10 Events to visit in Connecticut this winter


With its mix of coastal and rural cities, and the ability to travel from coastline to countryside in just a few hours, the state of Connecticut in southern New England has something for every desire. Sprinkled with small charming towns and numerous museums that preserve the cultural and historical legacies of the region, it’s also a place with a strong affinity with its past while never failing to look for fresh opportunities to prosper.

(Photo: Dave Ginsberg via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Connecticut’s diverse landscapes really come into their own during the winter months, in particular when the snow descends and transforms its idyllic rural and shoreline vistas into snow-flecked panoramas. This is also a time of year when many retreat indoors, with the state playing host to a large number of winter events that take place under shelter. We’ve picked out 10 of the best coming to Connecticut this year.

The Nutcracker Reimagined

Hill-Stead Museum and the Ballet Theatre Company will partner to deliver a Nutcracker experience reimagined this winter. Before touring the museum, which will be filled with over 20 sparkling pieces from the theatre company’s Through the Tulle costume exhibition, visitors will be transported to New York City’s Fifth Avenue for an enchanting window display. Inside the museum’s Carriage Porch, dancers will perform excerpts of The Nutcracker, complete with twirling, leaping, and pirouetting in their very own snow globe. Guests then tour the historic house where the costumes have been laid out in rooms and carefully paired to highlight their respective room’s extraordinary Impressionist art, aesthetic, colour palette, and mood.

LOCATION Ballet Theatre Company, West Hartford DATES 27 November 2020 – 10 January 2021

Ballet Theatre Company

(Photo: Thomas Giroir )

Mark Twain House & Museum

The Mark Twain House & Museum invites you to celebrate the holiday season in Hartford, the capital of Connecticut, when Twain’s mansion is adorned as it was for holiday celebrations from 1874 to 1891, the years that the author, his wife, and their three daughters lived in the house. All public tours from late November through 1 January will include holiday material. Visitors can enjoy a number of other experiences digitally transformed for your at-home enjoyment, such as a 3D virtual tour or a range of virtual events. Check the website for the museum’s most up-to-date hours and digital offerings.

LOCATION Mark Twain House, Hartford DATES Ongoing

Mark Twain House

(Photo: The Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, Connecticut. Photograph by Frank Grace)

Holiday Train Show

Perfect for train fans and all who are young at heart, the family-friendly Holiday Train Show exhibit is back at the Connecticut River Museum for its twenty-seventh year this winter. A veritable locomotive extravaganza, the event once again sees acclaimed train artist Steve Cryan bring more trains, new scenery, and plenty of surprises with his fully operational 26-foot model train layout. Visitors can challenge themselves with “I SPY” scavenger hunts for objects hidden both in the train layout and the entire third floor. Ideal for all ages, the American Flyer and Lionel train layout is specifically designed for toddler size viewing.

LOCATION Connecticut River Museum, Essex DATES 24 November 2020 – 14 February 2021

Connecticut River Museum

(Photo: Connecticut River Museum)

New England Christmas Festival (virtual edition)

Normally one of the largest arts and crafts festival in the region, the award-winning New England Christmas Festival returns with a difference for 2020, going fully online for one year only. Some 300+ pop up shops usually feature at the event, and most of them will be virtually present for online visitors to peruse and purchase their unique wares that make for ideal festive gifts and souvenirs. The show will take place at ArtisanGiftmas.com.

LOCATION Normally Earth Expo Center at Mohegan Sun, Uncasville but online only for 2020 DATES Live edition returning 5-7 November 2021

New England Christmas Festival

(Photo: New England Christmas Festival)

Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition

Slater Memorial Museum will host the 77th Annual Connecticut Artists Juried Exhibition this winter. The exhibition attracts over 300 submissions from Connecticut artists each year, with every entry contributing to the excellence of the long-running event and demonstrating the vibrancy of the Connecticut artist community. This year’s exhibition will be juried by Kenneth E. Silver, Ph. D, Professor of Art History, NYU. Admission to the museum will be by reservation only. You can go to www.slatermuseum.org to book an admission time, learn about visitation safety guidelines and submit work for consideration.

LOCATION Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich DATES 31 January – 12 March 2021

Slater Memorial Museum

(Photo: Slater Memorial Museum)

Oronoque Autumn Craft Festival

For an eclectic mix of locally-made arts and crafts, the Oronoque Autumn Craft Festival – held in the winter despite its name – features a diverse assortment of talented artisans and crafters exhibiting and selling their creative wares in the main banquet room at the Oronoque Country Club in the town of Stratford, Fairfield County. Entry to the festival is free of charge for all-comers.

LOCATION Oronoque Country Club, Stratford DATES 22 November

Memories, Dreams & Archetypes

This exhibition showcases the work of Connecticut artist Melissa Barbieri, highlighting a recent series of large-scale works on paper. These calligraphic and diagrammatic works are transcribed visions combining text and symbols, words and imagery. Using watercolor, India ink, and aquarelle wash, the series of paintings was influenced by ancient scrolls, codices, hide and ledger paintings, and recorded in a thought/stream of consciousness uninterrupted flow. They explore the dichotomy and duality of the ocean and the desert as mirrors connecting them to one another while bringing the unconscious to the conscious realm.

Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London DATES 21 November 2020 – 24 January 2021

Lyman Allyn Art Museum

(Photo: Melissa Barbieri, Indigo)

The Ride Must Go On!

This year, as a safe alternative to the popular attraction, visitors can journey through the magical Pumpkintown Forest in the comfort and safety of their own vehicle. On this scenic, family-friendly, one-mile drive through atmospheric and picturesque landscapes, there’s the chance to view more than 30 Pumpkinhead people and their annual companions at home in their woodland dwellings.

LOCATION Pumpkintown USA, East Hampton DATES 9 September – 31 October

Expanding Horizons: Celebrating 20 Years of the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its popular Hartford Steam Boiler Collection, the prestigious Florence Griswold Museum in the coastal town of Old Lyme present highlights from the collection with an emphasis on new research to showcase the innovative ways in which scholarship about American art has progressed over the past two decades. For the commemorative exhibition, twenty leading scholars of American art have lent their expertise and perspectives by writing labels about individual works.

Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme DATES 7 November 2020 – 23 May 2021

Florence Griswold Museum

(Photo: Florence Griswold Museum)

Zen Brush Class

One of the area’s most eminent arts venues, the Windsor Art Center is best known for its annual fair. But this November arts enthusiasts keen to learn the craft of painting can join a Zen Brush Class. Open to all-comers, the workshop teaches simplification of forms to basic strokes using black and white watercolours to render people, animals, or a character in calligraphy. All those attending are asked to bring photos to use during the session.

LOCATION Windsor Art Center Fair, Windsor DATES 8 November

By Paul Joseph