Outdoor Museums in (and around) Fairfield County

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outdoor museumsOutdoor museums have been gaining popularity lately, and outdoor museum excursions are a family-friendly way to support art in nature. Below are some picks that range in variety.

Storm King Art Center – New Windsor, New York

The Storm King Art Center is an open-air sculpture museum set on 500 acres. It is located roughly 70 miles from Fairfield County and serves as an enjoyable respite and day trip. Multiple visits are required for full viewing by foot. The gift shop and indoor museum are currently closed, but there is still so much to enjoy. Prepare to be outside for a full day and wear practical shoes. 

Storm King also offers a café with many healthy food options. They have a contactless order and pickup system. They deliver your picnic-style boxed lunch outside to you to enjoy in their picnic table area. Enjoy organic and local wine and beer selections as well. Members receive a 10% discount to the café and online gift store. You are also welcome to bring your own food to enjoy on the grounds.

The in-person family and children programs are currently suspended, but they are currently offering a host of virtual programs to enjoy. Filled with hiking trails and walking paths, they also offer bike rentals to help take in the immense grounds.

Members receive reciprocal benefits at the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield. Membership also grants you access at dedicated member-only times. They are typically closed during the winter months; however, members can view the impressive sculptures when they are covered with snow. Reservations are required.  

Bartlett Arboretum + Gardens – Stamford, CT

The Bartlett Arboretum is an outdoor museum of trees and is one of the best in the country. What started as a residence for the founder, Frank Bartlett of F.A Bartlett tree expert company, has evolved into a nature garden and sanctuary for families to enjoy.

The Arboretum boasts a handful of different Garden Collections, including one for the senses and one with whimsical garden stone sculptures. There are winding trails to explore that weave through creeks and meadows with impressive flora and fauna. There is a scavenger hunt with hidden heads nestled in the trunks of trees. The virtual and in-person family programs are top-notch and include art classes, wreath making, outside yoga, and multiple nature-based virtual programs.

Bartlett Arboretum + Gardens is a calming sanctuary. A visit there is a fun way to spend a family afternoon outside with so many beautiful things to explore.

Phillip Johnson Glass House – New Canaan, CT

The Glass House re-opened as an outdoor-only experience in April 2021. It is an outdoor architectural museum that covers 49 acres. Designed by architect Phillip Johnson, it served as his own residence at one point in the sixties. This architectural wonder serves as a great excursion during the spring through fall months.

There are 14 free-standing sculptures on the grounds. There is a ton of impressive architecture to take in. They offer scavenger hunts with maps for the kids and offer markers to check off-site points such as The Ghost House and Da Monsta. There is enough to keep the kiddos occupied and to learn about impressive world architecture at the same time.

Though all interior buildings and tours are currently closed, knowledgeable guides are positioned throughout the grounds who are eager to chat about history, architecture and immersed in trivia about the designer and former inhabitants. It is a great way to spend the day for all ages. There are currently no age limit restrictions, and it is free for all visitors under seven.

The Glass House offers various online lectures, classes, workshops, and exhibits that have expanded during the pandemic. They partner with The Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield for workshops + programs.

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