15 Things to Do in Stanford (CT)

An hour’s drive from Penn Station to New York, Stamford has the feel of an urban metropolis and is home to nine Fortune 1000 companies.

Heading south, you’ll reach Long Island Sound and nearly 20 miles of coastline with waterside parks and beaches.

If you go to North Stamford, it feels more like a New England town, with attractions like the Stamford Museum and the Bartlett Arboretum tucked away in vast deciduous forests with winding paths.

Downtown Stamford is buzzing with bars, restaurants, movie theaters and the Stamford Downtown Mall, while Broadway musicals, famous comedians and famous musicians take the stage at the legendary Palace Theatre.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Stanford:

1. Stanford Museum and Nature Center

Stanford Museum and Nature Center

Deep in the woodlands of North Stanford, the Stanford Museum and Nature Center blends art with the sciences of nature, history and agriculture.

It’s all housed in the 118-acre half-timbered Bendel Mansion, built in a mock Tudor style in the late 1920s.

In this exquisite building, you can visit a variety of galleries showcasing contemporary art exhibits, New England natural history, antique farm implements, totem poles, vintage bicycles, prints by the likes of Warhol and Dalí, and works by famous local artists , such as Gutzon Borglum and Reuben Nakian.

Outside is a splendid sculpture collection and 10-acre Hexie Farm, celebrating New England’s rural heritage and preserving a range of heritage breeds and non-native species such as alpacas, donkeys, and llamas.

The Overbrook Nature Center also features interactive wildlife exhibits and trails that meander through the 80-acre park and connect to the adjacent Bartlett Botanic Gardens.

Don’t miss Edith & Robert Graham Otter Ponds, home to playful North American river otters.

2. Bartlett Botanic Gardens and Gardens

Bartlett Botanic Gardens and Gardens

The Bartlett Arboretum is a botanical garden known as a “living classroom” that houses more than 3,500 specimens in 12 different gardens near the Stanford Museum.

Most of what you’ll see is from New England, but there are also examples from the Caribbean, Africa, Mexico, and the American Southwest.

The earliest of these were planted more than a century ago, while the most recent planting has been here for over 50 years.

Stroll through the Frank Bartlett Heisinger Conifer Garden and Mehlquist Garden to see rhododendrons, rhododendrons, and Japanese Andromedas, all under tall hardwood trees.

Woodland Treasures is home to more than 100 species of plants on less than an acre, while Alice Smith Fern Allée is flanked by 60 species of ferns, and the quaint cottage garden is furnished like a 1700s English garden.

3. Philip Johnson Glass House

Philip Johnson Glass House

New Canaan is marked by a modern building just a few steps east of the Stanford Museum.

The Glass House (1949), designed by Philip Johnson, is an open-plan room with glass walls on a slender wooden frame and brick base, a study of minimalism, geometry, reflection and transparency.

See also  15 Best Things to Do in Norwich (CT)

The only hidden element of the house is the bathroom, which is housed in a brick tub.

The Glass House was a weekend getaway designed for Johnson, who used the property for nearly 60 years until his death in 2005. You can take an informative guided tour through the visitor center in downtown New Canaan, which includes a shuttle and a 3/4 mile walk through the estate and visit some of the other buildings on the grounds, such as the Brick House where Johnson’s guests will stay.

4. First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian

Wallace Harrison (1895-1981), who was involved in the construction of Rockefeller Center, designed another masterpiece of local modernism.

The First Presbyterian Church, also known as the Fish Church because of how its silhouette evokes the early Christian fish symbol, was completed in 1958 and remains a miracle more than 60 years later.

Inside, the stained-glass windows are large, made up of 20,000 faceted panes, showing the Passion on the right and the Resurrection on the left.

In front of the huge Visser-Rowland Organ is a wooden cross, less than 10 meters high, covered with timber from Canterbury Cathedral.

5. Bay Island Park

Bay Island Park

Coff Island, southeast of Stamford, is home to a 19th-century factory producing bleaching minerals, dye extracts and licorice.

The factory was razed by a famous fire in 1919 and developed into a park in the following decades.

It would be easier to list what Bay Island Park doesn’t have, but the main attraction in summer is this pair of sandy beaches.

Accompanied by a children’s playground, expansive lawn areas, bike paths, a mile-long walking trail and a state-of-the-art nature center.

Anglers can fish along the secluded rocky shoreline, and there are some bird-watching spots along the Cove River and Holly Pond: the park is listed as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society, with more than 287 bird species recorded.

6. Cummings Park

Cummings Park

The 80-acre Cummings Park on Long Island Sound combines green space and athletic facilities with a boardwalk, gazebo, fishing pier, snack bar and Cummings Beach.

In addition to numerous tennis and basketball courts, Cummings Park has four softball fields and a public marina and boat launch.

Shaded by the islets of Westcott Bay, the beach is the place to spend a few quiet hours in the summer sun.

This is followed by a small hill that becomes a sledding center after the winter snowfall.

The park is named after Homer Stille Cummings (1870-1956), a former mayor of Stamford who became Roosevelt’s attorney general, who used to walk along the coast.

