A small town in south-western Connecticut’s Fairfield County, Newtown has a history dating back to the beginning of the 18th century when the land was purchased by English colonists from the Pootatuck Indians who had lived by the Housatonic River for centuries.
One of the local claims to fame is that the game of Scrabble was developed here by resident James Brunot in the years following the Second World War.
On the agenda are pick-your-own farms, a creamery, a town hall with a $3 cinema inside and hikes on Blue-Blazed trails by the Housatonic River’s lakes.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Newtown:
1. EverWonder Children’s Museum
This cherished attraction for kids was the brainchild of a group of local mothers who wanted to recreate a children’s museum experience closer to home.
The museum was set up in 2011 and opened in its current guise in 2015, letting kids grapple with big scientific concepts through hands-on experimentation.
The exhibits were developed by major regional science museums, like the Rochester Museum & Science Center and the Sciencenter of Ithaca, and include a Three-Wheeled Racer Car Track, a Theramin Sound Instrument, Swinging Pendulums and Tornado Tubes.
These are accompanied by live animals like a ball python, bearded dragons and albino African clawed frogs, and iPad table, a LEGO table, a Digital Media Lab & Studio, Tinker Stations, a Magnet Wall and far more than we could possibly list here.
2. Edmond Town Hall Theater
The wealthy Newtown resident Mary Elizabeth Hawley left a lasting impression on the town when she passed away in 1930, funding amenities like the public library and the striking Georgian Revival Edmond Town Hall.
Few town halls feel quite a part of their local community as this building, combining municipal offices with space with function rooms, meeting rooms and a gymnasium, all of which can be rented by residents.
More than that, the town doubles as a cinema/performing arts venue, screening classic movies and new Hollywood releases and also booking plenty of live music.
Best of all, tickets for all movies are just $3, cheaper than anywhere in the entire state of Connecticut.
3. Ferris Acres Creamery
This farm has been worked by the same family since 1864, and over the last 20 years has branched out into making ice cream.
The creamery has been such a success that sweet treats have become the main business at Ferris Acres.
And it’s not hard to understand why when you see the menu of more than 30 regular flavors, as well as specials, sorbets, sugar-free and vegan options.
Just to paint a picture of how decadent things can get, Elvis Dream is vanilla with peanut butter, banana pieces and dark chocolate, while Salty Cow has salted caramel swirls and chocolate-coated pretzels.
There’s a choice of fall and winter flavors, as well as milkshakes, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches.
4. Blue Jay Orchards
Come autumn this local farm is a whirl of activity, opening up to the public for a pick-your-own apple season letting you choose a pumpkin at its patch.
Blue Jay Orchards grows 15 apple varieties, and these are ready from early August to mid-October.
If you time your visit for second week September there’s a wide choice, including Jonagold, Ida Red, Red Delicious, Gala, Fuji and Cortland.
When you come you’ll find it impossible not to be tempted by the farm market, stocked with honey, maple syrup, jams, jellies, cider and a whole assortment of baked goodies from cookies and pies to apple cider donuts.
5. Collis P. Huntington State Park
In the 1920s the railroad heir Archer Milton Huntington acquired this land with his wife, the eminent artist Anna Hyatt Huntington.
They moved here in 1939 and used it as a base to pursue their passions: Hers, realistic sculpture and his as a patron of the arts.
The property was donated to the state after Anna passed away in the 1970s, and the park was named after Archer’s father, Collis P. Huntington.
A reminder of the Huntingtons remains in the eye-catching sculptures of bears and wolves that greet you at the entrance.
They also took great care to preserve the untamed character of the land, so you have more than 1,000 acres of field, deep woodland and ponds to discover.
6. Rowanwood Farm
Something you might not have pictured yourself doing on Newtown is hiking with llamas.
And that’s just what’s on the menu at Rowanwood Farm, which has trails in unblemished forest and woodland.
This is the only USDA licensed and approved llama hiking adventure company in the state, and a walk alongside these tame, fluffy creatures is not something you’ll soon forget.
You’ll begin with a llama handling class and some interaction before setting off on your hour-long hike, stopping on the way for photos.
7. Shepaug Eagle Observation Area
The Shepaug Hydroelectric Station, damming the Housatonic between Newtown and Southbury, is the largest facility of its kind in the state, capable of a peak power output of 42,600 kW.
But the Shepaug Dam is also famous for another reason, as it has become a key winter nesting and feeding ground for a variety of birds of prey, among them bald eagles.
The Shepaug Dam Bald Eagle Observation Area opened in the 1980s and is maintained by the dam’s owner, FirstLight Power Resources.
Equipped with spotting scopes and binoculars, the platform is open to the public in the morning on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between December and March.
8. DiGrazia Vineyards
A pioneer for Connecticut’s ever growing wine industry, the DiGrazia Vineyard was planted in 1978 and its winery opened six years later.
As of 2019 DiGrazia produces 17 wines, using French hybrid and American native wine grapes.
