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Connecticut Attractions 2009

Connecticut Attractions 2009
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by in May 2009

ATTRACTIONS

Best Boutique Art and Science Center:
BRUCE MUSEUM, Greenwich
It’s a small but mint venue that mounts extraordinary exhibitions that often go on to tour nationally or internationally. On view through May 24, Innovations in the Third Dimension: Sculpture of Our Time (Rodin, Calder, Nevelson, Moore); through June 14, Dinosaurs: The Art of Reconstruction; through July 5, Illuminating the Sea: The Marine Paintings of James E. Buttersworth (1844-1894); Sept. 26-Jan. 10, Alchemy. 1 Museum Drive. 203-869-0376; brucemuseum.org

Best Dinner-Theater Ticket:
DRESSING ROOM & WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE, Westport
Talented Dressing Room chef Michel Nischan does star turns with farm-fresh foods, often from his own garden. Then see a show next door at the legendary Playhouse, a summer theater turned year-round venue, where the stars still shine. Small plates: $5-$19. 27 Powers Court. 203-226-1114; dressingroomhomegrown.com. 203-227-4177; westportcountryplayhouse.org

Best Nature Preserve:
WHITE MEMORIAL FOUNDATION, Litchfield
These 4,000 mostly wooded acres include the state’s largest natural lake (campsites are a best buy at $13-$15.50) and are ideal for hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and birdwatching. There’s even a boardwalk over marshland. Whitehall Road (off Route 202). 860-567-0857; whitememorialcc.org

Best Eclectic Shop:
FOREIGN CARGO, Kent
Interested in a cotton farmer’s shirt from northern Thailand ($25) or an iron garden ornament from Zimbabwe ($35 and up)? Olga Kennedy and her late husband were antiquers and collectors who lived in Southeast Asia; son Jeff was born in Cambodia. Hence this dazzling gallery–art and antiques, furniture and tableware, clothing and jewelry–run by a mother-and-son team that carries on the family’s trading tradition and offers a virtual world tour. 17 North Main St. (Route 7). 860-927-3900; foreigncargogallery.com

Best Museum Bonus: Sunken Garden
POETRY FESTIVAL, Farmington
We like to think that Alfred Atmore Pope, who built Hill-Stead in 1901 and filled it with art, and his daughter Theodate Pope Riddle, who designed it and preserved it for posterity, would approve of this festival, which opens the museum’s grounds to the public on five summer evenings: June 10 and 24, July 8 and 22, and August 5. 35 Mountain Road. 860-677-4787; hillstead.org

Best Excuse to Stop and Smell the Flowers:
ELIZABETH PARK ROSE GARDEN, Hartford
The country’s first municipal rose garden is at its blooming best in early to mid-June, with 15,000 plants (800 varieties) and a rose-covered gazebo. But don’t stop there–it blooms through November, first with tulips, later with annuals and perennials. On the grounds: the Pond House Cafe, a mini Tavern on the Green. Prospect Ave. 860-231-9443; elizabethpark.org

<p align="left"Best Extreme Makeover:
BROWNSTONE EXPLORATION & DISCOVERY PARK, Portland
Three enterprising brothers have turned a 29-acre filled-in quarry into a site for swimming, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, wakeboarding, rock climbing, rappelling, zip lines, challenge courses, and family fun. 161 Brownstone Ave. 860-633-0377; brownstonepark.com

Best Old-Time Theater:
GOODSPEED OPERA HOUSE, East Haddam
Downriver from Gillette Castle is this Victorian bandbox of a venue, where Annie and Man of La Mancha opened and there’s still something magical about seeing a production. 42nd Street runs April 17-June 28, Camelot July 10-Sept. 18 this year. Call or visit the Web site for ticket prices, performance schedules, and more. Route 82. 860-873-8668; goodspeed.org

Best 40,000 Square Feet of Shopping:
SAYBROOK COUNTRY BARN, Old Saybrook
Perhaps heralding a trend–mild-mannered store transforms itself into super shopping and dining destination–this old house and barn have grown up into a full-sized building complex, adding not only more furniture, reproduction lighting, accessories, and gifts, but a snazzy women’s shop and a stylish new American restaurant, Aspen, whose grilled flatbreads, lobster mac-and-cheese, and seared Stonington scallops are winning raves. 2 Main St. 860-388-0891; Aspen, 860-395-5888; saybrookcountrybarn.com

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