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Ridgefield, A Historic Vacation Destination

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – People from New York City might not come out to Ridgefield for the summer anymore, but the town still sees a lot of summer visitors.

To people who live here full time, Fairfield County may not be an obvious summer vacation hot spot. Several area attractions, the beaches and proximity to the city all make Fairfield County an attractive destination for others.

“It’s absolutely a place people come to visit in the summer,” said Janet Serra, executive director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitor Bureau, which promotes tourism in Fairfield County and Litchfield Hills. “What’s interesting to me is, with Fairfield County, we get to promote hills, lakes and coast.”

Of the two regions that make up the Western bureau, Serra said Fairfield County is probably the most attractive summertime destination. Litchfield Hills sees more visitors in the fall, she said.

The biggest attractions in Fairfield County are the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport and the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Serra said. Other big draws include Norwalk’s Sheffield Island, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, SoundWaters in Stamford, the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

Connecticut’s major tourism market is from within the tri-state area, she said, because Fairfield County’s greatest strength is its accessibility.

“It’s so easy to get to Fairfield County by train, and the towns are generally walkable,” she said. “Norwalk, for example, is very walkable, so in many cases, people can just get out off the train and walk around. It’s harder to do that in other parts of the state.”

Although it’s hard to track numbers of tourists coming and going, Serra said last year, the Fairfield County tourism website had the most number of page visits of any regional website, including the Mystic area.

So far this year, Serra said there’s a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in website activity and inquiries. “Since Fairfield County is such an important part of Connecticut tourism, we’re certainly delighted by this increase,” she said.

The pull for Ridgefield lies in the arts, food, history and culture, said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marion Roth. The group is working to make sure people know it with a new campaign called “Destination Ridgefield.”

“We’re off the beaten path. We’re off the major transportation route. We’re quintessential New England,” Roth said. “Most people love the look and feel of Main Street, Ridgefield.”

It’s a town for history buffs, Roth said. During its 300th anniversary celebration, a walking history tour was created that visitors can download and use. Also, the Ridgefield Playhouse brings “first-quality acts” into town, she said, and Ridgefield has had a surge of “great restaurants.”

“We offer a lot whether you’re here for a couple of hours or a couple of days. There is a lot to do right in this community,” Roth said. “It has a small town feel, but an uptown city quality to it, whether it's music or art or culture.”

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