“Explore Fairfield County” is an informational series that provides a glimpse into the wonderful towns and cities in Fairfield County. Fairfield County is diverse in that it includes big cities, small suburbs, beaches, farms, and busy highways. It covers a large geographic area and, because of this, it has a lot to offer families! To help you get the most out of Fairfield County, our contributors have shared the top 10 things they love about each local area. To read more in this series, click here.
Wilton, Connecticut is a quaint town with a rich history in Fairfield County. It borders New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Weston, and Westport. It was originally part of Norwalk until forty families decided they wanted their own meeting house to not make the journey to Norwalk each Sunday. The Wilton “parish” had built the oldest meeting house in Fairfield County in 1790. In 1802 Wilton became a separate town from Norwalk and had kept the same government style since then, having town meetings with a board of selectmen.
Another interesting fact about Wilton is that it was a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. After the Civil War, it lost some of its population due to industrialization, as most of the economy was based on farming. However, in the early 1900s, New Yorkers had started purchasing homes as their summer homes. Since then, it has become a suburb and home to many commuters to New York City, Stamford, and Norwalk.
Although now a well-developed suburb with a small downtown, Wilton has also remained somewhat rural. The town has preserved several acres of land as open space and for recreation, which is one of the top 10 highlights of Wilton.
1. Ambler and Millstone Farms
Two treasures of Wilton are Ambler and Millstone Farms, which are active farms. Ambler Farm is a non-profit town-owned property that hosts several events a year, including Ambler Farm day, a very popular fall festival. They also have a farm stand, and their produce can be found in local markets and the Wilton Farmer’s Market. The farm is also home to goats, chickens, rabbits, Guinea hogs, and sheep. Also, it is free to visit the animals.
Millstone Farm is a private farm that sells its produce and pasture-raised meats. The farm has many different types of vegetables and livestock. CSA shares of vegetables and meats are available for purchase.
2. Hiking Trails, Nature Preserves, and Parks
Wilton is home to several hiking trails, nature preserves, and parks. There are 23 preserves and parks maintained by Wilton’s Conservation Commission. They all have different terrains and trails and are a great way to explore other parts of the nature of Wilton.
The Norwalk River Valley Trail also passes through Wilton with a few different trails. The goal of the NRVT is to eventually connect from Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk to Rogers Park in Danbury. This project has mostly been funded privately and is organized by several board members from Danbury, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, and Wilton.
Merwin Meadows is a park that contains entrances to part of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. It has the primary public playground for kids of all ages. There is also a swimming pond and beach, which you can swim in with lifeguards on staff from Memorial Day to Labor Day. During the summer, residents and non-residents need to purchase passes through Wilton Parks and Recreation to use the park. There are also a few concerts held there during the summer. A large soccer field on the other side of the park and pond connects Merwin Meadows into downtown Wilton.
3. Downtown Wilton
Downtown Wilton is a small stretch running parallel to the Norwalk River, slightly off of Route 7. It is a quaint downtown with small retail shops, restaurants, two grocery stores, professional offices, and coffee shops. Downtown is very walkable and stroller-friendly. There is also a lovely gazebo and town green, as well as the Wilton Library Association.
4. Wilton Library Association
The Wilton Library Association is in the town center of Wilton and is a beautiful facility with an interior courtyard, fireplace, study spaces, and children’s library. The library is home to an immense collection of tangible books, CDs, DVDs, and a wonderful digital collection. They also have several museum passes to borrow, which offer a discount or free admission.
Innovation Station is a great addition to the library and hosts most notably a 3D printer. There are several opportunities to learn to embroider or use a circuit machine in the innovation station.
The library also hosts several events a month for children and adults. There are knitting sessions, author talks, the Ladies Soiree in the fall, Gala in the spring, and more. There are several weekly storytimes, music and movement, cupcake decorating, coding and STEM classes, and holiday activities for children.
5. Holiday Celebrations
Wilton has some great holiday traditions working with the Board of Selectmen, Wilton Parks and Recreation, and the Wilton Chamber of Commerce. There is a holiday stroll downtown where you can meet Santa and watch the tree lighting during the winter season. Also, at the beginning of Hanukkah, there is a Menorah lighting celebration on the town green.
