Oct 20, 2011
10:26 AM
Discover Connecticut

Best of Connecticut Road Trip: Kent, New Milford, Washington Depot


October is one of the best months to live in Connecticut, and although autumn is passing its zenith, there is still time to take advantage of the fall foliage before its last colors are blown away. This little trip featuring Best of Connecticut winners loops around the base of the Litchfield Hills, and offers some of the finer things to enjoy there.

As with most of these drives, there's no right or wrong way to go. Here's how I might go about it ...

Let's start with getting a room at The Inn at Kent Falls, a 260-year-old bed and breakfast on 2.5 scenic acres that offers six well appointed guest rooms as well as a gourmet breakfast each morning. The inn is located a stone's throw from Kent Falls State Park, where you can hike up the .25-mile trail to the top of the 250-foot falls—actually a series of small falls—to enjoy one of the most picturesque natural spots the state has to offer.

Heading south back down Route 7 past the Inn takes you to charming downtown Kent, where you will find a number of historical homes, fine shops and eateries. Doc's Trattoria is known for its brick-oven pizza, but Connecticut Magazine has recognized it for its top-notch Manhattan—now, we would never encourage anyone to drink and drive, but it doesn't mean that you can't munch a few slices while your passengers enjoy a few adult beverages.

Following Route 7 south again takes you along the western edge of the state before turning back inward to New Milford. A short distance after Route 202 joins up with Route 7, you'll find The Cookhouse, the 13-time winner of "Best Barbecue" in our survey. When faced with so many delectable choices, I usually opt for some sort of combo platter so I can sample a little bit of everything; if you have three friends with you, consider the Family Feast, which lets you try three of the following: brisket, ribs, chicken, pulled pork, andouille sausage or burnt ends. How can you go wrong?

Speaking of going, it's on to the next stop. Head back up north on 7/202, but this time follow Route 202 until you can split off on Route 109, which takes you to Washington. At the junction of routes 109 and 47, you'll find the venerable Hickory Stick Bookshop, one of the finest independent bookstores anywhere. Browsing is always an option, obviously, but there are tons of book signings, readings and special events. A great place to while away an afternoon.

Another spot that's also a good location at which to relax and indulge yourself is the Mayflower Inn & Spa. Of course, as this is one of our "Best of" splurges, it's not just some place that you're just going to drop in for a mani/pedi (not for those prices!). It's a true "destination spa" with all the luxe accommodations and treatments that go with the designation, so call ahead and make reservations. Hey, it never hurts to treat yourself on occasion, right? A luxurious way to end the season.

Here is each winner's full Best of Connecticut write up.

Bed and Breakfast
The Inn at Kent Falls
Kent, (860) 927-3197

Attention to detail is the key at this perennial favorite. The revamped 1700s B&B maintains a balance between old and new, mixing in sophisticated touches of French antiques and modern amenities. A Colonial fireplace is the centerpiece of the living room. Original wood floors anchor the inn’s six unique guest rooms—three of which are suites—all outfitted with spalike baths, clawfoot tubs and Frette linens. Guests gather for a hearty gourmet breakfast every morning; a spa and pool are also on site.

Cocktail: Manhattan
Doc’s Trattoria, Kent, (860) 927-3810 (docstrattoria.com)
St-Germain elderflower liqueur is one trendy cocktail mix-in, and Doc’s elderflower Manhattan makes magical use of it. Traditional bourbon Manhattans can be smoky and heavy—definitely an acquired taste—but Doc’s variation lightens and sweetens the blend in a way that wins over connoisseurs and nonfans alike: We have yet to see anyone try it who didn’t order one for themselves.

The Cookhouse
New Milford, 
(860) 355-4111 

The Cookhouse’s iconic “spiritual leader” Fat Tommy may not have ever said, “If you ‘slo-smoke’ it, they will come,” but judging by the line out the door on any given Saturday night, maybe he should have! For 13 straight years, The Cookhouse has been voted the best barbecue in the state, and after a recent visit where we sampled everything from the baby back ribs to the pulled pork to the beef brisket, it well earns a 14th nod. Try the Tombo-Combo, which features ribs, chicken, pulled pork and sausage—enough to satisfy any lover of real barbecue.

Bookstore: New Books
Hickory Stick Bookshop,
Washington Depot, (860) 868-0525 

For more than a half-century, the Hickory Stick Bookshop has been the beating cultural heart of Washington Depot and an increasingly welcome shelter against big-box consumerism. The shop these days is also the very special province of Fran Keilty, the owner, who has long been a good and helpful friend to readers, writers and the world of books in general, and who, along with her knowledgable staff, can make the mere acts of browsing and asking questions a pleasure. The many readings, book signings and other book-related events are just the icing on the cake.

Splurge: Spa
Mayflower Inn & Spa
Washington, (860) 868-9466 (mayflowerinn.com)

“A destination within a destination, offering nourishing, energizing, purifying and restorative treatments, as well as the finest in soul-restoring rituals,” this 20,000-square-foot spa is the place for self-renewal to the nth power—if you can afford the tab. The “Above and Beyond Package” willl set you back $4,800 for three nights, including plush accommodations, all meals and unlimited treatments. It’s clearly not for the faint of wallet, but worth it given the superb facilities, personalized treatments and the chance to reset your compass to a wiser, healthier course.


Best of Connecticut Road Trip: Kent, New Milford, Washington Depot

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