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WHY GO: Close your eyes and think of Greenwich CT. Are your floaters of the hot pink and Kelly green paisley variety? Well, of course. The Lilly Pulitzer pallet still reigns supreme here!
But this swanky Connecticut town, a 40-minute ride on Metro-North from Grand Central Station, is so much more than just the center of the Preppy Handbook universe. Known for its hedge fund billionaires, Captains of Industry and Hollywood types, Greenwich does not broadcast its considerable tourist assets, many of which, ironically, are inexpensive or free.
For a more ethnic-eats-meets-rock-n-roll getaway, inches from this one (but in another State), dig into this post on Port Chester – Rye NY. It borders Greenwich and could not be more different.
Things To Do In Greenwich CT
VISIT: Bruce Museum
I grew up spending happy rainy days at the old “Bruce” – peering at snakes in cages, colorful eggs in old nests, roaming through the dark black-light Space exhibit. But since its complete renovation years ago, the Bruce Museum has been garnering increased recognition in the international art world while maintaining a quirky “nature exhibit” side.
Like a scaled down Museum of Natural History, the Bruce entices families to sit in a wigwam and listen to Native American stories, touch a boulder-sized meteorite, play I-Spy in a woodlands ecosystem diorama, and stare in awe at some of the largest rare mineral specimens assembled in one place. $7 adults, $6 kids, under 5 and all Tues. admissions, free. Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 4:30 pm Sunday 1 pm – 4:30 pm.
WALK: Greenwich Point Park
From November 1 until the end of April, anyone can join CEO’s, debutants, happy families and working stiffs on the gorgeous loop around Greenwich Point. Also known as Tod’s Point, you’ll find this magical place at the end of Shore Rd. in Old Greenwich.
The 2.2 mile long path takes you on sand, through salt marsh, shoreline, and forest. In warm months, only Greenwich residents are allowed, but during off-season, entry is absolutely free. Lately (March 2020), Greenwich Point has been off-limits to dogs, due to rabid raccoons found in the park. Free entry from November 1st – April 30th.
VISIT: Greenwich Audubon
This Audubon flagship, on the corner of Riversville Rd. and John St., has 2,400 members and fantastic daily programs. There are seven Audubon sites in Greenwich.
This one encompasses nearly 300 acres and 7 miles of hiking trails that meander through wetlands, meadows, hardwood forest and other habitats. All the ingredients are here to cure your “nature deficiency disorder”(NDD) and other ills of modern life. $3 adults, $1.50 kids, no charge for members. Dawn to dusk daily.
*Suspended through 2020 as the theater undergoes renovation.
During my High School years in the early 70’s, this free perk was a Date Night favorite. We’d generally start at the bowling alley across the street (no longer there) for one or two $1 games, grab some fast food and end up at the Greenwich Library to see and then discuss an “art” film or a recently released movie.
Friday Night Films are still free. And I’d imagine they are still popular with young Greenwich couples on a budget. But even visitors can take advantage of this great benefit, and while you’re at it – check out the rest of the beautiful library.
SHOP: Consignment Shops
The appealing and sun-drenched Consigned Designs is by far the friendliest vintage shop in town. Saleswomen have an encyclopedic knowledge of designers and styles, and owner Ellen Atkinson is always on hand to help.
Restaurants In Greenwich CT
EAT: Back 40 Kitchen
Recently, Travel+Leisure Magazine identified Back 40 Kitchen as the Best Farm to Table Restaurant in Connecticut in its roundup of the Best F2T Restaurants in Each US State. Now helmed by the young Ian Vest (former Executive Chef for Daniel Boulud’s DBGB in NYC), Back 40 Kitchen is better than ever.
Hidden upstairs with an entrance behind Greenwich Ave. the reclaimed-barn-chic space can be tough to find. But once there, you’ll be well taken care of.
Though the menu changes with the seasons, you’ll find Pasture-Raised Chicken, Grass Fed Beef and at least one or two Vegan options – all in the less-fuss-is-more-taste philosophy of the chef. Make sure to RSVP in advance – Back 40 Kitchen is a hot table getting hotter by the day.
EAT: MYX Creative Kitchen
It might be tough to find fast-slow-food restaurant, MYX Creative Kitchen. It’s situated on a Greenwich Ave. side street (W. Elm). But once you do, you’ll most likely return because, well, its slogan, “We make healthy easy,” is true.
The self-serve MYX is a playful take on fresh, “innovative, and flavorful greens, grains, and proteins,” allowing patrons to build their own meals. Pick your base, “Myx”-ins, Toppers, and sauce, and watch chefs cook your choices in a skillet for your freshly made personal Sauté or Noodle Bowl.
In addition to chicken, shrimp, pork or vegetarian bowls, MYX has salads, flatbreads, snacks, and desserts in a takeaway section.
Though you can sit and eat in the bright and happy space, it’s evident that MYX is really catching on with the local shop and office worker crowd. Many stopped in on a rainy midweek evening to make and take out dinner. Plus – there’s free parking in back for customers – practically unheard of in downtown Greenwich.
