How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut”

We originally researched and published this article in 2012, and it has proven to be a winter holiday favorite among our readers ever since. We believe there is magic in the air in the small towns of Connecticut at Christmas time. See if you agree. Here is our story:

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In 1945, Hollywood coined the phrase “Christmas in Connecticut” after the movie of the same name. Since that time, romanticists around the world have dreamed of spending at least one winter holiday in a quaint Connecticut hamlet complete with a town common crowned with freshly fallen snow and carolers strolling by storefronts and elder homes.

The scene that is presently in your mind’s eye is not a figment from a Currier and Ives print – it actually exists – and we found it.

Our research

We spoke with tourism friends and officials in Connecticut and asked for the names of towns that would fit the homey Christmas characteristics of Bedford Falls, a fictitious town in another popular holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Arriving in winter

We landed at JFK airport on a cold day in early December. We rented a car and headed for nearby Connecticut at a time when many small towns and villages throughout the area are preparing for the upcoming holiday season.

Janet Serra, the Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Anne Lee, the Executive Director of the Central Connecticut Regional Tourism District provided us with valuable holiday tips for our project. They also gave us several places to consider. After reviewing what each location had to offer by way of Christmas spirit and activities, we settled on the little town of Madison.

Driving to Madison

First settled in 1650, Madison was renamed for President James Madison and incorporated in 1826. Madison is a pleasant little community along historic Route 1, the Boston Post Road in the “Connecticut Shoreline Area.” The town lies approximately equidistant between New York City and Boston. Yale University is just 20 minutes away.

By the time we arrived in Madison, the small shops that make up the bulk of retailers in the village center were ready for the holidays. Most were sporting holiday decorations and touting special sales – many to benefit local charities and civic projects. 

The Tidewater Inn

Before we walked the entire town, we decided to check into our chosen lodging for our time in Madison. We had searched for a place that was like a relative’s warm and inviting home – an inn that properly fit into our pastoral Christmas picture. The Tidewater Inn (circa 1928) is a bed and breakfast that proved to be exactly what we wanted, and it was an easy walk to downtown Madison.

Meet the Innkeeper

Congenial Victoria Kolyvas, is the owner of the Tidewater Inn, and she was the perfect personality to help us with an itinerary that would give us a flavor for all the seasonal activities and events that would be taking place in and around Madison during our brief stay. She pretty much planned our visit for us, and we could not be more grateful. We will also mention right here and now that Viki is a superb host and cook!

Innkeeper Kolyvas already had the Tidewater spruced up for the holidays. A beautifully decorated tree sat next to a cheery fire in the hearth in the dining/tea-room.

We ate some bountiful breakfasts and had friendly afternoon chats accompanied by local wines and cheese at a large table in that same room.

Staying at the Tidewater Inn is very much like going to grandma’s house for Christmas. It provides a feeling of sanctuary – of returning – coming home. Each of the nine guestrooms is pleasantly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and other tasteful décor. Our room was cozy and warm, and we slumbered each night in luxurious comfort.

The events of Madison

After a sumptuous gourmet breakfast at the Tidewater, we took our air with a brisk walk to the center of Madison. We visited a number of shops and craft fairs and found one event particularly delightful – the “Décor Encore” at St. Margaret’s Church. It was advertised as the place to find “previously loved Christmas decorations revived and ready for a new home.” The fair also featured beautiful homemade quilts for sale. What a treat!

Parade day

In early December, the Madison Chamber of Commerce has a homespun Holiday Parade that brings out the entire citizenry.

Some colorful participants and unusual costumes and floats gave us big smiles. It was a wonderfully crisp winter day, perfect for this wholesome family entertainment.

Santa, his wife, and a comely elf stopped by a local café to chat with the kiddies. Donations for the needy of non-perishable food items were accepted to help the Madison Food Pantry.

We also dropped by the local bookstore to watch Santa Letter Writing – great fun.

