15 Best Things to Do in South Windsor (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Inhabited by Europeans from the end of the 17th century, the small town of South Windsor is on the east bank of the Connecticut River, close to Hartford.

Tobacco was once a lifeblood for the town, and was grown in the Connecticut River Valley since colonization. The industry reached its zenith here in the first half of the 20th century before falling back in the 70s.

South Windsor may not be on the usual tourist radar, but I found three centuries worth of architecture to appreciate on Old Main Street. Meanwhile within the town limits are a craft brewery, an enlightening local museum, Connecticut’s largest indoor entertainment center, and highly-rated escape rooms.

You won’t need to travel far for the big city culture and sights of Hartford, or shopping galore next door in Manchester.

1. Connecticut Valley Brewing Company

Connecticut Valley Brewing CompanySource: Connecticut Valley Brewing Company / facebook
Connecticut Valley Brewing Company

This craft brewery opened in South Windsor in 2018 and has since become a part of the community. You can call in at the stylish but unpretentious taproom from Wednesday to Sunday.

There’s a surprising amount going on, from live music to craft workshops, guided hikes, a book club, and even a fitness club.

A new food truck pulls up each day, serving anything from baba ganoush, to wings, burgers, lobster rolls, pizza, or gourmet grilled cheese.

I’ve come this far without mentioning the beers, and at any one time there will be up to 17 on tap.

In summer 2019 these included a whole selection of citrusy IPAs, a Vienna Lager (Old Main Street), a German Pilsner (The Home Front), several Fruit Beers, and the delicious Black Sheep Irish Stout.

2. Foster Family Farm

Foster Family FarmSource: Foster Family Farm Corn Maze
Foster Family Farm

In fall this farm in rural South Windsor becomes a kind of amusement park loaded with fun for younger members of the family.

In store at Foster Family Farm are corn mazes, hayrides, a farm-themed play yard, pedal carts and lots of farm animals to check out.

The two corn mazes are a real feat, covering a total of eight acres and with four miles of trails to get lost in. Each year the showpiece maze is designed with a new theme

The Foster Family has been working this land since as long ago as 1790. The farm also opens earlier in the season to sell flowers for Mother’s Day.

3. Nevers Park

Nevers ParkSource: photo by Karyn Kruzick in Nevers Park / facebook
Nevers Park

Opening its gates in 2007, Nevers Park is a prized local amenity spread out over almost 140 acres and with more than two miles of trails for walking and biking.

One of the best things about the park is its massive “Boundless Playground” which has lots of equipment suitable for toddlers and bigger kids.

For grownups, Nevers Park is somewhere to wander. I’d pack a picnic and amble up to Jacob’s View, a lovely spot to while away an hour.

Dog owners will appreciate the attention to detail at the Bark Park. This has designated areas for smaller and larger dogs, water and clean-up stations and agility equipment.

Try to come on a Saturday morning, June through September, for the super little farmers’ market here.

4. Windsor Farms Historic District

Windsor Farms Historic DistrictSource: Jerry Dougherty / Wikimedia
Windsor Farms Historic District

On Main Street, between I-291 in the south and Strong Road in the north you’ll be met by a host of beautiful buildings raised across three centuries.

The Windsor Farms Historic District comprises South Windsor’s gorgeous old town center. These are interspersed by tracts of agriculture that up to the 1970s were dominated by shade tobacco farms.

The oldest house in the district went up as long ago as 1695, while among the more remarkable structures are the First Congregational Church (1845) in the Greek Revival style, and a schoolhouse from the same year. 

Look out for the Wood Memorial Library and Museum from 1926 at No. 783. I’ll talk about this spot a little later in my list.

5. The Wood Memorial Library & Museum

The regal Classical Revival building at 783 Main St dates to 1926 and was raised as the town’s public library. It served that role until 1971, and has since become a kind of cultural center.

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a lot happening at the Wood Memorial Library & Museum, all year. Think author events, concerts, talks, panel discussions, and a slew of workshops. There’s also a children’s public lending library and regular art and history exhibitions.

