You can travel from just about any other in less than two hours, yet the land you traverse—fewer than 60 miles top to bottom and 100 miles across—is as varied as a drive across the country.
Just as diverse as the landscape are the state’s residents, who numbered more than 3½ million at last count. There really is no such thing as the definitive “Connecticut Yankee.” Yes, families can trace their roots back to the 1600s, when Connecticut was founded as one of the 13 original colonies, but the state motto is “He who transplanted still sustains.” And so the face of the Nutmegger is that of the family from Naples now making pizza in New Haven and the farmer in Norfolk whose land dates back five generations, the grandmother in New Britain who makes the state’s best pierogi and the ladies who lunch in Westport, the celebrity nestled in the Litchfield Hills.
One quality all Connecticut Yankees have in common, however, is inventiveness; Nutmeggers are historically known for both their intellect and their desire to have a little fun. The nation’s first public library opened in New Haven in 1656 and its first state house in Hartford in 1776.
Not surprisingly, Nutmeggers have a healthy respect for their history. For decades, Mystic Seaport, which traces the state’s rich maritime past, has been the premier tourist attraction. Today, however, Foxwoods Casino near Ledyard, run by the Mashantucket Pequots, is North America’s largest casino, drawing more than 40,000 visitors per day.
Tapping Reeve developed America’s first law school in Litchfield in 1784, and West Hartford’s Noah Webster published the first dictionary in 1806. On the fun side, Lake Compounce in Bristol was the country’s first amusement park; Bethel’s P. T. Barnum staged the first three-ring circus; and the hamburger, the lollipop, the Frisbee, and the Erector Set were all invented here.
Connecticut’s 253 miles of shoreline blows salty sea air over beach communities like Old Lyme and Stonington, while patchwork hills and peaked mountains fill the state’s northwestern corner, and once-upon-a-time mill towns line rivers such as the Housatonic. Connecticut has seemingly endless farmland in the northeast, where cows might just outnumber people, as well as chic New York City bedroom communities such as Greenwich and New Canaan, where boutique shopping bags are the dominant species.
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