Tour of Madison historic inns

During parade day, the Tidewater Inn, along with one other local inn, provides a Christmas Open House and Tour of Madison’s Historic Inns via a horse drawn wagon that clops from place to place, and stops for passengers to imbibe on Christmas cheer and sweets – all for the benefit of local charity.

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

Later that afternoon, we enjoyed the “Soul Concert” at the local First Congregational Church. It featured holiday songs sung by an accomplished volunteer choir in a beautiful church. The entire scene was truly inspirational.

The singers were led by a highly talented conductor who had the choir and audience hand clapping and singing along. This is an annual event you do not want to miss. Any freewill offerings from the event went to support the Village Mountain Mission. 

The tree lighting

As dark descended on the expansive town green, it was time for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Three, two, one – Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Families and friends gathered around the lighted tree to drink complimentary hot cocoa and watch the children wonder at the magnificent tree and colors.

Everyone was holding candles and having fun talking with their neighbors. It was a scene right out of Norman Rockwell, and we could not help thinking that once upon a time, much of America celebrated Christmas in just such a grand manner.

Saving the best for last

Victoria told us that we would run out of time before we ran out of things to do in and around Madison – at any time of year. We found that during the holiday season she was most certainly correct. Fortunately, she planned enough time in our itinerary for a wonderful event.

Ahavah: A Christmas Story

We had never heard of Ahavah, which is the Hebrew word for love, and we soon learned that it was also an original ballet about a young girl’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. It is performed annually in early December by the Christian Academy of Dance at the Morgan High School in nearby Clinton. Do not be put off by the venue. This is excellent entertainment professionally written, choreographed, and directed.

The talent that appears in this ballet is exceptional. We found this Psalm written in the program handout:

“Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” The young performers in this ballet seemed to take the ancient words to heart.

A bittersweet farewell

We hope we can return to Madison and the Tidewater Inn for another holiday season one day very soon. It was everything we had hoped.

If you go

The website for the Madison Chamber of Commerce is

Look *here* for more information about the Tidewater Inn.

To learn more about Ahavah – A Christmas Story, click *here*

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

To read more of the journalists’ articles about Connecticut and great places to stay, click on the abbreviated titles below:

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Ahavah photo by Christian Academy of Dance

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.



Drive I-95 to Exit 90 and Head South to a Wonderful Family Fun Attraction at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

We love driving through Connecticut. It is a beautiful state that is teeming with interesting tourist attractions. Today, we focus on the historic maritime coast of the Constitution state in “Mystic Country.”

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35-235-235-235-IMG_5785The seaside towns and villages of Mystic Country run 30-miles along Long Island Sound, starting at the town of Old Lyme and ending at the border of Rhode Island to the east. Our story begins with a visit to famous Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

08-22-01-005-005-008-IMG_3889The Mystic Seaport sign proclaims, “The Museum of America and the Sea.” The catchphrase was well chosen because Mystic Seaport is an exciting playground for maritime historians, boaters of every persuasion, kids of all ages, and folks who just love the sea.

19-037-037-037-IMG_5587We arrived early so we had the streets of the historic port village to ourselves.

09-23-02-012-012-015-IMG_3896Everywhere we looked there were tall ship’s masts and sails in the background of the village’s authentic 19th century homes and shops.

It was a quiet fall day, and a slight whisper of falling leaves in the breeze made the many historical settings that much more alive and imaginative. We were walking back in time, and looked forward to the experience.

The last of the whalers

15-35-17-092-092-095-IMG_3980Our feet rustled through the leaf covered village green as we made our way to tour the Charles W. Morgan – a sturdy looking wooden whaleship that is now a National Historic Landmark.

10-25-04-028-028-031-IMG_3913In the 19th century, there were over 2,500 wooden whaling ships in North America and now there is one. The Morgan, launched in 1841, is America’s oldest surviving commercial ship still afloat. She has resided in the Mystic Seaport since 1941.

During her more than 80-years of service, the Morgan made voyages ranging in time from nine months, to five years. It was on just such a ship that the morose Captain Ahab sailed from nearby Nantucket to seek the elusive great white whale named Moby Dick. Arrr!

