“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.
Danbury, like so many Connecticut towns, is rich in history. It was settled in 1685 when eight families moved north from what is now Stamford, to what the local Indian tribe called Pahquioque. During the American Revolution, Danbury was a major military supply post for the Continental Army, and was burned to the ground in 1777 by the British military. The first hat shop opened in 1780 and by 1800, Danbury was producing more hats than any other city in the U.S. The last hat factory closed in 1964. The first Great Danbury State Fair was held yearly from 1821 until 1982. It was 142 acres of everything from tobacco, wagons and a 38 foot fiberglass statue of Paul Bunyon to attractions, rides and small car races. It eventually fell into disarray, and the Danbury Fair Mall was built upon it and opened in 1986.
Danbury’s population is currently around 85,000 and rising. It has one large public school system (7th in the state) with 13 elementary schools, including a Magnet school, three middle schools, and two high schools. There is also a variety of faith-based educational options. Western Connecticut State University lies in the middle of the town, with a second campus located on the west side.
Connecticut doesn’t have a lot of shopping malls, but this is one of the best. With close to 200 stores, including restaurants, you can’t go wrong. An added bonus for the kiddos is a ride on the carousel in the back of the food court. The carousel is a double-decker replica of the carousel from the actual Danbury Fair.
This restaurant, built out of a train caboose, not only offers a eclectic (and outrageously delicious) menu, but is one of the most entertaining places to eat – especially with kids. A mini train runs throughout the dining area and there are tons of tchotchkes to see no matter where you sit. The second floor is open and patrons can look down into the lively bar area. For Sunday brunch, a piano player is hoisted up on a platform for live music.
Tarrywhile is 722 acres of natural beauty, including a stunning mansion (listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988) and is open for hiking, picnicking, and other outdoor activities. A personal favorite is the children’s garden.
is a wonderful museum for train lovers of all ages. It’s completely run by volunteers who really know their stuff! The museum is full of nostalgia for train buffs, and they offer special train rides (to see Santa, to see the Easter Bunny, and to the pumpkin patch) for the younger crowd.
Ives Concert Park is a beautiful outdoor amphitheater that plays host to musicals, festivals and concerts all summer long. With hiking trails and stunning nature, it has also become a popular place for families and those with an active lifestyle, as well as those who enjoy outdoor entertainment.
When you’re looking for an inexpensive way to entertain yourself on a summer night, look no further than the local baseball team for a few hours of fun. With one of the most entertaining mascots around, Westie will keep you on your feet and cheering Danbury to the win every time.
7. Candlewood Lake
Though man made, Candlewood Lake is the largest lake in Connecticut, and is shared with Fairfield and Litchfield counties. The lake is open all year round, but most people take advantage of it in the warmer months with ample swimming, fishing and boating opportunities. There are many beaches, playgrounds, and recreational areas to visit. An annual polar plunge happens in January as a fundraising event.
If you are in search of the best hummus around, look no farther than the Sesame Seed. Located in an old house, it’s not very big, with not very good parking, but it’s well worth the trip for lunch or dinner! You’ll feel right at home here with a menu that has staples and seasonal dishes.
Although Danbury no longer hosts a city hockey team, it offers a lot of opportunities year round: learn to skate – many youth levels, hockey lessons – many youth levels, adult (men & women) & youth (boy & girl) leagues, family events, free skates, and even birthday parties! Open all year long, there’s always something to do.
10. Great American Midways Danbury Fair Carnival
The end of May brings with it the start of carnival season! One of the firsts, includes the one at the Danbury Fair Mall. This sprawling carnival takes up a good portion of the mall’s parking lot, and offers a lot of fun for all ages. It’s the best way to start out a summer of yummy food and fun!
Have you visited Danbury? 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.