The story of this town in south-eastern Connecticut begins well before the first Europeans arrived.
Montville was the place where the Mohegan tribe broke away from the other Native American Pequot people in the region, which had violent repercussions in the middle of the 17th century.
The base of the Mohegan tribe can be visited in Uncasville, a village named for the celebrated sachem of the time.
This now sits on a reservation, as does the ever-growing megaresort, Mohegan Sun, which is on a scale to revival Vegas casinos.
Something else to keep in mind in Montville is Nature’s Art Village, which mixes shopping spaces with high-quality attractions like The Dinosaur Place, where dozens of full-sized dinosaurs lurk in the woodland.
1. Mohegan Sun
In the mid-1990s after gaining a reservation on their ancestral lands in Uncasville, the Mohegan tribe set about constructing a casino resort.
Following a round of renovations in 2016 Mohegan Sun is now simply vast.
As of 2019 there are 1,563 rooms here, boosted by the impressive, 400-room Earth Tower.
At two casinos, Mohegan Sun has 6,500 slot machines and 377 table games.
This is all complemented by the Mohegan Sun Arena, which we’ll talk about below, as well as eight nightlife venues, two additional performance spaces, two high-class spas, shops and the 18-hole Mohegan Sun Gold Club, recently named as one of the ten best courses in Connecticut by Golfweek.
2. Casino of the Sky
Still wowing the crowds almost 20 years after it opened, the Casino of the Sky is beyond extravagant.
The entire gaming floor sits beneath the world’s largest fully functional planetarium dome, with the sun, moon and stars in motion.
There’s an indoor waterfall, almost 20 metres high, and the mesmerizing Wombi Rock, a multilevel entertainment and lounge venue that springs from the middle of the space.
This structure is crafted from alabaster and more than 12,000 pieces of onyx, gathered from three different continents.
Also sure to catch your eye is River Blue, a luminescent glass sculpture by the Seattle master Dale Chihuly and weighing almost 5,000 kg.
3. Mohegan Sun Arena
In 2001 Mohegan Sun unveiled its 10,000-capacity multi-purpose arena.
In the last 20 years the Mohegan Sun Arena has staged WWE events, preseason NBA games and concerts by Taylor Swift, Jay Z, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and Jennifer Lopez.
This is also home court for the New England Black Wolves Lacrosse Team, and, more famously, Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
The Sun has been playing here since 2003 and has qualified for the playoffs in more than half of the 15 seasons since the franchise relocated from Orlando.
4. The Dinosaur Place at Nature’s Art Village
Maybe the biggest draw for families at Nature’s Art Village is this 60-acre sweep of woodland inhabited by more than 50 life-sized dinosaur models.
You’ll discover these realistic beasts along 1.5 miles of neatly-tended nature trails, bending around the picturesque Raptor Bay Lake.
One of the more knee-trembling exhibits is the Brachiosaurus, more than 20 metres long and 12 metres tall.
You can even walk under her belly, while there’s an animatronic Dilophosaurus Encounter, which can move and roar.
An active volcano erupts on the hour, and there’s a dinosaur-themed maze, a splashpad and a children’s playground boasting the SpaceNet, a vast multi-level climbing tower.
5. Genius Museum
This absorbing museum at Nature’s Art Village documents more than two centuries of American ingenuity with genuine industrial artifacts.
There are some great steam-powered pieces here, like push-pull engines, a log splitter and authentic steam bells from locomotives.
Also steam-powered is the 19th-century printing press at the Gateway Gazette.
Here you can peruse historic printing and publishing tools like a stamping press and an outsized guillotine.
Hayday Farm has a small fleet of heavy agricultural machinery from the early-20th century, and the Montville Queen is a genuine Christ-Craft boat from the 1920s, now powered by compressed air.
You can also take a seat in a 1920s barbershop and stock up on provisions at the Oakdale Country Store, selling 10-cent sodas and dubious remedies like gunpowder to treat boils.
6. Discovery Depot
Aimed at wee ones, this attraction at Nature’s Art Village has a mining and geological theme.
Take The Jackpot Mine, a replica silver mine where kids can unearth more than 50 different types of minerals, crystals and gemstones, stowing them in a miner’s bucket.
Afterwards they can lay their treasure out on special mineral-identifying tables.
At Thunder Creek there’s an indoor stream where kids can pan for gold, while the Bone Zone recreates a fossil quarry in the south-western United States.
Dr. Bones here will help children identify their discoveries, and they’ll be given genuine souvenir fossils to take home.
Elsewhere, the Geode Center presents a brilliant collection from around the world, and lets you witness a geode millions of years old being opened for the first time.
7. The Past Antiques Marketplace
One of the spaces at Nature’s Art Village open seven days a week is this capacious antiques center with more than 90 dealers under one roof.
The Past Antiques Marketplace is somewhere you could easily get lost for a couple of hours, and is on two brightly lit floors made accessible by an elevator.
