Okay. It’s time to fess up. Here’s my dirty little secret (well, one of them anyway). I am completely and totally terrified of “the day trip.” The very words strike fear into my heart. Now, I don’t mean day trips to grandma’s house. Those don’t count, especially when there are the comforts of home waiting for us, like high chairs and Pack n Plays and diaper pails. I’m talking about seven to eight hours of feeding on the fly, napping on the go, changing diapers in the stroller, cleaning up messes with nothing more than a stack of Wet Ones, and just generally being away from the house (anyone’s house!) for the busiest hours of the day. Because, as you most likely know, it is amazing how handy something like a bathtub can be when you have a small child.
So now you know how it came to pass that I managed to put off the dreaded day trip for the first 13 months of my son’s life. When my birthday rolled around though, my husband and I started talking about something we’ve been wanting to do for several years now: a daylong sojourn in Putnam, CT. Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Putnam isn’t exactly on the tip of your tongue when trying to think of something fun to do for a day. You may not even know where Putnam is on a map. Let me enlighten you a bit then. Putnam is in northeastern Connecticut, near the Rhode Island border.
Its neighbor is Pomfret, which you might have heard of due to its eponymous boarding school. The truth is, we might never have heard of Putnam either if it weren’t for this fact: it is about equidistant, in terms of the drive, from us and from my mother who lives in Providence, RI. So, over the years, Putnam has become a meeting spot for us to celebrate occasions like birthdays, new jobs, and promotions. We had not been back, however, since Boo arrived, and it seemed about time. Plus, seeing as in the past we would only meet up for dinner, we had never had a chance to explore the rest of the town. So I took a deep breath, and we set a date to meet my mom (“Grandy,” as Boo knows her) the Friday after my birthday.
The plan was to make the hour and fifteen minute drive during Boo’s usual morning nap. We would meet Grandy at our favorite restaurant for an early lunch. After the meal, we’d check out some of the nearby antique stores and then finish up with a stroll along the river. If we timed it right, we’d be hopping back in the car just in time for Boo to take a little late afternoon siesta.
I am not a light packer on a normal day, so this was also an excellent opportunity to break out the giant diaper bag I just scored from Baby Steals, a fun site that offers two ridiculously great deals on baby items each day (but you’ve got to be quick because once they are gone, they’re gone). If you look really closely, I think you can see the kitchen sink in there.
It was a lovely drive down Rte 44. It’s even prettier in the fall when the leaves are really changing. As we hoped, Boo zonked out after 10 minutes and slept the whole way. When we arrived, we parked in one of Putnam’s great municipal parking lots. This one is up near the shops and restaurants, but there is another one down near the walking/biking trail. Both are free.
It was a really short walk to the restaurant we like called 85 Main.
Here’s the view from the other side of the block. Those pretty umbrellas are tables in the restaurant’s outdoor seating area.
We sat inside today to better accommodate the high chair, but because the restaurant has these enormous sliding glass doors (more like sliding glass walls) that stay open when the weather is nice, it’s almost like being outside anyway. And there’s no need for sunblock. Even better. As you can see, I had no trouble wheeling in my giant stroller.
In this picture you can really see the open doors and the beautiful patio.
Here’s Boo ready to order.
They do have a kid’s menu. We ordered Boo a grilled cheese and fries, and then took a few more minutes to peruse the menu ourselves.
As you can see, it’s fairly eclectic (can’t think of many places that feature pork BBQ and sushi rolls on the same menu). But I can honestly say that I have never had anything bad to eat here. And as I mentioned earlier, we have eaten here A LOT. Check out the menu page on their website for a better look.
Today I went for the grilled chicken and Brie cheese sandwich. Add that to the list of deliciousness.
Boo enjoyed his lunch too.
He’s always a member of the clean plate club.
After we finished eating, we moved on to phase two of the outing. I was on the hunt for one of those giant old-fashioned crocks to hold my zillion and one kitchen utensils that are now parceled out into three separate holders in various corners of my kitchen. My husband likes to joke about my enormous kitchen utensil/gadget collection (especially about my three different types of cheese graters), but if you are a cooking enthusiast like me, then you can relate. They all have a purpose!
