Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, NY Botanical Garden
When it comes to entertaining out-of-town guests, you need 20/20 vision: that is, our 20 itineraries within 20 miles of home base. Yes, you know your town as well as anyone. But sometimes it’s a challenge to see it through an outsider’s eyes — appreciating anew the wonderful venues so close at hand — especially when trying to consider your guests’ diverse needs, interests and palates. So we’ve done the groundwork for you. Now all you have to provide is the transportation and sunscreen.
For teenagers visiting from the Midwest who want fun in the sun and a tour of the town.
The rule of thumb when traveling with teens: plan to refuel every two hours. This means that your town tour will take in mostly eateries, but feel free to gesture at landmarks as you drive by them. Pack all beach essentials, including a cooler, and head for Alpine Pantry on Arcadia Road in Old Greenwich. Pick up some cold drinks and an assortment of gourmet sandwiches on black bread, such as the Forester (ham and spicy onion cheese spread) and the Russian (corned beef and red cabbage with mustard-horseradish sauce). Stash them in the cooler, then take off for Greenwich Point. Rent kayaks or the easy-to-handle Laser Pico sailboats from Greenwich Community Sailing. Enjoy lunch at one of the many picnic tables scattered throughout the park, then hit the beach for a bit of sunbathing. Hungry again? Treat your landlubber guests to lobster rolls at the Beach House Café. Then it’s on to Just Books Too for a novel or two for the next day’s beach-read and an iced chai and cupcake from the Arcadia Coffee Company next door. Now what’s for dinner?
Greenwich Point Park is open from 6 a.m. to dusk to Greenwich residents. Passes
are required. An additional fee of $10 per guest is charged.
For pint-size nieces and nephews who need a scaled-down sail-and-swim outing.
Looking for a doable adventure that won’t tax little ones who still need an afternoon nap? Toddlers through tweens love the easy, breezy ferry ride to Island Beach, which runs every hour on weekdays and every half-hour on weekends ($2, adult resident; $10, nonresident over age 5, purchased at the Arch Street ferry dock). Explore the sandy beach – great shelling! – and either pack a lunch or buy snacks at the concession stand to eat at picnic tables. Additional beach amenities include a playground, restrooms, showers and lifeguards.
If you live on the east side of town, consider climbing on board the train (making sure it’s a local), riding one or two stops, getting off in Greenwich and walking the short distance to the ferry. It’s a real thrill for the smallest fry, and later in the day on the way back to the train station, you can grab a pizza-to-go from Pizza Planet on Railroad Avenue. Voilá! Dinner, too.
For hikers and horticulturists.
“I feel like I’m in Vermont,” is the common reaction when visitors start in on the ten miles of hiking trails across 285 acres of woodland, wetland and meadow in this sanctuary. Pack binoculars and a birding book, and stop in at the Audubon Center building, where you can pick up trail maps. Guides can help you choose a route according to your interests and stamina. One easy loop takes you through old-growth forest, around Mead Lake, over a swamp on a boardwalk and back to the hawk-watch area. Afterwards, drive through horse country on bucolic, winding Bedford Road and then head east to Round Hill Road for a streetside glimpse of some stunning estates or west to King Street and Greenwich’s last two remaining active farms, Purdy’s and Augustine’s. Be sure to take home some fresh corn and tomatoes.
The Audubon Center, 613 Riversville Road and John Street, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (the trails are open until dusk). Admission: $3 for adults; $1.50 for children.
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York
For friends visiting from Santa Fe who have had it with cactus and tumbleweed.
Who would believe that our area’s most verdant gardens are found on 250 acres in the Bronx? Because there is so much to see, plan your visit by stopping first at the Botanical Garden’s website. June is a great month to see the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden — all eighty-three beds — in bloom. Kids enjoy the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden and its giant creatures constructed of flowering plants. Rainy days are best spent in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where there are eleven different ecosystems, from a tropical rain forest to aquatic gardens. Your friends might even spot a cactus they never knew existed! Afterwards, head to Arthur Avenue, the Little Italy of the Bronx, to pick up fixings for dinner: excellent provolone, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, loaves of crusty Italian bread, handmade fettuccine, cans of San Marzano cherry tomatoes, delicate scallopini of veal and the tiniest of clams, and don’t forget cannoli and a bottle of limoncello for dessert.
