15 Best Things to Do in Southington (CT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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In the 19th and early 20th century Southington was a town of heavy industry edged by fruit farms.

During that time the town’s manufacturers were responsible for a few world-firsts. For instance, the first cement that could harden under water was developed here, along with the first carriage bolt cutting machine.

Nearly all of this manufacturing has since departed. Over the last few decades Southington has set about revitalizing itself, demolishing many factories and preserving some pieces of industrial architecture.

For me, Southington’s main draws are the venerable amusement park, Lake Compounce, the rugged landforms on the Metacomet Ridge, as well as the old orchards that have long earned the town the nickname “Apple Valley”.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Southington:

1. Lake Compounce

Lake CompounceSource: Ritu Manoj Jethani / shutterstock
Lake Compounce

The oldest continuously running amusement park in the United States is on Southington’s northwestern edge. Lake Compounce is still in great health and has lots of modern thrills to go with its stately vintage attractions.

Take the wooden coaster Wildcat, which dates to 1927 and is the 14th oldest roller coaster in the world.

Personally, I headed to Lake Compounce with one intention: To ride Boulder Dash, which was built in 2000, and is often ranked as the best wooden roller coaster in the world by the Golden Ticket Awards.

More genteel, the Lake Compounce Carousel is on the National Register of Historic Places and dates to 1890. 

Fast forward a century or so, and a recent arrival is the intimidating Phobia Phear Coaster, which has an inline twist and non-inverting loop.

There’s a host of quaint rides and amusements for younger children, as well as the water park, Crocodile Cove. This is included in the admission price and considered the best in Connecticut.

2. Barnes Museum

Barnes MuseumSource: The Barnes Museum / facebook
Barnes Museum

The wealthy Bradley/Barnes family lived at this Greek Revival homestead from its construction in 1836 until it was bequeathed to the Town of Southington by Bradley Barnes in 1973. 

What he left was an incredible historical document. The house retains its original furnishings, shining a light on changing lifestyles in New England over nearly 150 years.

Barnes Museum brims with fine furniture, early photographs, paintings, light fittings, ceramics and all sorts of vintage home appliances.

When I came there was a 45-minute guided tour. This goes into detail on the house’s wealth of furniture, decorative arts, costumes, and even documents like Civil War correspondence and land records going back to 1740.

3. Hubbard Park

Hubbard ParkSource: ARENA Creative / shutterstock
Hubbard Park

Over the Quinnipiac River valley, the Hanging Hills roll out across the southeast corner of Southington, as well as the neighboring towns of Meriden and Berlin.

This sub-range of the linear Metacomet Ridge is composed of the same basalt from the late Triassic Period.

At Hubbard Park a 1,800-acre tract of the Hanging Hills was turned into a park at the turn of the 20th century by Meriden industrialist Walter Hubbard.

He hired James Law Olmsted (of Central Park fame) to create a pond, Mirror Lake, and pumped many thousands of dollars into a free place for the people of Meriden to enjoy.

Contrasting with the park’s wilder terrain there’s a dainty flower garden and bandshell. The latter holds events in spring and summer like the Daffodil Festival at the end of April. This celebration brings food trucks, a craft fair, carnival rides and a fireworks show.

4. Castle Craig

Castle CraigSource: Leonardo Prado / shutterstock
Castle Craig

In 1900 this castle-like observation tower, another project funded by Walter Hubbard, opened atop the 974-foot East Peak on the very cusp of the ridge.

Walter was a widely traveled man, and the inspiration for Castle Craig has been the subject of debate. Suggested models range from Norman castles to Turkish watch-towers on the Danube.

The structure also bears a resemblance to a tower in the village of Craigellachie in Moray, Scotland.There’s a dedication plaque at the foot of the tower, informing you of what you can see in clear weather.

To the south is Long Island Sound, and turning north I could make out the outline of the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

5. Kinsmen Brewing

Kinsmen BrewingSource: Kingsmen Brewery Co. / facebook
Kinsmen Brewing

Wherever you go in Connecticut there’s always a craft brewery around the corner, but Kinsmen Brewing stands out in a crowded market.

