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A Tank Away

Simsbury rises to its ‘distinctive destinations’ status

The Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain is open Thursday-Sunday in summer, then daily through October.
The Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain is open Thursday-Sunday in summer, then daily through October. (Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe)

Simsbury is the only town in Connecticut to earn recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The honor was awarded in 2010, but the attributes that earned it are still evident: a commitment to historic preservation, a dynamic downtown, and beautiful green spaces. High-quality restaurants and independent, owner-operated shops add to what the Trust called an “authentic visitor experience.”

STAY

Rooms and suites at the Simsbury Inn (397 Hopmeadow St., 860-651-5700, www.simsburyinn.com, $169-$300), are spacious and comfortably furnished. The hotel has three restaurants, an indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, and health club. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Simsbury 1820 House (731 Hopmeadow St., 860-658-7658, www.simsbury1820house.com, $96-$229) sits on land originally owned by Revolutionary War hero Noah Phelps and passed on to his son Elijah, who built the home. Guestrooms and suites are decorated with period antiques, reproductions, and fabrics to approximate the original style of the house. Visitors who prefer the intimacy of bed-and-breakfasts will also find options here. The Linden House (288 Hopmeadow St., 860-408-1321, www.lindenhousebb.com, $140-$150), is an elegant Victorian with five guest rooms, four with working fireplaces, and a view of Talcott Mountain. Green Acres B&B (444 Bushy Hill Road, 860-217-1692, www.greenacresbnb.com, $145) is an 18th-century farmhouse with a pond and outdoor pool. Resident chickens, known as the “girls,” provide free-range fresh eggs for breakfast.

DINE

The interior of Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern, a former mill overlooking the waterfall at Hop Brook.
The interior of Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern, a former mill overlooking the waterfall at Hop Brook.(Ellen Albanese for the boston globe)

Simsbury has become quite the destination for foodies. At the center of the buzz is Millwright’s Restaurant & Tavern (77 West St., 860-651-5500, www.millwrightsrestaurant.com, Friday lunch $12-$19, dinner $26-$32) in a beautiful former grist mill overlooking the waterfall at Hop Brook. Chef Tyler Anderson, who opened Millwrights in 2012, was a semifinalist for this year’s James Beard Foundation Award for best chef in the Northeast. The setting is exquisite — much of the stone and wood is original to the mill that operated in the 1700s and 1800s. In season the restaurant sources 90 percent of its fare locally, including heirloom vegetables from a farm at Anderson’s home. In August of last year chef Chris Prosperi moved his popular Metro Bis Restaurant from a downtown strip mall to the Simsbury 1820 House (731 Hopmeadow St., 860-651-1908, www.metrobis.com, lunch $8-$15, dinner $22-$30). Prosperi said the new location provides a more elegant setting, larger kitchen, and outdoor dining on the inn’s porch. For pure kitsch, it would be hard to top Antonio’s Restaurant (1185 Hopmeadow St., 860-651-3333, www.antoniosofsimsbury.com, $7-$25). The second-generation Italian family restaurant will celebrate 50 years next month. Toys and memorabilia — dolls, license plates, gumball machines, signs — line the walls, and a train chugs around a track suspended over the dining room. Simsbury native Will Kokines runs the bustling Little City Pizza Company (926 Hopmeadow St., 860-658-4001, www.little
citypizzaco.com, pizza $10-$19). The cozy location turns out inventive thin-crust pizzas — think smashed potato and margarita — along with sandwiches, salads, and calzones.

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DURING THE DAY

Inka Arts owner Mercedes Esposito stocks handcrafted clothing, jewelry, and accessories.
Inka Arts owner Mercedes Esposito stocks handcrafted clothing, jewelry, and accessories. (Ellen Albanese for The Boston Globe)

The views from the summit of Talcott Mountain are worth the 1.25-mile hike, and at the top you can check out the Heublein Tower, built in 1914 by food magnate Gilbert Heublein as a summer home. The trail begins at the entrance to Talcott Mountain State Park, off Route 185. The 165-foot tower is open Thursday-Sunday in summer, then daily through October (www.friendsofheubleintower.org). You can download a walking tour through picturesque and historical Simsbury Cemetery (16 Plank Hill Road, 860-408-9077, www.simsburycemetery.com), with graves dating from 1688. The Simsbury Historical Society operates the Phelps Tavern Museum (800 Hopmeadow St., 860-658-2500, www.simsburyhistory.org, $6 adults, $4 children, free to children under 6) on a 2-acre site in the center of town. Guided tours are offered Thursday through Saturday from late April through mid-October. A barn on the property has been renovated to house new exhibits this season, including a fully functional woodworking shop of the 1800s, a peddler’s wagon that operated throughout Simsbury in the late 1800s, and a look at the innovations that allowed bicycles to be mass produced in the early 1900s. Shopping in Simsbury is an “unchained” experience, with onsite owners happy to talk about their wares. Patty Tobin does all the buying for The Work Shoppe (926 Hopmeadow St., 860-651-8966, www.theworkshoppect.com), featuring gifts and home decor. Goldsmith Sarah Byrnes (924 Hopmeadow St, 860-658-4438, www.sarahbyrnes.com) makes custom pieces in a range of prices. Her signature piece — which can be a pin, charm, or pendant — depicts the town’s Pinchot sycamore tree, a massive specimen on the banks of the Farmington River named for Connecticut conservationist Gifford Pinchot. Inka Arts (928 Hopmeadow St., 860-658-4558. www.inkaartsllc.com) stocks handcrafted, eco-friendly cotton and alpaca clothing, jewelry, and accessories selected by owner Mercedes Esposito; many items are from her native Peru.

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AFTER DARK

Choose from more than 76 beers on tap at McLadden’s Irish Publick House (6 Wilcox Street, 860-408-9626, www.mcladdens.com/simsbury), which opened just in time for St. Patrick’s Day this year. Live music begins at 10 on Saturday nights. In January an energetic trio of new owners took over the Maple Tree Café (781 Hopmeadow St, 860-651-1297, www.mapletreecafe.com), which hosts karaoke on Thursday nights and bands on Friday and Saturday nights. Owner Sean Allen said headliners range from “legacy” performers who have been playing the Maple Tree for 40 years to new bands, especially local musicians.

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Ellen Albanese can be reached at ellen.albanese@gmail.com.

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