Column By Chelsea Kaneb

It’s no surprise that a visit to Mystic is the number one tourist attraction in the state of Connecticut. It’s bursting with things to do for people of all ages from leisurely walks, eating artisan doughnuts, popping into shops in the quaint downtown and Mystic Village, to stepping back in time at the Mystic Seaport Museum or making friends with Beluga whales, seals and adorable African penguins at the Mystic Aquarium.

Socializing with other toddlers was just as exciting as seeing a Beluga whale.

Mystic is the perfect place for a family getaway. especially since we’re still trying to do as much with our little one outside as possible and Mystic lends plenty to do in that regard. The above mentioned attractions are all world renowned, so we were excited to stumble upon something a little more peaceful, right up our nature loving alley at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center only a mile and a half away from the bustling Mystic Aquarium and Old Mystic Village.

With a mission to help visitors fall deeper in love with nature and foster a personal environmental ethic, it was a perfect sanctuary to spend time soaking up some sun and breathing fresh forest air on a beautiful spring day. We meandered around in the woods, enjoying a piece of the Meditation Trail and pausing to listen to the loud return of the peepers, a sure sign that spring is upon us.

Whether you have an interest in bird watching, hiking, spending time in nature or identifying different plants, you’ll enjoy time in the woodlands, wetlands and the meadows. The DPNC has 10 miles of hiking and walking trails to peacefully explore, check out the wildflowers such as the famous beautiful Lady Slippers that bloom in the springtime, and search for wildlife and birds. Speaking of birds, the nature center has quite a reputation for caring for raptors that are native to southern New England.

We spent time visiting with several species of unreleasable hawks, owls and birds of prey in their outdoor enclosures. A nice woman that worked at the nature center saw our daughter’s keen interest in the birds and offered to take an owl out for her to observe and experience up close.

A few moments later, she returned with Albert the Barred Owl on her arm. His hauntingly beautiful big round eyes entranced us. It took our daughter a few moments to warm up to being so close with one of her most revered creatures, but they became fast friends, flapping their wings at each other and communicating through long soulful staring contests.

The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center is only a mile from the Mystic Aquarium.

Albert came to the nature center after a hiker found him in the woods, he carried him back out for miles wrapped in a sweatshirt. The Nature Center is working with Albert to rehab him, but due to the extent of his injuries he will never be able to return to the wild. Some of the birds they work with are rehabilitated and released and some stay to live out their days loved and cared for at the nature center as educational aids in the outdoor enclosure and in educational programs.

Albert the Barred Owl.

The nature center cares for all different types of birds specializing in raptors like Barred Owls like Albert, Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Red Tailed Hawks, Broad Wing Hawks, and American Kestrels. I’m convinced my daughter was a bird in another life, so the chance to get to spend time with raptors and see an owl up close was a thrill that she will not stop chattering about over a week later.

I was also excited to learn that the nature center has a Nature Preschool that uses the grounds around the nature center as a living classroom for the children. Desks and a rigorous structured environment isn’t for everyone, so it’s wonderful to see when children can have options in a place that fosters a love of the natural world in a less traditional learning environment.

Upcoming events at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center:

*Woodcock Walk– March 31 from 6:30-7:30 PM- Join in search of the elusive male American Woodcock, as the normally quiet, well-camouflaged, worm-eating bird transforms into a master of dazzling aerial displays for the sake of impressing the females. Meets at DPNC. Members: $8.50 per person, Nonmembers: $10 per person

*Woodland Egg Hunt– April 15 from 10 AM-4 PM- Stroll the trails at the Nature Center in search of eggs, and meet animal friends along the way. Trade in your found eggs for wooden ones and head over to the creation stations to use paint and more to decorate in your own unique way. Please bring your own basket to collect eggs. Participants are limited to 4 wooden eggs each. This event will be primarily held outdoors, so dress for the weather. Masks are required when indoors. You must preregister to attend. Registration is capped per time slot, you must attend the time slot you reserve. This event is suited for families with children up to 10 years old. Pricing: Children: $10 (ages up to age 10), Adults $5 *Egg collecting is for children only
Start times: 10 am, 11:30 am, 1 pm, 2:30 pm.