Signing on to crew a whaling ship in the 19th century was the fast-track to a harsh life involving hard work and long voyages. Thankfully (for the sake of the whales), whaling was greatly curtailed with the invention of kerosene in the 1840s.

The Joseph Conrad

11-26-05-033-033-036-IMG_3918From the deck of the Morgan you can see the steel-hulled Joseph Conrad. The Conrad was built in 1882 as a training ship for the Danish Merchant Marine Service. For years she sailed with a cadet crew of eighty, and all went well until 1905 when the ship was rammed by a British freighter near Copenhagen and sunk.

Sadly, 20 young cadets went down with the Conrad. However, the vessel was quickly raised, repaired, and continued her mission until 1934 when the ship was sold. The new owner privatized the ship and took her around the world for two years covering 58,000 miles.

25-47-29-101-101-101-IMG_5651The Mystic Seaport gained possession of the Joseph Conrad in 1948, and it has been in the museum ever since.

13-31-10-065-065-068-IMG_3952As we walked the decks, we could appreciate the vast amount of maintenance that is necessary to keep such an important maritime relic in ship-shape.

The Authentic Seaport Village

36-57-39-238-238-238-IMG_5788The faithful Seafaring Village has an active shiplift – that’s the seasonal touring steamboat Sabino being readied for winter in the photo above.

33-55-37-190-190-190-IMG_5740There’s also a sail and rigging loft – chandlery,

27-49-31-111-111-111-IMG_5661craftsman workshops such as a shipsmith shop,

26-48-30-108-108-108-IMG_5658nautical instrument shop, and a cooperage.

20-43-25-041-041-041-IMG_5591There’s also a bank, drug store, school house, and a tavern.

30-51-33-128-128-128-IMG_5678Be sure to visit the small catboat exhibit with its many beautiful varnished toys for grown-ups,

32-54-36-179-179-179-IMG_5729and the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard to see what wonders marine craftsman can perform in the restoration of a boat or ship.

The kids will love it

31-147-147-147-IMG_5697Mystic Seaport is the #1 family vacation destination in Connecticut, and for good reason. This is a place for every mood, and every taste. Kids are treated to fun seafaring experiences they could not find elsewhere. Click *here* to see the many learning opportunities available at this 19-acre maritime park.

12-30-11-064-064-067-IMG_3951Fancy a sailing lesson around the harbor?

16-36-18-096-096-099-IMG_3984Get all the additional information you need about Mystic Seaport by checking their website.

If you go

Mystic Seaport is easy to reach and lies betwixt New York City (134 miles) and Boston (102 miles) on I-95 – exit 90. Mystic Seaport is located right on the banks of the Mystic River that flows into nearby Long Island Sound.

Where to stay

We chose two delightful inns for our stay in the Mystic/Stonington area – appropriately, both were on the water.

The Steamboat Inn

01-06-06-IMG_3852Strategically located in downtown Mystic, and close to the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge,

04-16-57-057-057-IMG_5482the Steamboat Inn is an uber-comfortable 11-room luxury hotel. Each guestroom has distinctive furnishings that are in harmony with the nautical theme.

02-09-50-012-012-IMG_5435We were in room #2, apply named, “Mystic.” Great views of the river activity taking place just outside our windows.

03-12-54-037-037-IMG_5461The inn projects comfort at every turn, and the delicious full complimentary breakfast served in the common room is a great way to start the day in Mystic Country.

To view all the rooms and learn more about this recommended inn click *here*.

The Inn at Stonington

37-009-251-IMG_5801Just ten minutes from Mystic lies another village with a seafaring history, the Borough of Stonington. The Inn at Stonington is nestled into quiet Water Street with nearby upscale 18th and 19th century homes. The back of the inn is a stone’s throw from Stonington Harbor.

40-62-71-110-352-IMG_5902It’s just a short walk down Water Street to the Old Lighthouse Museum constructed in 1840 at Dubois Beach.

