This adorable little central Connecticut town is in rural landscapes that will take your breath away, all somehow within six miles of the state capital.
Ever-present on the western horizon is Talcott Mountain, belonging to the 100-mile Metacomet Ridge.
This peak is 13 miles long and its highest point is crowned by the Heublein Tower (1914), which looks like it belongs in the Alps and can be climbed in summer and autumn.
In the valley, Bloomfield is mostly agricultural, and until not too long ago had a booming shade tobacco industry.
Among the rambling meadows and woods are two of Connecticut’s best public golf courses, and if you’re a beer connoisseur two of the finest craft breweries in the state await you in Bloomfield.
1. Penwood State Park
The entirety of Bloomfield’s western boundary is straddled by two state parks on a 200-million-year-old basalt fault known as the Metacomet Ridge.
This striking landform, created by ancient lava flows, is 100 miles long and cuts north from Long Island Sound to the Massachusetts-Vermont border.
The northernmost of those two state parks on the ridge in Bloomfield is Penwood State Park, encompassing the northern portion of the 13-mile long Talcott Mountain.
The park is glorious in spring and autumn, when wild flowers like trillium, hepatica, bloodroot and Dutchman’s breeches are in bloom, or when the fall foliage is astonishingly pretty.
The main lookout in Penwood State Park is The Pinnacle, for views to the south over the ridgeline to Heublein Tower, which we’ll talk about below.
2. Thomas Hooker Brewery
A small-batch beer brand with a regional reputation, the Thomas Hooker Brewery is named for the founder of Hartford and relocated to Bloomfield from the city in 2007. Just off Granby Street you can pay a visit to their main brewery and visitor center, open seven days a week.
Typically there are at least 20 beers on tap, and you can also make the most of free Wi-Fi, a gift shop and a spacious outdoor patio visited by a new food truck each day.
The beer selection is huge, and includes citrusy IPAs like Golden Nymph, Hope Meadow, Fairway and CONNbination, as well as lagers, a red ale, a stout, a blonde ale and a hefezweizen.
It can be hard to know where to begin, but you can always order a flight to sample a few at a time.
3. Talcott Mountain State Park
Separated from Penwood State Park by CT Route 185 Talcott Mountain continues south through its namesake state park.
This encompasses 575 acres along the Metacomet Ridge and has layers of dark west-facing cliffs from the ridge’s dark basalt.
Talcott Mountain is three miles wide at its widest point and has a number of peaks, the highest of which is at 290 metres and crowned by the Heublein Tower.
One of many special things about Metacomet Ridge is its unusual ecology, caused by a variety of microclimates that don’t normally occur in New England.
The upper cliff-tops are hot and dry, creating an oak savanna habitat normally growing chestnut oak, while eastern red cedars cling to the cliff edges.
4. Heublein Tower
A 1.25-mile trail from the parking lot off CT Route 185 will bring you to the 50-metre tall Heublein Tower, which was erected in 1914 and modelled on a Bavarian schloss.
The man behind this remarkable building was Gilbert F.
Heublein, the Hartford food and beverage magnate, whose empire acquired Smirnoff vodka in 1938. He chose the highest point on Talcott Mountain for his distinctive summer home, atop a 290-metre promontory with incredible panoramas.
From the tower’s viewing platform you can see the Berkshires in the north-west, New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock 80 miles to the north-east, and a slice of Long Island Sound far to the south.
The tower is open Memorial Day through October 29, Thursday to Monday up to October, and then Wednesday to Monday during the fall foliage season.
5. Back East Brewing Company
Craft breweries are ten a penny in Connecticut, but few have gained the loyal following and acclaim of Back East Brewing Company in Bloomfield.
The brewery has been in business since 2012, though his team has brewing experience going back at least a decade.
You can swing by the taproom from Thursday to Saturday for flights and pints, or to fill growlers and buy cans.
The selection will be different every time you come, but in August 2019 there were seven IPAs on tap, three of which have been listed in Draft Magazine among the “50 Best IPAs in America” (Rakautra, Intergatic Lupulinary and Ice Cream Man). Among the other nine brews were a porter, a brown ale, a Czech/German pilsner and a dunkel lager.
The taproom’s event calendar is also hopping, with regular comedy nights, new beer launches and a whole bevy of food trucks.
6. MDC Reservoir #6
The Metropolitan District Commission of Connecticut is responsible for this working reservoir in the south-western corner of Bloomfield and allows the public to walk and cycle the 30 miles of trails on the peaceful land around it.
This is the northernmost of the six West Hartford Reservoirs and is walled to the west by the high Deer Cliff.
The Metacomet Trail (more below) passes close by on its way to Talcott Mountain, and there’s an interesting piece of history to seek out close to the southern shore of Reservoir #6. There you’ll happen upon the Revolutionary War Campsite, the scene of an encampment by Continental Army soldiers in 1778 still marked by the remnants of stone-lined fireplaces.
7. Metacomet Trail
This 50-mile Blue-Blazed walking trail follows the spine of the Metacomet Ridge from Meriden in the south all the way up to the Connecticut-Massachusetts boundary.
Thanks to Talcott Mountain and the ledges north and south, some of the best panoramas on the entire trail can be enjoyed in Bloomfield’s backyard.
If you’re up for a day on the trail, you can pick up the route by the west shore of MDC Reservoir #6, scrambling up the steep slope at the northern end as you tackle Talcott Mountain.
In just 3/4 of a mile there’s an elevation gain of 150 metres here.