Some more of family friendly recommendations for a pleasant trip to Mystic:

*Enjoy a delicious and unique outdoor lunch or dinner at S&P Oyster Restaurant and Bar on their beautiful patio on the river. Just keep in mind that they don’t allow you to bring your stroller onto the patio and they don’t have high chairs or booster seats so your little one will have to sit in someone’s lap if they can’t sit in a chair unassisted. You can also order take out and go visit the Mystic River Park (southeast of the bridge) to dine al fresco if the weather allows. There is also a sweet playground nearby called Mystic River Park Playground.

There are wonderful outside dining options all around Mystic, and we ordered take-out and went to a nearby park to let our toddler run. It’s been a long Winter.

*No trip to Mystic is complete without visiting Mystic Pizza, the inspiration for the late 80s rom-com and the film that launched the career of my favorite actress of all time, Julia Fiona Roberts. We ordered a large veggie pizza and had a semi-date eating it in the front seat of our car overlooking the river as our daughter snoozed in the back seat and a rowdy seagull sat on top of the car squawking and begging for scraps.

*Other restaurants of note:

*Sift Bake Shop has incredible French focused artisan pastries and assortment of breakfast items. Seriously they were works of art and tasty too.

*Young Buns Doughnuts (opened by the owners of Sift) and unique donut flavors can also be found at Deviant Craft Coffee and Donuts in Mystic Village.

*Rise, a breakfast cafe using locally sourced ingredients where we scooped up the most delicious sloppy egg sandwiches (that I wish I could have had when I was back in college mornings after drinking heavily) and a blueberry pancake for our daughter that was bigger than all of our heads combined.

*Taqueiro, a Mexican restaurant in a converted gas station with a delicious selection of tacos and cold margaritas.

*Mystic Market, gourmet deli style foods, prepared foods and a coffee bar. They were a lifesaver when we were in search of soup for our little one to help settle her stomach after a morning of not feeling so hot.

*Mystic Aquarium is a perfect day excursion with both indoor and outdoor exhibits that you can explore at your leisure. The aquarium houses thousands of animals including their famous beluga whales (the only ones in New England), African penguins, fish, seals and much more. Getting to dunk your hands into the touch tank to pet a shark, stingray or crab can bring out the kid in anyone. There are so many opportunities at the aquarium to dive deeper into learning about the creatures that live there with interactive exhibits, live demonstrations with animal training and feeding sessions and a fun California sea lion show. Our daughter was just as curious people watching as we made our way around the different exhibits. Keep in mind that due to COVID safety protocols you need to purchase or reserve your tickets in advance online before coming to the aquarium even if you’re a member.

Exploring Gilette Castle in East Haddam, CT.

*On the way back to Litchfield County from Mystic, we stopped at Gillette Castle, (pictured above) to stretch our legs and enjoy some final moments of sunshine. The 184 acre estate in East Haddam has a gorgeous 24 room medieval looking castle with incredible views overlooking the Connecticut River. The home was owned and designed in 1919 by William Hooker Gillette, the actor who is best known for playing the original Sherlock Holmes.

Easter and Passover Events:

The Art of Pysanka: Ukrainian Easter Eggs– Danbury on April 5th at 6 PM

Join Gloria Horbaty for a presentation on the history and symbolism of the beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs. Pysanka is a Ukrainian craft and tradition that involves the intricate and detailed decorating of Easter eggs using wax resist and dyes. Decorated eggs will be on display. Mrs. Horbaty has been lecturing, demonstrating, and teaching the art of Pysanka decorating throughout Connecticut for nearly 40 years. Registration is required. Location: Danbury Public Library 170 Main St. Danbury, CT 06810 with a FREE admission. Contact: (203) 797-4505

Easter Egg Hunt at Indian Rock Nature Preserve– Bristol on April 15 (10 AM- 2 PM)

Bring your own basket and join in the FUN! Find the Easter eggs and trade them for a prize! This is a candy-free event. The Easter Bunny will be here to visit with your children. This event has become so popular, we have outgrown our previous location of Barnes Nature Center. Held rain or shine. No pre-registration is required. Location: Indian Rock Nature Preserve 501 Wolcott Rd. Route 69 Bristol, CT 06010 Admission: Free for parent/guardian and children (under 12 months); children $10. Contact: (860) 583-1234