7. Mill River Park

Mill River Park

The green banks of the Rippowam River are the dividing line between Stamford West and the city centre.

See also  19 of Connecticut's Most Beautiful Attractions

Mill River Park opened in 2013 after six years of river restoration work.

As part of the project, the space is connected to Stamford’s Kosciuszko, Scalzi and Southfield parks via a greenway.

At Mill River Park, there are riverside trails on both sides that occasionally leave the water and meander through rolling greenery.

There’s an ice skating rink in winter, but the park’s main attraction has to be the charming David and Mary Annison Carousel, which features 30 handcrafted animals ranging from horses to rabbits, seals and frogs.

8. Palace Theatre

Palace Theatre

The place to watch live performances in downtown Stanford is this magnificent Art Deco venue, which has been around since 1927. With a capacity of 1,580 seats, the Palace Theatre was originally used as a stage for vaudeville performances and then as a cinema for over 40 years by 1983, before resuming live performances.

Come and see off-Broadway musicals, touring recording artists, concerts by the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, top comedians (Alec Baldwin in 2019), magic shows and children’s shows.

The Palace Theater, part of the Stanford Arts Center, is four blocks from its partner Rich Forum, which has recorded talk shows like Jerry Springer.

9. Half Full Brewery

half full brewery

You might be surprised to find a trendy craft brewery in this unassuming industrial building on Homestead Avenue.

Half Full’s bar serves the brand’s wide range of beers, including a range of IPAs, golden ales, ever-changing pale ales (Refresh), coffee porters and several fruit-infused sour beers.

No food is served here, but food trucks visit regularly, or you can order pizza.

To find out what half full is, you can order flights and of course you can buy cans.

Unlike many of these places, kids and dogs are welcome (as long as they don’t drink any beer!).

10. Ferguson Library

Ferguson Library

Stanford’s Public Library, with a beautiful Ion porch on the corner of Broad Street, is a pillar of the community and one of the largest libraries in Connecticut.

The main building of the Ferguson Library is in Georgian Revival style and dates back to 1910. Whether you’re a permanent resident or just passing by, there are some reasons to keep the library in mind.

There are film screenings for children every Friday, along with a series of workshops, discussions and a variety of children’s activities.

The Friends of Ferguson Library operates a used bookstore here, and there is a Starbucks branch next door.

11. Fort Stamford Park

Fort Stamford Park

Fort Stamford Park is a peaceful place full of stories, featuring the earthworks of a 340-year-old Revolutionary War-era American fort.

This location is no coincidence, as Fort Stamford has clear views of Long Island Sound and the Myanus River.

See also  15 things to do in Cheshire (CT)

Also on site is the Goodbody Garden, landscaped in a formal style with a stone-pillared pergola, sunken garden and Italian-style balustrade.

Spring and early summer are wonderful here, when magnolias and peonies are in bloom and butterflies are out.

12. Myanus River Park

Myanus River Park

Along the eponymous river on the Stamford-Greenwich border, Mianus River Park features nearly 400 acres of calm nature suitable for hiking, jogging, bird watching, fishing and mountain biking.

In winter, you can even go cross-country skiing here.

On the moraine, which rises sharply from the river bank, there are large expanses of broadleaf forest, wetlands, rock formations, caves and wildflower gardens.

Before reaching Long Island Sound, the Mianus River flows 20 miles and supplies water to about 100,000 people in the Stamford-Greenwich area.

13. The curtain call

take a bow

To get the pulse of the Fairfield County arts scene, you can check out what’s going on at this award-winning production theater, which puts on 12 or more shows throughout the year.

Curtain Call is a community business, run primarily by volunteers, but with professional value.

One location has two venues: the 184-seat Kewskin Theater and the 100-seat Locker Room Theater, a cabaret-style space.

When we wrote this in the summer of 2019, Grease, Andrew Bergman’s Social Security, Matilda, and Much Ado About Nothing were on the show.

Curtain Call also provides a creative outlet for youth in the Stanford area, including classes and workshops in writing, acting, improv, comedy and dance.

14. Stanford Observatory

Stanford Observatory

On the grounds of the Stanford Museum and Nature Center, the compact and fascinating Stanford Observatory dates back more than 60 years.

Under the dome is a 22-inch research telescope, acquired during the space race at the start of the Cold War.

The instrument, used to study variable stars, has taken more than 1,300 starfield images since it became operational in 1967. You can attend public viewings every Friday night between 20:00 and 22:00, or take a snapshot of the regular lectures.

When you visit, you can also check out the collection, including meteorites and rotating star maps found in Argentina.

15. West Beach

West Beach

Spend a family day in the summer.

West Beach is not far from Cummings Park in Westcott Bay.

You’ll find a delightful stretch of clean, pale sand shaded by the waters of Long Island Sound.

There is a children’s playground and bathroom next to the beach, while lifeguards are on duty during the peak summer months.

If the sea breeze whets your appetite, Brennan’s is just across the levee, or you can pick up something from the deli, café or sandwich shop just a short walk down Shippan Avenue.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Stamford, CT (CT)
Lowest Price Guarantee