“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 128,278, making it the third-largest city in the state and the seventh-largest city in New England. Located approximately 30 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, 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, CT Governor Dan Malloy, Baseball Hall of Famer Bobby Valentine, and Food Network Host and Author Ina Garten.
1. Stamford Nature Center
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 which is 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 and they even host a farmers’ market on Sunday mornings.
2. Shopping (downtown, mall, Ridgeway, Bulls head)
There is a good reason why Woody Allen’s film Scenes from a Mall was filmed at the one and only Stamford Town Center (aka the Mall). There is a plethora of amazing shopping here. While the Stamford Town Center is home to many high-end 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 a Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Trader Joe’s, Barnes and Noble, and Fairway! I also have to add a special shout out to the local toy store, Stamford Toys, which is an amazing “mom and pop shop,” that has saved my procrastinating behind 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 go 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. Past themes have included “It’s Reigning Cats and Dogs,” “Street Seats,” and “Dinosaurs Rule!” This summer the display was called “Art Shapes” and it includes 39 different geometric shapes each with a unique design. It’s free to walk around downtown to explore the displays, and it gives local artists a chance to show off their talent.
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 fabulous exercise endorphins Stamford has the place for you. Not only do we have numerous state of the art fitness facilities such as LA Fitness, New York Sports, and more, Stamford has an amazing family-friendly 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. There is even a local running group that hosts runs on Mondays and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings called “STAMpede.”
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
This live music series features both local artists and big name acts. Concerts are held in Columbus Park, in the downtown neighborhood. These shows are held on Thursday nights at 5 p.m. in July and August. They’re cheap ($15) and easily accessible from the train station, so they attract a fun and big crowd. However, this is an adults-only event – 21 and over please! Acts this summer included Sugar Ray, Ziggy Marley, Rachel Platten, Plain White T’s, CeeLo Green, and Phillip Phillips.
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 makes stops at the train/bus station, office buildings downtown, the mall, Fairway market, UCONN and Sacred Heart. Getting around 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 Granola Bar Stamford, California Pizza Kitchen, Cosi, Crabshell or Coalhouse Pizza. Looking for a great date night spot? Try Cafe Silvium, Madonia, The Capital Grille, or Kotobuki. Want a great drink and scene? Head to BarTaco, Sign of the Whale, or Barcelona. Stamford also hosts a food festival in August in Mill River Park and has numerous food trucks downtown during the work-week. You’ll never go hungry in this city!
9. Family Friendly
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 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.
10. Parks and Rec
Stamford is home to many parks and playgrounds that offer different recreational activities to everyone. Cove Island Park is a great place to walk with the kids on the one-mile loop. They can play or look for crabs at the beach. It’s easy to spend a few hours there. 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.
Have you visited Stamford? Do you live here? What do you love about it?
Be sure to read all the posts in our Explore Fairfield County Series by clicking here.