12 Things To Do in Norwalk, Connecticut (Updated July 2024)

Nestled along Connecticut’s Gold Coast, Norwalk is a vibrant small city with a thriving arts scene, stunning parks and beaches, and plenty of attractions and activities for visitors. Norwalk boasts a fantastic Maritime Aquarium where you can see sharks, sea turtles and seals.

The city also features several highly-rated museums like the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum and Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Families traveling with kids will love attractions like the SoNo Bow Tie Cinemas for movies and malls like the SoNo Collection for shopping.

With Long Island Sound beaches, historic estates, performing arts venues, and an exciting culinary landscape, Norwalk has something for everyone. Whether you’re keen to explore Norwalk’s history and culture or looking for outdoor spaces to hike and bike, this guide covers the top 12 things to see and do in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Marvel at Sea Life at The Maritime Aquarium

One of Norwalk’s top attractions, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is an exciting way to discover local marine life. The aquarium’s harbor seals and sea turtles are guest favorites, while the jellyfish and eel exhibits dazzle visitors. Shark feedings occur daily at the aquarium’s 110,000-gallon ocean tank.

You’ll also find the IMAX Theater’s six-story screen showing educational films and Hollywood favorites. Special attractions rotate too, like Meerkats rock climbing and opportunities to touch stingrays. Outside the aquarium, stroll along the riverside promenade by the harbor or book an aquatic boat tour to see Norwalk from the water.

Tour the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum

Known fondly as the “Jewel of Norwalk,” the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum offers an intriguing glimpse into Gilded Age splendor. This 62-room Second Empire Victorian mansion was completed in 1868 for influential banker and railroad tycoon LeGrand Lockwood. The ornate period rooms feature original furnishings, fixtures, and artwork the Lockwood family collected during their European travels.

Costumed guides bring the stories of the families who lived here to life during informative hour-long tours. The Museum’s exhibits on Tiffany glass and Victorian era toys, games, and clocks are also fascinating. Special events like concerts, lectures, and afternoon teas make it easy to immerse yourself in Victorian grandeur.

See a Show at Wall Street Theater

Dating from 1929, the beautifully restored Wall Street Theater is Norwalk’s only year-round professional theater company. This intimate venue in the SoNo neighborhood hosts musicals, dramas, comedy shows, cabaret nights, and children’s theater. Season offerings typically include Broadway favorites like “Mamma Mia” along with literary adaptations like “To Kill A Mockingbird” and uplifting original productions.

Supporting both international touring acts and homegrown talent, this dynamic cultural hub offers an evening of exceptional entertainment in historical art deco surroundings. Arrive early to admire the theater’s original chandeliers, murals and gilded architectural accents before enjoying your chosen show.

Explore Family Fun at Stepping Stones Museum for Children

At this award-winning children’s museum, kids can let their curiosity and creativity run wild. With a range of interactive STEM and arts focused exhibits, Stepping Stones Museum is designed to inspire imaginative free play and learning for kids 10 and under.

Highlights at this colorful museum include the Energy Lab, Great Outdoors, Kidtown, and Garden play zones. Children may plant vegetable gardens, perform “surgery” on Stan the veterinarian dog patient, or don construction hats to build walls. Celebrations of diverse cultural festivals occur regularly too. Parents will love tagging along as their kids joyfully learn through hands-on play.

Relax at Calf Pasture Beach

On warm sunny days, the golden sands of Calf Pasture Beach lure many locals and visitors alike. As Norwalk’s largest public beach with lifeguards on duty, Calf Pasture offers protected coves that are perfect for swim lessons along with open areas ideal for beach games.

Stretching across the eastern side of Norwalk, amenities include picnic tables, grills, playgrounds and hiking trails for leisurely walks. Entry and parking fees apply in season, but it’s easy to lose track of time while sunbathing, building sandcastles or admiring Long Island Sound’s gentle waves. Watching perfect sunsets is the icing on the cake after a relaxing beach day.

Tour Historic Estates

Beyond the Lockwood Mathews Mansion, history lovers visiting Norwalk will discover several other remarkable 19th century estates now open for public tours. The Thomas Fitch IV home built circa 1750 features seven unique mannequin vignettes bringing the property’s different eras to life alongside original Fitch family portraits and furnishings.

Built in 1835, the one-time residence of railroad baron Charles P. Clark today houses the Norwalk Historical Society Museum with exhibits on local heritage inside its elegant rooms. Costumed interpreters offer insightful tours by timed entry at the town’s well-preserved 1774 Gov. Thomas Fitch Law Office too.

