This little town on the eastern ridge of the Connecticut Valley has a long farming heritage.
At the Somers Historic District on main street are gorgeous 19th-century houses built by fruit and tobacco farmers.
Even now there are lots of farms in the area growing pick-your-own apples and berries.
The well-rated schools, safe streets and grand old properties qualify Somers as one of Connecticut’s most desirable places to live.
And to visit, you can make the most of marvellous swathes of nature, homespun rural businesses and long-running traditions like the annual Four Town Fair.
Let’s explore the best things to do in and around Somers, Connecticut:
1. Sonny’s Place
This family attraction has a real diversity of activities, so no child or teenager will ever feel left out.
For the briefest intro, you’ve got a video arcade, batting cages, climbing walls, go karts, a gyroscope, a brand new virtual reality game, laser tag, miniature bowling, miniature golf, a zip-line and an immense multilevel outdoor play area.
Deserving special mention is the newly acquired carousel, dating back to 1925 and built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
The ride opened in 2019 after two years of delicate restoration at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, CT.
And finally, for food, the snack bar at Sonny’s Place serves local, farm-raised Aberdeen Angus burgers, but also has plenty of vegetarian options.
2. Somers Historic District
The point where Main Street connects with Springfield and South Road in Somers has been the heart of the town for nigh on 300 years.
This district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982 and is valued for its many houses from the 19th century, mostly in the vernacular Federal and Greek Revival styles.
The majority of these are on Main Street, but you’ll find interesting clusters on Springfield Road and Battle Street.
There are three main pockets in all, with 55 contributing buildings, seven of which have been standing since the 18th century.
Seen from all corners of the district is the solemn Greek Revival Congregational Church, dating to 1842 and remarkable for its scale, large portico and two-stage tower.
The Somers Historical Society is based in the ornate former public library building, once standing next to the Town Hall, but now on Battle Street.
3. Irish Bend Orchard
For a classic New England activity, this small, friendly farm opens up to the public for a pick-your-own season in summer and fall, complete with free hayrides.
Fruit-picking can be a family venture at Irish Bend Orchard, as the low dwarf trees allow younger children to get in on the fun.
The land is also level, and accessible to people with wheelchairs.
The season starts with peaches and nectarines in August, moving onto Asian pears and then all sorts of apple varieties in September and October, while pumpkins are ready from the middle of October.
You’ll be provided with picking containers, and the fruit is sold by the pound at the orchard stand, which stocks a wealth of other produce.
Visit the farm’s website before you leave to see what’s ready.
4. Somers Public Library
For residents, especially those with children, the Somers Public Library is a first-class amenity.
A large, modern building on Vision Boulevard, the library is of course a place to borrow books and other media, but also has movie screenings, book clubs, storytimes, craft sessions, a playgroup, an adult coloring club and a night when teens and parents can paint still lifes together and eat pizza! For people traveling through, the library can be an excellent place to get your bearings.
You don’t need to be a resident to make the most of free Wi-Fi and computers, magazines and newspapers (a pass is provided), and the staff will happily furnish you with maps and information about the area.
5. Shenipsit State Forest
Totalling almost 7,000 acres, the Shenipsit State Forest is dispersed across 11 different tracts, around Somers but also neighboring Ellington and Stafford.
It all began right here in Somers in 1927, with the construction of a watchtower atop the 328-meter Soapstone Mountain to keep an eye on the surrounding wooded landscape in case of fire.
Although it’s not strictly part of the forest, the town of Somers maintains public land that encompasses another peak, Bald Mountain.
Both peaks are on the course of the epic Shenipsit Trail, which we’ll talk about below.
After many decades of clear-cutting and occasional fires, the forest is mostly oak, which of course produces valuable timber, while its acorns are a vital food source for deer, squirrels and turkeys.
6. Shenipsit Trail
One of the main reasons people find themselves in the Shenipsit State Forest is because they’re on the Blue-Blazed trail of the same name.
Somers is the northern trailhead for this route, which tracks the eastern ridge of the Connecticut River Valley for 50 miles, north to south.
Some of the best hiking on the entire trail can be done in Somers, especially since the trail was extended 2.5 miles to encompass Bald Mountain (342 meters) over the last few years.
This is the highest point on the eastern edge of the Connecticut River Valley between the border of Vermont and Long Island Sound.
In the northern section you can hike, ski and cycle through oak woodland bedded with spectacular boulders left behind at the end of the last Ice Age.
7. Soapstone Mountain
A little more about the peak that gave birth to Shenipsit State Forest: Soapstone Mountain is the most memorable part of a hike on the northern leg of the Shenipsit Trail.
The original fire tower from the 1920s has long since disappeared, but has been replaced by a modern observation tower that climbs just above the treeline for views that stretch for miles across the Connecticut Valley.