After being dazzled by the views and Heublein Tower you’ll have to pick your way across CT Route 185, but will soon be back in verdant woodland in Penwood State Forest climbing to another magnificent overlook at The Pinnacle.
8. Waypoint Spirits
This craft distillery started producing its range of spirits in the summer of August 2015, and invites people for tours and tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Waypoint makes special batch whiskey, gin, two vodkas and spiced rum, and on a visit the distillers will share their love for their craft and walk you through every step from mashing to ageing.
After touring the gleaming facility, you’ll get to sample Waypoint’s range of spirits and try a couple of complimentary mixed drinks.
There are board games at the bar, and you can order a food delivery if you need something to soak up all that liquor.
9. Wintonbury Hills Golf Club
In 2018 Golfweek named Wintonbury Hills in Bloomfield the “Best public course you can play in Connecticut”. It’s the only one in the state to have been laid out by the eminent architect Pete Dye, known for designing some of golf’s most difficult tracks.
Surveying the course from the tees, what will grab you is the unusual layout of the fairways, which, while nice and broad, demand an accurate tee shot.
As you’d hope from such an acclaimed course, the greens are pristine and scarily quick, so this is definitely a round for technicians.
Between shots you can soak up stirring vistas of the countryside just east of the Metacomet Ridge.
Green fees in 2019 were $69 Monday to Thursday and $70 on weekends.
10. Chase Arena at Reich Family Pavilion
Opened in 1990 and seating more than 3,500, the home court for the University of Hartford’s men’s and women’s basketball teams is just a couple of miles from downtown Bloomfield.
Both teams play in the America East Conference, and of the two, the women have the greater pedigree.
They had a strong run in the 2000s when they were crowned regular season champions four times and made six NCAA tournament appearances between 2002 and 2011. For the men, the most famous Hawk alum is Vin Baker who went on to play in four consecutive All-Star Games while with the Bucks and Supersonics, and is now an assistant coach with the former.
In its time the area has staged all kinds of other events, like a concert by Bob Dylan and a speech by President Obama in 2013.
11. Gillette Ridge Golf Club
This public course opened in 2004 on land once owned by the famed politician and reformer Francis Gillette (1807-1879), whose house has been preserved on the site.
Gillette Ridge Golf Club has the only public course in the Northeast to have been designed by Arnold Palmer, and is often praised as one of the best non-private places to play a round in Connecticut.
Tallying with the hilly natural scenery, the Gillette Ridge has sharp elevation changes, majestic carries, mature woodland lining its fairways and a raft of natural hazards.
This is matched with full practice facilities, including a full grass driving range, two putting greens and a chipping area.
Rates vary from $35 on a spring weekday to $70 on a summer weekend, while the restaurant has a patio that looks over the 10th and 18th holes.
The Hartford educator and philanthropist Beatrice Fox Auerbach (1887-1968) donated a 40-acre patch of her farmland in Bloomfield to the Connecticut state park system as a gift to the people of the state.
In 2015 this became the 110th state park in Connecticut and home to a 4-H Educational Center, helping young people develop leadership, responsibility, basic life skills and citizenship via all kinds of programs.
These involve finding out about the farm’s cycles, making ice cream, making apple cider, maple sugaring, tending a herb garden, visiting the farm’s hive and constructing a winter shelter for animals.
Aside from that there are more passive activities available for visitors to the farm, from hiking to picnicking, picking berries, meeting the farm animals and choosing a Christmas tree from late-November.
13. Northwest Park
A little past Bloomfield’s northern boundary in Windsor is a municipal park a little under 500 acres.
Northwest Park opened in the early 1970s on land that until then had been tobacco farms.
So you’ll have a rare opportunity to investigate a trade that was once the backbone of the economy in this part of the Connecticut River Valley.
The CT Valley Tobacco Museum charts 2,500 years of local tobacco growing and presents personal accounts by farmers.
The park has much more going on, with a heritage breed farm, nature center, 12 miles of trails, a great playground for youngsters and a series of concerts in the summer.
After snowfall in the winter you’ll also be able to rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore the trails.
14. Rosedale Farms & Vineyards
On the west flank of Talcott Mountain, by the Farmington River is a farm stand and winery that becomes a fully fledged day out in the summer and autumn.
In July and August there’s a corn maze and sunflower maze, while on Sundays in fall, Farm Fests bring hayrides, tastings and farm tours.
Rosedale Farms & Vineyards has grown high-quality produce for more than a century, and you can drop by the farm stand every day from 09:00 for almost 50 different kinds of fruit and vegetable as they come into season.
Also here to tempt you are home baked pies made with this fresh produce, as well as local cheeses, fresh breads, jellies, jams and a lot more.
The vineyards grow Cayuga, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminette, Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc and more, for a line-up of well-received reds and whites.
During normal business hours you’re free to come to the patio for a wine tasting, paired with cheese and crackers, up to the end of October.
15. Oliver Filley House
On Mountain Avenue, a mile west of downtown Bloomfield you’ll catch sight of a stately stone house that is owned by the town.
The Oliver Filley House as you see it now was raised in 1834 in the Greek Revival style, with stone walls made from rubblestone and local basalt in different tones.
The land had been in the Filley family since just before the Revolutionary War and was later occupied by Captain Filley, a tinsmith who served as a captain in the Connecticut militia during the War of 1812. He built the current house for his son, Jay, and it has a curious footprint, with two intersecting wings.
This was only the third stone-built house in Bloomfield at the time.
There’s a track leading up to the house, and a restoration project is underway, with a view to opening the property as a museum for Bloomfield and base for the Wintonbury Historical Society.