Leafy Greenwich on Connecticut’s Gold Coast dominates lists of the most liveable places in America.
It’s a town with serious money, up there with the wealthiest communities in the country, and a bastion of investment firms and hedge funds.
To give you an idea of what Greenwich is about, the town has its own polo club, which draws thousands of spectators on Sundays in summer, and the local library has a fine art gallery.
There’s opulent shopping and dining on Greenwich Avenue, a profusion of green spaces, summer cruises to islands on Long Island Sound, and an artistic pedigree bestowed to the town by the Impressionists of the Cos Cob Art Colony.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Greenwich:
1. Bruce Museum
This fantastic museum is posted on a hill enclosed in parkland, in a mansion that was bequeathed to the city by the textile magnate Robert M.
Bruce (1822-1908) on the condition that it be turned into a museum when he passed away.
The Bruce Museum mixes natural history and art, with wonderfully curated exhibitions charting local and global environmental history, mineralogy, Native American agriculture in Connecticut, intertidal wildlife (with a live marine tank) and a primeval forest environment in a woodland diorama.
The art collection at the Bruce Museum is centred mainly on the Impressionists who belonged to the Cos Cob Art Colony, like Leonard Ochtman, Childe Hassam and Emil Carlsen.
The sculpture collection is formidable, with pieces by Auguste Rodin, Frederick MacMonnies and Hiram Powers.
2. Greenwich Avenue Historic District
The north-south backbone of downtown Greenwich is on the National Register of Historic Places and furnished with Italianate, Georgian Revival and Commercial-style buildings, raised over the course of a few decades from the late-19th century to immediately after World War I.
As a pedestrian you can take a leisured wander, admiring the refined architecture and solemn monuments like the town hall (1905) and the Richardsonian Romanesque-style Havemeyer Building, at No. 290 and dating back to 1892. Greenwich Avenue stands out as a shopping destination too, for its upscale boutiques, galleries, design stores and chic bakeries, interspersed with familiar names like Apple and Sephora.
There’s no absence of places to eat along the way, whatever your palate or budget.
3. Audubon Center
When it opened in 1943 this was the National Audubon Society’s first environmental education society in the United States.
The Audubon Center was unique at the time, not just in the way it protected nature from human intrusion, but because it also helped people interpret and learn about the natural world at close quarters.
The Audubon Center takes care of seven different sanctuaries around Greenwich, adding up to almost 700 acres.
You can explore seven miles of trails, conveying you through hardwood forest and historic field, and past a lake, waterfall, streams and pools.
The Welcome Center has a gallery, gift shop and children’s learning space at the main sanctuary, and there’s a fun line-up of conservation-themed events all year, like a popular hawk watch.
4. Bush-Holley House
An exciting piece of American cultural history, this sweet clapboard house was the heart of the Cos Cob Art Colony at the turn of the 20th century when it served as a boarding house.
The colony was born around 1889 when John Henry Twachtman settled in Greenwich, and he was followed by many other prominent Impressionists, including Theodore Robinson, J.
Alden Weir and Childe Hassam.
They attracted scores of students to this house, which originally grew up in the late-1720s and first opened as a museum just after it had been purchased from the widow of Elmer Livingston MacRae.
The house is beautifully maintained, and you can take a peek in the afternoon from Wednesday to Sunday to hear about its colonial and artistic past.
Amazingly, many of the objects depicted in well-known Impressionist works can still be found in the house, like they were left here yesterday.
A restored 19th-century railroad hotel close by is an exhibition space for American Impressionist art.
5. Greenwich Point Park
The pick of Greenwich’s four beaches is on a peninsula poking out into Long Island Sound, and a popular place for locals and visitors (for a fee) to spend a day in the sun in summer.
The beach is watched by lifeguards all summer, and along with changing rooms and showers there are two snack bars just behind.
The beach is part of a 150-acre park, etched with trails and sprinkled with historic buildings from the old estate of the banker and railroad tycoon John Kennedy Tod (1852-1925). The Bruce Museum Seaside Center can be found at the park, and has exhibits about the beach and touch tanks.
On the water are designated areas for windsurfing, kite-surfing and salt-water fishing, and on dry land you can reserve a shelter, picnic tables and grills.
The sunset are fabulous at Greenwich Point Park, and on a clear day you can make out the Manhattan skyline from the beach.
6. Island Ferries
June to September you can head down to the ferry dock off Arch Street to catch a boat to one of Greenwich’s islands in Long Island Sound.
These run hourly or half-hourly, and as you’d expect there are more services on weekends.
Great Captain Island is the better served of the two destinations and has an impressive granite lighthouse dating back to 1868. After disembarking you can set off along the island’s walking trails among oaks and hickory, go birding, take a picnic or lounge at one of the beach areas.
Island Beach (formerly Little Captain Island) is also a public park donated to the town in 1918 and is loved for its 300 metres of sandy beach on its eastern and western coasts.
