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By: Patricia Ann Chaffee

Mystic Seaport, CT (Patricia Ann Chaffee)

Horse drawn sleigh at Allegra Farm.Horse drawn sleigh at Allegra Farm.Staycations are vacations taken at home or in nearby towns, villages, or even neighboring states. And I’m not talking about arm chair travelers as that’s a vacation of a whole other kind. I’m talking about venturing out to enjoy our surroundings that are as close as our back yards or as far as a few hours drive. The term “staycations” has only been around a decade or so and became big when gas prices were high, and folks wanted an economical escape. Today, it’s easy enough to go online and book a trip to the Bahamas in midwinter, but why? When there is so much to see and do right in Connecticut and beyond. These days, with work and life schedules as insanely jam packed as they are, it’s essential to take time off, make time for these accessible adventures, and staycations are a great way to go. Here are five reasons to embrace your staycation vacation.

1. It’s financially wise and supports local economy

Sometimes lack of time and resources keep us close to home, but it’s there that the treasures lay. Connecticut is chock full of natural beauty, abundant history, artistic expression, relaxing retreats and family fun. There are so many places to see that we never get to enjoy from within our office cubicles or living room couch. It is cost effective to enjoy these local experiences because you don’t have the travel expense of going far. It also helps our local economy and gives us greater appreciation of the places, the culture, food, and unique offerings in your own state, when we dare to seek them out.

Tourism is thriving in Connecticut as a $14 billion dollar industry that employs 80,000 people, which equates to more than five percent of all jobs in the state, according to the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

“One of the great things about living in Connecticut is getting to enjoy all four seasons,” said tourism program and communications manager, Meagan Occhiogrosso. “People think they need to leave the state to do something fun. But that’s not true. There is a certain kind of charm in Connecticut.”

She points out that visiting a spa resort like The Spa at Norwich Inn, is a great winter activity and something you can do alone or with a friend. At The Saybrook Point Inn and Spa they have a coveted lighthouse suite that sits at the mouth of the Connecticut River. There is no shortage of museums to visit as well as breweries to tour, award winning restaurants, cozy Bed & Breakfasts and captivating casinos.

Stacy LytwynStacy Lytwyn2. Approach your adventure with a sense of mystery and wonder

“If you feel stuck or get the winter blues, get into the car and just drive,” said author of Consummate Connecticut – Day Trips with Panache, Stacy Lytwyn. Planning a driving tour around the state can be a real adventure when you open yourself to the endless possibilities that may be around each corner. “Even if you only travel for a cup of java and a blueberry muffin at a local coffee shop,” she says, “One little trip can make that 190 degree turn for a better day. One of my favorite adages that I, myself live by is, ‘move a muscle, change a thought.’” So if winter doldrums are plaguing you, now is the time for a staycation.

Stacy gives presentations around the state about “Day Trips for Healing and Wellness.” “It really shows the benefit of investing in ‘experiences’ not just ‘things,’” she says. “Things are certainly important, but let me tell you, whether it is at the beginning, middle or end of life, every ‘thing’ pales next to human connection. I’m always trying to push people to go, travel, learn, explore and live, really live...for in the end, as you get older, if you have matured in a healthy way, you know you cannot beat the clock, but you sure can pack in those precious moments.”

About traveling alone, Stacy offers some insight: “If you can’t have an awesome time with yourself, then you are not going to have a good time with anyone else. Period. I learned firsthand more than five decades ago how one day trip can morph positive change into the rest of your life. I was in my early twenties, and suffering from a lot of internal anguish. One day feeling very alone with a head of negative self-talk, I decided to take a ride from Fairfield (CT) to Coventry. A young journalist at the time, I had been fascinated by the health benefits of fresh herbs. Back then, Caprilands, a 69-acre herb farm, was so synonymous with Coventry that I kept calling that particular northeast corner of the state ‘Caprilands, Connecticut.’ Once there, I connected with nature and solitude. I connected with the famous herbalist Adelma Grenier Simmons, who passed away in 1997. Most of all this experience connected me with myself and sparked curiosity and renewed my hope, which inspired a journey in living a life centered around positive thought and action.

“All these decades later my solo trips continue to gift me with so many things – from inner healing to meeting all kinds of people on my travels. I love to take my time and savor each moment.”

3. Consider the healing potential

Stacy considers winter a healing time, and has an appreciation for beaches and the shoreline during this chilly off season. A walk in nature of any kind is always a refreshing and rejuvenating experience even in mid- winter. But the beaches off season hold a special energy and sometimes special surprises as we walk along the shores. The Meigs Point Nature Center at Hammonasset State Park in Madison is open year round and word has it, seals can occasionally be found lounging in the sand. Imagine the serendipitous experience of meandering along a beach on a winter’s day, to find a seal in your path. It’s those kinds of experience that remind us that anything is possible and staying local means stress free travel.

If beaches don’t appeal to you there are plenty of parks inland with hiking trails. The Litchfield Hills is home to Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center and if getting away for some peace and quiet sounds good, that’s the place to do it. You can sign up for one of their many programs, bring your journal or art supplies or just go to enjoy the silence. Try out their drum circle program. This is your time and it’s all about you and what feels good and right. Sometimes it is the act of getting out of the house and into new space that can transform us.

4. Embrace tradition and the arts

Ice skating and sledding are favorite pastimes that harken back to simpler times. If a Courier and Ives activity is your idea of fun, check out a horse drawn sleigh ride at Allegra Farms in East Haddam. It is the largest authentic livery stable in Connecticut. Follow it up with a stop at a local cafè for hot chocolate and it just might not get better than that. Going on the hunt for a one of a kind item at antique shops around the state can be great fun, especially in the northeast, Quiet Corner. If being out in nature isn’t your thing, the arts in every conceivable form manifest itself throughout the state at museums, art galleries, open studios, theatre and venue’s like The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook and the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. Fairs and festivals indoors and out, run all year round and if history is your passion, a stop at Mystic Seaport is never a disappointment.

5. Sometimes it’s just about plain old fun

The Connecticut Science Center will appeal to the kid in all of us while Coco Key Water Resort and Convention Center in Waterbury is a full fledged resort offering family friendly fun. There are cruises on the Connecticut River February through October at Connecticut River Expeditions. If lions and tigers and bears sound fun, check out the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport where they have 300 animals and a year round carousel. And lastly, if you have a truly adventurous spirit, head on over to Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort for skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing.

There is so much to see and do in Connecticut, whether you are looking to curl up at a B&B with a good book, scale mountains, traverse zip lines, wander deserted beaches, shop til you drop, or take in a show. It’s as simple as making the decision to treat yourself to a staycation vacation. Open a map, close your eyes and point a finger. Wherever you are in Connecticut a staycation is just outside your door.

“It’s when you don’t want to go anywhere that you really need to,” said Stacy. “In a very turbulent world it’s nice to know I can still go to the Goodspeed Opera House for a production.”

Consummate Connecticut is available on Amazon at: Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache.

Staycation Resources:

CT Office of Tourism: www.ct.gov/cct/cwp/view.asp?a=3948&q=464698

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