15 Best Things to Do in Vernon, CT

Vernon, CT

Nestled snugly in the heart of Tolland County, Vernon is a place I am lucky enough to call home.

From the gentle morning sunrise that wakes me, to the vibrant nightlife that our close-knit community revels in, Vernon is a town that marries the tranquility of nature with the excitement of modern living.

As I walk on the lush green trails and stroll through the bustling downtown, the pride in belonging to this vibrant community always swells in my chest.

Join me as I walk you through the best things to do in Vernon, Connecticut!

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Experience a Peaceful Retreat at Belding Wildlife Management Area

The waters of Belding Wildlife Management Area
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

Everyday life can get quite hectic at times, and when it does, I usually find solace at the tranquil Belding Wildlife Management Area.

It's a beautiful hiking area that boasts serenity like no other place in Vernon.

As you embark on the trail, you're greeted by a gentle stream that seems to effortlessly guide your path.

Its peaceful murmur is like a lullaby to the ears.

You can design your own adventure here, either by taking a short 1/4-mile walk that offers some of the most breathtaking views or by challenging yourself with a two-mile loop.

Regardless of the trail you choose, the views are spectacular throughout.

But remember, it's a wildlife management area, so be sure to keep your dogs on a leash.

As the sun begins to set, the trail acquires an otherworldly charm.

I once struggled to find the yellow path on the eastern side of the trail during a dusk walk.

It felt like it had disappeared into the twilight.

Butterly on a flower at Belding Wildlife Management Area
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

But fear not! If that ever happens, simply follow the blue path; it will lead you right back to the start of the loop.

What I love most about the Belding Area is its rich history and the story behind its existence.

I once learned from a Rockville High School field trip my son attended that these lots were bought by Mr. Belding to protect the habitat of the many animals that call this forest, meadow, and creek their home.

I often find myself returning to this place, eager to explore more of its hidden treasures in the daylight.

The Belding Wildlife Management Area is, without a doubt, one of Vernon's best-kept secrets.

Redwing blackbird at Belding Wildlife Management Area
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

Journey Through Time at the New England Civil War Museum

If there's one place in town that vividly brings to life the times and tales of the Civil War, it's the New England Civil War Museum.

Nestled right here in our own town, the museum is a treasure trove for history buffs like me.

Having been there several times, I can tell you that the museum is open on weekends, from 10 am to 3 pm.

Each visit is an enlightening experience, revealing fascinating insights into the Civil War.

The museum presents an abundance of artifacts and stories that keep you engrossed.

The knowledgeable guide that led us around the museum was like a walking encyclopedia on the subject, adding depth to our understanding of the artifacts and events of the past.

What's truly remarkable is the cordial ambiance of the place.

Revisit the Town's History at Vernon Historical Society Museum

Every once in a while, I love to immerse myself in the rich history of my hometown, and there’s no better place to do this than at the Vernon Historical Society Museum.

The museum is a veritable treasure trove of local history, brimming with information about Vernon and Rockville.

With every visit, I inevitably uncover something new and fascinating about my town.

One of my favorite events at the society is the Annual Book Sale.

It's not just a chance to get your hands on some unique books but also a great way to give back to the community.

The proceeds from the sale are not only used to support the museum, but the leftover books are donated to places around Vernon like schools, fire stations, and even jail cells.

Walking through the museum is like flipping through the pages of a history book.

There are town directories, high school yearbooks, and annual reports that offer a peek into the past.

I love seeing the artifacts displayed about local history.

It’s a tangible connection to the people and events that have shaped our community.

Every citizen of Vernon-Rockville, regardless of whether they’re a history buff or not, should take the time to visit.

Pay a Visit to the New England Motorcycle Museum

If you're in the mood for a trip down memory lane, rev up your engines and head over to the New England Motorcycle Museum.

I've been living in this town for years, and I can tell you, there's nothing quite like it.

Now, this isn't your usual gigantic museum - in fact, it's pretty cozy.

But don't let its size fool you; there's a wealth of motorcycle history packed within these walls.

Beyond the museum's brilliant mill makeover, what really makes it worth your while is the content.

You get to see how motorcycles have changed over time yet somehow stayed the same.

It's fascinating to observe the evolution, and the friendly and knowledgeable staff add to the overall experience by providing interesting tidbits of information.

I remember riding my vintage Honda over for a 60-mile trip and finding the place was a breeze.

From antique models to bike-related memorabilia, this place is a treasure trove for any motorcycle enthusiast.

Discover Hidden Gems at John Thomas Treasures

I've always been someone who loves to find that one-of-a-kind piece, something that tells a story or sparks a conversation. And my favorite place to hunt for these unique items is John Thomas Treasures, a local gem that's bursting with curiosities.

