FEELING SOCIAL? HEAD DOWNTOWN. IT’S very walkable and great hunting grounds for shopping and dining. Conversation starters that win people over include Fairfield’s ranking as a great place to live, winning “Tree City USA” title (again), the awesome schools and anything related to dog (we love dogs).
Welcome to Fairfield, home of sports lovers and fitness buffs. Generally, they’re corralled into the Sportsplex. By 2012 developer Harold Fischel had transformed the old factory on six acres at 85 Mill Plain Road into a 120,000-square-foot indoor rec complex pumping out athletes in lacrosse, climbing, Crossfit, barre, yoga, martial arts, ice skating, dance, gymnastics and more. Fuel up with food and drink, too.
Make lots of new friends at the Memorial Day Parade. Bring the dog, roll the kids in the wagon and nab a spot curbside downtown. “Small town Americana brought to life! The very tradition of attending ties us to this community,” says Fairfielder Lisa Clair. “You can’t help but feel love for family, community and country.” (Insider tip: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Old Post Road holds a pancake breakfast open to the public the morning of the parade.)
Pick a scoop of ice cream or a few pieces from the candy bins at Saugatuck Sweets (the name comes from first shop in the Saugatuck section of Westport). Owner Al DiGuido founded the nonprofit Al’s Angels and hosted a benefit ice-skating rink on the Town Green this year, among other charitable endeavors.
To meet your neighbors, hang out with welcoming groups. For example, Laura Incerto’s Women for Women (womenforwomenct.com) hosts light-hearted social get-togethers around town. Also, check out the Welcome Club of Fairfield/Easton (welcomeclub.org), which, founded in 1950, is a volunteer-run group that hosts events. In May, dads and kids can make a craft for Mother’s Day, and moms get brunch and mani/pedis.
For good-time philanthropy, consider Band Together (bandtogetherct.com)—and bring your dancing shoes. Founders Jerry Vigorito (a Fairfielder) and Rob Fried host high-energy, fun music concerts that support charities. For more music, check out the many concerts at Fairfield Theatre Company (FTC), free music at Pequot Library, and the town-hosted summer concerts at Sherman Green Gazebo (fairfieldct.org).
The town gazebo was inspired by one that Ken Dalling, a member of Fairfield Parks Commission, spotted in Cape May. He proposed Fairfield’s own in 1985. Now enjoy Farmers Market Sundays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., June–October. (Insider tip: Charge your electric car in the parking lot behind the gazebo—or head to 75 Mill Plain Road for solar-powered public chargers; see other stations at solvingev.com).
When you need to throw a fit, check out the six bocce courts at Veterans Park. Fairfielders can make reservations by phone, 203-256-3191, or at Parks and Rec.
Visiting Samuel Penfield’s Sun Tavern in 1789, President Washington noted of the 1779 Burning of Fairfield: “The destructive evidences of British cruelty are yet visible both in Norwalk and Fairfield, as there are chimneys of many burnt houses standing in them yet.” Visit Fairfield Museum and History Center (FMHC; fairfieldhistory.org). The gift shop has great finds.
The Burr Homestead, a Georgian-style mansion at 739 Old Post Road, is a grand town landmark. It’s found in the gorgeous Historic District—the old town center, from Old Post Road to Turney Road. Social elites Thaddeus and Eunice Burr rebuilt the house in 1790 to replace the one the British burned. The property became town owned in 1962 and is now managed by FMHC, which leases it for special events.
Roger Ludlow, a leader in the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies, led the English settlement of the town in 1639. Andrew Ward was a leader in Massachusetts, Wethersfield and Stamford before coming to Fairfield, where he also took on leadership roles. (Insider tip: Don’t miss the Ludlowe Falcons vs. Warde Mustangs football game on Thanksgiving Day.)
Shopping downtown, newcomers will soon spy Donnelly Walk, a former alley transformed into an appealing pedestrian corridor. The name, added in 2005, is in memory of Kim and Tim Donnelly—jewelry store owners who lost their lives during a robbery that year. The arched signage, with twelve-inch-high letters, was displayed in 2015, an effort between Fischel Properties and the town. Small businesses now line the memorial walkway.
Tour the gorgeous Fairfield University campus, and return for outstanding arts exhibits, performances and lectures at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts (quickcenter.fairfield.edu).
BUT FIRST, COFFEE
Fairfielders work out, chase their kids around, launch businesses and, generally, keep very, very busy. Hence, coffee. If you like funky, friendly places (and you know you do), find your fix at Las Vetas Lounge.