The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road, is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission: $13 for adults; $11 for students; $5 for children ages 2 to 12. nybg.org
The Bronx Zoo
Bronx, New York
For adventurous travelers who find the Botanical Garden a little too tame.
We adore our quaint country lanes and placid Sound beaches, but if you have guests who prefer to take a walk on the wild side, head straight to the Bronx Zoo. This month, they’ll be among the first to visit the new African Wild Dog habitat, coming within a pane of glass of these strangely pet-like animals. Easy to navigate, the zoo is set up for a desultory amble from Tiger Mountain to the Butterfly Garden to the planet’s original “animal house,” the monkey habitat. Little ones will love the children’s zoo. Lunch options are many, and when you’re tired of walking, take the sky tram for a comfy birds-eye view of the zoo. If there is energy to spare, hike over to Arthur Avenue (see previous column), where restaurants abound. Roberto’s on Crescent Avenue is our favorite.
The Bronx Zoo (check website for directions for entrance through the Art Deco gates) is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; weekends, until 5:30 p.m. Admission: $12 for adults; $9 for children age 12 and under; Wednesday, by donation. bronxzoo.org
Rye, New York
For an outing with your old college roommate and her kids who live in New York City.
America’s first amusement park — always referred to as Rye Playland —is an easy drive from Greenwich. There are fireworks every Wednesday and Friday nights and big band dance concerts on the boardwalk some weekends. As for the attractions, there are fifty of them, from the Jungle Jammin’ for toddlers to splashdown in the Playland Plunge for teens. On hot days, head for the beach or the pool. Don’t forget, when your gang gets tired of the crowds, you can always retreat to the patio at Seaside Johnnies (94 Dearborn Avenue inside the public beach area) for Bloody Marys, Cobb salad, a great raw bar, steel-band music, the works.
Playland Park, Playland Parkway, has variable hours so it’s best to check its website. It’s closed Mondays and some Tuesdays. Admission: free, with pay-as-you-go attractions. ryeplayland.org
For your artsy niece on summer break from college, who’s in need of retail therapy and a warm-weather wardrobe.
Whatever her style — from city sophisticate to funky Bohemian — Greenwich is shop-till-you-drop nirvana. Start at the Greenwich Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop in search of retro cardigans and cocktail dresses. Follow it up at Roundabout Designer Closeouts for deeply discounted Prada slides and Miu Miu handbags. Then hit Greenwich Avenue and its sidestreets for Sophia’s Great Dames for 1950s beaded sweaters and fun estate jewelry, or Consigned Designs for colorful spaghetti-strap frocks. Try Saturnia for distressed and cropped denim, Kate Spade for snappy sunglasses, Scoop for colorful espadrilles, and the young-at-heart retailers like GAP, Banana Republic and J. Crew. Treat her to the duck salad or buckwheat crêpes at Meli-Melo toward the bottom of the Avenue. Walk half a block to Grigg Street to choose a lively read at Diane’s Books, then hike back up to Beads in the Loft on Lewis Street where she can pick out beads to fashion her own chandelier earrings. On your way home, drop her off for a deep tissue massage at Radiance Medspa on the Post Road in Old Greenwich.
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
For young kids on a rainy afternoon.
Muggy, wet and even clear-but-scorching afternoons are well spent at this interactive and educational center for children, best for age 10 and under. The toddler terrain is a terrific place to tumble, try an art project or play with puppets. Older kids will want to take a flight in a simulated helicopter, walk through the Rainforest Adventure, splash around in the Waterscape Gallery and marvel at the 27-foot-high ColorCoaster, a giant mechanical toy. You can check out more educational toys and games — but these are for sale — in their exceptional gift shop. Did it stop raining? Stepping Stones has a fabulous playground outside. Then for a treat, take a short drive to Sweet Rexie’s, a candy store and toy shop on Washington Street in Sono.
Stepping Stones, 303 West Avenue, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesdays, open at 1 p.m.) Admission: $8 per person. steppingstonesmuseum.org; 203-899-0606
For that science-minded family from Illinois, and most especially their dino-besotted preschooler.
