This little town in Hartford County is on a bend in the Farmington River and takes its name from the River Avon in England.
The land was first settled by Europeans as long ago as 1645, and was incorporated as a town in 1830. In the east rises the elongated mass of Talcott Mountain, belonging to the Metacomet Ridge, with high west-facing scarps for views that go on for miles.
For a lighter hike the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail cuts through Avon, on the course of a 200-year-old canal.
Make sure to head west to Collinsville, for the preserved riverside buildings of the once world renowned Collins Company Axe Factory, now housing a museum and antiques center.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Avon, Connecticut:
1. Talcott Mountain State Park
A hundred miles long and 200 million years old, the basalt Metacomet Ridge zips through Connecticut and Massachusetts from north to south for 100 miles.
Occasionally the ridge will hove into view across the Farmington River Valley in Avon, and after a short drive you can reach this state park on the 13-mile-long Talcott Mountain, part of the ridge.
From the parking area on Summit Ridge Drive you can get onto the Tower Trail, 1.25 miles long and leading to a Heublein Tower, designed like a Bavarian Schloss and perched on a 300-metre promontory.
The Blue-Blazed Metacomet Trail, which runs the length of the ridge in Connecticut, also weaves through the Talcott Mountain State Park, delivering you to cliff-top overlooks that you won’t soon forget.
2. Heublein Tower
More on that striking tower, which stands 50 metres high and was built in 1914 for the beverage magnate Gilbert Heublein whose father was German.
The Heublein Tower was a summer home, and came about after Gilbert promised his fiancé Louise M.
Gundlach that he would build her a castle on Talcott Mountain once during a hike.
When this building was in the hands of the Hartford Times in the mid-20th century, two guests included Ronald Reagan Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The tower can only be reached on foot, and is open from Memorial Day to October 29, with extended hours in October to accommodate the many people who come to revel in the autumn colors.
The panorama from the top is staggering, rolling out as far as Mount Monadnock, 80 miles away in New Hampshire, as well as the Berkshires and down to Long Island Sound.
3. Farmington Valley Arts Center
Housed in a complex of charming old brownstone buildings, the Farmington Valley Arts Center is a dynamic arts community where you can watch artists at work, admire vibrant art at galleries and also take part in a rich array of workshops.
The center was founded in 1974 and the venue is the old Climax Fuse Factory.
There are more than 20 artists and artisans based here, working in many different media, from glass to ceramics, photography, found objects and yarn.
Pieces by local and regional artists are showcased at the Drezner Gallery, while the Fisher Gallery is for local artists and artisans, with shows hand-selected by a curator.
The choice of classes on offer is massive, including watercolors, pastels, sketching architecture, figure drawing, acrylic painting, photography, photoshop and many more than we can fit in here.
4. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
To open up rural Connecticut to long-distance trade a group of businessmen came together and built the Farmington Canal in the 1820s.
The waterway passed through Avon on its route north from New Haven to Northampton, MA.
Before long, trains became a cheaper and more efficient mode of transport, and the New Haven and Northampton Company railroad was laid down on the course of the canal.
Later part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, this line was effectively abandoned by the 1990s and has since become a trail, which as of 2019 is 85% complete in Connecticut.
Within Avon’s boundaries you can get on to this arrow-straight path where it crosses Thompson Road, and head north to Mountain View Avenue (taking in the Metacomet Ridge) before the trail enters Simsbury opposite Talcott Mountain.
5. Pine Grove School House
The Avon Historical Society maintains a number of sites around the town, in varying states of restoration.
One open to visitors is the Pine Grove School House, which functioned as a school from when it was built in 1865 up to 1949 when it was the last one-room school in Avon to close.
From that time on the building was used as a library, nursery and base for boy scouts, before being restored by Avon Historical Society.
You can take a look around on Sundays from 14:00 to 16:00, June through September.
The interior has been preserved in its early-20th-century form, with textbooks, hand slates and bolted desks from the period, as well as an old water pump and privy outside.
6. Pickin’ Patch
One of the ten oldest continually running farms in Connecticut, the Pickin’ Patch has more than 300 years of documented history.
Over the years the farm has moved away from tobacco and dairy farming to fresh produce, and opens a greenhouse and country store for farm-fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables, pasteurized cider and apple cider donuts.
In July, August and September you can call in to pick your own berries, plums, peaches and apples as they come into season.
Then things really kick into gear in October when you can lift pumpkins right off the vine, try apple fritters, buy handmade seasonal decorations, and children can take hayrides.
7. Avon Congregational Church
With its Ionic pilasters and soaring multi-stage tower, this Federal-style church is a bold presence at the intersection of West Main Street and Route 202. The Avon Congregational Church (1819) was designed by David Hoadley (1774-1839), who was very active around Connecticut, leaving seven buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
This is regarded as one of his finest works.
Take a second to gaze up at the tower, with balustrades on each of its three tiers, and a beautiful octagonal belfry with round arch openings on the second level.