You’re not a Fairfielder until you eat at Rawley’s (see the names carved into the tables), S&S Dugout (scoops of hash browns, trust us), and Super Duper Weenie (get all the toppings). They all live up to the high standards of a good “dive.”
If Marquis de Lafayette, who visited the Burrs, haunted Fairfield today, he’d go to Isabel et Vincent, an authentic French bakery. Parisians will praise Cafe Madeline (insider tip: the owner sells beaded bracelets too). Italians will respect Quattro Pazzi, Americans will cheer Old Post Tavern, and rock-n-rollers will dig Chef’s Table. Mexican? Bodega, and let the kids try pottery painting next door. Pho? Mecha Noodle Bar. Too many places to list, so go explore.
Fairfield Restaurant Week (fairfieldct.org/rw) shows off our hot restaurant scene. The one-week passport gets you dishy deals and a chance to win prizes.
Fairfielder Linda Coursen suggests The Pantry: “The perfect place to pick up very fresh produce, all from local farmers. They also have a great selection of coffee beans that are roasted locally and great baked goods.”
A sip of options: Geronimo Tequila Bar (geronimobarandgrill.com) for half-off margaritas on Sunday; Flipside Burgers & Bar (flipsiderestaurant.com) for creative drinks and such specials as $4 cheeseburger tacos; 55 Wine Bar and Wood Grille (55winebar.com) for live music and lots of wine choices; and Anna Liffey’s (annaliffeys.com) for Guinness. Enjoy researching!
KICK OFF YOUR SHOES AND HEAD TO ONE of the best parts of Fairfield: its beaches. In the summertime, claim your space with a beach towel and let the kids run along the coast and play in the Long Island Sound. The sand castles last only until high tide, but the new friendships and memories you make will last a lifetime.
Dig, splash, race, make sand castles, stay for movie night, because as Lisa Clair says, “The beaches are so beautiful.” For twenty-two years, her family has attended Fourth of July fireworks at Jennings Beach. “When the kids were little, they ran around with their friends by the water. When they got older, they disappeared to listen to the music at Penfield Pavilion. Now that they’re grown, they look forward to any Fourth of July they can manage to be home.”
Penfield Pavilion, 323 Fairfield Beach Road, was battered by Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and just reopened. The project was offset in part by FEMA reimbursement, insurance, a state grant and the town. Sleuth out all such details as some light beach reading at fairfieldct.org/pbc.
Jennings Beach comes from sixteen acres that Standard Oil heiress Annie B. Jennings bequeathed to the town, stipulating that it could not become an amusement park. She also helped establish the town’s first public high school—see the murals she commissioned of Roger Ludlow and Reverend Timothy Dwight—and gifted land to Mabel Wright Osgood to create Birdcraft Museum and Sanctuary (ctaudubon.org/birdcraft-museum), now a National Historic Landmark. Penfield Beach, Penfield Pavilion and Penfield Lighthouse and the Sun Tavern (Penfield Tavern) are named for an old town family. Peter Penfield, a builder, arrived here in 1729 and established the Penfield Mills on Ash Creek. His four sons served in the Revolutionary War.
Everyone loves dogs, of course, but they’re still not allowed on the town beaches during the summer season. Accompany your dog—or even your horse—from October 1 to March 3 only.
Follow the adventures of one of Fairfield’s most famous citizens: Albert. The adorable, special-needs dog, and his wonder-dog-mom, Jill Lawson, are always on the go, thanks to the wheels that support his hind legs. Try to keep up with him on Instagram @albertonwheels.
Try a new fitness class, such as qigong and yoga, at the beach—or take the plunge with open-water swimming training for triathletes at Jennings with Pascale Butcher of TriFitness (trifitness.net).
Hot night out? Bonfire! Call 203-256-3191 for a reservation between May 1 and September 30 at Jennings.
THE SMALL VILLAGE HAS PLENTY TO SEE. Sailboats in the habor, sidewalks lined with lush hydrangeas, handsome historic homes, incredible views of the golf course and time-honored neighborhood traditions. Southport epitomizes old-school posh and friendliness. Boat shoe chic and martinis at sunset recommended.
Southport is off-the-beaten path, and residents (including John Akers, former CEO of IBM, and Jack Welch, former CEO of GE) are fine with solitude. Yet the lush gardens, snappy sailboats and well-designed houses are attention-getters. Don’t miss the harbor; Pequot Yacht Club at 669 Harbor Road; the Tide Mill building (once a tavern—more at thesouthportglobe.blogspot.com); and Pequot Library, which hosts fun events, such as the Derby Party and its summer book sale. “What a bargain,” says resident Dana McCreesh. “Roll up the roller on that last day and fill it for $5 with eclectic finds.”
