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Daytrips from Avon: Summer Fun in Historic Windsor

Rich in history, Connecticut's first town is also rich in recreational opportunities and unique dining experiences.

Summer may be nearing an end as kids prepare to head back to school Sept. 4, but the weather will still be warm enough for several weeks to wander outdoors, down wooded trails, submerge in cooling water and kick back to enjoy the season's best.

Relaxing drives and day trips are inevitable, but those drives and day trips don't always have to take you far from home. A bevy of quintessentially-American summer fun is available in our own backyards, or sometimes just a town or two away.

Windsor, the state's oldest town, is no different. It's historic water banks, habitat preserve and one-of-a-kind shops offer the makings of a perfect summer day in the Nutmeg State. If you're looking for an air-conditioned shopping mall, Windsor isn't the place for you. But if you're in for small-town fun, Windsor has all anyone could ask for.

Whether you're an early-riser or like to take it easy, you'd be remiss in passing through town without a stop at one of the premier nature reserves in the region.

offers 500 acres of habitat reserve for public recreation, as well as wildlife and historic education. Open from dusk till dawn, the park's 10 trails provide a scenic landscape for mountain biking or hiking along ridges that meander beside the Farmington River and right to Windsor's Rainbow Dam.

Smaller trails are scattered throughout town, including the .

The park, located in the Wilson section of town, is home to the Bissell Bridge Boat Launch — one the many popular fishing and boat launches in town. Fishing in Rainbow Dam and alongside the Farmington River have also proved fruitful and a maker of quality family memories.

But if you're going to take in all the outdoors fun Windsor has to offer, you're going to have to fuel up. A visitor can't go wrong with Windsor's locally-owned restaurants, which serve up some of the region's finest fare.

Of course, you can always take home your catch of the day, but if you're looking to chow down while in town, the variety and quality of food is top-notch.

While there aren't tons of restaurants, the restaurants Windsor does have cook up many dishes you just can't get anywhere else.

To start the day, you can swing by , a recently-opened bakery that specializes in freshly baked goods (you can even pick up a fresh loaf of ciabatta or challah when it comes out of the oven), and serves organic and fairly-traded coffee from New London's famous Bean and Leaf. The shop also bakes a variety of muffins, frittatas, coffee cakes and cookies for you pleasure, but if you're looking for something a little heavier, you're not far away.

, and are all breakfast favorites with their own flair.

For lunch, you can't go wrong with eating a famous dog from alongside the Farmington River (their cheeseburger has actually been my favorite since childhood). Over the years, Bart's has become as fundamentally important to the town's identity as the Shad Derby and tobacco farming — everyone has a stack of memories at Bart's.

offers fare you can rarely find north of the Mason Dixon, but it's plated in true Southern fashion at this Broad Street restaurant. Smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork are served alongside macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread.

With it's sidewalk seating, Nat's makes a great choice for lunch or dinner, but summer truly awakens some of Windsor's other dining gems.

The and offer outdoor dining experiences on par with any other establishment in the region. While Tunxis Grille is situated in historic Poquonock, Union Street is in an old firehouse right in the center of town. Both places offer quality bars that are open later than mostly everything else in this small, river town on weekends.

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