In good weather you can see landmarks on the Springfield skyline, across the border in Massachusetts.
Soapstone Mountain got its name from its geology, and in colonial times was the site of a quarry for soaptone, a metamorphic rock.
8. Civilian Conservation Corps Museum
At the headquarters of the Shenipsit State Forest, a couple of minutes east on Main Street, you’ll discover the last remaining Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks in Connecticut.
The barracks here was one of 21 around the state, set up following FRD’s New Deal in 1931. it houses a museum about the CCC, which provided work relief for young men during the Great Depression.
With an enthralling display of artifacts, photos, personal accounts and documents from across the Northeast you can gain a unique insight into life in CCC camps and what it was like to work on their infrastructure projects.
When we wrote this article in 2019 the museum was open from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.
9. Pell Family Farm
Another local business that merits support, Pell Family Farm grows fruit, ornamental shrubs, nursery trees and Christmas trees, and has been in the same family since the 1930s.
You can call in Monday to Saturday in June, July and August for strawberries and raspberries, while the Christmas tree season is from the end of November to around 22 December.
These trees are grown from seedlings and range in price from $45 to $100. In previous years Pell Family Farm had a pumpkin patch with a corn maze, hayrides and a petting zoo.
This was cancelled in 2019 following an E.coli outbreak at another farm in Connecticut in 2018, but may return in the future.
10. Field Road Park
The main spot for outdoor recreation in Somers is a large open space with tennis courts, a volleyball court, three softball fields, five mixed-use fields, a pavilion and a gazebo.
For littler visitors there’s a playground under a big old tree, including playscapes for different age groups and even a small climbing wall.
Field Road Park is part of a campus that includes two schools and the town’s public library.
11. Cedar Knob Golf Course
This private course founded in 1963 welcomes non-members and is noted for its well-groomed greens and fairways in inspiring landscapes.
Most of the fairways are fringed by towering cedars, creating a real sense of drama as you play.
The signature holes at Cedar Knob are the 10th and 18th, both veering left-to-right through a corridor of tall evergreens and both requiring a well-pitched shot over water, either off the tee or in the approach.
In 2019 rates varied from $23 (9 holes, walking, Mon-Fri) to $59 (18 holes, riding, Sat-Sun).
12. Scantic River State Park
A tributary of the Connecticut River, the Scantic River is fed by tributaries in Massachusetts and flows through Somers, Enfield and East Windsor.
The linear state park in three separate parcels along its banks was first mooted more than 50 years ago and has grown steadily over the last 20 years.
In 2019 the park was a little under 800 acres but is expected to more than double in size.
There’s a convenient access point and small parking lot on Hazard Avenue, a short way west of Somers proper.
Being close to the river banks the trails are light, but also well-worn, through a remote piece of wooded riverside.
13. Four Town Fair
Over four days on the second weekend of September, the Fair Grounds in Somers host an agricultural extravaganza with roots that go back to a cattle show in the 1830s.
This would make it the oldest country fair, not just in New England but maybe the whole country.
The four towns in the title are East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield and Somers, and the event would rotate between these locations before a permanent site was bought in Somers in 1960. Livestock shows and competitions are still integral to the Four Town Fair, but there are also contests of all descriptions, from oxen, horse and pony-drawing to women’s skillet throwing and pie eating.
On the Saturday the main event is a parade from Main Street to the fair grounds, and each evening is rounded off with live music.
And since this is a country fair there’s lots of indulgent food and drink options like fried dough and freshly squeezed lemonade.
14. Somersville Historic District
In the west of Somers is a community that grew up around a mill by the Scantic River.
That mill, producing textiles starting in the 1830s, has long since been destroyed by fire, but its memory survives in the buildings constructed on Maple Street and Main Street to the north.
One fascinating early holdover is Ye Olde Blacksmith (75 Maple Street), a former blacksmith’s forge from the start of the 19th century, thought to have survived because it was built from local brownstone instead of wood.
After the mill was bought by the Somersville Manufacturing Company in 1879 lots of multi-unit and tenement houses were constructed for workers, almost 30 of which remain on Main Street and Quality Avenue.
The duplexes along Quality Avenue still have their original clapboarding and dainty late-Victorian flourishes.
15. Shallowbrook Equestrian Center
In a town with a real country flavor like Somers, horseback riding is an essential pastime.
This is reflected by companies like Shallowbrook, which was founded in 1962 and has two indoor arenas for horse shows, one of which is four stories high.
Although this all sounds very advanced, Shallowbrook offers lessons for all levels, whether you’re an absolute beginner or know how to ride but haven’t been in the saddle for years.
The center has lots of well-trained and groomed ponies and horses, but also serves as a first-rate boarding facility.