With not just one but two spectacular lakefronts, the posh town of Brookfield is often hailed as the best place to live in Connecticut.
On the west side is the sinuous shoreline of Candlewood Lake, the largest body of freshwater in the state and fronted by opulent houses, exclusive marinas and private clubs.
Brookfield was incorporated as a town in 1788 but has a history going back another century, and each phase is represented at a refined historical district at Brookfield’s first settlement.
As for things to do, you can dabble in arts and crafts, play golf, try wakeboarding on Candlewood Lake and hunt for bargains at one of the best flea markets in New England.
1. Candlewood Lake
The largest lake in Connecticut is what lends Brookfield much of its prestige.
The lakeshore on the west side of town is lined with a string of private clubs and marinas, and a beach that only Brookfield residents can use.
What may surprise you is that Candlewood Lake didn’t even exist before the 1920s.
This reservoir was formed behind a dam at the confluence of the Housatonic and Rocky Rivers, not far to the north in New Milford.
Given the lake’s exclusive ambience, it can be tricky for a non-resident to get close, but there are public parks in Danbury, New Milford and in New Fairfield at Squantz Pond State Park.
You can also take to the lake on water-skis and wakeboards , and we’ll show how below.
2. Pottery Factory
You can craft to your heart’s content at the Pottery Factory, which lets people walk in off the street and have a go at painting pre-fired pottery, fusing glass and making candles and soap.
No reservation is needed for this, but you can put your name down for all kinds of pre-arranged activities like “paint and sip” classes, a paint your pet event, and workshops for crafting anything from wine glasses to blankets, seasonal decorations and breakfast trays.
You can also organize craft-themed birthday parties at the Pottery Factory for grown-ups and children, with all materials provided.
3. Brookfield Municipal Center
At this spot just west of Brookfield Center there’s a cluster of local government buildings, like the Brookfield Police Headquarters and the Town Hall.
In the neighbouring 4.5 acres of greenery there are facilities for baseball/softball, soccer and bocce, complemented by a fitness trail, a wonderful creative playground and a picnic area.
In front of an open lawn is the town’s bandstand, putting on a series of concerts on Friday evenings from mid-June to the end of August.
Bring a deckchair/blanket and a picnic and enjoy some blues, jazz, soul, classic rock and pop.
4. Still River Greenway
At Brookfield Municipal Center you can depart on this car-free 2.25 mile walk to the Four Corners District (Brookfield Town Center). This paved path was in the pipeline from 2000 and was completed in two stages in 2012 and 2016. The surface is three meters wide and accessible for people on bikes, roller skates and wheelchairs, or with pushchairs.
At one point you’ll cross the Still River on a 50-meter prefab bridge.
5. Brookfield Town Beach
At the top of this entry it’s important to state that the Town Beach is open only to Brookfield residents and their guests, through season passes or daily fees (Bethel residents can also purchase passes). The beach has a welcoming strip of sand backed by a boardwalk and with knockout views up towards the New Milford shore.
There are facilities for basketball and beach volleyball, as well as picnic tables and grills.
Also by the beach is a Community Room, which can be reserved for events up to 50 people.
6. Brookfield Center Historic District
At the junction of Route 25 and Route 133 you can go back to Brookfield’s roots at a historic district boasting 67 residential, civic and religious buildings spanning more than 300 years.
This is the heart of the town’s original settlement and perfectly illustrates Brookfield’s development over its first couple of centuries, as so few of the buildings have alterations.
Some to look out for are the Saltbox house from 1700 at 150 Whisconier Road, the early 19th-century Federal style building at No. 140 on the same road, the Congregational Church from 1854 and also the 1907 gymnasium for the Curtis School for Boys, in the rustic style.
This has since become the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, staging plays, musical performances and movie screenings.
7. Lake Lillinonah
The state’s second-largest lake marks Brookfield’s eastern boundary, and spans six towns in Fairfield, Litchfield and New Haven Counties.
Like Candlewood Lake, this is man-made, formed when the Housatonic River and Shepaug River were dammed in 1955. And also like its neighbour to the west Lake Lillinonah has some of Connecticut’s most expensive property on its Brookfield shoreline.
Lillinonah Woods is a public park by the water in Brookfield, for fishing, picnicking and ambling by the water.
