I drive aimlessly around Connecticut. Not because I’m bored, but because it’s fun. Each town presents a different feel, unique sights to see, and I love seeing the charm in what makes a town different from another. Canton, Niantic, and New Hartford are my stomping grounds—I always seem to end up in one of these areas. Whether it be the admiration of the homes in Canton (even if I never want to live in one), the ocean views of the quaint town in Niantic, or the woodsy adventures in New Hartford, joyriding is a fun, cheap adventure for anyone. Take my advice and try joyriding. Turn down random roads, get lost, and have the adventure of trying to find your way back without a GPS. It’s truly living in the moment. Below are my top three places to go joyriding in Connecticut.
New Hartford doesn’t have much to it. The road I travel on is immensely long and dark as it travels through the mountains of Connecticut. Riding through the hills of the New Hartford area isn’t that exciting, but it sure is an adventure. With no streetlights, it gets quite creepy as I picture what would happen if my car ever broke down here. There isn’t a house in sight within walking distance—and cell service is few and far between. The local Walmart or CVS is a good twenty-minute drive from these roads.
However, the fall foliage is a breath taking sight up in the mountains. The oranges, reds, yellows, and greens blanket the mountain tops as I drive up and down the hills—I imagine riding my bike down them. Other than that, it’s quite boring. As you continue along route 9, you’ll end up in Barkhamstead. Although, Barkhamstead isn’t much more entertaining. There is a small plaza with a movie theater called, Apple Cinemas,” which is surprisingly large for the town it’s placed in. Next to the theater is a giant farming store called Tractor Supply Co. One of these businesses seems oddly out of place, most likely the movie theater. This area in Connecticut is ideal for home and garden stores.
You may drive by the occasional deer or raccoon, and you’ll see lots of pine and oak trees, as well as small bodies of water—you won’t pass many cars. This drive is for those times when you just want to be by yourself—it’s a perfect escape, joyriding through and near New Hartford, Connecticut.
Niantic, Connecticut is down by the shore. It is a tiny town with not a lot of corporate businesses; most shops and restaurants are family owned. This quaint and eclectic village is perfect for a getaway. In fact, that’s how I found it. My family and I rent a beach house in this town, and have been going back every year for five years.
The streets are filled with fun sights to see. Driving by, looking at the countless stores on one side and the ocean on the other never gets old. There are always people walking along the sidewalk of Main Street and East Main Street, since that’s where the businesses are. People watching is a must on these joyrides. The town has a village aesthetic to it, and you feel a down-to-earth vibe when visiting.
The driving in this area is quite easy. The roads are relatively flat, there aren’t a great deal of stoplights or stop signs, making it a straight shot. However, because there are many people walking around there are quite a few pedestrian crossways—especially on Main Street.
Looking out the car window you will find little statues of art, my favorite being the mermaid whale in front of the smallest movie theater I’ve ever seen,“Niantic Cinemas.” With its red and blue paint and white Phantom of the Opera lookalike painting overhead the cinema sign along with the mermaid whale it’s hard not to want to go inside. Antique stores like “Anna Pearl’s Curiosities,” “Past to Present,” and “CEL Fine Collectibles & Appraisers” sit on every block.
There is also retro themed candy/ice cream parlor named “Gumdrops and Lollipops,” which is hard to miss due to its bright yellow paint décor. As well as multiple restaurants where you dine with an ocean view like; “Skippers,” and “Main Street Grill.” Everything is so close together, that on a joyride it’s hard to miss anything.
My favorite area to drive in Niantic is through Main Street. All the businesses I’ve listed so far are located on this street. Here you’ll also find the famous “Book Barn,” which has four different locations. Each location with thousands of used books that are mostly sold for one dollar. One location is an actual refurbished barn, hence the name of the family owned bookstore. There is a hippie store named “Tumbleweed,” which sells amazing perfumes, and decorated hula-hoops. The drive down Main Street is also full of colors. Some businesses paint their buildings with different color, for instance, there is a purple building with multi-colored fish swimming on the side, a yellow house that sells ice cream, and a green building close to the ice cream parlor.
All in all, Niantic is one of my favorite places to drive. There is always something going on in this quaint town, and fun sights to see. It is a great drive for someone who is in the mood for entertainment and seeing something they’ve never seen before, like stores and restaurants only found here that are surrounded by beaches.
My favorite place to joyride is in the Canton area. The drives are very relaxing, but entertaining. These roads usually don’t have street lights, but there are a prodigious number of houses, so it’s not as creepy as New Hartford.
The drive is good for looking at mansions. This is the driving edition of the Rhode Island Mansions walk—without the tiring walk part. Most houses on the side streets are so grand that your eyes go wide and you’re mesmerized. I don’t know the specific names of the streets and road I travel on, because that’s part of the adventure—getting lost and turning down random streets.
I wouldn’t want to live in the houses I drive around to look at though. They are so big that I could have my entire family living in one, and we would never run into each other. However, it’s for this very reason—their grand size why I love looking at them.
The best time to drive around this area is during winter and at Christmas time. Most houses are extravagantly decorated with lights and blow up lawn decorations. It truly puts you in the Christmas spirit. I haven’t been this Christmas season yet, but I plan on making a couple trips before it’s over.
The drive is also nice because of the nature that surrounds the town and houses. There are a lot of trees and wildlife roaming around. You can find lots of deer, squirrels, foxes, and sometimes the occasional bear. There is an immense number of animals, because the houses are tucked away in the hills and woods of Connecticut. The flora and fauna in this area is quite similar to my New Hartford drives, but a lot more civilization greets me in the Canton area.
Canton is a great drive for when you’re in the mood for a relaxing, yet entertaining trip. More specifically, if you want to get in the Christmas spirit. It is best to go on the drive during the night, and it makes it better when you crank up the Christmas music. I would say give it a try this holiday season, and aimlessly drive around to look at all the mansions decorated with colorful lights—its breathtaking.
Joyriding is all about adventure and relaxation. The main function of driving is to get somewhere. Although that is a logical and convenient function, people are usually so focused on getting to their destination that they don’t have time to sight see, and enjoy the drive. But, when you joyride all that stress disappears. You’re not worried about the person who drives like a turtle, you’re not checking the time every few minutes, and you’re not rushing to get somewhere; you’re just driving. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get somewhere, because you’re not going anywhere.