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The best restaurants, lodging and things to do in Norfolk, Connecticut

A pastoral town founded in 1758 in the northwest corner of Connecticut, nestled in the Appalachian Litchfield Hills, the small town of Norfolk has a population of only about 500 residents. Known for decades as “the icebox of Connecticut” after recording the state’s coldest temperature in 1943, it’s unusually cooler than the surrounding region, even in summer — one reason so many visitors flock here before the high season ends in October .

In a relatively untouched slice of New England Americana, the city has developed a sophisticated, warm welcome and has attracted performers for centuries, including poet Ezra Pound, composer and pianist Sergei Rachmaninov, and writer Mark Twain. Still bustling with musicians, painters, photographers and other creatives, it’s a worthwhile weekend getaway from anywhere in the Northeast for its unique farms, outdoor activities, quirky cafes and century-old inns.

get there

Norfolk is a two and a half hour drive from Providence, Rhode Island, a three hour drive from New York City and a three and a half hour drive from Boston. The scenic drives from all directions include the woodland splendor of some of New England’s pristine patches of forests, canyons and rivers. (Flights to Hartford Airport or trains to Wassaic still require taxi rides of 45 minutes to an hour.) Once there, the city is mostly walkable and very bike-friendly.

Haystack Mountain State Park

Daniel Hanscom/Getty

What to do in Norfolk

A majestic stone tower in Haystack Mountain State Park offers an idyllic panoramic view of the Berkshires and corners of Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. It’s great for spotting leaves in the fall, but don’t miss the mountain laurel blooms in June. In addition to great local beers, Norbrook Farm Brewery also offers mountain bike trails and a disc golf course. The Norfolk Land Trust’s Rails to Trails Committee has recently converted abandoned railway tracks into cycle and walking paths. A boat launch offers a tranquil day out on the 145-acre Wood Creek Pond, but kayaking or canoeing is a better way to enjoy the lily pads, schools of pike, islands of wild blueberries, and the occasional pitcher plant. In the winter, ski and snowshoe in the 15,000-acre Great Mountain Forest. On a hot day, stroll through Campbell Falls State Park to frolic at the 50-foot falls pool. And at Aton Forest, a 1,300-acre private forest steeped in ecological research, be sure to meet local ‘bird whisperer’ Fran Zygmont, who gives workshops on how to identify birds by their song.

For knick-knacks and crafty finds, there’s The Guilded Artisan, which showcases local artists, and Joseph Stannard, an appointment-only antique shop selling items dating back to the 17th century. And the Art Barn Gallery showcases the work of dozens of local artists and offers free drawing classes on Saturdays.

The city is also a music lover’s paradise: the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, hosted by Yale’s renowned music school, commissions new works (e.g. a tribute to the survivors of police brutality). During the summer, more than 30 concerts are held – primarily in the Music Shed – by world-class musicians who teach and mentor Yale students.

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