15 Best Things to Do in Farmington (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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The well-to-do small town of Farmington is 10 miles west of Hartford. This place serves as the international headquarters for a surprising number of big corporations, including Otis Worldwide.

What puts Farmington on the map for visitors is the Hill-Stead Museum. This industrialist’s residence has an assemblage of exquisite objets d’art, French Impressionist masterpieces and Japanese woodblock prints. 

I’m also enthralled by the story behind its construction, involving Theodate Pope Riddle (1867-1946), one of America’s first woman architects. 

For people who love the outdoors, Farmington is served by two long distance trails: The Metacomet Trail and the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, on the course of 19th-century waterway and railroad.

Connecticut’s largest public golf facility is right here too, with 45 holes no less. There’s also some top-class shopping to be done at the Westfarms Mall and a few minutes away in West Hartford Center.

1. Hill-Stead Museum

Hill-Stead MuseumSource: Hill-Stead Museum / facebook
Hill-Stead Museum

If you only see one thing in Farmington I think it has to be this museum at a palatial Colonial Revival house from 1901. 

Constructed for the industrialist Alfred Atmore Pope, the building is a collaboration between the firm McKim, Read & White and Theodate Pope Riddle. She was the daughter of Alfred Pope, and was one of America’s first woman architects.

But even more important is what’s inside. The 19 rooms open to the public are kept as they were when Theodate passed away in 1946. 

Hill-Stead is bursting with invaluable decorative arts, rugs, furniture, prints and, most famously, fine art.

The collection is especially rich in Impressionism. The likes of Monet, Degas, Manet, Mary Cassatt, Eugène Carrière, and James McNeill Whistler all represented.

Also noteworthy are the woodblock prints by Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro, engraving by Albrecht Dürer and correspondence by the likes of Henry James and Mary Cassatt.

The grounds are also essential, drawn up by Warren H. Manning and with a one-acre sunken garden. This was later redesigned by the famous landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.

2. Stanley-Whitman House

Stanley-Whitman HouseSource: worobod / Flickr
Stanley-Whitman House

One of the oldest houses in Farmington is preserved and open to the public as a museum.

A classic New England saltbox, the Stanley-Whitman House was built around 1720. I got an idea of its age right away when I saw its leaded windows and overhanging upper floor.

That overhang is ornamented with four delicate drop pendants, and the house is divided into two symmetrical halves by a large central chimney.

Go inside and you’ll be sent back to colonial New England. You can pore over period decoration and fittings, and pick up lots of riveting details about colonial life. Outside are historic stone walls, raised bed gardens and a pastoral apple orchard.

The house is the anchor for a true living history center, hosting a wide array of programs all year. I’m talking, historical demonstrations, live music, talks, walking tours, and workshops.

3. Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor

Farmington Miniature Golf & Cream ParlorSource: Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor / facebook
Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor

Two treats are combined at this family-friendly attraction, in business since 1962. The 18-hole golf course is beautifully landscaped. The holes are quaint as can be, and fringed by neatly trimmed shrubs, immaculate lawns, and sprinkles of color from flowers.

The little parlor overlooking the course serves a head-spinning assortment of ice cream flavors (40+). Some of my standouts are Birthday Cake, Crushed Ginger, Kahlua Chocolate Chunk, and salted caramel-covered pretzel.

There’s also a choice of soft serve and sorbet flavors, and seasonal options like country pumpkin. Come for a cone, cup, sundae or milkshake, or opt for something savory like a hot dog, chili or taco.

4. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

Farmington Canal Heritage TrailSource: ARENA Creative / shutterstock
Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

The ambitious Farmington Canal was constructed in the 1820s to link New Haven by water with the interior of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

But within a few years of its completion, the railroads had become a more efficient means of transport and the canal was converted for trains.

When I wrote this list, most of the New Haven and Northampton Railroad bed in Connecticut (some 58 miles) had become a walking trail. This leads you along evocative old railroad corridors and canal towpaths.

There’s thrilling infrastructure on the way, including canal aqueducts and the last surviving set of locks on the canal in Windsor.

The largest missing section is just south of Farmington, across Plainville into northern Southington. When I was in town a project had just been announced to finally close that five-mile gap.

5. Rattlesnake Mountain

Rattlesnake MountainSource: en.wikipedia.org
Rattlesnake Mountain

There are marvelous rocky landscapes in the south of Farmington at this basalt landform, rising to 750 feet and part of the Metacomet Ridge.

