Our Day Trip to Old Saybrook, Connecticut
I'd go on a day trip every weekend if I had it my way. But we all know my way hit the highway once two tiny boys barelled onto the scene. At some point, though, one decides to give way to the little voice in the noggin saying, 'How bad could it possibly go?', and you end up in Old Saybrook on a lovely, late summer day.
I'd first heard of this historic town from an old colleague who grew up in West Hartford ... and there's been a steady trickle of praise about it ever since. Our family's day of nap skipping and adventure seeking went so well, I will now be joining their chorus.
First of all, Old Saybrook is easily accessible -- a straight shot up 95. From Bridgeport, it takes just an hour, so calculate your drive time from there. Even folks way up in the northwest corner of Fairfield County can get to Old Saybrook's shores in under two hours. And that's exactly where you should start. Route 154 will become Main Street, then take you on a scenic 6-mile loop -- just follow the signs for 'Shore Points.' Stunning tranquil coves and tidal marshes will soon flood your eyes from all angles. After passing Saybrook Point, you'll come upon a tiny bridge spanning the South Cove, a hotspot for local fishermen. We almost completed the scenic route before the toddler blew a gasket, so we headed for the nearest parking spot, right in front of town hall (and 'the Kate' -- the Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The star was Old Saybrook's most celebrated resident. They run lots of children's shows here, so check ahead to see if one coincides with your trip). There wasn't a time limit on the parking (as far as we could tell), so perfecto. We let the kids run around a bit, then set off to scope out the shops and lunch options.
Within a block or so, we came upon the Old Saybrook Farmer's Market, which runs Wednesdays 10-1 and Saturdays 9-12:30 through October 31, 2012. They guarantee everything is Connecticut grown or made, and we settled on some delicious seasoned sunflower seeds (I would have returned for cannolis if time hadn't run out)! Satiated by the seeds, we made it all the way up the east side of the street before heading back down to the Paperback Cafe. Though they have highchairs for even the outdoor seating, we opted for takeout, since our little dudes had been tied down for a good part of the morning. Allergy parents will be happy to hear they offer gluten, dairy and a myriad of other '-free' food and beverage options at the Paperback. After a short wait for the fixin's, we trekked back up to the Town Hall lawn, and enjoyed our hot dogs and grilled cheese in the sunshine. (NOTE! I made the mistake of assuming the 'Best Grilled Cheese You've Ever Had' was the house grilled cheese ... so when I ordered I didn't give the full name ... and we opened our boxes to find exactly what I'd asked for ... plain grilled cheese. Whoops). We were too full to want sweets yet, and the sun had come out full-blast after a cloudy morning, so we let the kids run around in circles a bit, then piled back in the car to find Old Saybrook's family beach -- Harvey's Beach.
Harvey's Beach is on the 154 loop, and it's easy to miss, so drive slowish. The parking lot is relatively small, so get there early or go on a day that starts out overcast like we accidently did. More critical than anything, though, CHECK THE TIDE TABLE in advance. This beach is perfection at low tide, but a postage stamp at high tide. We got there at low tide, and my toddler thoroughly enjoyed the inches deep tidal pools, and hundreds of yards to chase seagulls. My older son and hubby spent their time constructing sand castles. It was quite reminiscent of our favorite beach on the Cape. If you come at high tide, it's undoubtedly claustrophobic, and not worth the $15 parking fee ($10 on weekdays), much less the drive -- even with the playsets they've installed at the top of the beach. Harvey's has restrooms/changing rooms, but no snack bar, so come with your cooler stocked. If you're lucky, you might catch the ice cream truck when it comes through, so have a little cash on hand, too.
We opted to head back into town for ice cream ... more on that in a minute. If you've already had your fix at the beach, annnnd the kids have the stamina for one more activity, head back to Saybrook Point for a round of mini-golf! Mini-Golf at Saybrook Point is maintained by the town Parks and Rec Dept. throughout the summer, and can't be beat as far as location goes. They'll close September 5th this year, and charge $5/person on weekends. ($4 weekdays / $3 Mondays for kids).
Now back to the ice cream. Fro-Yo is nothing new, but it is to Old Saybrook. Sweet Luna's opened just a couple months ago, offering eight rotating yogurt flavors (including gluten-free, dairy-free, and Kosher ones at all times!) and a GAZILLION toppings. It's also serve-yourself, so if you just want a bit or a truly baby-sized serving, it's doable. Pinkberry can go pound sand! I LOVED my watermelon/vanilla swirl with Sour Patch Kids, Fruit Loops and squishy strawberry-goo filled orbs on top. By the time we hit 95, my 4-year-old and I were ready to turn around and go get seconds. Sweet Luna's, WE'LL BE BACK!
Finally, mamas (and dadas who like to have a gift idea/romantic weekend up their sleeves), I need to mention the other reason I've heard of Old Saybrook so consistently. It's called the Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. Lovely. Luxurious. So close. You've been informed. ;)
Originally published 8/29/12.