But this fall there is new reason to boast. Yankee Magazine has named this charming village in the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut the peak spot for leaf-peeping in all of New England.
In one day in Kent, says Yankee, you can drive through rolling hills beside a twisting river, stop for thick hot chocolate and an authentic Belgian pastry, hike the Appalachian trail, picnic with a panini by a waterfall, shop for Buddhas or modern art and bite into a crisp native Cortland apple, perhaps in the shade of a historic covered bridge.
This praise is no surprise to those who know Kent and its unique blend of attractions. A newly published free color brochure with map will help newcomers find their way around.
Foliage watchers who like their leaves close-up on a hiking trail should head for Macedonia Brook State Park, where 2300 acres offer extensive leafy trails. For views, the Blue Trail is hard to beat with its fantastic vistas of the Catskill and Taconic mountains.
In Kent Falls State Park you can admire the falls from the bottom or hike a quarter-mile up the hill and feel the mist on your face as the water cascades down 250 feet on its way to join the Housatonic River.
The Appalachian Trail runs through this area, and hikers who want scenery without stress will enjoy the Housatonic “river walk,” a peaceful stretch beside the river that is the longest essentially flat section along the entire trail.
For more worldly diversions, take a walk along Route 7, Kent’s Main Street, lined for miles with irresistible stops. Five antiques shops beckon, including Pauline’s Place, known for its antique jewelry. Among the many shops and galleries, Heron American Craft Gallery shows the best work of American craftsmen, Foreign Cargo offers unusual clothing, jewelry and art from Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands and the Kent Art Association is just one of five fine art galleries in town.
Take out the camera for Bulls’ Bridge, one of three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut dating from the 19th century. George Washington crossed the Housatonic River near the site of the present bridge in 1781.
Just north of town is the Sloane-Stanley Museum. Eric Sloane (1905-1985) was a prolific artist, author and illustrator and an avid collector of Americana. The museum includes the artist’s studio, examples of his art and his extensive collection of early American handmade tools, beautiful objects of wood that are virtual works of art. On the property are the remains of the Kent Iron Furnace and a diorama explaining the once-booming local iron industry. Next-door is the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association Museum, a unique display of steam and gas tractors, a working narrow gauge railroad, an industrial hall with working steam engines and mining exhibit building.
When hunger pangs strike in Kent, the Panini Café is the place for a tasty picnic sandwich, and for a treat Belgique Patisserie and Chocolatier, a Belgian-owned shop in a Victorian Carriage house, features exquisite European desserts, handmade ice cream and sorbets and rich Belgian chocolate made on site. Belgique vies with the Kent coffee and Chocolate Company for the title of “best hot chocolate in Connecticut.” For dinner, the Fife & Drum is a long time favorite for continental dinners with nightly music, Bull’s Bridge Inn has a choice of fine dining or pub fare, and Doc’s Trattoria serves excellent Italian fare and has a pleasant patio for fine fall days.
For a copy of the new free guide and map of Kent and a free copy of UNWIND, a 112-page color guide to lodging and dining and other regional attractions in all of the Litchfield Hills contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506 , www.litchfieldhills.com.