Let’s Party, But Where? A Guide to Venues, Part 1: NW CT
The backdrop of natural beauty in the Rural Intelligence region has been luring brides and grooms to say their “I Do’s” here for years. But really, why shouldn’t any event — birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gatherings — get to enjoy the fabulous venues (and yes, frequently the views) that make a special gathering so memorable? In our series looking at one-of-a-kind venues in the region, we begin with Litchfield County, and its facilities that range from a rarified, exclusive inn to a compound that offers a summer camp-like experience.
By Elizabeth Hartley
South Farms, Routes 63 and 109, Morris, CT
Owned by the Paletsky family who’s been farming here for four generations, this beautifully restored, updated and enormous barn complex (20,000-square feet!) perfectly captures farm culture from the 1940s. Ben Paletsky keeps the place going by offering a bit of everything for sale — beef, pork, hay, produce, and high-end events for those seeking a true farm setting. Ben devotes 5,000 square feet to The White Barn (for dinners) and the Stone Barn (for performances and ceremonies).
Capacity: The White Barn: 200 for a sit-down dinner
The Stone Barn: 150 for a ceremony or performance
In-house catering: No, but they can recommend excellent local companies. South Farms does an in-house beverage service featuring local beer as part of CT Craft Brews (Ben grows hops), as well as locally made wines and spirits.
Indoor/outdoor and/or seasonal: The White Barn is open year-round.
What makes it unique or special: “The great staff here is always crafting something new for our events,” Paletsky says, citing how they turned a 25-foot tree into an enormous chandelier for a wedding in the Stone Barn. Questions from customers range from, “Where can I keep my horse after the ceremony?” and “How are the acoustics for a zydeco band?” to “Where can we have a croquet match during cocktail hour?” The Paletskys continue to expand the farm’s offerings, recently completing the conversion of a nearby antique schoolhouse into a yoga and healing retreat.
Photo: Winter Caplanson
Hopkins Vineyard, New Preston, CT (Warren)
On Lake Waramaug, Mayflower descendants Judy and Bill Hopkins turned their dairy farm into a vineyard in 1979, and haven’t looked back. They grow 11 varieties of grapes that yield white, red and sparkling wines. Groups of 15 or less don’t need reservations for the tasting room (open year-round). The Hayloft Wine Bar, with views of the lake, hosts 30 for parties and small events year-round, says daughter Hilary Hopkins Criollo. An event tent set up in the vineyard, with surrounding flower gardens and stone walls, is available from May to October. The vineyard provides cheese plates for purchase with wine tastings, but otherwise doesn’t cater, although they can recommend local companies.
Capacity: Event Tent, May to October: 250 for a sit-down dinner
Hayloft Wine Bar: 30 for a party or event; 50 for wine tastings.
In-house catering: No
Indoor-outdoor/Seasonal: Hayloft available year-round; other spaces seasonal
What makes it unique or special: Table service with a view of Lake Waramaug in the Hayloft Wine Bar, and the tent in the vineyard surrounded by stone walls and lovely gardens. There’s also a firepit for evening parties.
Bellamy-Ferriday House & Gardens, Bethlehem, CT
This exquisite home, barn and historic gardens, administered by Connecticut Landmarks, embody the dramatically different passions of two extraordinary people: Bethlehem pastor Joseph Bellamy, a renowned leader of the Great Awakening, the emotional religious revival of the 1740s, who built the house in stages starting from 1754 to 1767, and New Yorkers Henry and Eliza Ferriday, who acquired the estate as a summer residence in 1912. Eliza and her daughter, Caroline, designed a formal garden of roses, peonies and lilacs, and made other landscape improvements that continue to attract garden enthusiasts among the many visitors to the property. The estate is available for private events, but because it’s a landmark, event hosts need to carry their own liability insurance and festivities must end by 10:30 pm. Lilac season from mid-May to mid-June is especially lovely and fragrant.
Capacity: 150 for parties
In-house catering: No
Seasonal: May to October
What makes it unique: Bellamy-Ferriday captures aristocratic New England at its best. Its historic landmarked status, lovely rooms full of antique furniture, exquisite gardens and location on the town green can’t be beat.
Photos courtesy Winvian.
Winvian, Morris, CT
This resort on 113 acres with a Colonial-era home at its center is as unconventional as it is luxurious. The main home, built in 1775 by physician Seth Bird, was acquired in 1948 by Winthrop and Vivian Smith, who named it “Win-Vian,” a sweet combination of their names. After Winthrop died, Vivian married Charles McVay, captain of the USS Indianapolis and author of the book, In Harm’s Way. In addition to five-star dining and superb meeting and event spaces, Winvian offers 18 luxurious cottages, each conceived around a different theme. Even the boldest among them, a restored 1968 Sikorsky helicopter, a treehouse sited 35 feet above ground, and a cottage built around a glorious white oak tree, offer the best in creature comforts. There’s a full-service spa and a variety of spaces for meeting and events both inside and out.
In-House catering: Yes
What makes it special or unique: Attention to detail on every front: Exceptional accommodations, beautiful event spaces and first-rate dining in a rustic-chic setting.
Club Getaway, Kent, CT
If you ever wanted to go to summer camp as an adult, here’s the place — and you can bring your family and friends with you. Located on 300 acres on the shores of Lake Leonard, Club Getaway offers rustic but comfortable cabins and family-style dining — a fun and relaxed setting for casual events, and there’s no dirth of activities even if the weather doesn’t cooperate. “We try to make dreams come true,” says general manager Leslie Fink, who says the club has hosted high school proms, weddings, and family and school reunions. There are golf carts for older guests and counselors for kids (so adults can, indeed, play).
Capacity: 280 overnight guests, higher for day-long events
In-house catering: Yes, guests must use their caterer
Indoor-outdoor: Yes, both
What makes it unique: The range of recreational activities and organized and individual sports, both on and off the water, is staggering. Club Getaway also offers something most venues simply cannot: a literal time warp that catapults you back to summer camp and childhood.