For starters the location is great, in a 100-year-old brick-built factory by the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (more on that below). 

The taproom has a patio reachable from the trail and is open unusually long hours, seven days a week and as late as 12:00 AM on Fridays and Saturday nights.

There are beers for every palate on tap (ten when I went to press). If you’re into hoppy brews there’s always a handful of IPAs and Double IPAs.

These are complemented by lagers and witbiers, some inventive fruit-infused creations and a contingent of dark and malty porters and stouts.

There’s regular live music on weekends, and Kinsmen has an on-site kitchen, Sauced, for pizzas and Italian sandwiches.

6. Mount Southington

Mount SouthingtonSource: Morrowlong / Wikimedia
Mount Southington

Ideal for casual and novice skiers, the season at Mount Southington runs from December to around mid-March.

Mount Southington is small but well-maintained, with a total skiable area of just over 50 acres. There are 14 runs and a terrain park, all served by seven lifts with fast-moving lines.

Mount Southington offers night skiing on all runs, and has snowmaking facilities throughout, so there’s always solid coverage.

The rates are affordable too, especially if you come between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM on a weekday. When I wrote this article you could hit the slopes for as little as $40 at these times. Naturally the resort runs classes, individual lessons and packages for kids and grownups.

7. Rogers Orchards

Rogers OrchardsSource: JeepersMedia / Flickr
Rogers Orchards

The largest apple-grower in Connecticut is in Southington. Rogers Orchards is spread across 250 acres, cultivating 20 apple varieties, from Galas to Idareds.

Now in its 8th generation, the business was founded in 1807, and along with its many rows of apple trees produces lots of other fruit and vegetables. You’ve got summer fruits like apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines, as well as pumpkins in fall.

At the farm store you can shop for cut flowers, honeys, sauces, cheeses, firewood, Christmas decorations, delicious home-baked pies (15 kinds), and apple cider donuts.

Pick-your-own apple season, from the beginning of September to late-October, is my ideal time to come. There’s even a helpful calendar on the farm’s website telling you when your favorites will be ready.

8. Southington Linear Trail

Southington Linear TrailSource: Metrotrails / facebook
Southington Linear Trail

Between Lazy Lane in the north and the Southington/Cheshire Line there’s a 4.6-mile multi-use trail. This is on the right-of-way of the old New Haven and Northampton Company railroad.

That line was built in the mid-19th century on the route of the earlier Farmington Canal, linking New Haven and Northampton in the 1820s.

The Southington Linear Trail is on an easy grade, suitable for families with smaller kids. The path conveying you through a canyon of trees, and over old bridges. 

I was thrilled with the pieces of historic industrial architecture like the brick Clark Bros. Bolt Co. Factory No. 2 from the 1910s (now housing Kinsmen Brewing).

The trail is a section of the 81.2-mile Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. This will eventually run unbroken from the Yale campus in New Haven all the way to Northampton, MA.

9. Southington Town Green

Now, just as more than 200 years ago, the little strip of grass and foliage in front of the town plays a part in local life.

The green is the core of the Southington Center Historic District, with a lot of buildings dating back to Colonial times. Close by, Southington’s oldest-surviving residence is the Jonathan Root House (140-142 North Main St), built c. 1720. 

Mid-July through September this space is also home to the town’s farmers’ market, trading every Friday afternoon.

For 30+ summers, Southington has put on a “Music on the Green” program here from June to September. There’s a concert every Wednesday evening, suiting most tastes, whether you’re up for pop & rock, soul, country music, funk, jazz or polka.

10. Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve

Ragged Mountain Memorial PreserveSource: Ragged Mounain Foundation / facebook
Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve

Southington’s east side is crossed by a 200-million-year-old basalt ridge on its way from Long Island Sound up to the Massachusetts-Vermont border.

All along this fault, the Metacomet Ridge forms peaks and high bluffs and gives rise to unusual ecosystems for its alkaline soils.

One such peak is Ragged Mountain, 761 feet tall and poised over the Wassel Reservoir to the west. There are multiple trails in the Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve, though I found that these are not always well-marked. 

