The town of Enfield is in the very north of Connecticut, right against the Massachusetts state line on the east bank of the Connecticut River.
While Enfield is a rather sleepy place, with most of its commerce clustered on a strip mall along Hazard Avenue, there’s much to see and do within a short car journey, and nothing on this list is more than 10 miles away.
Along with Six Flags New England there are endearing local museums, historic houses, craft breweries, farm shops and family attractions with activities like mini golf and laser tag.
You’ll never have to go far for a peaceful walking trail, on the route of an old railroad or the towpath of the canal that allowed boats to navigate the Connecticut River in the 19th century.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Enfield:
1. Six Flags New England
The oldest amusement park in the Six Flags Chain, opened in 1870, is just across the river and over the state line in Springfield, Massachusetts.
For anyone into thrill rides, Superman The Ride, plummeting down a 67-metre drop, is still big news in the rollercoaster community, ranking in the top five for the Golden Ticket Awards’ Top Steel Roller Coasters every year from 2001 to 2018. Some other premier white-knuckle experiences are Flashback, Batman: The Dark Knight, Goliath, Wicked Cyclone and The Riddler Revenge.
A newcomer from 2017, The Joker is a “4th dimension roller coaster”, flipping you head over heels up to six times along a zigzagging track.
There’s a catalogue of other rides, both high-tech and more traditional, like the gorgeous 1909 Illions Carousel and Houdini – The Great Escape, a madhouse ride.
Younger children will be enthralled with all the cartoon-infused fun at Looney Tunes Movie Town, and there are lots of gentler rides in the Kidzopolis zone.
2. Powder Hollow Brewery
A craft brewery with a regional reach, Powder Hollow’s brews are on tap all over north-central Connecticut and its cans show up in stores across the state.
Right here in Hazardville, Enfield you can find out what all the fuss is about at the charming taproom open seven days, and as late as 22:00 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Powder Hollow selects high-quality hops, wheat, barley and yeast for an eclectic, surprising and constantly changing range of beers.
At the time of writing in July 2019 there were 12 on tap, among them the Bayonet Blonde, Hoppy Hollow IPA, Lift Your Kilt (Scottish ale), Muddy River Scantic Brown Ale, Early Morning Oatmeal Stout and 1929 Prohibition Porter.
You can order a flight of four of five to sample what’s new, and if you get peckish you can always order a pizza.
3. Connecticut Trolley Museum
This endearing seasonal museum dedicated to electric railroad is on a restored 1.5-mile stretch of the Hartford and Springfield Street Railway Company’s Rockville Branch, which started running in 1901. The line was scrapped 1926 when the company went bankrupt, but this piece was restored some 14 years later, making the Connecticut Trolley Museum the oldest of its kind in the country.
With the price of admission you’ll get unlimited rides on lovingly preserved cars from the New Orleans Public Service, the Boston Elevated Railway, the Connecticut Company, Montreal Tramways and the Fair Haven and Westville Railroad.
Several more are on static display in the museum’s sheds, while a few are in the restoration shop.
The Visitor Center’s Main Hall has some fine examples and goes into detail on the origins and progress of streetcars in the United States.
4. Sonny’s Place
Close by in Somers, Sonny’s Place is one of those big family attractions that has a bit of everything.
For a very brief summary, you’ll find go karts, laser tag, batting cage, a climbing wall, a gigantic outdoor soft play structure, mini golf, miniature bowling, a gyroscope and a zip-line.
Friends and families can also try the new Hologate virtual reality game, cooperating to battle robots and zombies or having an innocent snowball fight.
In 2017 Sonny’s Place acquired a beautiful carousel, dating back to 1925 and boasting hand-carved and painted horses.
Sooner or later all this activity is going to make you peckish, and there’s a restaurant with a take-out window so you can go for a picnic in the summer.
5. Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail
For an easy but picturesque walk you could cross over to the west bank of the Connecticut River for this paved 4.5-mile trail on the old towpath of the Enfield Falls Canal.
That waterway was built in the 1820s to bypass the shallower reach of the river at Enfield Falls, a section with rapids.
Although the canal was soon obsolete when the railroads arrived, it was repurposed in the mid-19th century as a means of powering mills, and factories cropped up along the towpath.
Windsor Locks takes its name from the canal’s own locks, which are still in place, but have been out of action since the 1970s.
Take your time on the trail to appreciate the frequent vistas over the river.
6. Scantic River State Park
Enfield is fortunate to have lots of public natural space, but where things get confusing is that the largest park in the area is actually spread across several distinct spaces, all on or near the banks of the serpentine river of the same name.
The park adds up to just under 800 acres and bleeds into East Windsor and Somers in places.
If in doubt, make for Hazard Avenue where there’s a green corridor crossing the town line with Somers, at the Powder Hollow Section and the Scantic River Linear Park (West and East), as well as the Bailey Road parcel, on the opposite bank.
The Linear Park has a circuitous Yellow-Blazed trail along the riverbanks and into tranquil broadleaf forest.