The beauty of this center is that it awakens the passion for science in everyone, from grandparents down to grade-schoolers, who will never suspect that it’s (shhhhh!) educational. For instance, Dinosaur Island is a new “habitat” for eight lumbering, roaring, jaw-snapping robots, sure to get everyone’s heart pounding. More cardiac activity occurs on the Dino Island II 3-D computer-animated “ride,” which features Tony the T-Rex on the verge of volcano-induced extinction ($5.50 additional charge; kids must be at least 36 inches high). Come face-to-jaw with nine-foot sharks, sea turtles and 1,000 other marine animals. You can watch the harbor seals interact at feeding time and actually pet the rays in the Ray Touch Pool. One especially cool way to spend a sultry afternoon is in the IMAX Theater with its massive screen six stories high. Afterwards, leave the car parked and shop along Washington and Water streets — toy, skateboard, clothing and several home-design boutiques here — stopping into the Sono Baking Company & Café on South Water Street for panini, cold soup or a sticky bun.
Maritime Aquarium, 10 North Water Street, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: ticket packages available, but basic prices start at $9.50 for adults; $8.50 for children 12 and under. maritimeaquarium.org; 203-852-0700
For your godparents who are putting the finishing touches on their beach house on Fishers Island or in Boca Raton.
Plan an exciting day of wall-to-wall art scouting, starting — just for inspiration — at the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences, which currently has the whole town barking about “Best in Show: Dogs in Art from the Renaissance to the Present” (see page 122 in this issue). Popular galleries for homegrown artists and sculptors are the Flinn in the Greenwich Library on Putnam Avenue and the Bendheim on the Greenwich Arts Council floor in the Senior Center building on Greenwich Avenue. Close to the Senior Center is Quester Gallery, renowned for its marine art and antiques, including seascapes so evocative you can almost feel the salt spray on your face. At the bottom of the Avenue is Cavalier Galleries, best known for its sculpture, including monumental life-size pieces perfect for garden ornamentation. Famished? Central Greenwich offers incredible dining experiences, from Italian, French and Mediterranean cuisines to Japanese, Scottish, Spanish and good old American as it can get.
For the boss and his wife who’ve driven up for the day from Manhattan.
No matter how lovely your home may be, it’s a good idea to plan an outing guaranteed to amuse — even impress — The Boss while escaping your chafing-in-their-best-clothes children for a few hours. Time their visit for a polo match just off North Street where, shortly after the 1 p.m. opening, the grassy knolls on either side of the spectator stand are covered with the poshest picnic spreads this side of a Merchant Ivory film. To avoid chaos in your kitchen, pick up a readymade lunch from Balducci’s (order ahead at 637-7600, after choosing selections at balduccis.com) or Plum Pure Foods, where we love the prosciutto and artichoke sandwich on an olive-studded baguette (869-PLUM; plumpurefoods.com). Bring folding chairs, a pretty blanket and binoculars and enjoy the sleek ponies and stylish spectators — a scene right out of the Great Gatsby. Have some fun at halftime by wandering the field to help replace the divots kicked up by the ponies.
Are your guests staying for dinner? Just over the Westchester line on the Bedford–Banksville Road is La Crémaillère Restaurant, in a historic manor house, famous for fine French cuisine and a 14,000-bottle wine cellar (914-234-9647). greenwichpolo.com
Kayaking on the Sound
For your super-fit sister-in-law and her brood of future Olympians just off the plane from L.A.
They’re trim. They’re taut. They never appear to sit down. They’re exhausting. Your best move is a pre-emptive strike, tiring them out before they have a chance to do you in. A day spent kayaking the Five Mile River and Long Island Sound is just the ticket. Venture out before breakfast to mingle with the locals at Brendan’s on Rowayton Avenue in a historic building backing up onto the river. Order yogurt parfaits for the fitness group and, unapologetically, a fried egg sandwich for yourself. Just down the street, go to the backside of the Rowayton Market to find Below Deck, a kayak rental shop run by the equally fit, kindred-spirit-to-your-sister-in-law Kim Beaumont. An expert kayaker and guide, Kim can arrange to have your group led out onto the Sound to ogle Darien’s mega-mansions or to a nearby island, if everyone’s up to it. Otherwise, the river makes for a pretty paddle up and back. Call ahead and Kim can also arrange for a motorboat to take your group tubing. Order lunch from the Rowayton Market to eat at the outdoor tables. Most afternoons, Kim cranks up reggae music, and everyone’s invited to dance till they — God willing — drop.
Below Deck, 157 Rowayton Avenue, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (opening at 8 a.m. on weekends). Rental prices vary, but start at $35 for two hours in a single kayak. coastalprovisions.com; 203-247-0578
Antiques and Paintball
For a group evenly divided between antiques-seeking adults and paintball-gun-toting teens.
