Connecticut has an inviting charm that features sweeping mountains and waterways with colonial towns and cities.
One of these quintessential communities is the town of Wallingford, a 20-minute drive from bustling New Haven.
Established in 1670, this historic town has rivers, mountains, forests, and other natural resources that attracted English settlers back in the day.
It eventually flourished as a manufacturing hub for industries, like medical, metal manufacturing, and high-tech specialties.
Most of these establishments are still operating today, serving as the main jobs of Wallingford’s residents.
During their weekends, these folks turn to the many manmade and natural attractions in the town.
And you’re invited, too!
Here are the 15 best things to do in Wallingford, CT:
Explore the Wonders of Wharton Brook State Park
As you can expect in Connecticut, there are woodlands and mountains in every corner you look at.
Wallingford has many of these in the form of state parks, and one of them is Wharton Brook State Park.
This attraction is located on the borders shared by Wallingford and North Haven, so jurisdiction is shared between the two towns.
Covering 96 acres, the state park contains vast forests and the murmuring Wharton and Allen brooks within the vast lands.
The waterways feed the large pond in the middle of the park, which is regularly stocked with trout.
So during your visit, bring a line and try catching the freshwater game swimming in the depths.
But if you don’t want to get into the water yet, you can try camping, picnicking, and hiking along the park’s trails.
Catch a Show at Toyota Oakdale Theatre
The magnificent Toyota Oakdale Theatre is the center of performance arts in Wallingford.
It’s frequented by residents and visitors alike for show-stopping performances by talented companies.
There are two main sections in the facility, the auditorium and the Dome, seating 5,000 people combined.
Aside from exceptional theater productions, the facility hosts other shows like live music performances, dance recitals, sports entertainment, and bombastic concerts.
So you’ll get a chance to see the region’s most talented artists and nationally-recognized performers.
These include Avril Lavigne and Maren Morris, who graced the stage last 2019.
Check out their calendar today and book a ticket for an upcoming event!
Sample Fine Drinks at Gouveia Vineyards
The lands of Wallingford are blessed with fertile soils and mild weather, making it a great region for growing grapes.
Joe Gouveia, a Portuguese native, saw the potential of the pastoral hills southeast of the city, so he founded Gouveia Vineyards.
Within their 32-acre farm, various grape varietals grow and produce the lushest fruits.
The company can produce 90,000 bottles a year from their harvests—a testament to the time-tested techniques used to farm the land.
You can join the tasting room and try their premium drinks, including Chardonnay, Merlot, and Pinot Noir.
You’ll smell the fruity and rich aroma in every sip.
Before leaving, don’t forget to bring home a bottle or two to open during special occasions.
Feel the Chill at Choate Hockey Rink
Choate Hockey Rink is another attraction in the Choate Rosemary Hall system, serving as one of the school’s premier sporting facilities.
It’s where the school team practice for various ice-related sports, primarily hockey.
Matches are regularly held here, with crowds of spectators cheering for their favorite team during the game.
On occasion, the rink is opened for public skating times.
Residents and visitors can come in and work out their calves while gliding on the clear ice—a thrilling experience for families and friends.
It can get cold here, so bring a thick jacket to keep warm.
You can also try to delicious hot chocolate drink offered at the in-house concession stand, which also offers other snacks.
Shop Fresh Produce at Farmer Joe’s Gardens
While there’s no official farmers market in Wallingford, Farmer Joe’s Gardens more than makes up for it.
This establishment serves as a drop-off point for the city’s local farmers, a place where the public can access their produce.
There’s a special priority for farmers who practice modern techniques, so most of the produce here are organic and ethically produced.
Within the facility, you’ll find a wide range of fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits, and premium root crops.
There are also animal products like dairy and eggs, as well as preserves, spreads, and sausages.
For those with kids, you can bring them to the small petting zoo at the back.
There are friendly pigs, goats, and chickens to see and interact with!
See Stunning Artworks at Paul Mellon Arts Center
The historic Choate Rosemary Hall is a private boarding school serving as a classical example of New England education tradition.
And while it is an exclusive establishment, there are some sections where the public is welcome.
One of these is the Paul Mellon Arts Center, the school’s hotspot for the visual and performance arts.
It’s divided into two sections: Theater Wing and Triangle Wing.
The former houses a 760-seat proscenium theater where local artists and students hold plays and live performances.
At the Triangle Wing, you’ll find various sections housing practice rooms and classrooms.
But the main attraction here is the many galleries displaying students and local artists' works.
So come check out the stunning paintings, photos, sculptures, and installation art.
Ride a Mountain Bike at Tyler Mill
Near Wharton Brook State Park is another vast natural attraction, the magnificent Tyler Mill preserve.
It has more than 1,400 acres of explorable land, with forests, small hills, brooks, and ridges.
These can be accessed via the many rugged trails crisscrossing across the preserve.
Most people use these for mountain biking, as the terrain offers an excellent experience for intermediate cyclists.
But you’re still welcome to explore the paths on foot.
There are a few lookouts accessible via steep trails, so you’ll need a bit of endurance and coordination to reach these places.
The rewards are well worth the effort, as you’ll see stunning New England landscapes and uninterrupted blue skies.
Play a Few Rounds at Wallingford Country Club
The scenic Wallingford Country Club is considered one of the premier golf courses in Central Connecticut.
Having been around since 1898, this historic facility has become a state institution, hosting several tournaments and cups over the years.