7. Fjord Fish Market, Cos Cob
If you want to know exactly where your fish and seafood comes from, Fjord Fish Market will be right up your street.
There’s a superb selection of premium, responsibly sourced cod, scallops, oysters, lobster, salmon , shrimp and a lot more besides.
You can also pick up delicious freshly prepared take-out food, whether you’re up for fish and chips, an oyster or lobster roll, fillet sandwich, Cajun halibut bites, grilled salmon, poke or sushi.
8. Diane’s Books
Going strong for 30 years, Diane’s Books is a local bookshop with the dimensions of a public library.
The shop claims to have the largest selection of family books in the United States, and has a large, friendly staff happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction.
If you’re just visiting Greenwich you can arrange to have your books shipped, and the shop also offers a free gift-wrapping service.
Children will of course be besotted by Diane’s Books, but there’s lots for grown-ups to love too, including visits by famous authors.
In September 2018 Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White (The Glass Ocean) all paid a visit.
9. Greenwich Polo Club
You know a place is posh when it has its own polo club, and Greenwich’s was established in 1981 and all through the summer stages high-goal matches for the public.
The field is in Connecticut’s pastoral countryside and is held as one of the world’s leading high-goal venues (one of only three of its kind in the United States). The club is home to the White Birch polo team, which has dominated the sport for the last 25 years.
Some of the best players in the world have graced the field here, among them Mariano Aguerre, Nacho Figeuras and Facundo Pieres, and you can see performers of this calibre from spring to late-summer in a series of cups and exhibitions.
Each Sunday more than 2,000 people descend on the club to witness the spectacle: Gates open at 13:00 and the match begins at 15:00.
10. Montgomery Pinetum
A public park in more than 100 acres of lush forest, the Montgomery Pinetum was once the estate of the businessman Colonel Robert Montgomery, who planted rare conifers on his land.
The woodland is streaked with trails past magnificent mature trees, and boasts an array of specimen plants and wild-flowers that spring to life in spring and early-summer.
There’s an ornamental lake, benches, picnic tables and grills that can be reserved.
The Montgomery Pinetum is also home to the Greenwich Botanical Center, based at the lovely Horticulture Building with a greenhouse, kindling interest in horticulture through special events, classes, exhibitions and volunteer activities.
11. Neuberger Museum of Art
The art museum for the Purchase College, is ten minutes away across the state line.
This is one of the largest university museums in the United States, set up in 1974 with a donation by the financier Roy Neuberger.
From that initial gift of 108 pieces the collection has swelled to more than 6,000, focussing on 20th-century luminaries like Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and lots more.
The museum also holds a celebrated collection of African art, as well as sculpture by the likes of Yayoi Kusama, Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi.
In the last few years there have been exhibitions for Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Congolese Kuba textiles, Ray Spillenger and video artist Janet Biggs.
12. Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens
You could make a day of it in Purchase at another sensational art attraction.
This one is on the campus of the PepsiCo world headquarters and is named after the former chairman of the board and CEO, Donald M. Kendall.
He was responsible for these elegant sculpture gardens, in around 168 manicured acres and enriched with 45 works by the most important sculptors of the 19th and 20th century.
From the end of March to the end of October you can wander among art by Rodin, Alberto Giacometti, Barbara Hepworth, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Joan Miró, Claes Oldenburg, Max Ernst, to name just a few.
13. Bruce Park
This charming public park on the Long Island Sound shore is part of the same parcel of land donated to Greenwich by Robert M.
Bruce for the Bruce Museum in 1908. Bruce Park is littered with the gneiss outcrops that occur around the Greenwich and Cos Cob area, and date back 450 million years.
Amid the maples, evergreens and oaks are playgrounds for kids, a walking/jogging trail, ponds with waterfowl, a baseball diamond, horseshoe pits, tennis courts and a bowling green maintained by the Greenwich Lawn Bowling Association.
Bruce Park is stunning in spring when the daffodils, dogwoods and azaleas all come into flower at the same time, and later in the season the rose garden is not to be missed.
14. Flinn Gallery
It’s par for the course that Greenwich’s public library should have its own art gallery! This exhibition space is non-profit and volunteer run, and displays art from a wide array of media, genres, regions and periods.
The art on show is often for sale, with proceeds funding the many programmes of the Friends of Greenwich Library.
When we compiled this list in summer 2019 the upcoming exhibitions showcased the many landscapes gifted to the library down the years, as well as a selection of prints acquired between the 1950s and the 1990s.
15. Putnam Cottage
Dating right back to 1690, Putnam Cottage on the old Boston Post Road has a captivating tale to tell.
In the middle of the 18th century this dwelling was expanded into a tavern, and there’s documentary evidence that George Washington stopped here to feed his troops in 1776 during the Revolutionary War.
The building earned the name Putnam, after the General, Israel Putnam, escaped from the Red Coats on a thrilling horseback ride past this location to get reinforcements from Stamford.
Putnam Cottage is painted bright red and is preserved as a Revolution-era tavern museum, opening for tours normally once a month.