There are benches to soak up the scenery and a few little bridges crossing the brooks that feed the river.
7. Enfield Public Library
For people based in the Enfield area the public library is a godsend, not just for its extensive catalogue but because of its many programmes suiting all-comers.
There’s something happening almost daily, and for kids this might be the Star Lab portable planetarium, star-gazing, Rhyme Time for infants, an art club during the school breaks, story time, wildlife talks, magic shows and a lot more.
For grown-ups there are book discussions, talks by authors and acoustic music performances, and that’s barely scratching the surface.
There are film screenings on Fridays, for little ones in the morning and for adults later on.
8. Phelps-Hatheway House
In neighbouring Suffield, this historic house is a remarkable document for architecture and the lifestyles of wealthy in the 18th century.
The earliest portions of the Phelps-Hatheway House went up in 1732 and in 1795 major changes were made by the prominent architect Asher Benjamin for the land speculator Oliver Phelps.
Benjamin added the ceremonious Doric portico that greets you at the main entrance.
The central block of the building is from 1762, set around an imposing chimney and ornamented with exquisite original woodwork.
At one time, following the Phelps and Gorham Purchase of six million acres of upstate New York, Phelps was one of the largest landowners in the United States and lived here from 1788 to 1802. The house is open for tours on weekends from May through October and gives you a glimpse of the domestic life of the Phelps family and the Burbanks before them.
The property is replete with 18th-century furniture and decorative arts and has a refined parterre outside.
9. Pell Family Farm, Somers
Exactly the kind of place you hope to stumble upon in the New England countryside, Pell Family Farm goes back to 1930 and its now in its fourth generation.
Between late-spring and fall you can pay a visit to pick your own berries, while the nursery specialises in perennials, privacy trees and ornamental shrubs.
To keep the whole family entertained there’s also a corn maze, hay-rides, pony rides, face-painting and some farmyard animals like goats and donkeys that little ones will adore.
In fall there’s a pumpkin patch, and in the advent season people come to pick out and cut down their own Christmas trees.
10. Redstone Rail Trail
You can pick up this short but sweet paved trail just over the state line in East Longmeadow.
The Redstone Rail Trail is little more than 1.5 miles long and follows the long abandoned bed of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Armory Branch of the New York & New England Railroad, in use from 1872 to 1968. Heading north, towards the end of the walk you’ll see the preserved Old East Longmeadow Rail Station.
Another curiosity near the trail is the East Longmeadow Rotary, an intersection of even streets without traffic lights, unsurprisingly notorious among drivers!
11. New England Air Museum
The largest aviation museum in the Northeastern United States is a simple road trip on the other side of Windsor Locks.
Aviation has played an important part in Connecticut’s history, and this museum will tell you all you need to know about Sikorsky Aircraft, founded in the town of Stratford and producing the United States’ first viable helicopter in the 1930s.
There are eight Sikorsky planes and helicopters on show, among a total of 92 aircraft across three hangars, by de Havilland, Douglas, Grumman and Lockheed, by way of introduction.
Among the exhibits you can’t see anywhere else, there’s the Silas Brooks Balloon Basket (1870), held as America’s oldest aircraft, the last-surviving Sikorsky VS-44 flying boat and a Sikorsky S-39, the maker’s oldest-surviving aircraft.
12. Grassmere Country Club
Open to guests, this private club in Enfield has a nine-hole course in lush, hilly terrain, streaked with little brooks and featuring neatly tended fairways and greens.
Sneakily positioned sand traps and grass bunkers will test your approach play, and before you start there’s a practice green to help you find your touch.
Considering the high level of upkeep, rates are a reasonable $21 on weekdays and $22 on weekends, and you can rent a gas cart for $8.
13. Brainerd Park
Curiously, Brainerd Park is found on Enfield’s Brainard Road (note the spelling difference!), and is a handy local recreation area, especially if you have young children.
Tucked in fresh coniferous forest and laid with wood chips, the playground has large sets for toddlers and bigger kids, surrounded by tree-shaded benches for tired parents.
For older visitors there’s a basketball court and softball fields, all in good shape when we wrote this article in 2019.
14. Broad Brook Brewing
This unpretentious craft brewery has just found a cosy new home in Suffield.
Broad Brook Brewing has a comfortable wood-panelled taproom, pouring a handful of IPAs (including a double), a porter, a red ale, a stout and a German-inspired lager.
You can try a flight and ask the staff for some tips, while there’s also a selection of guest wines if you’re in the mood for something different.
The taproom is open Wednesday to Sunday.
15. Enfield Square Mall
Enfield has had a mall since the early 1970s, and although Enfield Square is anchored by Target, it’s more of a place to grab something to eat and catch a movie than get some serious shopping done (nearby Hazard Avenue has more stores). The Cinemark has placed customer experience above revenue by providing larger, more comfortable seats that recline.
Come on Thursdays for half-price tickets, to watch a new release for as little as $6.10. Food-wise, Enfield Square mall has a mix of fast food and full-service chains like Outback Steakhouse, Wendy’s, Subway and Starbucks.