That 200-million-year-old fault shoots north through Connecticut for 100 miles from Long Island Sound to the Massachusetts-Vermont line. For much of the way it grants majestic views from its cliff-tops.

That’s just what you’ll find at Rattlesnake Mountain, which can be accessed on the Blue-Blazed Metacomet Trail. This has views for miles over western Connecticut from the top.

As with other peaks on the ridge, Rattlesnake Mountain has a microclimate that gives rise to some plants not normally found in Connecticut.

On the trail I came across Will Warren’s Den. This is a cave with a peculiar story harking back to the earliest days of colonization in Farmington.

A plaque reads, “Said Warren, according to legend, after being flogged for not going to church, tried to burn the village of Farmington. He was pursued into the mountains, where some Indian squaws hid him in this cave.”

6. First Church of Christ, Congregational

First Church of Christ, CongregationalSource: worobod / Flickr
First Church Of Christ, Congregational

The spire atop this historic church at 75 Main Street can be seen for miles around. 

The clapboard building in the Greek Revival style, has been standing since 1771, although the congregation goes back another 120 years.

In 1841 the First Church of Christ, Congregational was involved in a significant event in American history.

The enslaved Africans who had revolted aboard La Amistad were sheltered on their release from custody by Austin Williams. He was a local abolitionist who set up a dormitory building for them while they awaited their return to Africa.

I find it humbling to think that they were regulars at this very church during that time.

7. Westfarms Mall

Westfarms MallSource: singh_lens / shutterstock
Westfarms Mall

One of the top malls in the Greater Hartford area is on the boundary between West Hartford and Farmington.

The name is a portmanteau of both towns, and there are more than 160 stores and services at your disposal in Westfarms Mall.

When I went to press, the anchors were Jordan’s Furniture, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and JCPenney. 

For the most part, the mall is at the upper end of the market. I’m talking, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Tiffany & Co.

These are matched with the sort of brands you’d hope to find in any mall, like H&M, Foot Locker, Sephora, Apple Store and Banana Republic.

Westfarms Mall has no lack of dining choices, from California Pizza Kitchen to P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Many of these have their own outdoor store-fronts instead of being clustered in a food court.

8. Tunxis Country Club

Tunxis Country ClubSource: Tunxis Country Club / facebook
Tunxis Country Club

Farmington claims the largest golf complex in New England, all of which is public. Tunxis Country Club has a whopping 45 holes of championship golf.

This is all combined with a lineup of bars, a 150-guest banquet venue, and an outdoor pavilion that can accommodate 250. 

Naturally the courses take center stage, and there are three to choose from. The oldest here is the 9-hole Red Course, landscaped in the early 1960s.

For serious players, the signature is the White Course, known for its tricky island greens and views of the Farmington River. Elsewhere, the Green Course has a links-style layout with gaping sand traps and large bodies of water.

To rediscover your touch, Drive45 is the club’s awesome driving range. I can’t get enough of this place, with high-end shock-absorbing mats and buckets of affordably priced Calloway range balls.

9. Farmington River Trail

Farmington River TrailSource: kfcasper / Flickr
Farmington River Trail

If you’re looking for a detour along the Canal Heritage Trail, this multi-use trail leads through some of the most spectacular rural landscapes in the area. 

Farmington River Trail is a loop, departing from the main route before rejoining it 18.2 miles away in Simsbury.

Ideal for walkers, joggers, inline skaters and cyclists, the trail is paved and can be accessed at several points in Farmington.

It follows the course of the old Central New England Railroad, mostly on the banks of the Farmington River. There’s forest, farmland and meadows, although I should point out that there are occasional stretches of on-road riding.

10. Complexity: A Puzzling Adventure

Complexity A Puzzling AdventureSource: Complexity: A Puzzling Adventure / facebook
Complexity A Puzzling Adventure

Farmington has a highly-rated puzzle solving attraction at Complexity: A Puzzling Adventure. For the uninitiated, Escape Rooms are ideal for date nights, families, or team building.

You’ll need to call on all of your problem-solving abilities and sense of teamwork to work your way through clues to escape a room. There’s always an hour-long time limit, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama.

Complexity has a choice of cleverly designed rooms. These tend to vary according to the amount of people that can take part.