A regular haunt on my days off, I never know what I'll find when I step inside John Thomas Treasures.

From vintage furniture waiting to be restored to the most fascinating cookie jars that remind me of my grandmother's old collection, this place is a treasure trove of the interesting and unusual.

I remember one time when I stumbled upon an old army locker in surprisingly good condition.

It was a find that still makes me proud today every time I see it in my living room.

They offer the best prices in town, something I learned first-hand when I needed to let go of a few precious pieces.

Take Pictures of the Fox Hill Tower

Daytime view of Fox Hill Tower
illstudio / Shutterstock.com

One of my favorite spots to unwind is none other than Fox Hill Tower.

It's a treasure right in our backyard, offering stunning views that will leave you breathless.

I remember one afternoon, I decided to take a spontaneous trip up there.

The drive was peaceful. And the second you step out of your car, the cool breeze hits you with a sense of tranquility.

I walked around a bit, each turn revealing a different picturesque view.

The day was clear, and I could see the whole of Vernon/Rockville, with distant views of East Hartford and Hartford.

The green carpet of grass around the tower is an ideal place to have a picnic.

I had packed lunch, so I found a comfortable spot under the shade of a tree.

Close view of Fox Hill Tower
Kyle Lee / Shutterstock.com

There were benches too if you prefer to sit on them.

While I ate, I watched as the town went about its day, the hustle and bustle seeming so distant yet so close.

As the day turned to dusk, I decided to stay and watch the sunset.

The sky transformed into a canvas of warm hues, the setting sun reflecting off the distant buildings of Hartford.

See Various Arts at Arts Center East

You wouldn't believe the treasure trove of creativity I stumbled upon right in our own backyard.

Nestled in an unassuming location, I found Arts Center East, a local hub for the arts that boasts an impressively diverse portfolio of pieces.

Each artist's work displayed proof of exceptional talent that left me feeling inspired and humbled.

One of the things that really stood out to me was the warm and welcoming environment.

The center is run by a team of friendly and passionate volunteers who clearly love what they do.

I learned that the affordable membership fees collected by the center are funneled back into supporting various art-related programs.

These programs, held at the facility, aim to foster a love for art and encourage its creation in all its diverse forms.

Explore the Beauty of Risley Reservoir Preserve

I never tire of the natural beauty of Risley Reservoir Preserve, a spot that truly encapsulates the rugged charm of our region.

This preserve is more than just a reservoir; it's a sanctuary for wildlife, a haven for hikers, and a paradise for bird watchers.

The Reservoir always has something to offer.

As I stroll along the dam, I am treated to an array of scenic views.

There's a unique serenity that comes with the sound of water gently lapping against the dam, tranquility only broken by the occasional splash of a blue gill jumping out of the water.

Fishing here may not yield the biggest catches, but there's a certain thrill in reeling in a small blue gill, feeling its weight on the line.

One of the highlights of this preserve, aside from the clean and beautiful reservoir, is the walk around the pond.

The ground can be rocky and strewn with roots, and the falling leaves make the terrain a tad tricky at times, but the beautiful views along the way make it well worth the effort.

Spend an Evening at Racks Billiards and Bar

There's no better place to relax and enjoy a game of pool than at Racks Billiards and Bar.

The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the abundance of tables, all immaculately covered and maintained, ensuring the balls run smoothly across the surface.

The place even boasts a few high-end Diamond Tables - that's if you have the confidence and skill set to play on them!

But the heart of Racks Billiards and Bar is not just about the game, but about the environment too.

The atmosphere is always lively and welcoming, yet never rowdy.

It's a far cry from the often busy, overwhelming atmosphere of other bars in the area, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

Instead, Racks offers a chilled, local vibe that makes it easy to unwind.

Yet what sets this place apart is its commitment to the sport.

Racks frequently hosts APA and other tournaments, turning any regular night into an exhilarating game-watching event.

But don't worry if you're not into competitive play; they offer a discount for APA members in the division.

Just remember to call ahead about a table if you're not sure about the league schedule.

Dine at Vernon Diner

Nestled conveniently next to a hotel, with plenty of parking around the back, Vernon Diner has been my go-to for hearty American fare for years now.

A visit to the diner is a treat, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of the town.

The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, with booths, counter seating, and even an outdoor patio.

I love that it feels like a real community center - you'd often find me catching up with friends over a plate of their excellent wings or the delicious portabello burger.

What sets the Vernon Diner apart is its extensive menu.

With something that feels like a novella, there's an option for every palate and every mood.