39-69-091-333-IMG_5883The lighthouse is no longer active, but the old stone building provides an excellent museum of the history of the village and surroundings.

The little Dubois beach is relatively secluded and just the sort of out-of-the-way place where busy tourists can enjoy a measure of relaxing solitude.

43-34-34-034-IMG_5957You can chose from a range of bedroom types to suit your taste at the Inn at Stonington. Our room overlooked the harbor and Fisher’s Island Sound beyond. Each of the 18 classily decorated rooms reflects the ambiance of the surrounding quaint village.

We arrived at the inn just in time for the evening wine and cheese reception. Nicely selected area wines were accompanied by an ample assortment of artisan cheeses. Yummy.

38-052-294-IMG_5844This boutique inn also provides a complimentary and substantial continental breakfast in the sitting room that overlooks the harbor.

42-03-03-003-IMG_5914Tasty and filling – another good start for a day of intensive touring.

Look at the website for more information about the Inn at Stonington, availability, and pricing.

Where to eat 

This part of coastal Connecticut is noted for seafood restaurants, and you will have no trouble finding palate pleasing fare of any variety in the 80+ local restaurants.

There are four family dining facilities located right at Mystic Seaport. We were told by nearby residents that the dining facilities are all quite good, but we did not eat during our tour of the park, so cannot personally comment.

07-21-59-104-104-IMG_5533Another place we didn’t eat, but should mention, is the famous Mystic Pizza restaurant – the inspiration for the 1988 coming-of-age movie starring Julia Roberts. It is right on busy West Main Street in downtown Mystic.

05-19-63-31-46-P1000983We did enjoy some excellent, mega-portion New England fried seafood at the Seahorse Restaurant in nearby Noank. This place we do recommend. The Seahorse serves tasty full-bellied fried clams that are favored by the regulars. These clams taste a little like fried oysters, but not as pungent. Delicious!

There was also a seafood restaurant at the dock across the parking lot from the Inn at Stonington called Swooner.

17-02-02-119-IMG_4004We had lunch there, and mercifully, it closed soon after our visit. Our helpful tourism contact has informed us that another restaurant named the Breakwater will open at this superb waterfront location in May 2015.

The new proprietor has a reputation for operating successful restaurants. The Breakwater will feature classic American seafood in a casual contemporary atmosphere – not fancy. Can’t wait to try it the next time we are in Connecticut.

Also for next-time, how about a day on the Ice Cream Trail meticulously organized by – a good reference website to remember.  48 sweet places to relish America’s favorite dessert. 48!

1-43-17-17-IMG_3865We highly recommend Mystic Country for a quality family vacation. In addition to what you see reported here, the area is also home to the Mystic Aquarium, the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette’s Castle, two casinos, and a submarine museum.

The reader may also be interested in the following Connecticut stories and reviews by Wayne and Judy.

Fall Colors in New England at Brainerd House

Visit to Extraordinary Gillette’s Castle

Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

A Storybook Christmas in Connecticut at the Tidewater Inn

A True New England Holiday Experience

A Historic Inn along the Shore of Fashionable Westport

An Intimate Bed and Breakfast on the Backroads of Connecticut

The Elegant Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel

The American Revolution and Curtis House Inn

Happy travels!


“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Pleasant Drive to a Castle in Connecticut

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We arrived at Gillette’s Castle, in East Haddam, Connecticut, just as the staff had put the final touches on the holiday trimmings.

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We were almost alone in the vast castle, and as we photographed each room, we sensed an aura of serenity and contentment about the place, possibly actuated by some manifestation of gentle ghosts of Christmases Past – and all the wonderful decorations that surrounded us.

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This is the story of how the castle came to be.

William Gillette

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William Gillette was a renowned American actor and playwright who portrayed Sherlock Holmes over 1300 times in stage adaptions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery novels in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Gillette’s long popularity on stage, and added fame from starring in early silent films, including one called “Sherlock Holmes,” brought him a commensurate fortune and a desire for off-stage seclusion.

