The Top Things to Do and See in Connecticut's Fairfield County

Lake Lillinonah on the Lillinonah Trail in Paugussett State Forest is one of the best spots in Fairfield County, Connecticut
Lake Lillinonah on the Lillinonah Trail in Paugussett State Forest is one of the best spots in Fairfield County, Connecticut | © George Ostertag / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Katherine Schweizer
25 August 2020

Home to four of Connecticut’s largest cities, Fairfield County has an impressive offering of attractions and points of interest. From museums to nature trails, we profile the best cultural things to do and see in this part of New England.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk

Aquarium, Theater
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Maritime Aquarium _ Norwalk, Connecticut, USA
© Stan Tess / Alamy Stock Photo
Unlike any other aquarium, the Maritime Aquarium focuses on one body of water: the Long Island Sound. Exploring related animals and conservation issues from around the world, and with 34 exhibits featuring more than 1,200 marine animals of 259 species, the Maritime Aquarium strives to inspire people of all ages to appreciate and protect the Long Island Sound ecosystem as well as the global environment. Close encounters with intertidal creatures such as jellyfish, sharks, and rays educate visitors about the aquatic life of Long Island Sound and its watershed. Friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers offer visitors personal interactions like no other. Climb aboard the country’s only hybrid-electric vessel for an educational cruise around Long Island Sound. While at the aquarium, be sure not to miss the larger-than-life movie experience at Connecticut’s biggest IMAX theater. This theater helps to extend the aquarium’s educational themes by showing films such as National Parks Adventure and A Beautiful Planet, in addition to exciting blockbusters.

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo

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Take a walk on the wild side at Connecticut’s only zoo. For over 90 years, Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo has been committed to the preservation of endangered animals. As a proud participant of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), the Beardsley Zoo is dedicated to heightening the importance of conservation and preservation of animals. Featuring over 300 animals (primarily North and South American species) as well as several endangered species, a tropical rainforest with a free-flight aviary, and a New England farmyard, the zoo offers the opportunity to see rare animals such as an endangered Amur (Siberian) tiger, an Andean condor, ocelots, and more. Knowledgeable staff and volunteers will enhance your experience. Before you leave, be sure to stop at the carousel for a spin. And bring the family – it’s sure to be a hit for everyone.

Connecticut Audubon Society

Hiking Trail
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The Connecticut Audubon Society’s 19 sanctuaries offer a range of ecosystems and habitats in which you can be one with nature. As you observe birds and wildlife, hike on trails where signs are provided for additional information, insights, and unique perspectives. Most of the sanctuaries are open to the public every day year round, from dawn to dusk. All centers offer educational programs as well as events for adults and children alike. Established in 1914 by Mabel Osgood Wright, the Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield is the oldest private songbird sanctuary in the United States. It is also the headquarters of the Connecticut Audubon Society. The site began as a refuge to attract, harbor, and feed migratory and resident birds, and more than 120 bird species have been recorded on its grounds. Travel up the road to the Center at Fairfield, conveniently located on Burr Street. Here you can walk through the birds-of-prey compound, relax in the butterfly garden and learn about local conservation.

Stamford Downtown

Shopping Mall
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Stamford Old Town Hall, Atlantic Street in downtown Stamford, Connecticut, USA
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re visiting Fairfield County, this is the place to be. Stamford Downtown is vibrant and inviting with its broad array of shops, restaurants, services, arts, education and events, along with great music, great dancing, and great times all year round. Be sure to check out the outdoor concert series, the perfect place for that after-work crowd. The concerts include live music from national and regional headliners like Third Eye Blind and O.A.R. Come be a part of the scene!

Westport Country Playhouse

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What was originally built as a tannery in 1835 has transformed into the nationally recognized Westport Country Playhouse. Founded in 1931 by New York theater producer Lawrence Langner, the Westport Country Playhouse is open for enjoyment and community events year round. Some of these events include live theater experiences of the highest quality, family festivities, Script in Hand play readings, and special performances for students and teachers. This beautiful and historic playhouse has stayed true to its mission to enrich, enlighten, and engage the community through the power of professionally produced theater worth talking about. Today, the nonprofit Westport Country Playhouse serves as a cultural nexus for patrons, artists and students and is a treasured resource for the state of Connecticut.

Jones Family Farms

Farmers' Market, American, $$$
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Nestled in the White Hills of Shelton, Jones Family Farms impresses visitors with its 19th-century dairy barn and homestead farmhouse. The farmers of the 400-acre (162ha) working farm invite families to visit and harvest seasonal crops such as strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins and more. For a unique culinary experience, check out Jones’ cooking classes. The beautiful countryside, with its neat stone walls and well-maintained fields, are the result of several generations of Jones family farmers’ efforts.

Bruce Museum

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Consistently voted the best museum in Fairfield County by the local media, the Bruce Museum of Greenwich offers a changing array of exhibits and educational programs that promote the understanding and appreciation of art and science. In 1998, the Bruce Museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums – an honor granted to fewer than five percent of all museums. This regionally-based, world-class institution plays an integral role in the cultural life of area residents, attracting approximately 70,000 visitors annually. Sitting high on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor, this museum offers permanent galleries such as Life Between the Tides, Formation of Our Land and The Earth’s Minerals.

National Helicopter Museum

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The birthplace of the American Helicopter Industry and home of Sikorsky Aircraft Company, Stratford’s National Helicopter Museum is a must-visit. This museum collects and exhibits images and objects related to the long history of the aviation and helicopter industry in Stratford. The museum traces the evolution of the rotary wing, starting from the simple design of the boomerang and on to early motorized experiments and modern helicopters. Other exhibits include current photos and models of aircraft by Bell, Boeing, Kaman Aircraft, Robinson Helicopter and Sikorsky. Visitors can discover their inner pilot in the working cockpit that features actual gears and peddles of the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.

Lillinonah Trail

Forest, Hiking Trail, Park
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This 6mi (10km) hike will take you through the upper block of Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, Connecticut. The Lillinonah Trail is considered an easy hike with few sections of rugged terrain. Some notable features include the Pond Brook inlet, Lake Lillinonah, the Great Oak, Shepaug Dam and, on occasion, eagles. The picturesque Housatonic River looms in the background throughout the forest. This trail is open year round and primarily used for hiking, backpacking, picnicking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Lake Lillinonah is named for the legend of a tragic romance between a Native American maiden of the Pootatuck/Paugussett tribe and a European white colonist. This trail is part of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system in the lower Housatonic River valley in Fairfield County, located entirely in Newtown.
These recommendations were updated on August 25, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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