One of the state's oldest Colonial settlements (1639), this posh, well-kept village, 13 miles east of New Haven, is embraced by the West and East rivers. It has an uncommonly large public green with a few upscale shops at one corner. There are dozens of historic houses in town, most of them privately owned, but a few open to the public on a limited basis, typically from June to Columbus Day. They include Hyland House, 84 Boston St. (tel. 203/453-9477), an early Colonial saltbox with three walk-in fireplaces and an herb garden, built around 1690, and the Thomas Griswold House, 171 Boston St. (tel. 203/453-3176), with a restored blacksmith shop and Colonial garden, built around 1774. The Hyland House is free; the Griswold House $3 adults, $2 seniors and students.
The Guilford visitor center is located next to the Henry Whitfield State Museum. Housed in an 1870 barn, it's open April through December 14 Wednesday through Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. Additional information is available from the detailed website of the Guilford Chamber of Commerce (tel. 203/453-9677; www.guilfordct.com).
Madison, 19 miles east of New Haven, is home to a historic architectural district that stretches west of the business district along the Boston Post Road, from the main green to the town line, and contains many examples of 18th- and 19th-century domestic styles.
The well-to-do town has completed the transition from colony to seaside resort to year-round community, a process begun when the first house was built in 1651. Today there are two dwellings from the early years that can be visited on limited summer schedules. Deacon John Grave House, 581 Boston Post Rd. (tel. 203/245-4798), dates from 1685, and the Allis-Bushnell House, 853 Boston Post Rd. (tel. 203/245-4567), from 1785.
Off the Boston Post Road south of the town center, also reached from exit 62 off I-95, is Hammonasset Beach State Park (tel. 203/245-2785; www.ct.gov), Connecticut's largest public beach park. On a peninsula jutting into Long Island Sound, its shore is over 2 miles long. The on-site Meigs Point Nature Center offers programs and activities from spring through fall, and there are 558 open camp sites. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, cars with out-of-state plates are charged $10 Monday through Friday, $15 on weekends and holidays.
Shopping -- Madison's commercial district may look ordinary at first glance, but several shops along Boston Post Road and intersecting Wall Street provide entertaining browsing. The stately R. J. Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Rd. (tel. 203/245-3959; www.rjjulia.com), holds frequent author readings and has a cafe in back; it's open from 8:30am to 9pm.
The Harp & Hearth, 45 Wall St. (tel. 203/245-1414; www.harpandhearth.com), stocks gourmet foods and Celtic wares. It has a small bistro for lunch (11am-4pm) and afternoon tea (1:30-3:30pm), complete with finger sandwiches and currant scones served with preserves and clotted cream. It's open Tuesday through Saturday.
Five miles from downtown Madison (Rte. 1 east to Rte. 81 north) is Clinton Crossing, 20-A Killingsworth Tpk. (tel. 860/664-0700), an outlet mall with 70 shops. Clothing stores by such designers as Kenneth Cole, Barneys New York Outlet, and Polo Ralph Lauren are augmented by Coach leather goods and Le Creuset cookware. The mall is directly off 1-95 at exit 63.
Its location at the mouth of the Connecticut River (35 miles east of New Haven, 26 miles west of Mystic) is this town's principal lure. Get off Route 1 to see it at its best. Pick up Route 154 (just east of the high school) and take the 6-mile driving loop, which touches the shore and passes through the tony hamlets of Knollwood and Fenwick, and across the causeway to Saybrook Point before ending up back in the main business district.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.