At a point in his career, he looked to bucolic Connecticut for his solitude, and in 1914 he commissioned a strange and mysterious 24-room castle to be constructed on a 184-acre bluff overlooking the Connecticut River.

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Gillette personally designed the anomalous castle and many of its interior furnishings. He called his estate “The Seventh Sister,” because the purlieu was the southernmost of the Seven Sisters Hills that stretch along the Connecticut River Valley. The castle was built to Gillette’s exact specifications and completed in 1919.

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There are stunning views of the shimmering waters of the Connecticut River far below – it is exquisitely serene.

Gillette was a celebrity in many spheres of influence. Stage, radio, film, books, and he held at least five US patents – one for the first sophisticated sound effects machine. Much of Gillette’s creative genius is displayed in his castle. Visitors will quickly see that he took a different approach to defining country living for the aristocracy of his time.

Castle features

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William Gillette created what is believed to be the first fire sprinkler systems used in a building. A huge white metal tank containing water was installed in a room high above the main floor and could be activated by a valve that would spray water through pipes installed in the ceiling.

Another feature of the castle is its unique indoor surveillance system. Designed more for fun than spying, Gillette arranged mirrors in the Great Hall so he could observe the coming and going of people in the house from his bedroom.

From his bedroom position he could also see reflections of guests trying to open his mysterious liquor cabinet. Gillette took great pleasure in watching frustrated visitors, and then magically appearing to solve the enigma of the locked cabinet – just as Sherlock Holmes would have done.

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There is much to discover here that is not immediately obvious. It is reputed that no nails were used in the construction of Gillette’s Castle – ingenious if true. Beams are held into place with large iron rods, stone is used as an art form as well as an engineering necessity.


Light switches are made of carved wood, as are door mechanisms and window blocks.

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Each room in the castle is like a character in one of Gillette’s plays. Light streams through the fretted windows of every chamber, illuminating each to an unusual mood.

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One curious mystery is why Gillette used hospital style white metal beds throughout his castle.

Gillette’s Aunt Polly

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William Gillette registered his cruiser-houseboat in the name of “Aunt Polly” in 1905. He added 40-feet to her length, making her 144 feet long, and she was almost 19 feet wide. She weighed 200 tons, and had all the comforts of a luxury yacht for the time.

The story of the Aunt Polly is as significant in Gillette’s life as was his Seventh Sister estate home.

William Gillette was married only once, and his beloved wife Helen died in 1888, just a few years after the nuptials – they had no children.

After Helen’s death, William secluded himself in Thousand Pines, his 500-acre summer estate in Tryon, North Carolina where he resided off-and-on until 1910. At that time in his life he was suffering from an illness some thought was tuberculosis. A local resident he called “Aunt Polly” nursed Gillette back to health, and as one token of his gratitude he named his cherished cruising houseboat after her.

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It was also at Thousand Pines that Gillette showed his skill at wood carving and his admiration for house cats. Henry Zecher, in his book entitled William Gillette, America’s Sherlock Holmes indicates that Gillette had as many as 75 cats living in and around his dwelling on the estate.

The Aunt Polly was moored at the base of the Seventh Sister for the four-year term of the castle’s construction. Gillette enjoyed living aboard the Polly with his favorite cat “Angelina” who shared a nightly dinner at his table.

The Aunt Polly burned at her dock in 1935, but fortunately several furnishings including a piano were saved and moved to the castle where they are currently displayed.

The Seventh Sister Railroad

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The estate had its own railroad and Gillette enjoyed commanding the throttle and touring guests along three-miles of narrow gauge track at speeds up to 20-miles per hour. After Gillette’s death in 1937, the engine and railroad cars were sold.

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Gillette’s “Grand Central Station” is now a picnic area…

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with stone carvings of Gillette’s beloved cats sitting on the roof. Had the railroad been maintained, it would no doubt add greatly to the attraction of the castle, but at the expense of some wonderful hiking trails that replaced the tracks.

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The state of Connecticut acquired the Seventh Sister estate in 1943 and converted it to Gillette Castle State Park.

