The name of this town between Hartford and Springfield on the west bank of the Connecticut River comes from a canal that was constructed in the 1820s.
The Enfield Falls Canal is mostly intact despite being obsolete for more than 150 years, and its towpath can be walked via the Windsor Locks Canal State Park.
On the subject of transport the town is home to Bradley International Airport, the second largest airport in New England and the busiest in Connecticut.
In a series of hangars here you can explore the New England Air Museum, endowed with some awesome pieces of aviation heritage specific to Connecticut and the wider region.
Let’s explore the best things to do in and around Windsor Locks, Connecticut:
1. New England Air Museum
New England, and Connecticut in particular, has a great deal of aviation heritage as you’ll discover at this first-rate museum at Bradley International Airport.
You can do a deep dive here on the history of Sikorsky Aircraft and inspect nine models by this Stratford-based manufacturer, including the oldest surviving Sikorsky aircraft and the last remaining Sikorsky VS-44 flying boat.
On show in three enormous display hangars are dozens of airplanes and helicopters, combined with hardware like ejection seats and missiles.
One remarkable machine to size up is a WWII-era B-29 Superfortress.
Smaller museum exhibits shed light on lots of interesting topics like the airship era, the Wright Brothers and the story of New England women in aviation.
2. Windsor Locks Canal State Park Trail
In Windsor Locks and Suffield you can walk the 4.5-mile towpath of the Enfield Falls Canal, completed in 1829. This waterway was built to help river-going traffic avoid a section of rapids that could only be navigated with the help of a “fallsman”, who would be equipped with a long stick.
The canal is in a good state of preservation, retaining its locks, which have been out of action since the 1970s.
On this light walk you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Connecticut River and some fine examples of 19th-century engineering and stonework in the bridges and aqueducts on the canal.
3. Noden-Reed Museum
This historic house, along with its rare brick barn, is cared for by the Windsor Historical Society, and open for guided tours in the afternoon on the last Sunday of the month.
The older of the two structures is actually the barn, dated to 1826, and housing a beautiful of array of old carriages, as well as farming implements from the Connecticut Valley’s tobacco farming trade.
The farmhouse next door, with Greek Revival flourishes, is from 1840 and presents historic military uniforms, costume and curiosities of all kinds, including hand-stitched blankets and quilts on its antique beds.
The property is much older, harking back to the 18th century, and was the site of a cabin for the Hessian soldier Hendrick Roddemore and, by tradition, New England’s first decorated Christmas tree in 1777.
4. Northwest Park
If your interest is piqued by this area’s tobacco-growing heritage then Windsor’s Northwest Park is an obligatory visit, just over the Farmington River.
The park encompasses 473 acres of sports facilities and forest, meadows and wetlands, on a landscape once dominated by tobacco farms.
You can delve into this history at the CT Valley Tobacco Museum, traveling back to the native origins of the tobacco plant in New England and following a new timeline exhibit that culminates with the early-20th-century boom in the Connecticut Valley.
Elsewhere you can learn about the area’s geology and natural history at the Northwest Park Nature Center, which keeps farmyard animals in a barn next door.
There’s live music every year during the park’s Coffeehouse Concert Series, and in fall the Northwest Park Country Fair is a tradition now in its fourth decade.
5. Farmington Canal Heritage Trail
You can trace the route of a longer former canal on this trail that passes through East Granby and Suffield, just to the west of Windsor Locks.
The Farmington Canal was completed in 1835 to provide a quick waterborne trade link between New Haven and Northampton.
But little more than a decade later, railroads were already cheaper and more efficient, and the exact route became the trackbed of what would later become the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
The line was abandoned in stages towards the end of the 20th century, and as of 2019 around 85% of the route between New Haven and Northampton is a trail.
In the north of Connecticut you’ll be able to access the longest uninterrupted section, at 24.6 miles from the border with Massachusetts down to northern Plainville.
6. Connecticut Trolley Museum
The oldest museum in the United States devoted to electric railroading is on the opposite bank of the Connecticut River in East Windsor.
The Connecticut Trolley Museum was founded in 1940 on the right of way of the Hartford and Springfield Street Railway Company’s Rockville Branch.
The museum has preserved a whole catalogue of old trolleys and streetcars from across the country.
Some are in working order and can be ridden all day on the museum’s 1.5-mile stretch of heritage railroad.
Others are presented as fine static displays at the Visitor Center’s main hall, tracking the history of this form of transport, or in various stages of refurbishment at the restoration shop.