It’s not world peace, but we’re pretty proud of our ability to breach the great divide between radically different ideas about how to spend a Saturday. The magic lies in the close proximity of Paintball Madness on Canal Street and the Antique and Artisan Center on Jefferson Street, both in Stamford. Drop off your teens at Paintball Madness where all guns and gear can be rented. Then drive a few blocks north to browse stall after stall of antique furniture, jewelry and bric-a-brac from over 135 dealers. Next door, the Accessory Store has a mind-boggling selection of lamps and lampshades, as well as parts for antique lighting fixtures. Also sharing the Canal Street parking lot is another option for your teens: the very cool Go Vertical indoor rock-climbing facility, where you can hire an instructor to teach or belay your kids (358-8767). We’d love to send you somewhere for dinner, but half your group is going to be covered in either paint or climbing chalk (which reminds us: have them bring a change of clothes). Best stop: Aux Délices in Riverside for wonderful takeout chicken and salad. Then home for showers.
Paintball Madness, 633 Canal Street, is open weekdays, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Check the website; hours vary seasonally.) Rates vary according to your rental needs but start at $15 per hour for walk-ins. stamfordpaintball.com; 203-975-2973
The Antique and Artisan Center, 69 Jefferson, is open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. antiqueandartisancenter.com; 203-327-6022
Sheffield Island Lighthouse
For your sea-starved relatives of all ages, in town from Memphis.
An easy, family-friendly way to ferry over to Sheffield Island is provided by the Norwalk Seaport Association at the Maritime Center; daily sails are scheduled. You can effortlessly spend hours on the little island, hiking the trails, exploring the historic lighthouse and combing the beach. Evening sails are also offered, including a lobster bake every Thursday night, rain or shine: $60 per person buys a dinner of Maine lobster, mussels, steamers and all the fixings. Enjoy a twilight cruise back into port.
The Maritime Center is at the Norwalk River Bridge in South Norwalk. The ferry schedule varies throughout the summer, but there are usually three sails every afternoon. seaport.org/sheffield_island.htm; 203-838-9444
Fishing the Sound
For your fishing-obsessed nephew — to help you maintain your status as his favorite uncle.
Self-described “fish freak” Eric Johnson, the new owner of Westport Outfitters, is passionate about getting people out onto the Sound, rod in hand. To that end, Westport Outfitters now offers everything needed by boating and fishing enthusiasts, whether they’re tying their first fly or looking to buy a skiff. Call ahead to book a half-day or full-day fishing charter, custom designed for any skill level and in pursuit of every fish the Sound has to offer. Westport Outfitters also runs workshops and can schedule private instruction, if you prefer to fish along the shoreline with a guide (who is willing to divulge all the best spots). The 3,000-square-foot tackle shop is an angler’s paradise, with all the basics, including garments, gear, books and maps. End the sea-themed evening with dinner at — but of course! — Ocean Drive on Washington Street for incredible sea bass or a shellfish platter from the raw bar.
Westport Outfitters, 44 Calf Pasture Beach Road, is open daily, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. westportoutfitters.com; 203-831-8036
Gourmet Day Away
Pocantico Hills, New York
For your pals from Berkeley, who think that all Brandywine tomatoes come from California.
Stun your organic-food-addicted friends with a visit to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills in Westchester, near Tarrytown. This is an incredible working farm where you will see chickens and cattle roaming free over hills and dales. Football-field-length greenhouses are the “potting sheds” where vegetable seeds are started and winter crops are grown for the restaurant on the crest of one hill. Garden beds and herb borders are teaching tools for visitors and horticulture students alike.
The East Coast’s answer to Chez Panisse, the 125-seat Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant serves award-winning cuisine created by chef/owner Dan Barber and his executive chef Michael Anthony (dinner daily; lunch on Sunday only). Their season-driven menus rely on organic ingredients grown right there on the farm. Plan a tour of the farm followed by dinner at Blue Hill. Stone Barns Center, 630 Bedford Road, schedules special events and tours throughout the week, with average cost around $10 per person. Dinner reservations at Blue Hill are booked months in advance, so plan ahead. stonebarnscenter.org; 914-366-9600 for Blue Hill.
For your family reunion.
