Before he won fame as the leader of Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys, native Nutmegger Ethan Allen started a blast furnace in the Litchfield Hills . The site is now memorialized as Salisbury Cannon Museum (860/435-0566, www.salisburycannonmuseum.org , call for hours), which explores the history of the enterprise. Allen and his partners used a rich lode of nearly pure iron ore in Salisbury to fuel the blast furnace, which became the primary producer of cannons for the Colonies during the American Revolution (churning out more than 800 in total.) Recently a hunk of pig iron produced by Allen in 1764 was dug out of the surrounding countryside; it is now on display at the museum.
The industrial history of the area is also celebrated at the Sloane-Stanley Museum and Kent Furnace (31 Kent-Cornwall Rd./Rte. 7, Kent, 860/927-3849, website , 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Wed.–Sun. mid-May–Oct., $8 adults, $6 seniors, $5 youth 6–17), a dream museum for any professional or amateur mechanic. On display are several hundred years of tools and manufacturing equipment, as well as informative exhibits on how they were used in early America. Nearby is the now-dormant Kent Furnace, which spat out pig iron for almost 70 years in the 19th century. The furnace’s heavy granite blocks and Gothic arch make for an impressive picnic spot.
Speaking of picnics, families from around the area bring their baskets and blankets to Kent Falls State Park (Rte. 7, 5 mi. north of Kent, 860/927-3238, Sat.–Sun May–Oct., $20), a wide grassy area whose main attraction sluices down from the hills in a series of pitches some 250 feet long in all. A trail, complete with wooden steps and viewing platforms traces the side of the waterfall, allowing excellent views and photo opportunities of its various cataracts and pools. Swimming, sadly, is prohibited.
A welcome new addition to the area is the Land of Nod Winery (99 Lower Rd., East Canaan, 860/824-5225, www.landofnodwinery.com , 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Fri.–Sun. Apr.–Oct., tastings and tours free). The winery is still relatively young as New England wineries go, but it has already won acclaim for its pinot noirs and raspberry fruit wines. The family operation also runs a maple syrup house on-site—no word yet on whether they plan to produce a maple wine.