This is an update of my post from last year!
Toto, we’re not in Bushwick anymore. You’ve now left the comfort of deep Brooklyn, as they call it, for the not-so-dissimilar milieu of Wesleyan. Just kidding, a vast majority of Weskids are from not-Brooklyn, not-LA, and not-Bay-Area, although it might seem otherwise.
For all of you from those (wonderful) places, and all of you from other places, Middletown is different than those places (shocking!). It was once the largest city in Connecticut, circa pre-war-of-1812. Can your hometown claim that title? Nah. Unless you’re from Middletown, in which case you are probably way more qualified than me to write this post.
While Wesleyan is fine and there is usually never a shortage of things to do on campus, Middletown and the surrounding area truly have some wonderful gems that are worth knowing about as you settle in and look for things to do other than vape on Foss. Here is wesleying’s (my) attempt at travel blogging. Bring your fanny pack:
Middletown is a city of around 40 square miles and 50,000 people. At the center of town life is Main Street, which flanks the Connecticut River and is full of restaurants, bars, shops, and more. Nestled in the Connecticut River Valley, there are also many hiking opportunities and natural habitats to explore, both in and around town. Here are some of the things you can do in town:
- Nature bruh: Stroll down to Harbor Park to see the Connecticut river; Wadsworth Falls State Park is a good lil hike 3 miles from campus; Mount Higby is on the Mattabassett Trail and is only a 5 minute drive from campus
- Antique shops: Middletown is an old place, so there are a lot of antique shops, okay? We’ve got the Amazing Everything store and Wild Bill’s Nostalgia Store, among many other small shops
- Bars: Middletown has a semi-robust bar scence, especially during the warmer months. Popular spots for Wesleyan Students include La Boca, Mezzo, Eli Cannon’s, and Vines on Church
- Breweries: Stroll (drive/lyft) over to the North End and you’ll find Whey Station’s occasional parking space near Middletown’s two breweries: Forest City Brewing and Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company.
- Oddities: Just a few interesting places to explore around include Wadsworth Mansion, Creepy river tunnel, The dump, and Indian Hill Cemetery
- Your daily vices: The two major liquor stores in town are Metro Spirits and Forest City Wine & Spirits; also you can stock up on your papers and such at Smoke 911
- Recreation (take your parents here): Metro Movies, the local movie theater; the North End Farmer’s Market; Adventure Rooms, an escape-the-room establishment; The Board Room, where you can rent any board game under the sun and play for a bit
- Still Wesleyan: Green St. Teaching and Learning Center, a Wesleyan-sponsored community learning center. It’s a great place to volunteer some of your time.
Hartford is only 25 minutes north on I-91. And New Haven only 30 minutes to the south. There are also lots of smaller towns just surrounding Middletown, such as Portland, Cromwell, Newington, and Rocky Hill that all have their own charm. Here are some things to do around Middletown:
- Miller’s pond, the most popular swimming hole in the area
- Cotton Hollow, another nice swimming destination
- Sleeping Giant, a great hike if you’re tired of having your trips to New Haven be the same every goddamn time
- The Holy Land, an abandoned theme park
- A missile silo
- The three Hartford breweries: Hog River, Thomas Hooker, and Hanging Hills (oh, and we can’t forget to mention Still Hill, which is in Rocky Hill)
- Speaking of Rocky Hill, go to Sushi House!
- Seven Falls State Park, a nice state park just down CT-9
- Castle Craig, where P.J. Quigley and others roasted some damn fine clams in October of 1900
- Trinity lol don’t go here
- Hurd State Park, a large park in Haddam that has some nice trails along the banks of the CT River
- Talcott Mountain, a great place for sunset hikes; get there a little earlier to climb the tower and have a view of downtown Hartford in the distance
- Book Barn, a wonderful lil book shop in Niantic, CT where they have cats roaming around and free donuts
- Brownstone Quarries, across the river in Portland; You can zip line, rock climb, cliff jump, and wakeboard here
- Rocky Neck Beach and Hammonasset Beach are two of the more-popular beaches closest to Middletown
Bring it AROUND TOWN
Seriously, get the fuck off campus. It’s really healthy to give some geographical context to your Wesleyan experience. Getting off campus will not only clear your head, it will inform your academics, your activism, your newfound privilege as an (elite) college student, and your tummy. So bring your booty (monetary or bodily) around town and get invested in your new locale.
Have fun here! Taking a trip off campus is a great way to cement some friendships, make new friends, or even just to have some alone time. Once the school year gets going, do get on the Outing Club’s listserv. They plan outings for every weekend of the semester, and are super accessible and friendly.
If you have anything to add to this list, drop it in the comments or send an email to staff[at]wesleying[dot]org and we’ll try to keep this list up to date.