When I popped in, the temporary exhibit was South Windsor Unearthed. This was a riveting insight into the area’s Native American past, displaying a number of finds made by the Connecticut River.

6. Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve

Major Michael Donnelly Land PreserveSource: South Windsor, CT - Government Page / facebook
Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve

Like all of the public natural spaces in South Windsor, this preserve is impeccably maintained. It’s made up of fern rich hardwood forest, pine forest, meadow and wetland beside the Podunk River.

Crossing the wetland and leading into the forest is an extensive boardwalk system. Meanwhile in spring and summer there are freshly mowed lawns in the preserve’s more developed areas.

You’ll come across a gazebo for a break from the sun in summer. Out on the trails are carefully positioned wildlife viewing areas, and I got to see deer and plenty of water birds.

The preserve is named for a Gulf War veteran, Major Michael Donnelly. He passed away in 2005 due to complications from ALS, believed to be related to the conflict.

7. Topstone Golf Course

Topstone Golf CourseSource: Topstone Golf Course / facebook
Topstone Golf Course

South Windsor is home to a well-regarded 18-hole public golf course. Topstone is found on rolling, densely wooded terrain and has fairways as lush as you would hope to find at any country club.

It’s a course for players with a deft touch, as the greens are lightning quick. Almost all are encircled by bunkers, with tees positioned very awkwardly to keep you on your toes.

A couple of memorable holes for me were the  extremely narrow fairway on the par 5 16th, and the dogleg on the 18th, an unforgiving par 4. 

Green Fees were $49 on weekdays and $52 on weekends for 18 holes (walking). You can also follow up a round with a bite at the Three Seasons View Cafe.

8. Nomads Adventure Quest

Nomads Adventure QuestSource: nomadsadventurequest.com
Nomads Adventure Quest

A godsend for families, Nomads Adventure Quest is the largest indoor entertainment center in the state.

The choice of activities includes black light mini-golf, indoor climbing, bowling, laser tag, VR games, carnival rides, and bumper cars. It’s all in an environment themed on lost Mayan ruins.

There’s a video arcade with 80 machines, a billiard room, two full-size basketball courts and a gigantic bounce house zone. Here kids can tire themselves out in a soft play environment filled with ten bounce houses and lots of other equipment.

All this is complemented by a cafe and full bar for grownups. I love how there’s even live music at the tavern on Saturday evenings. 

Nomads Adventure Quest doesn’t charge admission, and instead you pay for what you play.

9. Puzzle Theory

Puzzle TheorySource: Puzzle Theory - escape room / facebook
Puzzle Theory

A fresh, fun take on escape rooms, Puzzle Theory has four imaginatively realized rooms, varying in difficulty and group size.

As always, all have to be solved within an hour, and require tight teamwork along with keen problem solving skills.

In the few years it’s been open Puzzle Theory has added new rooms and retired old ones to keep things fresh. When I came through last there had been a big turnover from the previous time. 

Warehouse 13 was a horror-infused mystery, while the Wizard Realm had more of a whimsical fantasy flavor. A good starting point is the Jungle 2: The Next Dimension, a reality-bending journey through a labyrinth for 4 to 8 players.

10. The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk

The Promenade Shops At Evergreen WalkSource: The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk / facebook
The Promenade Shops At Evergreen Walk

In the very south of the town, where South Windsor meets East Hartford and Manchester on I-84 is a huge hilltop retail zone. Buckland Hills comprises malls, power centers, lifestyle centers, and plentiful eateries.

To my mind, the most sophisticated of these is the outdoor mall, The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk. This concentrates on specialty shops, upscale brands and restaurants.

Here you’ll find an Apple store, Anthropologie, Williams Sonoma, Sephora, New Balance, LOFT, Old Navy, L.L. Bean, and Lovesac, to name a small few.

Food-wise you’ve got American cuisine (Burtons Grill, Ted’s Montana Grill), Flatbread Co. earth oven pizza, Sakura Garden Japanese steakhouse and a Shake Shack.