You’ll face some sharp ascents if you’re heading to the summit, but the far-off vistas merit the effort. I was astonished by the views over Southington, Berlin and portions of New Britain.

Additionally, Ragged Mountain is traversed by the 62-mile Metacomet Trail, a Blue-Blazed trail following the ridge to the Massachusetts border.

11. Sunset Rock State Park

Sunset Rock State ParkSource: www.alltrails.com
Sunset Rock State Park

Another scenic landscape along the Metacomet Ridge is just north of Ragged Mountain. Here, west-facing bluffs command romantic views over Crescent Lake.

You can hike to this lookout on the Blue-Orange trail. I found some sections to be testing, but it’s all worthwhile for the view and the foliage on the way.

There are mountain biking trails here too, with a high-speed trail further down, and a technical, rocky trail up the slope. For a more relaxing time you could bring a picnic to the lake shore or fish for largemouth bass.

12. Milldale Trail Depot

One compelling detail along the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is a preserved train depot, dating back to 1890. I was fascinated to learn that this humble building—along with the line—was closed to passengers as long ago as 1920.

The depot has been preserved as a museum, open on weekends when I was here. There are photographs, maps, preserved signs, and details about the role of the Station Agent who worked here. 

The depot’s big claim to fame is that it appeared in It Happened to Jane (1959), a romantic comedy starring Doris Day and Jack Lemmon.

There’s some memorabilia inside about the film, as well as hints of the railroad, including an old switch. The museum sits close to Mel’s Bike Rentals, offering sets of wheels in the spring and summer.

13. Hawk’s Landing Country Club

Hawk's Landing Country ClubSource: Hawk's Landing Country Club / facebook
Hawk’s Landing Country Club

Practically next door to Sunset Rock is a highly-regarded 18-hole par 71. This course has been designed for all ability levels and is deep in towering mixed woodlands.

The holes are on rambling terrain, occasionally granting exhilarating views east to the Metacomet Ridge.

The par 4s and 5s tend to be quite short at Hawk’s Landing, and require a little finesse off the tee.

For a fitting end to your round Bunkers Bar & Grill has a tempting, cosmopolitan menu with salads, wraps, burgers and sandwiches (the buffalo wrap is a winner). I really appreciated the outdoor bar here, with a perfect view of the course.

14. Karabin Farms

Karabin FarmsSource: Kenneth Gray / facebook
Karabin Farms

A great thing about towns like Southington is that rural businesses like Karabin Farms are a whisker away.

Things kick into gear in early summer when the farm stand is stocked with fruits, vegetables, flowers, maple syrup, and arm-raised meats. Then there’s a lively pick-your-own apple season in autumn.

This is the high point on the calendar for me. Over the next two and a half months, varieties like HoneyCrisp, Yellow Delicious, Macoun, Mac and Fuji will ripen, closing with Red Delicious and Cameo in late-October.

Apple picking is always a thrill for smaller family members, as you’ll ride a tractor-pulled wagon to get to the orchards. The end of the U-Pick apple season also coincides with the farm’s pumpkin patch. 

Then just a few weeks later it’s time for turkeys and Christmas trees. Finally, kids will love seeing the barnyard animals, including cattle, ponies, and chickens.

15. Southington Memorial Park

The sort of park no town can do without, the 20-acre Memorial Park boasts sports amenities, a duck pond and a playscape for kids.

There’s a seasonal pool and splash pad, which were open only to residents when I came through. Still, the remainder is open to all, and includes three tennis courts, a floodlit football field, baseball diamonds, a basketball court and an appealing picnic grove.

When the pond freezes over in winter there’s also ice skating. Then in summer the many tall trees create ample shade for picnics.

15 Best Things to Do in Southington (CT):

  • Lake Compounce
  • Barnes Museum
  • Hubbard Park
  • Castle Craig
  • Kinsmen Brewing
  • Mount Southington
  • Rogers Orchards
  • Southington Linear Trail
  • Southington Town Green
  • Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve
  • Sunset Rock State Park
  • Milldale Trail Depot
  • Hawk's Landing Country Club
  • Karabin Farms
  • Southington Memorial Park