Easter Bunny Express– Thomaston April 9 and 15-16th

Climb aboard for a 1 hour and 20 minute train ride through the beautiful Litchfield Hills as they reawaken after a cold, long winter’s nap. Passengers on these trains enjoy a scavenger hunt for the kids as well as a stop at the Bunny Patch where children will have the chance to help rescue the Easter Bunny’s duck friends! All children will have the opportunity to meet the Easter Bunny himself, as well as receive a chocolate filled egg from his very own collection. Rides: April 9, 15-16. Location: Railroad Museum of New England 242 East Main St. Thomaston, CT 06787 Times: Departures: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. Admission: $17-$19. Contact: (860) 283-7245

Egg Hunt at Quassy Amusement and Waterpark– Middlebury on April 24 at 3 PM

Children can search for Easter eggs with prizes inside. Guests must bring their own baskets for the candy and eggs. Sorry, no adults allowed in the egg hunt area. The egg hunt is at Quassy Amusement Park Rte. 64 Middlebury, CT 06762. Contact: (203) 758-2913

First Night Passover Seder- Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven- Orange on April 15 at 6:30 PM

You and your family are invited to celebrate the Passover Seder with Rabbi Farbman and your extended Temple Emanuel Family. Members & Non-Members Welcome. Please check their website for more details and to see more about their COVID policy. They will continue to require masks for everyone age 2 and over in the Temple Emanuel building. All adults coming into the Temple Emanuel building will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Full vaccination means being at least two weeks after a second COVID vaccine. While we do not plan on checking vaccination certificates, they trust that all adults entering the Temple Emanuel building will follow this policy.). Any child of vaccination age attending Shabbat services or other special events at TE must be fully vaccinated. Anyone who is experiencing respiratory or digestive symptoms of an acute illness or has been in recent contact with someone who has COVID-19 is asked to stay home and attend our events virtually. Meeting indoors does have some risk attached and they encourage anyone who is immune-compromised or at high risk for infection to join the service virtually.

Earth Day Events:

Earth Day Magic Show at Silas Bronson Library– Waterbury, April 22 at 2 PM

Spend your Friday afternoon experiencing the magic of Cyril the Sorcerer and help him save the planet on the Library Patio. Program intended for children ages 3- 16.

Earth Day Celebration at Lyman Orchards on April 23 from (11 AM-3 PM)- Middlefield

It all starts at 10 a.m. is with a pruning demonstration up in the orchard. The pruning demonstration is pre-registration only, due to limited availability. Sign up at:…/pruning-demonstration... Feel free to bring recyclable items to process at the Apple Barrel Patio.

• Visit the Apple Barrel Market and Patio from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for fun and engaging activities.

• Meet the Farmer, John Lyman, at 11 a.m.

• Jamming Demonstration at 1 p.m.

• Pie tastings and local vendor tastings

• Potting activity for all ages

• Middlefield Lions plastic recycling program

• Cans 4 A Cause

• CT Christmas Tree Growers Association

• Don’t miss the Apple Pie Jamming Demo from the Award-winning Durham Fair Jamming Crew!

Contact Lyman Orchard at (860) 349-6000 to find out more information and reserve your spot for any of the activities. The admission is free.

Earth Day at Flamig Farm on April 23 from (10 AM- 4 PM)- West Simsbury

For years Flamig Farm in West Simsbury joined in celebrating this beautiful planet and making Earth Day the official grand re-opening of their farm each spring. The Farm’s Earth Day celebrations include fun and learning for guests of all ages. Come for the whole day or just sample the activities for a morning or afternoon.

Here are some things about Earth Day you’ll experience at the farm:

• Petting Zoo (Meet our new baby animals and visit with your old friends)

• Tractor Hayrides

• Pony Rides

• Live Music

• Kane’s Market will be selling food

• “Tower Gardens” which demonstrate food production of the future

• Doughnut Food Truck

• Keifer’s Kettle Korn

• Bounce House

• Face Painting

Admission is at a discounted price of $5 per person (babies under one and adults at least 80 years old are free). Grain sold by the cup $1 each but will be rationed out for the health and well being of the animals.