There is a fun Memorial Day parade that goes through downtown that many organizations, such as preschools and sports teams, participate in to kick off summer. For the Fourth of July, there is a great fireworks display at the high school football field.
In the fall, different organizations can create scarecrows to showcase on the lampposts. They are on display in time for the Halloween walk. The Halloween Walk is usually the weekend before Halloween, and the businesses in town participate in trick or treating. You can also get a professional picture taken for a donation to the Wilton Community Assistance Fund.
6. Indoor Recreation
There is a lot to do outside in Wilton, but a few facilities, besides schools, allow for some indoor recreation. A few great spots are the Wilton YMCA, Wilton Sport and Fitness, Comstock Community Center, and Trackside Teen Center.
The Wilton YMCA offers several classes fitness classes for adults as well as a gym facility. There are also several classes for children, including swimming, dance, gymnastics, basketball, lacrosse, and more. During the summer, they also have a summer camp, Camp Gordyland.
Wilton Sport and Fitness have a great indoor playing field and gym facility. They offer fitness classes for adults as well as children. Camps and birthday parties are also available there.
Comstock Community Center is the home to Wilton Parks and Recreation and the senior center and social services. Through Wilton Parks and Recreation, many class offerings are held at Comstock in the newly renovated gym and classrooms. They offer indoor tennis, basketball, floor hockey, and more. There is also a small gym for workouts that can be used for a nominal fee. Camp Looper and Cool Tots are also offered as camps during the summer.
Trackside Teen Center provides a safe, supervised, and substance-free environment. They offer different types of recreational programs, clubs, and events for Wilton’s teenage community.
7. Entertainment & Events
The Wilton Playshop puts on approximately four productions a year and is located in a quaint building. Another local theater group is the Wilton Children’s Theater, which puts on two shows during the school year and offers summer programs.
There are other special events in Wilton outside of the holiday celebrations. The Wilton Go Green Festival is sponsored by the Wilton Go Green committee, whose vision is to have Wilton be “…the most environmentally sustainable town in Connecticut.” The festival is usually held in the spring and is filled with family fun activities and exhibits.
In July, the Wilton Chamber of Commerce sets up a street fair and sidewalk sale with activities for kids. Vendors are allowed to set up their stations on the street as it is blocked off. In May and October, Minks to Sinks is held by the Wilton High School tennis courts, right along Route 7. It is one of the biggest tag sales in the area that lasts for three days, with steep discounts on the last day. You can donate or consign to the sale, and all proceeds benefit the Family and Children’s Agency of Fairfield County.
Fall and spring carnivals are usually held too as fundraisers for different Wilton non-profit organizations.
8. Restaurants and Grocery Stores
There are several restaurants in Wilton. The majority are in downtown Wilton, but some others are along Route 7. In downtown Wilton, there are several coffee shops, Italian restaurants, including several that offer pizza. There are also Japanese, Chinese, Southwestern, and more just in downtown. Along Route 7, more restaurants, including Thai, deli fare, donuts, and more coffee.
9. Weir Farm
Weir Farm is a National Park that is located in Wilton and a National Historic site in Connecticut. The park was home to Julian Weir, an American Impressionist artist, and art is still very present there. There is an artist-in-residence program where different artists worldwide live and work at the park. Between May and October, you can also go out and paint in the park with art supplies provided by the National Park service. You can view different artist’s exhibits in the Burlingham House Visitor Center. Another great addition for children besides exploring the nature and trails of the park is the junior ranger program.
10. Woodcock Nature Center
Covering 149 acres and 3 miles of trails, Woodcock Nature Center has been an environmental and nature education source since the early 1970s. It offers programming designed to instill a love and respect for nature. They work with the local protected wildlife and serve as a resource for educating the community about our natural surroundings. They also offer school field trips, birthday parties, and summer camp. Their hiking trails are open to the public, and you can visit some of their injured birds of prey who reside outdoors before or after your hike!