There’s a total of 1,300 square metres, all crammed with furniture, antique appliances, coins, figurines, art, ceramics, jewelry, vinyl, clothing, typewriters, vintage signs, historic farming tools, sports memorabilia and all manner of other collectibles.
8. Copper Creek Mini Golf
The most recent addition to Nature’s Art Village is this super-creative 18-hole adventure golf course, the first nine holes of which are wheelchair accessible.
Copper Creek is styled on an Old West mining town and has been smartly laid out to give you multiple ways to beat each hole.
Enclosed by woodland the course has wild desert landscaping, model snakes, horses and wolves, along with waterfalls, rocky outcrops, a water tower and a wooden mill with a turning wheel.
9. Tantaquidgeon Museum
There’s a opportunity to get better acquainted with Mohegan culture at what is thought to be the oldest operating Indian museum in the United States.
It was founded in 1931 by three members of the Tantaquidgeon family: Siblings Gladys and Harold and their father John.
The Tantaquidgeon Museum is loaded with Native American artifacts like pestles and mortars, arrowheads, baskets with woodland motifs, wampum items, textiles and carved bowls.
But what’s vital is that these pieces are presented with a Native American perspective.
Local objects are combined with artifacts from across the United States, and out in the grounds there’s a herb garden, a set of framed wigwams and a dugout canoe.
10. Fox Farm Brewery
Connecticut is flush with craft breweries but this one in Salem is a little different.
Instead of being set in an industrial warehouse, Fox Farm Brewery is on 30 acres of farmland, and housed in a quaint old dairy barn that went up in the 1960s.
In this endearing rural environment there are up to nine different brews on tap.
At the time of writing in September 2019 these included two IPAS, two American Pale Ales, a helles lager, an a American blonde, a porter, an oak-aged grisette and a farmhouse ale infused with grapes.
Come from Thursday to Sunday for poured pints, growler refills and to buy bottles and cans.
You can get food delivered, pets are welcome and there’s ample outdoor space.
11. Kids Quest and Cyber Quest
Children are well-catered for at Mohegan Sun, thanks to two entertainment-filled spaced.
Kids Quest is for children up to the age of 12, and is bursting with things to do.
It would be impossible to list everything on offer here, but there’s a karaoke stage, a simulated home environment at Apt.
Q, all kinds of non-violent video games at Techno Quest, a gigantic indoor play area, a Tiny Tot room, a gym with basketball court, a quiet play area for three-to-fives at Club 305, art tables at the Creation Station, and finally Quest Cafe, preparing healthy meals for little ones.
Cyber Quest meanwhile is Mohegan Sun’s free-to-enter video arcade, brimming with state-of-the-art video, ticket and crane games.
12. Fort Shantok Archaeological District
This property on the Mohegan reservation is run by the tribe as a local park, but one charged with real significance.
This was the site of the main Mohegan settlement between 1636 and 1682, and is considered sacred ground for its relation to the sachem Uncas, who helped the Mohegans achieve regional superiority among the Pequot people.
Some of the only preserved Native American ceramics in southern New England have been discovered in the soil at Fort Shantok.
A stone memorial in the shape of a wigwam marks the site of the settlement.
A plaque on the monument describes an event in 1645 when the English officer T.I. Leffingwell helped defend Uncas and the Mohegans from a siege by the rival Narragansett tribe.
13. Bridge No. 1860
Before Fort Shantok was purchased back by the Mohegan tribe in the 1990s it had spent most of the 20th century as a state park.
One of the construction projects carried out here in the 1930s was Bridge No. 1860, crossing the Shantok Brook, and also known as the Samson Occom Bridge.
What makes this small structure significant is that it was built by the Works Progress Administration (employing depression-era job-seekers), and exemplifies the rustic park architecture that cropped up in state parks in the first decades of the 20th century.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
This humungous building holds two twin-level electric karting tracks, adding up to more than half a mile long.
That is roughly four times more track than the average indoor karting facility.
With hairpins, bridges and high-speed straights, both courses are a thrill to drive, whether you’ve been racing for years or are just starting out.
You can fill out a waiver/registration online before you come, and can then simply “arrive & drive”, taking part in one or multiple heats for “Pro” or “Semi-Pro” (for u-15s) drivers.
Also at SuperCharged is a sprawling trampoline park with a multi-angled main space, along with fun activities like dodgeball, basketball and an immense airbag.
15. Waterford Speedbowl
The recent history behind this 3/8 oval racing motor racing track has been nothing less than chaotic.
In 2019 the current owner, who won the property via a foreclosure auction in 2014, was facing 60 years in prison on human trafficking charges.
In the meantime the 2019 racing season had suffered repeated delays into August, although the manager/promoter promised events would resume at the Speedbowl.
The track has been in action since 1951 and until 2017 operated under NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series.
During a typical season there are races for modified stock cars, late models, X-Cars, mini-stocks, bandoleros and more on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
If you really want to experience the sights, sounds and smells you can pay a little more to get into the pit paddock.