Explore Norwalk Islands

Easy to access by tour boat or kayak rental, Norwalk Islands enable visitors to escape city life for hiking adventures amid pine forests, salt marshes and rocky shores just offshore. The furthest island out, Sheffield Island makes an ideal day trip for its historic 1868 lighthouse with panoramic Long Island Sound outlooks and beaches dotted with local wildlife sightings.

Nearby Chimon and Cockenoe islands offer unspoiled natural settings for peaceful birdwatching. Guided history walks on the islands closest to Norwalk Harbor like Peck Ledge reveal vestiges of the town’s oystering past like old cellar holes where historic cottages once housed local sea captains during summer months.

See Art Deco Cinemas

For many visitors, seeing a show or film at one of Norwalk’s classic Art Deco theaters tops their entertainment list. Conveniently located in the downtown SoNo district, the Bow Tie Cinemas boast stadium seating, giant screens and excellent sound systems across ten screens playing all the latest movies. The lobby’s stylish sunburst ceiling mural sets the tone for a glamorous night out at the movies.

On Belden Avenue downtown, St. George’s Episcopal Church has adapted the acoustically impressive former Norwalk Theatre into a performing arts venue called Wall Street Theater for concerts, plays and dance productions. The 1938 theater’s iconic scalloped facade, mirrored ceilings and sweeping balconies transports audiences back to the Golden Age of Cinema.

Tour SoNo Switch Tower Museum

Rail enthusiasts visiting Norwalk will love learning about the critical role the city played in New England’s railroad history at this one-of-a-kind museum. Housed within the former 1937 headquarters of the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad, exhibits chronicle the rise of SoNo as the world’s busiest rail junction.

Scale model dioramas depict the rail lines, bridges, classification yards and roundhouse that dominated the South Norwalk landscape when over 650 trains daily passed through what became known as “Switchtown USA”. Visitors can view relics like early switches and signals inside the watchtower’s octagonal cupola too.

Go Boutique Shopping & Gallery Hopping

A thriving arts community means visitors will discover artisan creations around every corner in Norwalk. Century-old storefronts along Washington Street in historic South Norwalk (SoNo) now house distinctive boutiques filled with locally crafted housewares, jewelry, apparel and art prints alongside inventive home decor stores and artisanal chocolate shops.

Norwalk’s burgeoning food scene also shines here with farm-to-table cafes, critically acclaimed restaurants and craft cocktail lounges perfect for sampling after an afternoon browsing local galleries like Loft Artists Association and Alive@Five outdoor summer concert series featuring live music.

Hike Norwalk River Valley Trail

Stretching for eight miles between Norwalk’s Veterans Park and Redding, the paved multi-use Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT) delights hikers and cyclists of all abilities. Following the scenic Norwalk River, the leafy trail enables visitors to soak up beautiful wooded landscapes with riverside views for picnics and wildlife watching opportunities along the way.

Linking historic villages like Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding with a dedicated walking and biking path, the NRVT also connects to lovely town greens and parks with convenient parking access enabling both short strolls or lengthier adventures. Interpretive signs describe notable landmarks and regional nature preserves like The Preserve’s 1,000 acres of trails too.

Sample Oysters at a Waterfront Restaurant

No visit to coastal Connecticut is complete without slurping down fresh-shucked oysters sourced right from Long Island Sound at local seafood eateries. In South Norwalk, popular spots for cracking oysters alongside picturesque harbor views include The Pearl and Harbor Harvest restaurants joined by Shell & Bones offering innovative New England cuisine inside an airy converted oyster cannery.

Further north, Buffalo Lounge and Restaurant sits pretty on Norwalk Cove with a sprawling patio to best appreciate the waterfront setting when sipping craft cocktails or wine paired with their signature baskets of fried “Buffalo” oysters, shrimp and clams – a tasty twist on classic seafood preparations celebrated locally for decades.

Conclusion

Brimming with family attractions, nature trails, historic estates, performing arts and culinary experiences, Norwalk offers something for every interest and taste. Conveniently situated just an hour from New York City, visitors will love uncovering this culturally vibrant small city’s maritime heritage, artistic creativity and abundant opportunities for relaxation during a getaway or weekend break.

Whether you spend sunny days at Calf Pasture Beach before an evening show at Wall Street Theater, seek interactive learning for kids at Stepping Stones Museum or island adventures out on the Norwalk Islands – the top things highlighted here promise memorable itineraries for all ages. Come discover Norwalk’s coastal treasures, arts scene and unique attractions for yourself!

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