Our little family absolutely loves exploring around the family friendly walkable petting zoo that Flamig Farm offers up to the public. We asked for experiential gifts this holiday season and were grateful to receive a family membership to the farm for this upcoming season, so we can spend as much time as we want visiting with our farm friends….since animals make the best of friends especially when you’re a toddler. The farm is open from March 26- mid November from 9 AM- 5 PM and is fun for the young and young at heart. Meet their wonderful farm animals in a clean, people and animal friendly atmopshere, but keep in mind that due to USDA regulations dogs are not permitted on the farm except certified Service Dogs with proper paperwork provided. Beloved animals that live at Flamig Farm include: Cats, Dogs, Chickens, Pigs, Geese, Goats, Rabbits, Turkeys, Ponies, Donkeys, Horses, Alpacas, Llamas, Ducks, Miniature Horses, Potbellied Pigs, Peacocks, Emus, Cows, Sheep, Guinea Fowl and Kanye the Fancy Pigeon. Admission is $7.50 per person and is FREE for anyone under 2 or over 80 years of age. A variety of different Family Season passes are available. You can also purchase cups and buckets of sweet smelling grain to show some love to the animals and ensure even more up close and personal experiences with them. There are many other fun events, happenings and programs at Flamig Farm throughout the season including Toddlers on the Farm, Summer Camp, Haunted Walkthrough at Halloween time and a Visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch at the holiday time.

Community Service Day on Earth Day at Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust- Woodbury on April 22 (10 AM- 2 PM)

Join fellow community members for a day of service on Earth Day. Volunteers will work to remove non-native plant species on a Flanders preserved property. Non-native or invasive plants have a negative effect on native plants and wildlife communities.

Other local April events:

48th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Wooster Square– New Haven on April 24

Celebration of spring commemorates the planting of 73 cherry blossom trees in 1973 by the New Haven Historic Commission in cooperation with the New Haven Parks Department. Featuring live musical entertainment; dedicated Children’s Area with arts and crafts, pet-related interest area and a great range of food and display tables.

Visit the diner for a slice of pie as Waitress comes to life at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on April 22 and 23

Meet Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and rocky marriage. Pouring her heart into her pies, she crafts desserts that mirror her topsy-turvy life such as “The Key (Lime) to Happiness Pie” and “Betrayed By My Eggs Pie.” When a baking contest in a nearby county, and a satisfying encounter with someone new, show Jenna a chance at a fresh start, she must find the courage to seize it. Change is on the menu, as long as Jenna can write her own perfectly personal recipe for happiness. Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this hilarious hit Broadway musical features original music and lyrics by Grammy® Award winner Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), original choreography by Lorin Latarro (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Waiting For Godot), recreated by tour choreographer Abbey O’Brien and original direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Hair, Pippin), recreated by tour director Susanna Wolk. “Waitress is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly, and is “sweet, sassy and passionate,” according to New York Magazine. “It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune. Don’t miss this uplifting and hilarious musical celebrating friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a well-made pie.

Friday 8 PM and Saturday 2 PM and 8 PM with prices ranging from $49-$89. Contact: (203) 346-2000

“Bug” at the Warner Theatre in Torrington running April 9-24

The Warner Theatre kicks off their 2022 season with the psychological thriller, Bug by Tracy Letts. Set in a seedy Oklahoma City motel room, the play centers on the meeting between a divorced waitress and a soft-spoken Gulf War drifter. A hidden bug problem leaves the two in fear, soon escalating to paranoia, conspiracy theories, and twisted psychological motives. The Stage @ the Warner production of Bug is co-directed by Katherine Ray and Keith Paul. The cast features Amanda Friedman, Josh Newey, Rae Janeil Sutherland, Daniel R. Willey, and Lauren Jacob. Performances are April 9, 15, 16, 22 & 23, 2022 at 8:00 pm and April 10 & 24, 2022 at 2:00 pm. Be aware that this production contains adult content including violence, drug use, profanity, and sex, and is not suitable for all audiences. Location: Warner Theatre 68 Main St. Torrington, CT 06790 Times: Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Contact: 1w

“The Wizard of Oz” with the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theater on April 2 at 2 PM

