We all love the Wesleyan bubble. At some point during your four years here, however, you’ll realize it’s a little weird that the farthest you’ve traveled in months has been the distance between the Butts and the gym. However, there are myriad great off-campus places to which you can escape if you have a sense of adventure—and a friend with a car. The time to take advantage of these locations is fleeting; head out while your workload is light, the weather is warm, and you still have the energy to leave the comfort of your dorm room.
While the days are still nice (read: sweltering), check out Millers Pond, the most popular haunt of Wesleyan students who are trying to prolong the summer. Just a short drive down Route 9, the pond is the place to swim, hike, and wind down. There are lots of isolated beaches for those craving some privacy and many larger ones for big groups. The rope swing was recently replaced, and the cliffs for jumping are high enough for any daredevil. Take a few friends, pack bathing suits and a picnic, and prepare for a wonderful afternoon—or night (skinny dipping, anyone?).
If you’re looking for something more active than a lazy pond-side afternoon, then check out Mount Higby. This local hiking trail is a three-mile section of the Metacomet Ridge that runs through Middletown, Meriden, and Middlefield. While hiking, you can enjoy pastoral views, wildflowers, and basalt cliffs. It’s a fairly short hike, but if you can get there to watch the sun set, the sight is spectacular.
So the next time you stumble out of Olin in a daze and declare “I just need to get out of here!” hop in a car and escape to one of Connecticut’s greatest attractions.
As the weather cools, many students will head to Lyman Orchards for apple picking. Just over six-and-a-half miles away, you could bike if you’re feeling ambitious, or if your friends with cars are feeling stingy. It’s a great option for those looking to bake some homemade apple pie, or when the Usdan apples have finally gotten too mediocre to eat. In addition to apple picking, the orchard also offers a golf course and a Yankees vs. Red Sox-themed corn maze for the athletically minded. Right now, peaches, apples, and pears are all in season, and pick-your-own pumpkins will be available starting in mid-September.
Books and Beaches and Cats, Oh My!
If these are some of your favorite things, then you are in luck; all three can be enjoyed in one afternoon at Rocky Neck State Park. A 40-minute drive away, this park has a white sand beach, jetties and rocks to explore, and an event hall that eerily resembles a mental asylum. It’s an interesting place to spend a relaxing day and may even make you rethink your conviction that there’s nothing interesting in Connecticut.
On your way home from the beach, be sure to check out the Book Barn in Niantic. The store buys and sells used books that span a wide variety of subjects. The impressive size of the store and relaxed atmosphere make it easy to wander the shelves and explore the barns for hours. You can also leave with a stack of unique books for prices that beat Broad Street.
Another highlight of the Book Barn that I can’t resist mentioning is the menagerie of cats. According to the three-page PDF “Book Barn Cat Spotting Guide” on the store’s website, 13 cats currently reside at the store. The guide goes into great detail about each cat. For example, a visitor to the store might be interested to learn that Jake, a black and white cat, “may look well behaved, but he is renowned for his death glare and for his mercurial mood swings… Deep down Jake is a good cat (he’s just misunderstood).” So be warned, but be excited, because the Book Barn is exactly the cozy, book- and cat-filled oasis you’ve surely always dreamed of.
Yes, college students are supposed to be mature, but we all know that’s a myth; we still get overly excited about dinosaurs. Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill is the perfect day trip destination for any and all overgrown dino lovers, as well as those just looking for some nature hikes. As the website says, “Come, travel back to the age of dinosaurs.” Well, I’m in. The site is famous for its impressive collection of dinosaur fossil tracks from the early Jurassic period, about 200 million years ago. The fossils were uncovered on-site in 1966 and are now preserved under a geodesic dome. There are 500 tracks on display within the dome and another 1500 that are buried for preservation. Scientists agree that the tracks at Dinosaur State Park were made by a carnivorous dino similar to a Dilophosaurus, a small carnivorous dinosaur.
Two words: zip lining. Still not convinced? EMPOWER Leadership Sports & Adventure Center on South Main Street offers several zip lining programs. One of these is the Canopy Tour, which involves five zip lines, two sky bridges, and optional elements called “the multi-vine traverse” and “a cargo net obstacle.” Another program is the Canopy Plus Scavenger hunt, which combines zip lining with a scavenger hunt through the woods. If the prospect of entering Usdan the morning after an awkward hookup isn’t enough to destroy your nerves and upset your queasy, hung-over stomach, zip lining is another great option.
One thing you might not expect to find in the idyllic New England city of Middletown is an alpaca. But believe it or not, Middletown is home to a whole farm of them. According to their website, the Summer Brook Valley Farm currently hosts 15 alpacas. The farm also features a shop that sells alpaca fleece, yarn, and other handmade items and is a great place for any crafters; spinning, knitting, crocheting, and felting lessons are available. For more information (or to look at adorable pictures of alpacas), check out the farm’s website.