Greenwich has had a creative bent since at least the Age of Impressionism.
It’s why there are so many world-class museums in Greenwich, CT, and nearby.
While I’m sure artistic and creative types lived in and appreciated the area before then, that’s the earliest documented period I’m aware of in which Greenwich was artistically influential.
That was the time in which the Bush-Holley House housed an artist colony while serving as a boarding house. It’s why the building is the only one in town on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Such famous Impressionist artists spent time there painting, including:
- Ernest Lawson
- Childe Hassam
- Theodore Robinson
- John Henry Twachtman
- J. Alden Weir
And you can’t blame them. The train ride out from New York City was relatively quick and easy, and they could find ample scenes to inspire them.
Today, Greenwich and the surrounding Connecticut Gold Coast is still a mecca for fans of the arts. Exploring the various museums is one of the best things to do in Greenwich.
Read on for our list of the best museums in town, along the Connecticut shoreline, and in the rest of Connecticut. We also included some tips for checking-out the visual, music, and performing arts while you’re here.
A guide to the best museums in Greenwich, CT
Of the museums geographically in Greenwich, you could knock visits to all of them out in one day. But that seems rather stressful, and you’re looking to enjoy your visit, and checking-off to-do lists are not for getaways.
For most people in the Northeast, the Bruce Museum requires no introduction.
Voted the “Best Museum” in Greenwich, CT, several times over, the Bruce Museum collection features engaging permanent galleries and more than 12 inspiring exhibits that change annually.
Most older locals remember when the Bruce Museum used to have monkeys. Bring it up with anyone who was a child in the 1970s or earlier, and they’ll likely get nostalgic.
Sans monkeys, it’s still a fantastic place to explore art, science and natural history in a picturesque setting that is as remarkable as the objects within. There’s no question that the Bruce Museum of Arts and Sciences is one of the best Greenwich attractions.
Events at the Bruce Museum
The Bruce Museum hosts two major events each year, both held outside. The Outdoor Crafts Festival happens each May, one week before Memorial Day weekend. The Outdoor Arts Festival happens early October, typically Columbus Day weekend.
The Bush-Holley House & Greenwich Historical Society
Built in 1730, the Bush-Holley House is a fascinating historic museum located in the famous Cos Cob section of Greenwich, Connecticut. The house was passed down through many generations of the Bush and Holley families.
Today, the Bush-Holley House is also the home of the Greenwich Historical Society. Founded in 1931, the Greenwich Historical Society is a unique Connecticut landmark that focuses on preserving Greenwich’s rich history. It does so through its collection of documents, photographs, maps, programs, menus, and books that date back to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Less than two miles from Stanton House Inn, this National Historic Landmark offers guided tours throughout the year. And after a major renovation, you can see art painted on the property during the artist colony days. Various exhibits also give you a feel for how the property and house looked during different times in its past.
The upper floor of the Greenwich Library features the extensive music collection as well as the Flinn Gallery. The Flinn Gallery is a non-profit, education oriented gallery devoted to presenting art of all mediums from a wide range of techniques, visions, and periods. It receives over 11,000 visitors each year and curates six exhibits between September and June.
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center
The Brant Foundation Art Study Center is a one-of-a-kind gallery that lends works to more than a dozen exhibitions per year. It strives to promote education and appreciation for contemporary art and design. This center is every art lover’s dream destination!
Bruce Museum Seaside Center
Head over to Greenwich Point Park, and in the Innis Arden Cottage near the entrance you’ll find the Bruce Museum’s Seaside Center.
This museum focuses on educating visitors about the beachside ecosystem. It’s perfect for kids.
Neuberger Museum of Art
While this may not be in Greenwich, it’s just over the border in Purchase, New York. The Neuberger Museum of Art is located on the SUNY Purchase campus, and is an easy drive from downtown Greenwich.
The museum started with a major donation from Roy R. Neuberger in the early 1970s. It’s since grown into the nationa’s tenth largest university museum. Its collection largely centers around modern, contemporary, and African art.
Where else can you see Art in Greenwich, Connecticut?
The above museums aren’t the only opportunities to explore the visual arts in Greenwich.
Greenwich Arts Council
One more major organization in town devoted to the arts is the Greenwich Arts Council. Their office on the second floor of the Greenwich Senior/Arts Center has a gallery showcasing local and other artists. The building itself is beautiful, it’s Greenwich’s original town hall with a Beaux Arts design.
Art to the Avenue
The Greenwich Arts Council’s most well-known event in town is Art to the Avenue. This summer event works with local businesses on Greenwich Avenue to display art from local artists. Their opening night event is worth checking out for the various small parties hosted up and down the Avenue.