We got Boo back into the stroller and made our way out to the sidewalk. I should mention before we go on that although the restaurant does have a restroom (of course), it is just a tiny, one-person-at-a-time kind of thing and there’s really not enough room to maneuver in there for a diaper change. Fortunately, a bit later we did find a public restroom down the hill in the larger free municipal parking lot, and it had changing stations in both the women’s and the men’s rooms.
Unfortunately, there was no toilet paper and no soap. Fortunately, I had Kleenex and hand sanitizer in the diaper bag.
At the edge of the parking lot, we spotted a handy directory.
For some reason, this seemed like a good family photo opportunity.
Anyway, back to the treasure hunt. In the immediate vicinity, we found three antique stores that looked promising. The first one was gigantic. It was roughly the size of a large department store. The picture from the outside just doesn’t do it justice.
We were able to take the stroller around the first level, but it didn’t look like there was any way up to the second and third levels except the staircases. So Grandy and I went exploring upstairs while Boo and my husband had some daddy/son bonding time.
We did find quite a few crocks. Unfortunately, these cost more than every one of my kitchen utensils put together. I decided to keep looking.
We hit a couple more stores nearby. The one across the street was too small to even take the stroller inside.
Another one was around the corner. It was pretty narrow in places, but we managed to wheel Boo around most of the store.
We were completely baffled until we came back up the hill later and saw the other side.
Get it? If not, take a quick look at the “methods of shaping” section on this Wikipedia page on pottery, and you will.
At the bottom of the hill, we crossed a really big, busy intersection. Luckily, it was equipped with wide crosswalks and those little buttons you can push to make the traffic lights all turn red. The trail is well marked in this area, so you really can’t miss it.
Since we were there just after Hurricane Irene, the water was still pretty fierce.
The trail winds around the river for about 1.3 miles. At this point, it also runs along a beautiful park.
Boo was happy to be released from his stroller for a little while.
And Grandy found a nice shady spot to sit for a spell.
I enjoyed the beautiful views across the river.
We even got a little history lesson.
On the way back to the cars, we decided to pop into the coffee and dessert shop next door to the restaurant where we had lunch.
They had the most decadent-sounding coffee drinks (usually my irresistible weakness), but to my surprise I found myself giving in to the allure of a deliciously chilled mango ice tea instead. Grandy had a mango smoothie, and hubby got a soda. Then we all sat for a few minutes in one of the living room style furniture arrangements.
When Boo started to fuss a little, we decided to call it a day. We piled everything and everyone back into the car, and it only took about
five minutes on the road before Boo zonked out completely. Perfect. So maybe I
hadn’t found the treasure I was looking for that day, but I did discover that
Putnam is really one of our state’s hidden gems.
(Public restroom with changing stations available down the hill from Main Street in the free municipal parking lot near the trail.)
85 Main Street, Putnam, CT 06260
Get directions here:
Hours: Open daily from 11:30 AM-11:30 PM except for Thanksgiving, Christmas (eve & day), July 4th and Labor Day.
Changing station: no
91 Main Street, Putnam, CT 06260
Get directions here:
Hours are not specified on their website; call ahead.
Changing station: no
A stroller and/or infant carrier (A stroller is great for
getting around, but a wearable infant carrier will give you more flexibility to
go into the smaller shops and upstairs in the larger shops.)
Tissues and hand sanitizer in case you need to use the
public restroom and you find it devoid of paper and soap like we did.
Anything you don’t want to carry or push up and down a
pretty steep hill. Also, the parking lots are very close to everything, so you
don’t need to tote around every item. You can easily run back to your car for
Next week we’ll get up close and personal with some farmyard friends (and we don’t mean the human kind), and don’t forget that we’ll be
tweeting live from the Big E on Tuesday, September 20th. Won’t have
time to catch the live feed? No problem. Look for the highlights in our Big E
Roundup next Thursday, September 22nd.