It doesn't matter if it's pancakes for breakfast, fish tacos for lunch, or a late-night craving that needs to be satisfied - the diner is open 24/7.

And the portions? They're so generous that you'd often find me getting a takeout box for leftovers.

But the real challenge here is choosing a dessert from their bakery.

Their display counter is full of mouthwatering cakes, pies, and pastries, each more enticing than the last.

Immerse in Nature at Valley Falls Park

Brook at Valley Falls Park
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

A sanctuary of tranquility and beauty, Valley Falls Park has always been my retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

There is a soothing rhythm to the park that calms your senses right from the moment you step into its welcoming embrace.

With its charming waterfall vistas and an array of hiking trails spread across 8.5 miles, the park is a delightful place that offers a respite from the mundane.

My Saturday mornings typically start with a stroll to the park, a mere stone’s throw away from my humble abode.

The crisp morning air, the sound of crunching leaves beneath my feet, and the breathtaking view of the cascading waterfalls all merge to create a vivid sensory experience.

The park is infused with the spirit of nature that hums a melodious lullaby to all its visitors.

Summer weekends are particularly exciting at the park.

The sandy lake "beach" becomes a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike, buzzing with laughter and cheerful chatter.

Trees at Valley Falls Park
Jeff Holcombe / Shutterstock.com

The park tends to get busy afternoon, so I find it best to arrive early and secure a spot.

And don’t forget to pack a picnic; there's a lovely covered area perfect for an afternoon feast.

While the park does not offer restroom facilities, there is a porta-potty available near the parking lot.

It's not the most pleasant of amenities, but it serves the purpose.

One of the things I love about this place is its pet-friendly policy.

It's always heartwarming to see dogs bounding around, enjoying the freedom of the open spaces.

The grounds of Valley Falls Park
User:Magicpiano, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dine at Elmo's Dockside

When you live in the town, it's inevitable that you will end up at Elmo's Dockside.

Trust me; it's our go-to place for our seafood cravings.

It's one of those family-owned, nautically themed places where everyone knows everyone.

Now, let's talk about food. Elmo's serves some seafood standards that are simply divine.

Their clam chowder is scrumptious, and the stuffed mushrooms are simply to die for.

For my last meal, I ordered the shrimp scampi, and it was so generous that I had to take some home for my next meal.

If you're not into seafood, their steaks and chops are also worth trying.

My fiancé's rib eye was so massive and cooked the way he liked it.

Craving for some fried oysters? They serve them here!

Go Rollerskating at Ron-A-Roll Indoor Center

It's unbelievable to think that Ron-A-Roll Indoor Roller Skating Center has been a town gem for such a long time.

I go there at least once a week to relive my childhood passion, roller skating.

The pricing is very reasonable, and the rink itself is well maintained, making every visit a smooth glide.

Experience a Fun Day at the Strong Family Farm

There is something undeniably satisfying about waking up early on a Saturday, a cup of hot coffee in my hand, and knowing that my day will be spent at the Strong Family Farm.

When the morning sun casts long, golden shadows over the farm, it feels like a little slice of tranquility right in our bustling town.

The festivals they host are lively yet intimate affairs, filled with the hustle and bustle of vendors setting up their stalls, the laughter and cries of children excited to pet the farm animals and the warm, friendly faces of the farm staff.

The farm today was brimming with life from 10 am to 4 pm, adding an extra layer of charm to the place.

But perhaps the most unique part of my relationship with the farm is the adopt-a-chicken program.

This is my second year participating, and the experience has been fun and educational.

It's not every day you get to help raise a chicken, and this program gives me a real sense of being a part of the farm community.

In addition to the hearty laughter and learning, the farm also offers a bounty of fresh produce at incredibly low prices.

Have Fun at Tankerhoosen Road

Every day is like a peaceful retreat on Tankerhoosen Road.

Nestled in Vernon, Connecticut, it's a place where nature unfolds its beauty in the most enchanting way possible.

The mornings are graced by the mellifluous melody of birds, while the evening sky presents a stunning palette of colors as the sun sets.

Living on Tankerhoosen Road means being surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty.

I often spend my mornings walking along the lush green trails, breathing in the crisp, fresh air, and admiring the serene beauty of the nearby Tankerhoosen River.

The river flows tirelessly, each ripple telling a different story - a perfect spot to rekindle your thoughts.

Final Thoughts

Vernon is a gem of a town filled with a wealth of history, natural beauty, and entertainment.

Whether you're a history buff interested in the Civil War era, a motorcycle enthusiast, or an art lover, there's something here for everyone.

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