NYC Getaway: Fun Things to Do in Stamford CT

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Natural beauty in Stamford at Mianus River Park. Photo credit: Connecticut Tourism

Stamford, the second largest city in Connecticut, lies right on the Long Island Sound. The New England town is just 30 miles from New York City, and has sandy beaches, walking trails, museums and diverse special events, making it an ideal weekend getaway or day trip.

Must See in Stamford

Walking trails at Bartlett Arboretum
Walking trails at Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens. Photo credit: Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens

Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens

This spectacular, free arboretum features 13 gardens, miles of hiking and walking trails and wetlands. And it’s dog friendly! What more could you ask for? It offers free dog training classes, as well as wildlife hikes, birding walks and scavenger hunts.

A sensory garden has plants for sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. There is no food for sale at the Bartlett Arboretum and Gardens, but you can taste the veggies in this garden. The Arboretum hosts an annual ArborEarth Day Festival.

Read More: CT’s Silver Sands State Park and the Hidden Treasure Legend

Exterior of the Bendel Mansion
The historic Bendel mansion at The Stamford Museum & Nature Center. Photo credit: Connecticut Tourism

Stamford Museum & Nature Center

The comprehensive The Stamford Museum & Nature Center has an art and natural history museum. The museum is in the historic Bendel mansion, with restored stained glass windows and Italian marble sculptures in the garden.

Outdoors, there is an otter pond, 80 acres of walking trails where you might see wildlife and wildflowers, and Nature’s Playground, a playground in the woods with a treehouse.

A working farm, Heckscher Farm, has lots of farm animals, an organic vegetable garden and a New England classic, a maple sugar house.

The Stamford Museum & Nature Center hosts a seasonal farmers market on Sundays.

Note: the Planetarium & Stamford Observatory are closed for renovation. A new Planetarium & Astronomy Center will replace them. Until the planetarium reopens, there are Astronomy Nights on some Fridays at the Farmhouse where you can see the night sky through a telescope.

Read More: 18 Awesome Things to Do in CT

Outdoors in Stamford

Fall foliage at Mianus River Park
Enjoy the best of New England at Mianus River Park. Photo credit: Friends of Mianus River Park.

Mianus River Park

The Mianus River Park, a 391-acre nature reserve on Greenwich-Stamford border, has hiking trails through forest and woodlands. Mianus River Park is actually three parks in one: Mianus River and Natural Park, owned by the Town of Greenwich; Mianus River Park, owned by the City of Stamford; and Mianus River State Park, aka Treetops, owned by the State of Connecticut.

Friends of Mianus River Park offers free hikes, but you can also download a trail map and hike on your own.

View of some of the gardens at Stamford Garden Club
Goodbody Garden in full bloom. Photo credit: Carol Scott and Mary Trehan for The Stamford Garden Club

Goodbody Garden and Fort Stamford Park

Goodbody Garden is a botanical garden maintained by The Stamford Garden Club. It is in Fort Stamford Park, which includes the remains of a Revolutionary War fort.

View of fountains at Mill River Park
Relax at the fountain in Mill River Park. Photo credit: Mill River Park

Mill River Park

Mill River Park is a park for all seasons. There is a large playground, and a fountain that becomes a skating rink in winter. The new Whittingham Discovery Center has a state-of-the-art visitor and environmental center with free educational exhibits and activities for all ages. And the carousel has over 30 handcrafted animals you can ride. There are free outdoor fitness classes and a dog park.

The annual Hey Stamford Food Fest at Mill River Park features food trucks , a beer garden and cooking demos. The special event runs for two weekends every summer.

Read More: Free Things to Do in Stamford

Harbor Point Marina

The Harbor Point Marina has waterfront restaurants along its boardwalk, a farmers market on Sundays in summer and outdoor fitness classes. There is a free Water Taxi service, Memorial Day through Labor Day and a free trolley year round from downtown Stamford, with 14 stops including Stamford Town Center and the main branch of the public library. Annual special events include a HarborFest in summer, free Turkey Trot 5K Fun Run on Thanksgiving and Harbor Point Christmas Tree Lighting

Cove Island Park

Cove Island Park, on the Long Island Sound, has two sandy beaches, wetlands , a salt marsh and walking trails. It is a great place to go birdwatching.

Soundwaters at Cove Island Park offers seasonal kayak and paddle board rentals.

Cummings Park

Cummings Park on the Long Island Sound has two sandy beaches. The smaller West Beach is connected by a marina to the larger Cummings Park beach. There is a boardwalk and a fishing pier.

Latham Park

This small park in downtown Stamford has a farmers market and free yoga classes.

Chelsea Piers

Chelsea Piers Stamford is for members only, but the Tim Morehouse Fencing Club offers classes to anyone, and ZSTRICT has state of the art golf simulators and a cafe open to all.

View of bike lane signs in the road
Sharrows keep you safe while biking in downtown Stamford. Photo credit: Downtown Stamford

Biking in Downtown Stamford

To encourage biking around the city, many street are marked with “sharrows,” meaning cars have to share the road with bikers.

Nightlife in Stamford CT

Proximity to NYC means that Stamford has access to lots of high quality local talent. NBCUniversal’s Stamford Studios even shoots some TV shows here that it can’t fit in to its Manhattan studio.

Stamford Center for the Arts

The Stamford Center for the Arts restored the Palace Theatre, a historic vaudeville house, where it offers live theatre, opera, dance, comedy and concerts. The Palace Theatre is also home to the Ballet School of Stamford, Connecticut Ballet and several classical music organizations.

Avon Theatre Film Center

The non-profit Avon Theatre Film Center in downtown Stamford has two large movie theaters in a refurbished historic building. It specializes in independent, documentary and foreign films.

Dining in Downtown Stamford

With several hotels, and major corporations based in Stamford, downtown Stamford has about 200 restaurants. One of the annual special events, Winter Weeks, offers low priced lunches and dinners at many of the local spots. There are also two craft breweries with taprooms, Half Full Brewery and Lock City Brewing. Half Full Brewery also has a co-working space, Third Place, with a coffee shop.

Find Places to Stay Near Stamford

There are lots of options for hotel stays near Stamford, including vacation rentals. Use this interactive map to help you find a place to stay in the area.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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