11. The Shoppes at Buckland Hills

The Shoppes At Buckland HillsSource: The Shoppes At Buckland Hills / facebook
The Shoppes At Buckland Hills

Part of the same enormous retail enclave, The Shoppes at Buckland Hills is a sizable mall with almost 150 tenants.

Among these are stalwarts like Foot Locker, JCPenney, Barnes & Noble, Forever 21, Gamestop, H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

For food, there are dozens of chains, both in the mall and on the lots around. I counted Red Robin to Taco Bell, Five Guys, Olive Garden, Chili’s and Friendly’s.

Right across I-84 is Cinemark’s Buckland Hills 18 XD and IMAX. Meanwhile if you’re up for some live comedy, Hartford Funny Bone has a street-level entrance at the mall.

12. South Windsor Arena

South Windsor ArenaSource: South Windsor Arena - Hockey1 / facebook
South Windsor Arena

The town’s hockey arena has been around since the early 70s. Even though it’s starting to show its age it is still a serviceable place to hit the ice.

Check the South Windsor Arena website for details of public skate sessions, as I’ve found that the times can be irregular. There’s also stick time, hockey schools & camps, and special tuition for freestyle skating and learning the basics.

One of the arena’s best features is its pro shop, Hockey 1. This has been in business as long as the rink and is simply one of the best places in the state to buy your hockey gear.

The snack bar also comes highly recommended, especially for its donuts.

13. Rye Street Park

This local park on Rye Street covers 160+ acres and has all you could want for active recreation.

Just to summarize, there are four tennis courts, two softball fields (one with lights), one full-size soccer field, three intermediate soccer fields, a basketball court and two combo fields for football or lacrosse.

Added to that is a tangle of highly-rated mountain biking trails. These have tight turns and sharp climbs, and caught me by surprise with their quality.

On the quieter side of things, you’ve got a pond, picnic areas, and a playground if you have littler children who need to burn off some energy.

14. Wickham Park

Wickham ParkSource: Wickham Park / facebook
Wickham Park

This sumptuous, 280-acre park is just a little way south of Buckland Hills and presents a patchwork of little gardens alongside family facilities.

In spring and summer give yourself as long as possible to stroll and discover the various spaces. There’s an Arboretum, Lotus Garden, Oriental Garden, English Garden, Italian Garden and the Wetlands Garden, to name a few.

The Cabin Garden is at Wickham Park’s highest point and has a satisfying view west over the Hartford skyline. Personally, I’ll never tire of the aviary, with its peafowl, pheasants, turkeys, turkey vultures and waterfowl.

There are three playgrounds in all, one next to the aviary, a nature center, as well as amenities for tennis, volleyball, horseshoes and disc golf.

Open April through October, Wickham Park is privately run and charges a small entrance fee for cars.

15. Hartford

HartfordSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock

The state capital is a matter of minutes away on I-84 and warrants the trip for its culture and history.

In the decades after the Civil War this was the richest city in the nation, a place of booming industry led by brands like Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company.

At that time one of the city’s many esteemed residents was Mark Twain. He wrote his most famous works at a splendid neo-Gothic house, now an excellent writer’s museum.

I’d make time for the Wadsworth Atheneum, America’s first public museum, which has fabulous collections. These cover American art, decorative arts and European art from Caravaggio to Dalí, via Joseph Wright of Derby, Renoir, Monet, Max Ernst and Joan Miró.

For families, the Connecticut Science Center is up there with the best high-tech hands-on museums. Elsewhere, historic Bushnell Park boasts a carousel that has been turning since 1914.

15 Best Things to Do in South Windsor (CT):

  • Connecticut Valley Brewing Company
  • Foster Family Farm
  • Nevers Park
  • Windsor Farms Historic District
  • The Wood Memorial Library & Museum
  • Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve
  • Topstone Golf Course
  • Nomads Adventure Quest
  • Puzzle Theory
  • The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk
  • The Shoppes at Buckland Hills
  • South Windsor Arena
  • Rye Street Park
  • Wickham Park
  • Hartford