Want to make a big splash? Book a private three-hour sail on Long Island Sound on the eighty-foot, three-masted SoundWaters, styled after a nineteenth-century Chesapeake Bay sharpie schooner. Departing from Brewer Yacht Haven Marina in Stamford, SoundWaters is operated by a licensed captain and crew, so you’re free to enjoy the sunset and the company of up to forty-seven members of your extended family. Ask the person who books your trip for advice on caterers experienced in serving on board and arrange for hors d’oeuvres and beverages (wine and beer are permitted). soundwaters.org; 203-323-1978
The Westport Experience
For theatergoers coming down from Boston, who want to take in dinner and a show.
Make lunch reservations for an outdoor table at Splash, the restaurant at the Inn at Longshore on Compo Road South (203-454-7798). In a pretty setting overlooking the Sound, Splash is just a short drive into Westport’s center. There, you can wander the boutiques on Main Street, the Post Road (stop in at Dovecote and Lucy’s) and the shops around Sconset Square (don’t miss home-design boutiques Kismet and Bungalow). When the shops close, have drinks and a light bite on the pleasant patio at the Blue Lemon on Sconset Square (203-226-2647). Then it’s on to the Westport Country Playhouse where, this month, you can take in a musical homage to composer Kurt Weill (through June 18), which is followed by a poignant drama called The Drawer Boy, by Michael Healey (June 22 through July 9). The Westport Country Playhouse is at 25 Powers Court. westportplayhouse.org; 203-227-4177
Greenwich and Norwalk
For history buffs who want to spend the day in Ye Olde New England.
Start with an early lunch at the Thomas Henkelmann restaurant in Belle Haven, a historic Carpenter Gothic estate with an excellent weekend lunch menu. Much of Belle Haven is gated, but you can still coast through many a quiet street for a look at the fanciful Queen Anne Victorians, once the summer homes of turn-of-the-century New Yorkers. Next, visit the Historical Society of Greenwich, located in the Bush-Holley House (circa 1730) on Cos Cob Harbor. Recognized as Connecticut’s first art colony, this one-time haven for Impressionist painters still hosts artists-in-residence, whose work is featured in a show called Art in the Yard (June 5 through June 25). Another don’t-miss historical estate is the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, which movie buffs will recognize as the site of the demonic men’s association in The Stepford Wives. From West Avenue in Norwalk, it’s a short drive to Silvermine, a quaint hamlet on the Norwalk–New Canaan border. Stop in at the Silvermine Guild Arts Center, where art is on view both inside and outside in the gardens.
Need refreshment? Just up the road is the 200-year-old Silvermine Tavern, which hosts live jazz performances and serves dinner at its Tavern Restaurant with windows overlooking the river.
silverminetavern.com; 203-693-9967; Thomas Henkelmann is at 420 Field Point Road. homesteadinn.com; 869-7500 Historical Society of Greenwich is at 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob. hstg.org; 869-6899; Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is at 295 West Avenue, Norwalk. lockwoodmathewsmansion.org; 203-838-9799 Silvermine Guild Arts Center is at 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan. silvermineart.org; 203-966-9700
An All-American Weekend
Bridgeport, Westport, Greenwich
For an expat family living in England and back in America on a summer holiday.
Raised in London by their American parents, your friend’s oldest son is mad for cricket; her daughter, obsessed with the Royals; and the little one already takes McVities digestive biscuits with his tea. So their stateside sojourn calls for a baseball game, fireworks and ice cream, for starters. The Bridgeport Bluefish play at 7:05 most evenings, and if you can plan it for a Friday night, all the better — there are fireworks over Harbor Yard. On your way to the park, stop in for a hot dog and lemonade at Swanky Franks in Westport (1050 Post Road East; 203-226-5355). On another day, don’t miss Jazz on the Sound, the Dixieland Jazz concerts conducted on the Island Beach Ferry (three Sundays in the summer, leaving the dock at 4 p.m., returning at 6 p.m.). Or check out the schedule of concerts in Roger Sherman Baldwin Park (bring a picnic dinner) or performances by the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Department Band (Sunday nights at Binney Park). And whatever you do, replace afternoon tea with a big ice cream cone from Gofers or Cold Stone Creamery.
The Bridgeport Blue Fish stadium is at Harbor Yard, 500 Main Street, Bridgeport. Tickets start at $6, with the big splurge being the “club” seats for $18 each. bridgeportbluefish.com; 203-345-4800, ext. 150 greenwichct.org (click on concert schedules)