Outdoor Museums in Fairfield County

7/6/17 - By Brandee Gilmore

Feel like you've seen and done it all in Fairfield County?  How about the outdoor museums?  Outdoor what? I  know. I hadn't really heard of such a thing either, but they're here. They're also a great way to pass the day without having to go the full-on Day Trip route. On top of that, many won't cost you like a regular museum. So here you go, several spots to learn a little something while enjoying the great outdoors with your kids.


Captain’s Cove Seaport Dundon House - Bridgeport
Ok, this place isn't terribly old or anything, but it is fun, and there is a bit of history afoot at any given time.  The Cove used to be home to the tall ship H.M.S. Rose, and currrently has the oyster vessel “John E. Pfriem”, in its waters.  That makes sense, as Bridgeport has been central to the shellfishing industry since the 1800s.  You and the kids can watch fishermen unload clams, and dive deeper into history by booking an appointment at the Dundon House, an onsite mini-maritime museum.  

1 Bostwick Ave., Black Rock Harbor, Bridgeport, CT 06605 203-335-1433

Military Museum of Southern New England - Danbury
Once a month, April through October, 'Open Turret Day' gives the public access to many of the four dozen military vehicles parked in the outdoor exhibit space. Little GI Joes and GI Janes won't know whether to try the tank or climb in the cockpit first.  

125 Park Avenue, Danbury, CT 06810  203-790-9277

Danbury Museum in the Streets 
Ridgefield Museum in the Streets

Follow the path of the Museum in the Streets and take a walk through Danbury’s or Ridgefield's downtown Historic Districts.  This is preeeecisely the sort of thing my kids are going to hate me for in about five years.  I can just see one of these being the warm-up to tackling Boston's Freedom Trail.

Danbury Museum & Historical Society: 43 Main Street, Danbury, CT 06810
Ridgefield: Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Ogden House and Gardens - Fairfield
Debating what to grow in the garden this summer?  See what worked in the colonial days on the premises of this home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Surviving winters back then depended on the summer garden -- and the children's help in it ... this is a simple, fun outdoor history lesson! You can also explore the home if it's open.

1520 Bronson Road, Fairfield, CT  203-259-1598

Philip Johnson’s Glass House - New Canaan
So, let's just state the obvious: it's not for young children (no one under ten admitted on tours). It is, however, a unique way to spend a couple hours with your design-buff teenager.  Tours are $25 and up. Grab a nice lunch in New Canaan afterward.  

199 Elm Street, New Canaan, CT 06840​

Mill Hill Historic Park & Museum - Norwalk
There seems to be a spot like this in every town in the state...which is at the core of Connecticut's charm. You can wander the grounds of the old town hall or one room schoolhouse, and spend time reading weathered tombstones in the cemetery -- all of it enlightening.

2 East Wall St., Norwalk, CT, 06852  203-846-0525 

Sheffield Island Lighthouse Museum - Norwalk
This is such an easy and eventful way to kill a summer day.  Tickets to the nearly 150 year old lighthouse and island run $6 and up and leave from downtown Norwalk. Pack a picnic to enjoy once you get there.  

132 Water Street - 4th Floor - Norwalk, CT 06854
Departs North Water St. & Washington St.

New Pond Farm & Natural History Museum - West Redding
You can pack a history lesson and a picnic lunch into this visit.  Sprawling scenery as well as 19th century barns, a maple syrup shed, and an authentically recreated colonial encampment await. You can also pay a visit to farmyard favorites: cows, sheep, chickens and roosters. 

101 Marchant Road, West Redding, CT 06896  203-938-2117

Putnam Memorial State Park Museum and Grounds - Redding
This Revolutionary War landmark is known as Connecticut's Valley Forge.  The big deal is catching a reenactment that only rolls around every other year ... the next one is scheduled for November 2015. 

499 Black Rock Tpke., Redding, CT 06896

Boothe Memorial Park & Museum - Stratford
This place sort of rewrites the book on what constitutes a park and museum. Suffice it to say, it includes an old Merritt Parkway toll booth, back when there were ... tolls. Even if you don't catch the indoor museums open, the architecture on display is amusement enough (along with two playgrounds).
5800 Main St. - Putney, Stratford, CT

Weir Farm National Historic Site - Wilton
This National Park has been a place of beauty and creative force since the late 1800s when painter Julian Alden Weir moved in.  Over the years, it became a summer retreat for artists and now you can step into that space and do likewise.  Visitors are invited to  experience the joy of plein air (out in the open) painting and sketching -- supplies are provided!

735 Nod Hill Road Wilton, CT, 06897  203-834-1896

Originally published 7/6/15.

Places featured in this article:

Sheffield Island Lighthouse Museum

Military Museum of Southern New England

Danbury Museum in the Streets

Ridgefield Museum in the Streets

Philip Johnson's Glass House

New Pond Farm & Natural History Museum

Putnam Memorial State Park Museum and Grounds

Boothe Memorial Park & Museum