Watching the film on the big screen while hearing Judy Garland’s original 1939 studio recordings backed by a full orchestra will transport moviegoers of all ages down the Yellow Brick Road and into the whimsical world of Oz. In this classic musical fantasy, Judy Garland stars as Dorothy Gale, a young Kansas farm girl who dreams of a land “somewhere over the rainbow.” Dorothy’s dream comes true when she, her dog, Toto, and her family’s house are transported by a tornado to a bright and magical world, unlike anything she has seen before. Unfortunately, she makes a mortal enemy of a wicked witch when the house falls on the hag’s sister. Now, befriended by a scarecrow without a brain, a tin man with no heart and a cowardly lion—and protected by a pair of enchanted ruby slippers—Dorothy sets off along a yellow brick road for the Emerald City to beseech the all-powerful Wizard of Oz for his help to return home. Contact: (203) 346-2000

The Village Project Exhibition at Mattatuck Museum (March 20-May 8)

The Village Project brings together communities from across Connecticut to express personal and universal aspirations of home and community. The exhibition is an arrangement of over four thousand tiny clay homes and intricate vine sculptures linked together into a patchwork of organic shapes, each created by a participating community member. The Village Project was conceived by artist Denise Minnerly and collaborator Don Bracken 25 years ago and the exhibition has traveled to galleries, colleges and museums. The project was expanded by ASAP! by bringing the artists together with Waterbury youth. Nearly one hundred students discussed their ideas of home and community, then constructed their own tiny homes and vine sculptures to add to the exhibition. The exhibition at the Mattatuck Museum runs now through May 8, with an opening reception on March 20, from noon-4 p.m. Location: The Mattatuck Museum 144 West Main St. Waterbury, CT 06702 Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thu. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5, children (5 and under) and members free. Contact:

Knife Sharpening with Sharper Harper on April 3 & 10 10AM-2PM – New Morning Market- Woodbury

How To Get Your Knives Sharpened:

• Harper can sharpen all kitchen knives, as well as scissors, serrated knives, and straight-edged garden tools (like loppers or pruners).

• Please rubber-band your knives in a larger towel and label the outside with your name and number if you’d like to have them sharpened.

• You can drop your bundle off with Harper outside the market before you do your shopping.

• Wait-time depends on the number of knives you bring and how many people are already in line.

• The wait is usually around 30 minutes, but can be over an hour.

• Payment is due at pick-up. Harper accepts cash or card.

• Knives can be left for pick-up after event hours, registration at the event with Harper is required.

Storytime at Silas Bronson Library– Wonderful Wednesday Stories at Silas Bronson Library. Join on Zoom each week to share in their story time. There will be singing, marching, and playing along with finger games for children ages 2-6. Pre-registration is required for Zoom for these dates (March 30, April 6, April 13, April 20, and April 27). You can call 203-574-8213 or email at to register for this program.

Events at Flanders Nature Center and Land Trust:

Wildflower Walks on April 24 at 2-3:30 PM

Sugar House 5 Church Hill Road, Woodbury, CT

Wildflower Walk Celebrate spring and come partake in a wildflower walk on Flanders’ Botany Trail led by a member of the Pomperaug Valley Garden Club. The award-winning Botany Trail began in 1965 when wildflowers rescued from the proposed path of I-84 and other development projects found a haven at Flanders.

Farm School on Friday April 22 at 9:30 AM-5:00 PM

North Barn 644 Flanders Rd, Woodbury

Ba, Ram, Ewe! – Sheep have grazed the fields at Van Vleck farm for years in the past. Come and learn about our Shetland sheep and feel the beautiful, soft wool we use for knitting and felting. Participants will have a hands on experience to use some wool for an art project.

Farm School on Saturday April 23 at 10-2 PM

North Barn 644 Flanders Rd, Woodbury

Ba, Ram, Ewe! – Sheep have grazed the fields at Van Vleck farm for years in the past. Come and learn about our Shetland sheep and feel the beautiful, soft wool we use for knitting and felting. Participants will have a hands on experience to use some wool for an art project.

Falcons & Hawks on Sunday April 24 at 2 PM-

Hawks and falcons are raptors or birds of prey. All raptors are characterized by their hooked bills and strong, thick talons. Generally, they like to hunt live prey. But how do you tell the difference when deciding whether the bird you’re seeing is a hawk vs a falcon? Join Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation & Education for a live presentation at Flanders of a red tail, a red shoulder, a Peregrine falcon, and a male and female Kestrel. You will see up close the differences between a hawk and a falcon, along with their different hunting styles. $10 for members and $15 for non-members and $5 for children under 12.