National Park. Immediately those words conjure images of canyons, geysers and mountains as in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks. You most definitely do not think … Connecticut. And, while we are not fortunate to live close to any of the more popular national parks, the Nutmeg State does possess a hidden gem in the way of Weir Farm National Historic Site.
Weir Farm was previously the summer retreat of American Impressionist painter Julian Alden Weir. The more than 60 acre site, which is located in both Ridgefield and Wilton, comprises Weir’s farmhouses, studios, barns, gardens and Weir Pond all nestled among rolling woodlands and connected by wooded trails or stone pathways. It is the only National Park Service site dedicated to American painting – it maintains an artist-in-residence program in which selected artists spend one month living and working at the park.
Upon the recommendation of a good friend and a reference in a book on Connecticut day trips with kids, my husband and I along with our girls decided to check out all that Weir Farm has to offer.
Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we were greeted by a friendly National Park Service member, who provided us with several maps of trails of the site and surrounding area. The Visitor Center also houses a rotating exhibit of American impressionist paintings. For the kids, you can stamp your Passport to Your National Parks (we have one for both M and Z) and pick up some free stickers and temporary tattoos. You can also borrow art supplies – free of charge – in order to make a more permanent impression of your visit to the park.
We opted to take a short hike down and around Weir Pond. Although we “wore” both girls – one in a hiking backpack and the other in a baby carrier – the path was not strenuous and, in most places, flat and wide winding through beautiful woodlands and across a few small streams. So … perfect for little ones who enjoy exploring and don’t mind walking. For those interested in geocaching (described in one of my earlier posts here), there is one geocache at Weir Farm, which is located on the path around Weir Pond, that is not too difficult to find and would make for a great first try or for fun with the kids. The cache was also pretty well stocked when we found it, so just make sure to take something with you to put into the cache if you want to take something out of it.
After our hike, we decided to take advantage of the use of the free art supplies and took up “residence” in a field near the artist-in-residence studios. On the day that we visited, the art supplies available included totes containing watercolor paper attached to a clipboard, brushes, and paints as well as small spill-proof containers of water. Colored pencils and pastels are offered on other days. Both my husband and M spent some time creating their own impressionistic masterpieces of our visit.
Due to time constraints – more specifically, hungry bellies ready for lunch – we did not have the opportunity to check out the two artist studios on site. Both the Young Studio and the Weir Studio are open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You can learn about the artists’ time at the site as well as about their techniques.
All told, it was a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, and I imagine it would be particularly gorgeous in the fall when the leaves start turning.
Have you visited Weir Farm? Tell us about your experience!
Any other hidden gems that you like to visit with the family?