For instance, Hunt for the Dead Sea Souls is for 3-8 players and involves a race against time to free the souls of dead pirates from a shipwreck. On a different tack, The Mall (4-12) requires you to scour a mall for your lost belongings, or risk missing a dinner reservation.

11. Farmington Library

Farmington LibrarySource: Farmington Libraries, CT / facebook
Farmington Library

A top-notch local amenity, Farmington Library is especially valuable for parents with smaller children. For youngsters there’s an expansive book collection and a colorful interactive play area.

Older people can escape to a quiet corner with a book or get some work done in peace.

The library catalog is enormous and complemented by computer terminals, free Wi-Fi, a 3D printer and an extensive DVD collection.

There’s a ton of community programs here, including music performances, art exhibitions, and talks by experts in a wealth of fields.

12. West Hartford

West HartfordSource: ARENA Creative / shutterstock
West Hartford

Abutting Farmington, West Hartford is a city with the kind of downtown that pulls in people from far and wide.

The Center, on Farmington and South/North Main Street, has been the core of the community since the end of the 17th century. Centuries later it’s my kind of place to shop, dine, or stroll.

Local businesses take precedent in West Hartford Center, at fashion boutiques, jewelry shops, toy shops and design stores.

Food-wise all bases are covered, whether you’re hankering for gyros, pizza, kebabs, sushi, New England-style seafood, tacos or tapas.

Since the early 2000s a new mixed-use development, Blue Back Square has cropped up. This all blends seamlessly with The Center’s historic architecture.

Together with chains like Barnes & Noble and Cheesecake Factory, the Square has a luxury Cinépolis with in-theater dining and fully reclining leather seats.

13. West Hartford Reservoir

West Hartford ReservoirSource: Jennifer Yakey-Ault / shutterstock
West Hartford Reservoir

Right on the line between Farmington and West Hartford is a popular recreation area incorporating six large reservoirs.

The space is vast, at more than 3,000 acres under a thick layer of woodland. In fact, there’s more than 30 miles of paved and gravel trails to navigate in here.

The highest ridge is traversed by the Metacomet Trail, so can be reached from Farmington’s Rattlesnake Mountain.

You could head off in search of the Revolutionary War Campsite near Reservoir #6. This was the scene of an encampment by Continental Army soldiers in 1778. I was blown away to learn that there’s still evidence from the camp, at the remnants of stone-lined fireplaces.

14. Winding Trails

Winding TrailsSource: www.windingtrails.org
Winding Trails

Not so much a visitor attraction, Winding Trails is a non-profit outdoor activity center, preserving the environment for the people of Farmington and neighboring communities.

In gorgeous natural surroundings, the center provides the facilities and wherewithal for all kinds of recreation. This includes boating, swimming and tennis in summer, as well as cross-country skiing in the winter.

Members can sign up for ski lessons, and there’s a program of guided ski tours throughout the season. Winding Trails also stages all kinds of seasonal events, culminating with fireworks on the 4th of July.

Now, Winding Trails is private and many of the facilities are accessible only to members or guests of members. Still, when I wrote this article non-members were able to access the trails and rent equipment for a reasonable fee.

15. Batterson Park

Batterson ParkSource: Neil Patrick Connors‎ / facebook
Batterson Park

This park around a former reservoir actually belongs to the city of Hartford, even though it is outside the city limits in Farmington and New Britain.

Batterson Park covers roughly 600 acres, much of which is occupied by the pond. This was given to the city by the Water Department in the late-1920s.

When I wrote this list  the park was in a state of flux amid plans to turn the property into a state park. For that reason some of the trails are overgrown, but the park shines for its water activities. 

There’s a boat launch, still in great shape if you want to do some fishing or kayaking. On the water you’ll see turtles surfacing and if you keep your eyes peeled you may see bald eagles overhead.

15 Best Things to Do in Farmington (CT):

  • Hill-Stead Museum
  • Stanley-Whitman House
  • Farmington Miniature Golf & Ice Cream Parlor
  • Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
  • Rattlesnake Mountain
  • First Church of Christ, Congregational
  • Westfarms Mall
  • Tunxis Country Club
  • Farmington River Trail
  • Complexity: A Puzzling Adventure
  • Farmington Library
  • West Hartford
  • West Hartford Reservoir
  • Winding Trails
  • Batterson Park