Bottled here on the estate, the selection ranges from the dry Winner’s Cup Vidal Blanc, to the sweet Meadowbrook, a varietal using late harvest traminette.
The winemaker is known to experiment too, which explains creations like Wild Blue, a blueberry and brandy blend, and Autumn Spice, Seyval Blanc infused with pumpkin pie spices.
You can tour DiGrazia for free throughout the summer, while the Brookfield tasting room is open Thursday to Monday, letting you sample six wines for $10.
9. Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary
The name Newtown also evokes a tragedy, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting of 2012. One of the 27 victims was six-year-old Catherine Violet Hubbard, who had a love for animals and whose dream was to run an animal sanctuary when she grew up.
In her memory, the Catherine Violet Hubbard Foundation was set up to found a sanctuary, as “a place of peace and compassion for people to come together and connect with animals and nature”. As of 2019 the foundation has already helped rehome hundreds of animals through its programmes.
In 2014 the foundation received a 34-acre plot in the centre of Newtown from the State of Connecticut.
This expanse of rolling meadows bounded by woodland will be the setting for the sanctuary facility, made up of a wildlife rehabilitation centre, farm animal refuge and adoption centre.
For the time being, the site is a peaceful place of quiet contemplation, open to the public.
10. Paugussett State Forest
On the west bank of the Housatonic River there’s a Connecticut state forest at two separate locations, adding up to around 2,000 acres of wilderness to discover.
At both spots the river has been impounded to form Lake Lillinonah (the second-largest lake in the state) at the Upper Paugussett State Forest and Lake Zoar at the Lower Paugussett State Forest a few miles downriver in Sandy Hook.
Hikers and cross-country skiers in winter can tackle two Blue-Blazed trails, one in each section.
The Lillinonah Trail in the upper portion merges in places with Newtown’s Al’s Trail and passes a boat launch, the foundations of long lost houses and climbs to a highest point of 150 metres.
The 6.5-mile Zoar Trail hugs the tall ridge on the west bank of the Housatonic/Lake Zoar and every now again rewards you with awesome views across the valley.
11. Sticks & Stones Farm
Opening up to the public every summer for relaxing outdoor experiences, Sticks & Stones Farm has more than 60 acres of land with open fields and lush woodland.
If you want to stay overnight you can rent a luxury cabin or even a houseboat, but Sticks & Stones Farm is also open to the public on any given day for walks in rugged terrain with arresting vistas.
Bring your swimming gear on hot days as there’s a summit pond fed by a cold spring.
12. Cyrenius H. Booth Library
You could easily miss Newtown’s public library, as when it was built in the early-1930s it was designed to blend in with the historic architecture on Main Street.
But the building’s traditional appearance belies just high-tech it was for the time.
It had sound- a centralised vacuum cleaner and a built-in humidifying unit.
The library is fireproof and was given sound-proof ceiling tiles and cork floors to quieten footfalls.
Take a peek as a non-resident, because the interior boasts furnishings and decorative arts that belonged to its main funder, Mary Elizabeth Hawley (also responsible for the town hall). There are little alcoves with comfy leather chairs where you lose yourself in a book, as well as an entire floor devoted to children.
During regular hours you can check out temporary art exhibitions in the Olga Knoepke Memorial Room on the first floor.
13. Town Players Little Theatre
For community theatre produced with a lot of skill and dedication, the Town Players Little Theatre has been a fixture of the town for more than 70 years.
The Town Players have something for all tastes each season, at this compact hilltop venue with a around five rows of seating.
On the programme when we compiled this list in 2019 were Funny Money and Annapurna.
Seating is first come-first served, and it’s worth making a reservation if there’s a show that catches your eye.
Tickets are $20 for Thursday evening and Sunday matinee performances, and $25 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Wine or soft drinks are available, served with complimentary snacks.
14. Kettletown State Park
Facing the Lower Paugussett State Forest from the Southbury side of the Housatonic River is Kettletown State Park, more than 600 acres of beautiful waterfront scenery.
This land was originally inhabited by Pootatuck Indians, whose main occupation was farming, raising squash, apples, beans and tobacco.
They were also known for their innovative drum communication system that allowed them to pass a message over 200 miles in only two hours.
People continue to find arrowheads on this land, but the Pootatucks’ village here was submerged with the construction of the Stevenson Dam in 1919. People come for hikes, fishing, camping and picnicking, and although there are beaches, swimming has been suspended after the discovery blue/green algae.
15. Dickinson Memorial Park
This well-appointed local park has amenities for people of all ages.
There are two playgrounds, for smaller and bigger kids, as well as a Funspace creative play area.
For sporty types there’s a newly built basketball court, a skate park, five tennis courts and a softball field.
And if you just want to hang out there are picnic facilities complemented by grills.
The park also has a pavilion that can be rented out for special occasions.
If there’s a drawback it’s that Dickinson Park is open only to Newtown residents, and a park permit is required to use the parking lot.