her performances and appearances.
After a full day of sightseeing and long drives, the thought of an evening meal sounded perfect just about now. I headed back to Ridgefield for dinner at the vegan “Food Evolution” (Food Evolution Restaurant). This elegant restaurant offers an eclectic selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. I opted for the butternut squash soup and a veggie paella entree consisting of veggies, chickpeas, seitan, and rice. Everything was delicious! If you seek a truly creative and upscale menu, than this is your place!
When I arrived in the town center of Kent, the bright red old railway station was among one of the first sights that stood out. Built around the year 1872, the Victorian style station was once part of the great Housatonic Railway going from New York City to Hartford.
The nightfall gave way to dark roads, so it was time to settle in for the evening. I drove south on Route 7 to the town of New Milford for an overnight stay at an inn. When morning arrived, I headed back to Kent again for breakfast. The Villager Restaurant (The Villager Restaurant) appears to be the own place in town that opens early enough for breakfast. Luckily for me, they did offer an option that was coincidentally vegan. The packaged plain oatmeal was my breakfast option. I ordered it with raisins and a bowl of fresh sliced fruit. It was good and indeed satisfied my hunger during the morning hours.
Kent Falls is a popular tourist attraction in the area, so that was to be my AM destination. The waterfalls are located within Kent State Park. The two falls make a pretty sight among the colorful trees and red covered bridge nearby.
Onward north on Route 7, I landed in the town of West Cornwall. Very long and winding roads that twist up and down like a roller coaster entertained me on the drive towards this destination. The picturesque red covered bridge was well worth the drive through the foliage-rich region!
My exploration on western Connecticut’s Route 7 was complete! I headed east on Route 341 from the center of Kent towards Warren.
The foliage went from early stage to at least mid-peak colors. It was stunning! I stumbled upon a large pond surrounded by trees with gorgeous orange and red foliage, reflecting on to the waters!
As I drove further and further eastward, more and more captivating foliage kept appearing! Rows of tall trees standing by wooded forests, trees surrounding ponds and swamps, and colorful trees on the National Byways greeted me with every turn on the road.
Heading a bit eastward brought me into farm country. I paid a visit to a local farm to purchase some freshly picked turnip, broccoli, kale, and pumpkin gourds. Every tourist in the area should pick up some fresh vegan produce at a local New England farm.
The final destination on my weekend agenda was the town of Litchfield. A hidden gem for vegan dining, I dined at “West Street Grille”(West Street Grille). This vegan-friendly establishment is a very popular dining spot in town. They offer vegan items, clearly marked on their menu. For my lunch, I selected the tofu tempura with green beans, shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and coconut chili peanut sauce. My meal was scrumptious! The flavorful entree was delicious gourmet dining at its best!
I enjoyed my weekend road trip to Western Connecticut’s Litchfield Hills! The Fall foliage, historic architecture, winding country roads, and vegan dining made lasting positive impressions for me!