In 2005 Suzanne and Bob Wright cofounded Autism Speaks when their grandson was diagnosed. Last July, Bob lost his wife of forty-nine years to pancreatic cancer. In grief and with determination, the former vice chair of GE and former president and CEO of NBC Universal, launched The Suzanne Wright Foundation to fight the disease.
Dana and Mike McCreesh founded TeamBrent (teambrent.com). Join it for the head-shaving fundraiser St. Baldrick’s to fight neuroblastoma; for the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC); and/or the Southport-based CT Challenge Ride (ctchallenge.org)—explore your new hometown in one big charity bike ride and benefit cancer survivors.
Southport Center was designated a local historic district in 1967 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as the Southport Historic District.
The Southport Street Parade starts at the Southport Congregational Church and winds to the Lower Wharf. The grand marshal is an honored Southporter, such as Hugh Smith, Hoyt “Hop” Perry, Dr. Bill Kueffner and Mike Daly. Its conclusion kicks off the Blessing of the Fleet, established more than twenty years ago by Steve Galpin, former commodore of the Pequot Yacht Club. The event is a photo-op extravaganza, as some fifty decorated vessels pass under an arc of pumped water while being blessed by local clergy. It’s a pancake, hot dog and ice pop kind of day.
WINE + DINE
“I love a cocktail or two on the patio at Artisan [delamar.com],” says McCreesh. “I’m always bumping into friends. Nowhere else does the wine taste so good. Is it the glasses? The perfect chill?” Linger and savor its eighteenth-century Scandinavian design partnered with Chef Frederic Kieffer’s New England classics with contemporary flair.
McCreesh also likes private nights at Pequot Yacht Club (pequotyc.com) or Country Club of Fairfield (ccfairfield.com) with friends. “The casual kayaks at the Sea Lodge [1313 Pequot Ave.] are hidden treasures.”
THIS PEACEFUL NEIGHBORHOOD OFFERS the finer things in life, including room to breathe, glorious gardens and enviable classic estates with those lovely long and winding driveways. Time seems to slow down in the best possible way. The only concern is too much contentment—and a few hungry deer eyeing the hostas.
In 1765 Ebenezer Hill and Mabel Sherwood built their Colonial farmhouse, now Hill House at the base of what today is named Burr Street. The owner is his seventh great-granddaughter.
For 125 years, the 1750 saltbox-style Ogden House on Bronson Road was home to generations of Ogdens. Built for David Ogden and Jane Sturges, it escaped the burning by the British during the American Revolution. The FMHC offers tours of the house.
Gardeners love the nurseries. Oliver Nurseries (1159 Bronson Rd.), Greenfield Hill Nursery and Garden (1301 Bronson Rd.) and Colonial Gardens (1174 Bronson Rd.), which resident Lisa Clair says, “is a wonderful place to go for healthy plant stock and free advice.” Off-season, visit the warm, fragrant greenhouse. “It never fails to lift my spirits.”
Fairfield Library hosts a Seed-to-Seed Exchange each year at Greenfield Hills Grange, built in 1897 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coreen’s Bridge Floral Shop offers “grab and go’s”—small premade bouquets in mason jars or similarly cute holders.
RAVEIS WALK + RIDE
Greenfield Hill is fertile ground for philanthropy. For example, real estate businessman William Raveis’s Greenfield Hill home is lush with robust apple orchards and peonies thanks to his wife, Candy. In 2016, as she was in treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, he launched William Raveis Charitable Fund and Raveis Ride + Walk to benefit Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.
Enjoy actual tweets, from birds, at the Connecticut Audubon Society Center (ctaudubon.org/center-at-fairfield). “I walk the paths and cut back until I end up at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church on Congress Street, where I walk the labyrinth,” says Clair. “Then I retrace my steps, visit the rehabilitating birds in the sanctuary, and buy birdseed and maybe a birthday gift or two at the charming shop.”
BLACK ROCK TURNPIKE
BLACK ROCK TURNPIKE IS A GO-GO KIND of place, packed with food stops for busy shoppers. Drivers must master maneuvering in and out of parking lots, because this is a drive-from-stop-to-stop kind of place. Store and restaurant chains harmoniously coexist with independent local haunts. Get ready to shop ’til you drop.