Gillette’s Castle is a top tourist attraction in Connecticut. The park’s substantial Visitor’s Center was closed during our visit, but we are told that it is an excellent introduction to the castle and grounds – and should not be missed.  For more information about Gillette’s Castle State Park look at their website here.

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A visit into Gillette Castle is a step across the threshold of time to a golden era where personal luxury was a given and attention to architectural detail a watchword. We recommend the experience hardily.

If you go

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The park is located at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut.

From I-91S:  take Exit 22.  Route 9S, Exit 7, for a bridge crossing of the Connecticut River.  Follow route 82E and park signs. From I-95N or S:  take Exit 69.  Route 9N to Exit 6 or 7.  For the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, use Exit 6.  Follow Route 148 and park signs. The ferry operates spring through fall.

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Note: The famous Goodspeed Opera House is just across the river and less than five miles from the castle.

Happy travels!

Need places to stay while visiting Connecticut? Read these stories and recommendations by Wayne and Judy:

The Mayflower Inn: The best of Connecticut resorts and spas

The Curtis House: Welcoming wayfarers before the American Revolution

Tidewater Inn: A storybook Christmas in Connecticut

Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel: By land or sea the place to be

Nehemiah Brainerd House: Enjoy the splendid fall colors

Starbuck Inn: The inns by Kent Falls

Hotel Sierra: A budget travelers’ delight

Inn at Longshore: Historic inn in Westport

Rock Hall: The best B&B along the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff – old photos are retakes of pictures on display in the castle.

The Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

In one way, writing about New England’s unparalleled Mayflower Inn and Spa is probably the easiest assignment of our literary careers. However, finding the right superlatives to describe this extraordinary property was no easy task. Let us start with the first one that comes to mind – incredible!

Nestled in a pastoral setting in rural Connecticut this exclusive 58-acre country manor resort in the Litchfield Hills is an easy two-hour drive and many light-years away from the hustle and bustle of busy Manhattan.

This bucolic countryside has not changed much since General George Washington visited northwest Connecticut in 1781. The unspoiled local towns and area’s authentic Yankee homes and antique shops have given rise to a well-deserved reputation as “America’s Antique Capital.”

It is all about elegance  

Quintessential rustic the Mayflower Inn is not! This once-upon-a-time private boy’s prep school (note the height of the door knob in picture below) was built in 1894 and is now a Relais & ChâteauxMobil 5-star, and Connecticut’s only AAA 5-diamond hotel. The Mayflower offers every imaginable luxury to please the appetites of even the fussiest of bons vivants.

Mayflower front entrance

The picturesque and spacious scenery surrounding the Mayflower Inn makes its limited hotel capacity of 30 rooms and suites in four buildings even more desirable. Guests have room to stretch and wander – and never feel crowded. Of course, such exclusivity comes at a price, but this resort experience is well worth it and will be remembered for a lifetime.

Allerton Cottage
Allerton Cottage

Our suite was in the Allerton Cottage. Completed in 2005, the Allerton is adjacent to the Mayflower Spa House that opened in 2006. Both are just a short distance from the placid Blue Heron Pond.

We were also within a few minutes walking of the Inn’s historic Mayflower House. This main building has a comfortable registration lobby, several staterooms and suites, meeting rooms, a gift shop, and the Inn’s restaurants and bar.

Each guestroom and suite at the Mayflower is designed to complement the good taste of its patrons. Ultra-luxurious rooms with the warmth of just-right colors abound. There are comfortable feather topped mattress on antique four-poster canopy beds, exquisite oriental rugs, original art, marble baths, and myriad other inspired furnishings.

The Mayflower has artfully created a place-for-living atmosphere in each of its guestrooms that reflects the natural desire for privacy and comfort in elegant surroundings. These are quarters you will not want to leave.

The restaurants

Our visit to the Mayflower took place in the fall when we could enjoy the autumnal colors of New England and the sound of crunching leaves beneath our feet as we explored the grounds of the Mayflower.

