Friday, October 9, 2009

A Picturesque, Quieter New England Fall Drive

Article and photo (Diamond Hill Reservoir, Cumberland, R.I.) by Eric H.
Bookmark and ShareAs others spend their fall travel at popular New England destinations alongside a cast of thousands they were trying to escape from, you can take the road (relatively) less taken and enjoy a peaceful day in Wrentham, Mass., northern Rhode Island, and the northeast Connecticut area.

Start at downtown Wrentham on Route 1A with its charming village green and have a nice breakfast or lunch at the Looking Glass Cafe. It's a friendly, bright diner-like dining spot with locals joining in in the art of conversation over cups of coffee. Downtown Wrentham also features a nice mix of locally-owned shops, including Tootsie's ice cream parlor and Marcia's Sweet Pantry with its delicious homemade treats. It's especially pleasing to get out and walk the town common to enjoy small town New England life.

Follow Route 1A south to Route 121 south (West St.) a few miles past the rolling countryside and farms into the quaint Wrentham neighborhood of Sheldonville. Here, you'll find the Sheldonville Country Store (1063 West St.) for convenience store-like items and off Route 1A at 207 Arnold St., the Big Apple Farm. Here, you'll find a great selection of pumpkins, apples (call ahead to find out if there's still apple picking), a bakery, farm stand with local produce and an ice cream stand with Richardson's ice cream. Pumpkin ice cream is the appropriate flavor of the month for October!

Back on Route 121, go north past the Sheldonville Country Store and take a right onto Burnt Swamp Rd., following the signs to Adam's Farm (the parking lot is right on Summerbrown Rd.). A wonderful little seasonal destination, this peaceful farm sells apples, cornstalks, mums, hay, Indian corn, candy apples, cider and gourds. Adams Farm also features hay rides, a corn maze and animals (cows, horses, goats)! It's best to arrive on the weekend when things are in full operation.

From Adam's Farm, continue on Burnt Swamp Rd for a few minutes until arriving at the beautiful Diamond Hill (Cumberland) Reservoir. Isolated, scenic and with some flourishes of fall foliage, this is an incredibly beautiful area with expansive water views!

Follow the reservoir back to Route 114, take a right and arrive a few minutes later at the Ice Cream Machine. Regarded by us,, as the best ice cream stand in New England, the Ice Cream Machine features thick and creamy unique homemade flavors like cinnamon, key lime pie, brownie batter, ginger, raspberry cheesecake and raspberry truffle. A canopied picnic area provides a restful place to enjoy your choice of ice cream.

On Route 114 a few minutes from the Ice Cream Machine is Phantom Farms, another wonderful roadside farm stand. Phantom Farms is best known for apple picking (again call ahead at 401-333-2240) and has a country bake and gift shop, garden center, and flower shop. Phantom Farms has a busy Columbus Day Weekend calendar of events with a pumpkin harvest festival and Jack-O-Lantern illumination.

After enjoying the Ice Cream Machine and Phantom Farms, take a right from the parking lot onto Route 114 for several miles until reaching the Route 295 south exit. Here, you'll have to endure a few miles of highway until reaching Route 44 west. Although Route 44 is somewhat commercial until the trip-back-in-time Smithfield neighborhood of Greenville (about 15 minutes from Route 44/295), you'll be amply rewarded with scenes of rural New England from this point on. Chepachet features a few antique stores and the Brown and Hopkins Country Store -- the oldest continuously running country store in the United States (1809). Past Chepachet, you'll pass pleasing bodies of water until reaching Putnam, Conn. (about 20 minutes from Chepachet). Known by many as the antique capital of New England, Putnam features 17 shops totalling 50,000 sq. ft. of merchandise. The centerpiece of antique shopping in Putnam is the Antiques Marketplace, at 109 Main St. (860- 928-0442), with four floors of over 350 booths, showcasing more than 50,000 pieces of antiques spanning three centuries! You'll also experience a trip back in time feeling in Putnam with its slow pace, old Montgomery Ward sign still intact, and a generally friendly feeling. Putnam also offers several restaurants, including 85 Main, which looks like a terrific fine dining establishment, (run by Barry Jessurun and Brian Jessurun, owners of the landmark Vanilla Bean Cafe in neighboring Pomfret, Conn.).

Speaking of Pomfret and the Vanilla Bean Cafe, we love the town's classic village green and surrounding countryside and the Bean's cozy, restored 1800s farmhouse personality with delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. From the Vanilla Bean, take Route 169 north into the classic New England town of Woodstock with its beautiful town common, series of well maintained big old homes and tall white steeple church look. In Woodstock, you'll find the Inn at Woodstock, a charming 1816 inn consisting of a Federal/Georgian style mansion with a carriage house and two barns. Each room has its own unique personality and the Inn also features a fine, upscale restaurant.

We've received reports that the Woodstock area is near peak foliage, so enjoy!

Going Route 169 south, again, through Pomfret and all the way to Caterbury (about a half hour from Woodstock) offers one of the best scenic drives in New England with nearly 200 pre-1855 homes along with farms, historic churches, rolling country hills and quintessential Connecticut village green centers. Here, you'll understand why northeast Connecticut has been called "The Quiet Corner."

From Canterbury, take Route 14 east to Route 395 north (highway) back to Route 44 east to Route 114 to Cumberland to Route 121 north, en route to your original starting point of Wrentham.

If you decide to travel this region, we hope you enjoy its special qualities along the way. Please let us know how everything turned out!

Best regards,
Eric (your New England travel friend)

Adam's Farm, Cumberland, R.I.

Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, Conn.

The Big Apple Farm, Wrentham, Mass.

Old-fashioned Putnam, Conn.

Phantom Farms, Cumberland, R.I.

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