Today, the 18-hole course remains a beloved sporting facility by residents from Wallingford and surrounding areas.
The architecture takes advantage of the local landscape, resulting in beautiful patches of woodland, well-maintained fairways, and manicured greens.
While challenging, the course’s layout is fair for all levels, so professionals and beginners alike will have great gameplay.
After playing for a few rounds, make a stopover at the club’s restaurant, Violi’s II.
They offer a menu of delicious American staples, pasta, and fresh seafood from the nearby Atlantic.
Cruise the Waters of Quinnipiac River
The meandering Quinnipiac River serves as the main water feature in Wallingford, cleaving the city right in the middle.
It starts at the Dead Wood Swamp near the city of New Britain, traveling for 45 miles before emptying into the Atlantic.
Along the way, it passes Wallingford and provides much-needed water and sediment for the agricultural lands of the city.
But it’s also used as a water-recreation destination, especially for nonmotorized watercraft.
Certain sections remain undeveloped, making them great spots for those who want to explore nature in Wallingford.
But for those who don’t want to get wet yet, there’s the Quinnipiac Linear Trail, a multi-use trail spanning 3.9 miles.
It runs parallel to the river, offering the best views along the banks.
You can go walking, jogging, or running along the path and discover the little hidden wonders along the way.
Scream in Fear at Trail of Terror
The spine-chilling Trail of Terror is a seasonal attraction that only comes around during the Halloween season.
It has been operating for more than 25 years, bringing fright and fun to the city’s residents and visitors.
Every year, there are different themes, sets, and characters.
So there’s always something new in every visit.
Be prepared to face a night of ghosts and monsters, as you’d have to go through more than 30 exhibits on the trail.
With special effects and expert actors, each station will either scare the life out of you or give you a laughing fit.
It all depends on your fortitude, so bring a brave face when exploring the Trail of Terror.
Tickets are available as early as August, so check out their website and reserve your slot!
Try the Restaurants along Colony Road
Colony Road serves as one of the main arteries in Wallingford, surrounded by local businesses and commercial establishments along its length.
These include several of the city’s favorite dining establishments.
So if you want to sample the diverse cuisine of Central Connecticut, check out these restaurants during your visit.
Wood-n-Tap is a beloved hangout place offering a wide selection of alcoholic drinks and American staples to snack on.
At Westbrook Lobster, you can sample the fresh seafood dishes from the nearby Atlantic, with a menu consisting of shellfish, fish, and lobsters.
For those who want an unpretentious atmosphere with classic American dishes and refreshments, check out Knuckleheads.
Trek the Trails of Tri-Mountain State Park
The majestic Tri-Mountain State Park is another natural attraction that Wallingford shares with another town—Durham, in this case.
It’s located on the eastern edges of the town and is considered an isolated attraction accessible only from Mattabesett Trail.
Heading south from the trailhead, you’d discover more than 157 acres of forests, rivers, and ridges to explore.
The “mountains” aren’t really mountains technically; they’re more like tall hills.
But this doesn’t diminish their majesty, as their summits offer stunning vistas of the surrounding region.
While hiking, keep an eye for the local wildlife scurrying in the undergrowth or flying in between branches.
There are black bears, deer, and various bird species that call this place home.
Test Your Accuracy at Blue Trail Range
There’s nothing as satisfying as pulling a trigger and hitting your target, and you can experience this at Blue Trail Range.
It’s the premier shooting range in Wallingford, open for all gun enthusiasts, even minors.
Here, you’ll find an outdoor range, a private area, a shotgun field, and an indoor range.
There are several options you can take aside from just shooting targets—private lessons, certificate training, safe firearm handling classes, and more.
For kids starting age nine, they can enroll in the beginner course where they will learn from attentive and experienced instructors.
Aside from shooting, you can shop or rent guns and accessories while at the range.
They offer used guns, ammo, safety gear, and other items essential for gun owners and enthusiasts.
Other Things to Do Nearby
After your adventures in Wallingford, why not check out these other places just a few minutes away?
Reach the Summits at Sleeping Giant State Park
The Sleeping Giant State Park is one of the most prominent landmarks in the New Haven region, all thanks to the slumbering anthropomorphic rock formation from which the attraction is named.
Covering an area of 1,465 acres, this destination has forests, steep cliffs, water features, and microclimates that make it an ecological wonder.
That’s why most of the park is under conservation.
But visitors are still welcome to explore and discover all its hidden wonders.
The most prominent attractions here are the summits of Blue Hills and Mount Carmel, which offer commanding views of the region.
Aside from hiking to the peaks, you can try rock climbing, birdwatching, and horseback riding in the scenic state park.
Go Skiing Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort
North of Wallingford lies one of the favorite wintertime attractions in the region: Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort.
It’s less than 20 minutes away from the city, so you can easily check it out if you have spare time.
Within the vast complex, you’ll find many slopes and trails that are perfect for skiing and snow tubing.
Other activities you can enjoy include snow biking and snowboarding, with routes that beginners and professionals will enjoy.
On occasion, there are racing events where kids and adults can show off their skiing skills and win prizes.
If you’re here during the summer, you can still enjoy activities like riding zip lines, mountain biking, and disc golf.
Wallingford has the quintessential Connecticut charm that makes it a worthwhile destination for the whole family.
From vast forests to winding rivers, from beautiful theaters to haunted trails, you’ll find something for every preference here.
So for your upcoming weekend getaway, make this place your top choice!