SHOPPING + MORE
Black Rock Turnpike is not for strolling—it’s for big-time errand busting: baby shower gift, new jeans for your tween, fresh hair cut, a baker’s dozen of chewy bagels, a cartoonishly large bag of dog food, essentials for the food pantry, a mani/pedi, and on and on and on, right up to a pizza or a refreshing pint. It’s just bop in here, bop in there kind of place—with plenty of eateries and watering holes to keep you fueled up. Consider Little Pub, which just opened in town; OrangeTheory Fitness to break a sweat; Chip’s for an enormous, no-fuss meal; Country Cow Deli for a locally famous breakfast sandwich; Billy’s Bakery for fresh bread, pies and more.
If you have a favorite national chain, you’ll probably find it here. Stop in at Old Navy, Gap, Trader Joe’s, Panera, Hallmark, Game Stop, Carter’s, Starbucks and the like along this stretch.
You’ll discover plenty of restaurants and eateries, but you could miss Liana’s Trattoria, unless you know to look for it (591 Tunxis Hill Rd). This Italian place is cozy in all the right ways—and the food is melt-in-your-mouth-gnocchi delicious.
Looking for a treat? Consider Alina’s Patisserie (2480 Black Rock Tpk.), a full-service bakery with creative cakes, pastries, cookies and more. Everything’s made from scratch, by hand.
League level or family fun, everyone likes bowling. The lanes at Nutmeg Bowl on nearby Villa Ave. (nutmegbowl.com) includes a Our Back Yard Play Space, which is loaded with inflatable ramps and slides for b-day fun.
Try the fun game at Tunxis Hill Park, 225 Melville Ave.
Bigelow (bigelowtea.com), the No. 1 specialty tea company in the U.S., is headquartered in Fairfield. It was founded in 1945 by Ruth Campbell Bigelow; three-generations later, Cindi Bigelow is president and CEO. It supports nonprofits, including Center for Family Justice, CT Challenge, Fairfield YMCA and the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities. To learn more, pull up a chair and grab a cup of tea—it could take awhile.
You’ll soon hear the names Al and Ken Kleban, father and son. These commercial developers have helped transform Fairfield, including Black Rock Turnpike (klebanproperties.com).
PRETTY, QUIET, QUAINT AND UTTERLY unpretentious, living around Lake Mohegan and in the Stratfield area is sweet. It’s a haul from the buzz of downtown, but bookended by Fairfield University and Sacred Heart means there’s always something to do. The dress code is jeans and a t-shirt, ready for exploring the outdoors.
The Lake Hill region, formally Samp Mortar Reservoir, includes Lake Mohegan and is connected by the Mill River system. The Cascades waterfall is a popular hiking destination along the river in the north woods. “Lake Mohegan was once a sand quarry,” says Fairfielder Jerry Vigorito. “We used to jump off giant mountains of sand when we were kids. The town turned it into a lake in the early 1970s. Legend has it, a steam shovel is still at the bottom.”
Don’t confuse Lake Mohegan with Samp Mortar Reservoir, which is private to the Lake Hills Assoc., established in the 1950s.
Spy nature at Lake Hills. “The wildlife around the lake is year round and what I enjoy most,” says Vigorito, who has seen foxes, muskrats, river otters and many migrating birds, such as mergansers. He says seeing a bald eagle was a “lifetime dream come true.”
Bring your furry best friend for a hike. Find a trailhead by the pack of people and dogs going in and out like bees at a hive. The pretty, and refreshingly shaded, trail takes the sting out of making new friends.
At the main branch or the Fairfield Woods Branch Library (FWBL), read books, learn to knit, watch film noir, do gardening, get job advice, hear music, arrange for book deliveries for the homebound and pick up museum passes. (Insider tip: On June 10, check out hands-on workshops at the How-to Festival at the FWBL.) The Fairfield Senior Center bus stops at FWBL on Wednesday mornings; and, in the school year, teens can go to downUNDER Teen Center Mon.–Thurs., 3–4:45 p.m.
SACRED HEART U
Visit SHU’s Gallery of Contemporary Art, Edgerton Center for Performing Arts and new Jack Welch College of Business—one of only fifty institutions certified by the Global Association of Risk Professionals for emerging financial risk management (plus, it’s cool looking). On campus, also attend Join the Conversation by WSHU, a public radio group (wshu.org).
BORN AND RAISED
The high school hallways John Mayer wants to run through are in Fairfield, his hometown.