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Please select an itemTOWN

At the heart of the Farmington Valley is Avon, a vibrant little town that is no stranger to change, having been home to the volcanic activity responsible for Talcott Mountain’s steep cliffs, a glacial migration that etched rocks along their passage, and even mastodons.

The River Indians who settled here arrived only 10,000 years ago. But it wasn’t until the mid-1600s that the confederation of local tribes sold their land to the English — and another hundred years before a settler named Stephen Hart purchased and settled the land now known as Avon. Since then, the town’s resident population has swelled, reflecting and supporting an already substantial and steadily growing base of businesses and industries, as well as new retail and dining establishments at the very popular Shops at Farmington Valley and along Route 44, Avon’s main thoroughfare.

The official gateway to the town is the point at which Route 44 intersects with Nod and Waterville Roads at the foot of Avon Mountain. On one side is The North House, a fine eatery now at home in what was formerly Avon Old Farms Inn — a circa 1757 establishment that was once a stagecoach stop on Albany Turnpike. And on the other side is the Avon Old Farms Hotel, which, featuring top-notch accommodations and upscale restaurant just like its namesake, is a sophisticated setting for events of all kinds.

Also at that intersection is Apple Health and Physicians for Women’s Health. And Apple’s Foley-family imprint continues across the road with the Blue Fox Run golf course and a tastefully developed office complex that includes Saint Francis Care and other medical facilities.

Just south, occupying the site of the old Avon Cider Mill, is the Reggio Magnet School of the Arts, while right next door is The Pickin’ Patch, where the Woodford family has cultivated the Valley’s most fertile acreage for literally centuries, producing a bountiful selection of field-fresh fruits, vegetables, and nursery stock. And if canoeing is your thing, launch yours nearby along the serene six-mile stretch of family-friendly Farmington River flat water that heads toward Simsbury and provides a fine paddle with some outstanding scenery.

Up ahead is one of the Valley’s most consistently excellent restaurants — Max A Mia. And a bit further west, the junction of Routes 44 and 10 & 202 is marked by a big old wooden rocking chair at the entrance of Avon Village, where a cluster of popular specialty shops and eateries have long been housed in freestanding Colonial-era buildings — including a newcomer called The Cake Gypsy, providing those with a sweet tooth over 60 flavors of cupcakes.

Turn south on Old Farms Road and you’ll find Avon Old Farms School a few miles down. The campus features distinctive English-style buildings designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, who also designed her impressive family home in Farmington — now the celebrated Hill-Stead Museum.

Turn North, and you’ll find yourself on Simsbury Road, where you’ll see a Residence Inn by Marriott and The Residence at Brookside, an assisted living facility, plus Hartford Hospital’s Healthtrax Avon Wellness Center — a combination fitness club and multi-specialty medical services facility just across the road. Just beyond is Riverdale Farms, a collection of historic farm buildings polished up to house a new and highly diverse crop of outstanding restaurants and specialty shops, including Avon Lighting Showroom, with its trove of distinctive light fixtures, and Avon Plumbing & Heating, with its large showroom, featuring the latest styles and best brands in bath and kitchen fixtures. Its neighbor, The Hair Loft, is one of the Valley’s premier salons.

Go straight at the junction of Routes 44, 202, and 10 and you’ll pass the historic brownstone buildings that are the legacy of the early industrial-era explosives companies Climax Fuse and Ensign Bickford. They are now recycled for an assortment of uses, including municipal government offices and the quaint Shops at Avon Green. But it is also home to the Farmington Valley Arts Center, where you can take all kinds of classes and attend popular community events, such as the holiday Candlelight Opening in November.

Currently being woven into the former Ensign-Bickford campus behind all of those buildings is the new Avon Village Center development, anchored by Whole Foods. Now well underway, the 97-acre Avon Village Center will provide an exciting blend of office, retail, dining, and residential housing at the very heart of the town.

Just ahead is The First & Last Tavern, a local favorite that has welcomed travelers — and now diners — for almost two centuries. And if a “cuppa” is on your mind, you have two excellent choices. Try Dom’s Coffee, a contemporary European-style coffee shop that’s just steps away, as well as home to Dom’s Cheese Shop, recently named “Best Cheese Shop in Hartford County” by Connecticut Magazine. Or head across the street to another grand old Colonial, where The Coffee Trade, and its amazing array of whole-bean coffees are ground daily, is not to be missed.

And a bit further on you’ll find River’s Edge Mediterranean Cuisine & Catering, along with Walmart, The Fresh Market, Michaels, and Marshalls, as well as Avon Marketplace, which is home to Starbucks, Athleta, Ulta, Orvis, The Gap, and Bertucci’s. Nearby, tucked in and around the larger stores, are more great shops and plenty of eateries, such as BurgerFi, Liki Sushi & Asian Bistro, The New England Pasta Company & Cafe, Avon Prime Meats, Marketplace Kitchen & Bar, Amici Italian Grill, and Chang-An II Chinese Restaurant. And also on the south side of Route 44 is GoHealth — Hartford Hospital’s new walk-in primary and urgent-care center, which has proven to be quite an asset to the area.

Most of Avon’s new residents have moved into the comfortable wooded neighborhoods that fan out south of Route 44 in the Farmington River Valley lowlands between Avon Mountain Ridge on the town’s eastern border and the West Avon Mountain highlands along the Canton line.

Along the southern boundary sits a 223-acre soccer and baseball mecca called Fisher Meadows. The town’s major outdoor recreation area, it also offers lots of wooded trails and beautiful Spring Lake.

On West Avon Road (Route 167), you’ll see the First Company Governor’s Horse Guard, where Thursday night drills with the horses are a popular roadside attraction. Close by is Avon High School, which has more than doubled in size since first opening in 1958. Miller Turkey Farm is just down the road. And nearby on Route 167 stands the J.C. Thompson Sunrise Farm, which broke ground in 1876 and is still in operation today — a delightful vestige of Avon’s agricultural legacy. Traveling west up Country Club Road and across Lovely Street is the west Avon Mountain area, where many of the Valley’s most magnificent new homes have already been built and upscale sub-divisions proposed.

Mindful of the potential for overdevelopment, residents have remained vigilant, keeping a watchful eye on things — including the Avon Village Center development, which promises to provide their town with a “proper” center. Indeed, it would seem that once again, Avon has adapted well to much-needed change and settled nicely into yet another very positive phase in its long and auspicious history.

Photos by Lanny Nagler and Jennifer Cardinal