The congregation goes back even further, to 1754, and in the rear is the historic East Avon Cemetery, which is as old as the church.
8. Fisher Meadows
A serene place to wander beside the Farmington River, Fisher Meadows is mostly undeveloped woodland and fields, on what was once farmland.
The park is served by the Fisher Meadows Trail, which sets off from Old Farms Road in the north.
This will lead you down, around the shore of Spring Lake, where fishing and non-motorized boating are permitted in summer.
In winter the trail can be used for cross-country skiing, and in summer bird-spotting and picnicking are on the agenda.
The property also has a developed space, with four fields for softball/baseball, four multi-use fields, a children’s playground and two pavilions.
9. Horse Guard State Park
Come for a walk and you may have this entire 100-acre park to yourself.
On hilly ground, Horse Guard State Park has been left mostly untouched since it was acquired by the state in 1964. You can join a white-blazed, 1.5-mile trail, which starts at the Avon Historical Society’s Derrin House, before climbing to a scenic crag with sensational vistas to the south and west before returning to the road.
Derrin House dates back to 1810 and boasts many original fittings, but is currently undergoing restoration following a fire in 2016.
10. Hartford Reservoir #6
A little way past Avon’s eastern and south-eastern limits there’s a string of reservoirs owned by the Metropolitan District Commission of Connecticut.
This land is open to the public for hiking and cycling from sunrise to sunset.
The reservoirs are walled to the west by cliffs belonging to the Metacomet Ridge, and giving you wonderful panoramas back towards Hartford.
From these shores you can join the Metacomet Trail to hike north into Talcott Mountain State Park.
The northernmost of the water bodies is Hartford Reservoir #6, which is ringed by a walking path with photo-worthy vistas over the water.
Close to the southern shore is the Revolutionary War Campsite, where the Continental Army spent roughly a week in October 1778. Remarkably there’s still evidence remaining in the form of stone-lined fireplaces.
11. Antiques on the Farmington
Somewhere to browse for unexpected treasures, but also steeped in history, Antiques on the Farmington in Collinsville has more than 50 dealers in a beautiful location.
This is the old Collins & Company axe factory, which in the 19th century had a global reputation for its blades.
It was here that the machinist Elisha Root (1808-1865) developed the technique of die casting.
Pottering around the old factory floor you’ll come across period furniture, lighting, ceramics, fine art, signage, jewelry, costume, clocks, mirrors and almost any type of collectible you can imagine.
12. Canton Historical Museum
If you want to know more about the Collins Axe Company and its lasting impact on Canton, the town’s historical museum is set in another of the original factory buildings, dating to 1865. Here you can take a trip back to the 19th century, stepping into everyday amenities like a post office, general store, blacksmith shop and barber shop.
You can examine period costume, a casket from the Civil War, antique medical equipment belonging to the town’s “horse and buggy” doctor, and a hand-drawn fire hose cart.
Some other trades represented in the collection are farming, tool-making, ice harvesting, printing, blacksmithing, carpentry and shoemaking, while there’s a large assemblage of children’s toys and games.
As for the museum building, this was used for making agricultural plows before becoming a recreation space for workers, complete with a bowling alley in 1924.
13. Collinsville Canoe & Kayak
You can also thank the Collins Axe Company for outdoor recreation on the Farmington River.
Collinsville Canoe & Kayak is a store selling kayaks, canoes, pack boats, paddleboards and the like.
But the company also offers hourly or daily rentals, and you’ll get to paddle along a safe, dammed up section at the old Collins Co. mill pond.
You can rent single and two-person kayaks, as well as canoes, stand-up paddleboards and a blue wheel paddleboard that can fit up to six people! For an adventure on two wheels there’s also a range of bikes available.
Collinsville Canoe & Kayak runs a paddling school, offering private instruction, kids’ programs and tuition in things like paddleboard yoga and paddleboard teacher training.
14. Buckingham Park
Small but crammed with facilities, this local park on Buckingham Road is a hit with parents for its up-to-date and fully accessible playground with a diversity of jungle gyms, interactive musical toys, swings and slides.
The playground is also fenced in for extra peace of mind, and has a walking track around it.
After all that fun there are picnic tables in the shade, but also a pair of full-sized all-purpose fields and a baseball field.
15. Blue Fox Run Golf Course
This course in the pastoral Farmington Valley has been around since the early-1970s.
Blue Fox Run was given an overhaul in the 90s with the help of famed course architect Steven Kaye, during which a nine-hole par 3 was added.
With 27 holes there are three distinct nines, labelled Blue, White and Red, each posing their own challenges.
Water comes into play often, and the Blue and White courses have some very long par 5s.
Green fees range from $20 during the week for nine holes on foot, to $55 for 18 holes with a cart on weekends.
Finish up with a bite at the 19th Hole Restaurant & Pub, with a menu of salads, soups and sandwiches.