Further east is the Upper Paugussett State Forest in Newtown, where you can hike the Blue-Blazed Lillinonah Trail, which grazes the shoreline on a square-shaped loop.
8. Cadigan Park
Just in from the shore of Candlewood Lake and fronted by the Town Beach, Cadigan Park is a center for recreation, used by most of the school sports teams in the town.
Packed into 14 acres are fields for football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse, as well as tennis courts and sand volleyball courts.
Amid the greenery there’s also a pretty, painted pavilion with picnic tables and grill.
This can be rented by residents and non-residents.
9. Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market
A Fairfield County Tradition, Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market has been running since 1976 and is open every Sunday from April through mid-December.
On this day 500 or more vendors of all kinds sell their wares, attracting antique collectors, upcyclers and anyone with a nose for a great deal.
Accompanying the vendors is a constantly-changing fleet of food trucks, so no two visits to Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market will be the same.
Serious collectors can pay for early admission (before sunrise!), to poke around the site and discover bargains before the crowds arrive.
10. Brookfield Craft Center
Held as one of the foremost professional schools for creative study in the United States, Brookfield Craft Center was established in 1954 to teach traditional and contemporary craft skills and encourage fine craftsmanship.
The center’s Classes and workshops are taught by nationally acclaimed artists in painting, pottery, metalwork, digital arts, glass, woodwork and many more fields.
For a casual visitor the Gallery Shop sells one-of-a-kind pieces, stocking the work of some 150 fine craftspeople from across the United States.
You can also pay a visit to the Lynn Tendler Bignell Gallery, staging several exhibitions each year, from solo shows to showcases for upcoming talent.
11. Happy Landings Farm
At this parcel of old farmland owned by the town you’ll be in fields and woods that have changed little since the Revolutionary War.
Happy Landings was bought by Brookfield in 1999 and mixes former arable farmland, wetlands and mature hardwood forest, supporting a rich array of fauna and flora.
The fields are criss-crossed by trails, winding around to a venerable oak tree at the top of the hill.
In late-summer a local farmer cuts the hay in the fields and bales it, and throughout the fall this exposed hillside is a great place to fly a kite.
12. DiGrazia Winery
First planted more than 40 years ago on the tall hills to the east of Brookfield Center, this family-run vineyard is an important stop on the CT Wine Trail.
DiGrazia grows nine varieties of premium hybrid and native American grapes for flavorful reds and whites, running the gamut from dry to sweet.
Most out of the ordinary, and certainly not for purists are the dessert wines, produced with pumpkin, spice, blueberries, honey and pears.
Part of the joy of visiting DiGrazia is spending some time under the pergola on the terrace.
You’re welcome to bring your own picnic, and there’s indoor seating at the air-conditioned barrel room for when it gets chilly.
13. Lakeside Watersports
Minutes away at Pocono Point Marina in Danbury you can take to the waters of Candlewood Lake, trying out waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing or wakesurfing.
Lakeside Watersports is open seven days during the peak summer months (reduced hours on the fringe seasons), and provides expert, safe tuition including all gear and safety equipment.
Single riders can try a “Quick Hitter” session, bringing you back to the dock in just 30 minutes, while you could entertain a group of restless teenagers on sessions up to two or four hours long.
All packages include a safety briefing, and Lakeside Watersports’ boat can hold nine people, so family or friends can come along.
14. Sunset Hill Golf Club
This local nine-hole is a real community course with a family atmosphere.
Sunset Hill was laid out in 1936 with the help of Gene Sarazen, who won seven majors.
And despite the upscale location in Brookfield you can play nine holes for as little as $19 on a weekday at this down-to-earth track.
The course is relatively short but there are a couple of holes where a driver will come into play.
The layout is also rather hilly, so you’ll need to hit a few blind shots and will contend with some unpredictable fairways.
15. Golf Quest Brookfield
If you need to work on your driving and approach play, there’s a highly-rated standalone range in Brookfield.
Golf Quest is open all year, with 72 heated and sheltered tee stations and five target greens to aim for.
If you want to take your game to the next level the center offers PGA golf instruction.
There’s also a huge putting green and practice bunkers so you can work on your chipping.
There’s fun for families too, at the 18-hole mini golf course and seven batting cages for those who want to bump up their average.