“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.
Stamford is Fairfield County’s second largest city with a population of 129,309, making it the third-largest city in the state and the seventh-largest city in New England. Located approximately 38 miles from Manhattan, Stamford has the largest financial district in New York Metro outside of New York City itself and one of the largest concentrations of corporations in the nation. The shoreline city offers an abundance of shopping, culture, amazing eateries, parks, nightlife, and more.
There are 13 elementary schools, including two International Baccalaureate schools, five middle schools (including one magnet), and three high schools, including the Academy of Information Technology and Engineering. Stamford is also home to 17 private schools, including independent day schools, religious schools, and special needs schools. There are also adult education programs. Some well-known Stamford graduates include Senator Joe Lieberman, former CT Governor Dan Malloy, Food Network Host and Author Ina Garten, and Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Valentine, who is now also a candidate for Stamford mayor!
The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is an art, history, nature, and agricultural sciences museum. The 118-acre museum property is home to a 10-acre working farm, a Tudor-style museum, an art gallery, an interactive nature center, 80 acres of outdoor trails, a large planetarium, a 4-story observatory with a research telescope, and an otter pond. This amazing facility is also home to one of the best Fairfield County playgrounds designed for children to experience an animal’s perspective on nature. The SM&NC offers seasonal family-oriented exhibits and weekend festivals, year-round childhood educational programming, camps, and volunteer opportunities. It is definitely worth the membership fee (families cost $85 for 2021), and they even host a farmers’ market on Sunday mornings and drive-in movies on Friday nights (sponsored by our friends at Riley Volvo Cars Stamford).
The Stamford Town Center (aka the Mall) has a plethora of amazing shopping there. While the Stamford Town Center is home to many store chains, Stamford also hosts a variety of smaller unique shopping opportunities. As a mom, I find it especially helpful that Stamford is home to Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe’s, Barnes and Noble, and many other awesome retail shops! A special shout out to the local toy store, Awesome Toys (formerly called Stamford Toys), an amazing “mom and pop shop” that has saved my procrastinating birthday gift buying numerous times before birthday parties.
3. Arts & Culture
Downtown Stamford is the hub of art and culture in this city. The Palace Theatre is the place to see off-Broadway shows, big-name musical acts, and the Stamford Symphony. There is also the Avon Theatre Film Center on Bedford Street. This is a small movie theater that includes two screens and shows independent films. They also host many events throughout the year for their members. Each summer, downtown Stamford comes alive with an outdoor sculpture display. The 2021 exhibit, The Piano Project, brings both art and music to the streets of Stamford Downtown! The fun and interactive exhibit features 25 upright pianos designed and painted by local artists. The pianos will be on display all summer for the public to interact with and play!
4. Focus on Fitness
Stamford residents love to get their sweat on, and no matter how you like to burn those calories and increase those exercise endorphins Stamford has a place for you. Not only do we have numerous state-of-the-art fitness facilities such as LA Fitness, Orange Theory, and more, Stamford has an amazing family-friendly gym, Chelsea Piers, which has everything the New York City one has without the long drive up the west side highway. If exercising indoors is not your thing, Stamford has the Mianus River Park filled with beautiful hiking and biking nature trails, or you can run, walk, or bike at one of the three beaches.
5. UBS Spectacular Thanksgiving Parade
One of the largest helium balloon parades in the country, it features everyone’s favorite giant balloon characters, award-winning marching bands, and fabulous floats. It truly is fun for the whole family!
6. Alive at 5
While COVID had these concerts on pause, they are back! This live music series features both local artists and big-name acts (some acts this year being Third Eye Blind and Ludacris). Concerts are being held in a new location this year, Mill River Park, and will be held on Thursday nights at 5 p.m. during September. Tickets are $25 for general admission or $100 for the VIP section. The concert location is easily accessible from the train station, attracting a fun and big crowd. However, this is an adults-only event. 21 and over please!
7. Public Transportation
Speaking of the train, Stamford has a major hub train station for Metro-North and Amtrak trains. The trains to Grand Central Station run about every 10 minutes and average 50 minutes long. Stamford is one of the stops on the Northeast Regional Amtrak train route that runs from Boston down to Virginia. It’s a quick and easy ride from Stamford to Boston or D.C. – a great option for family travel! The Harbor Point neighborhood in Stamford also offers a free trolley. It stops at the train/bus station, downtown office buildings, the mall, UCONN, and Sacred Heart. Getting around Stamford has never been easier!
8. Restaurants and Food Festivals
Stamford has something for everyone when it comes to food. Looking for family favorites? Head to Tomato Tomato, Amore Pizza, Fortina, Crabshell, or Coalhouse Pizza. Looking for a great date night spot? Try Cafe Silvium, Madonia, The Capital Grille, or Zaza. Want a great drink and scene? Head to Brickhouse, BarTaco, Sign of the Whale, or Hudson Social. Plus MANY more restaurants, with new ones opening all the time! Stamford also hosts a food festival in August in Mill River Park. You’ll never go hungry in this city!
Stamford’s many different neighborhoods all offer family-friendly activities. Chelsea Piers Stamford is a huge center of activity for any family in Stamford and the surrounding towns. The Stamford Museum & Nature Center is a great place to spend a day at the farm, the great playground, or walking the trails. Downtown Stamford also has family-friendly places like the library, the mall (hello indoor playground on rainy and snowy days!), and the movie theater. We are also lucky enough to be a beach town, with a fun trolley that loops cove beach and opportunities for fishing, kite flying, and bike riding.
10. Parks and Recreation
Stamford is home to many parks and playgrounds that offer different recreational activities for everyone. Two of the best playgrounds around can be found in Stamford. One is in North Stamford at Chesnut Hill Park, and another is in mid-city at Stillmeadow School. It’s called Twin Meadows Boundless Playground and is accessible to everyone. Scalzi Park and Mill River Park offer playgrounds, fields to run in, pathways to ride bikes or run on, and frequent ice cream trucks! Mianus River Park is a wooded haven for dog walkers and trail runners. It’s on the Stamford/Greenwich line and is accessible for all residents from both sides.