We arrived at the Inn in time for dinner, so our first walk was from our quarters to the dining room in the main building.

Entering the lobby of the Mayflower House is like walking into a select portrait gallery with impressive 18th and 19th century oils adorning the walls, staircase, and nearby library.

Passing additional paintings along the corridor to the dining area, one is immediately drawn to the traditionally fine style of the Main Dining Room, and the adjacent Tap Room – a great place to meet or enjoy a beverage and light pub-style meal.

Justin ErminiExecutive Chef at the Mayflower is a virtuoso of taste and culinary presentation. He favors produce, meats, and fish from local sustainable sources and blends all into a chef’s colorful canvas of classically contemporary feasts.

Day Boat Halibut

Be sure to engage the assistance of friendly and knowledgeable Food and Beverage Director and SommelierJohn Ciliberto while looking for the best wine to accompany your mains. The Mayflower has a deep and generous selection of wines.

Food plays a cardinal role in the Mayflower experience. Be sure to partake!

The Spa 

Mayflower Spa House

You know you are about to experience something spiritually uplifting when you first step from the outside and into the blissful registration foyer. Soft mood-enhancing music immediately accentuates and elevates a room occupied with calming shades of whites and tans.

As we stood and stared at the empty reception desk, we began to feel we were players in a fairytale black and white film depicting souls awaiting entrance into paradise.

At first glance, it appeared there were no doors exiting the divine waiting room. On further study, we noted there were indeed doors, but they were frameless, and blended into the walls in the style often seen in classical English manor houses of the elegant Victorian era.

As we took in our surroundings, and listened to the soothing refrains, we would not have been in the least bit surprised if the spa receptionist was to float down from somewhere above on gossamer wings.

This may all seem a little over-the-top when describing a Spa, but you really must see it to believe it.

Garden Room

The epicenter of this 20,000 square foot slice of heaven is the exquisite Garden Room. It overlooks the serene Blue Heron Pond and coppice beyond – the perfect backdrop. This room invites every guest to relax for the duration – whatever that may mean in this setting where time is graciously abandoned.

Romantic Rejuvenation

We could go on and on describing each of the amazing attributes of the Spa House, such as the exotic soaks, scrubs, aroma-therapeutic rubs, massages, Pedi-treatments, facials, yoga, etc., but that would simply take too long. Instead, we suggest you peruse the 21 pages of Spa Offerings provided by the Inn at: 

Note: Be sure to ask about the indulgent and exclusive five-night Destination Spa Experience!

Connecticut out-of-doors

Blue Heron Pond

Neighboring the Mayflower is the Steep Rock Nature Preserve. This beautiful trust has over 4,500 acres of protected land and awaits outdoor-loving guests. There are scenic hiking and biking trails during the shirtsleeve seasons, and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available during the winter months.

Water is another of Connecticut’s natural enticements, and the Shepaug River is less than five-miles from the Mayflower. Also nearby, Lake Waramaug, the Bantam River, and the Housatonic River – waiting for hearty kayak explorers and fly fisherpersons of all ages and skill levels.

Golf and Tennis

The Mayflower has a well-designed putting green, but it does not have its own golf course. Fortunately, there are excellent public courses not far away – the 9-hole Stonybrook Golf Course and the 18-hole Fairview Farms Golf Club.

There is one tennis court on the Mayflower property.



There is a fully equipped fitness club in the Mayflower’s main building, and both indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools on the property.

“The Mayflower Inn and Spa is a luxury New England boutique hotel with historic charm. Whatever your muse, the Mayflower is sure to bestow an unforgettable experience.”

For more information about the Inn and Spa services, visit the Mayflower website at, or call 860.868.9466, email:

If you go

The Mayflower Inn & Spa is located at 118 Woodbury Road/Route 47 in rural Washington, Connecticut 06793. It is an easy two-hour drive from the New York airports.

We flew to New York from San Francisco on Virgin America. We find Virgin’s in-flight entertainment to be the best in the sky!

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy (syndicated)

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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