EAT: Meli Melo
So popular, owners took over the adjacent shop, this little lemon-yellow spot dishes up sweet and savory buckwheat crepes ($7.50-$15.50), obsessed-over homemade soups and hands down the best fresh-mint-chocolate chip ice cream on the planet ($4 for one scoop).
EAT: FGK (Famous Greek Kitchen) in Byram Section of Greenwich
Although this area of Greenwich (Byram) is closer to downtown Port Chester NY than Greenwich Ave., I include FGK here for simplicity’s sake. If you ask anyone around where to find the best Greek Food (not to mention an adorable dining area) around, most will mention this place. It’s literally just over the NY-CT border in what was once considered a blue collar section of Greenwich.
EAT: BSF (Burger Shake Fries), Byram Section of Greenwich
To my discerning palate, the burgers and dogs at BSF are far superior to those at Shake Shack and 5 Guys. Each one is made to order (not sitting around waiting for an influx of customers). Bread (for the burgers and grilled cheese), and hot dog rolls are coated in oil or butter or some sort of magic element that crisps and flavors them up, so that each offers the optimal tasty yin to the meat’s yang. This little hole in the wall is truly a hidden gem and a local favorite.
Where To Stay In Greenwich CT
J-House is the last boutique hotel you’ll find on I-95 before exiting New England. But it wasn’t always so chic. First, it was a Howard Johnson’s that after decades of decline became an eyesore. Then, a local developer bought the distressed property, tore it down to the studs, and rebuilt it as the sleek enviro-jazzy hotel it is today.
First Impressions of J-House Greenwich
A stone and glass entryway opens into a small reception area, and then a very cozy fire-lit “living room.”
Whimsical arts and crafts are scattered about, including conversation pieces like a pair of svelte naked legs draped demurely over the glass fireplace ledge, tin men creations, “projection art” by artist Daniel Canogar, and other contemporary-artsy accoutrements.
Renovated with preserving the environment in mind, roof shingles are made from recycled tires. The interior décor is Earth-Tone modern – with furniture sourced from Restoration Hardware.
Rooms at J-House Greenwich
All 85 “automated” high-tech rooms and suites are outfitted with 55” flat screen TV’s, installed I-Pads to control temps and light, and pillow top teak platform beds clad in white.
Bathrooms are quite futuristic, with rainforest showerhead. TV’s are embedded in the mirror and there’s a remote control Japanese toilet.
Dining at J-House Greenwich
What was originally the Chocolate Lab is now the much more flexible (and healthy) Coffee Bar, stocked with all forms of Intelligentsia Coffee from around the world, fine baked goods and breakfast and lunch bites.
The on-site restaurant opened as Eleven14 Kitchen. Now, it’s Tony’s at the J-House, featuring prime steaks and “market fresh fish.”
Locals find camaraderie at the restaurant bar, topped with starburst chandeliers. But the festive scene in summer is out on the wisteria-canopied patio, where elbowroom is at a premium.
Open seven days a week, and with 8 massage therapists and 3 aestheticians, the Spa is a hit with guests in need of a good rubdown or cosmetic session. Though not big (4 treatment rooms; one dedicated to couples), the Spa makes up for lack of steam rooms, sauna and other Big Spa amenities with extremely professional therapists. Restorative treatments include massage, wraps, body exfoliation, facials, waxing and make-up.
Room rates from $199-$239 for Standard rooms ($500-$779 for most apartment-sized suites) include breakfast, wi-fi, shuttle and parking.
STAY: Stanton House Inn
This gracious Stanford White designed Federalist mansion just steps from downtown Greenwich yields charming surprises, especially for such a moderate (for Greenwich) price. Currier and Ives prints dot the walls of two ground floor sitting rooms.
Several rooms have luxe Duxiana beds. The couple taking morning tea in the parlor might be from France or just across town. With breakfast included in the cost of an antique appointed suite, and a beautiful garden-side outdoor pool, it is indeed the best deal in town.
Stay in the original master bedroom, Room #20, a King Suite with 16 ft. ceiling, electroflame fireplace and an antique claw-foot tub. ($249). Rates are $170-$249 per night – include full breakfast.
STAY: Greenwich Hyatt
Perhaps you’ll hear echoes of the beat of the old Conde Nast Publishing presses as they churned out Glamour, Better Homes and Gardens, Vanity Fair, and other national glossies in what is currently one of the most park-like hotel lobbies in the world.
Known as “Greenwich’s lobby,” this human terrarium suggests a tropical paradise with living banana trees, palm trees, coursing streams, Koi ponds, and waterfalls. The Gazebo Lounge is to Greenwich what the Grand Central Station Information Booth is to New York. THE place to meet. Newly renovated, gently priced rooms in seawater blues, driftwood tans have a fresh, classic Coastal New England touch. Rates $116- $239.