7. Vintage Radio & Communications Museum of CT
You can take a trip through the history of modern communication technology at this lovable museum in Windsor.
In a deceptively large building crammed with artifacts, the timeline begins in the 19th century with phonographs and leads you through the development of radios (including one in a refrigerator!), TV and movie-making equipment and computers.
A memorable exhibit is a hulking television camera from the 1970s, while the museum has its own amateur radio station, which you can operate if you bring a valid license.
Among the other great pieces are a working 1940s Wurlitzer jukebox and a Kodak VP-1 Videoplayer, one of just five prototypes from the early 1970s.
8. Phelps-Hatheway House
On the weekend you could make the ten-minute trip to Suffield to enjoy another piece of Connecticut heritage.
The oldest parts of the Phelps-Hatheway House, on the southern ell, are from the 1730s, but the house was extended throughout the 18th century, with what is now a central block in the 1760s and a northern ell in 1795. This gives the property a sprawling aspect, with each section capped with a genteel gambrel roof.
Those final changes were designed by architect Asher Benjamin early in his career, and ordered by the wealthy land speculator Oliver Phelps.
The interior is enriched with a superb collection of 18th-century antiques, and outside is a formal parterre and a generous herb garden, all sprinkled with flowering shrubs and tended by the Suffield Garden Club.
9. Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine
A little grim but highly absorbing, this National Historic Site in East Granby started out in the early-18th century as a copper mine, in operation until the 1740s.
After that the tunnel network was converted into Connecticut’s first official prison, also used for British prisoners of war and Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.
You can access around half of the extant tunnels on a tour, exploring a place that was referred to as “Hell” by its inmates.
On the surface are the ruins of structures from the turn of the 19th century, including five brick and masonry buildings and the prison wall.
The Old New-Gate Prison & Copper Mine reopened after almost a decade of renovations in 2018, and you can come to look around from Wednesday to Sunday.
10. Southwest Family Park/Veterans Memorial Park
Adding up to more than 40 acres, these two parks, literally in the southwest of Windsor Locks, boast a wide array of recreation facilities.
Here you’ll find baseball and softball fields, football fields, soccer fields, basketball courts and volleyball courts, many of which are lighted.
The larger Veterans Memorial Park has the added benefit of a children’s playground and a pavilion, as well as an outdoor skating rink in winter.
In early July this park is the location for the popular annual Windsor Locks Fire Department Carnival, which has been going since the 1940s and is accompanied by a fireworks display.
11. Brignole Vineyards
In East Granby, Brignole Vineyards has a stunning Greek Revival winery, purpose-built and surrounded by rows of vines.
The wine selection is hand-crafted from estate-grown grapes that flourish in the Connecticut climate, as well as California varieties to bring a slice of the Napa Valley to New England.
These bottles range from sweet white dessert wines to robust reds, and you can come to find your favorite while you bask in the sunshine from the twin-level deck and pergola.
12. Spare Time Windsor Locks
Previously known as Bradley Bowl, this old-school bowling alley has been around as long as most people from the area can remember.
When we wrote this list in 2019 the spot had just reopened as Spare Time after a complete overhaul, turning it into an amusement destination for all the family.
The lanes are still here of course, but are equipped with sleek banquettes and lots of LCD screens.
And along with the alley you’ve now got escape rooms, laser tag and an expanded state-of-the-art arcade with VR games.
13. Connecticut Fallen Firefighters Memorial
At Bradley International Airport, within seconds of the New England Air Museum there’s a poignant monument to the state’s firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
The memorial was dedicated in 2002 after first being envisioned ten years before.
At its center is a large slab of polished impala black granite, measuring 3.7 by 1.8 meters and with a carving depicting four firefighters tackling a blaze.
Around the base on granite tablets engraved with more than 300 names, and set a little way back are eight granite benches, one for each of the counties of Connecticut.
14. Broad Brook Brewing
At the time of writing in September 2019 this treasured craft brewery was expanding, making the move from East Windsor across the river to nearby Suffield.
Broad Brook Brewing was founded in 2010 and produces year-round, seasonal and one-off brews, from IPAS to porters, stouts, red ales and Oktoberfest beer.
At the old location, which had been restricted to narrow opening times, there was lots of live music, tours on Saturdays and you were allowed to bring your own food to go with your pints or sampler flights.
At the last update, the shiny new brewery was taking shape, and an announcement for the grand opening was due any day.