Greenwich Avenue Art Galleries
And even when Art to the Avenue is happening, there are still plenty of art galleries on and near Greenwich Avenue to explore. Some of our favorite Greenwich art galleries include C. Parker and Samuel Owen.
Franklin Street Art Works
If you need to round-out your visit, head to Franklin Street Art Works in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. This contemporary art space hosts a cafe and three to four exhibitions per year.
Music & Performing Arts in Greenwich & the CT Gold Coast
Visual art comes in different forms. If you’re a fan of live theater or music, you have more than a few options in Greenwich and nearby.
Greenwich Symphony Orchestra
We highly recommend making a point to see the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra when you’re in town! This entertaining group of talented musicians features world-class soloists, fabulously low ticket prices, and moments that will make unforgettable memories.
The Greenwich Summer Concert Series
Throughout the summer, you’ll discover a vibrant live music scene burgeoning in the heart of historic Greenwich! The Summer Concert Series, featuring around 20 outdoor shows, allows both local and out-of-town musicians to grace the stage and entertain plenty of passersby.
Though not technically in Greenwich, the nearby Curtain Call Theater in Stamford offers an incredible experience for thespians. This community theater puts many a New York City stage to shame!
Westport Country Playhouse
This nationally recognized theater is a non-profit organization that puts on some of the most entertaining and professional productions in the region. Westport Country Playhouse keeps the doors open year-round for any visitors who wish to enjoy a fantastic show in a welcoming and community-centered environment.
The Palace Theatre
If you’re looking for some amazing live entertainment during your stay in Greenwich, be sure to take a trip to the Palace Theatre in Stamford! This venue has been providing locals and visitors with some of the best arts and entertainment since 1927.
Some excellent day trips to visit Connecticut museums
Once you’ve visited our recommendations in Greenwich and nearby, you can easily continue inland or up the coast to find even more fantastic Connecticut museums.
Connecticut Shoreline Museums
Drive up the Connecticut coast if you’re looking for a children’s museum. Head to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, Connecticut. This is a hands-on museum for children ages 10 and under. From the experience of trying to bring my 9 year-old niece there, make sure your kids agreed that it’s age appropriate before going.
Ridgefield and Wilton Museums
For more art museums, be sure to visit the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield. It’s the only museum in Connecticut devoted to displaying only contemporary art. Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton, Connecticut, celebrates the work of J. Alden Weir and other artists who visited there and the Bush-Holley House.
Plus, Ridgefield is one of the most cute towns in Connecticut, so it’s worth a visit anyway.
New Haven Museums
Head further up the coast to New Haven for all of Yale’s various museums. The Peabody Museum of Natural History is another museum locals remember fondly from their own childhood. The Yale University Art Gallery, the oldest university art gallery in the Western Hemisphere, is definitely worth a peruse on the Yale campus. Visitors to the Yale Center for British Art have returned commenting that it’s just a lot of pictures of boats and ships. As I haven’t been (after the above resounding recommendation), draw your own conclusions.
But regardless, it’s tough to argue that Yale University’s various museums don’t make the list of the best free things to do in Connecticut.
Florence Griswold Museum
Last but not least, head to Old Lyme, Connecticut, to visit the Florence Griswold museum. Florence Griswold’s home was another center of the American Impressionist art movement, and is worth a trip if you’re not already overwhelmed by Impressionist art on your trip.
An American Impressionist getaway along the CT Shoreline
Speaking of which, a great itinerary to see the various centers for American Impressionism in Connecticut is simple to follow. Be sure to include plenty of time for meandering and visiting local farms and other attractions during peak season.
Heading from NYC to Greenwich, start at the Bush-Holley House in Greenwich before driving to Weir Farm Historic Site. Afterwards, head up to Old Lyme to visit the Florence Griswold Museum.
If you’re lucky, you may see more than a few of the scenes that inspired the painters over a century ago.
Inland Connecticut Museums
Head inland to Hartford and nearby to find even more influential Connecticut museums.
New Britain Museum of American Art
A fun fact that I didn’t learn until writing this article is that the New Britain Museum of American Art was the first museum in the country devoted to displaying American art. It’s been doing so since 1903.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art opened its doors in Hartford in 1842. Its collection is broad, filling-up the largest art museum in Connecticut.
Some of the collections most well-known here include:
- Hudson River School landscapes
- French and American Impressionist paintings
- European baroque art
- Ancient Egyptian art
- Classical bronze sculpture
And much more.
Mattatuck Museum focuses on the culture of Waterbury and the surrounding Naugatuck Valley. Its collections include art and works by the various peoples that have made that valley and the state their home.
You finished the guide! Ready for more things to do in Greenwich, Connecticut?
Greenwich museums are a big draw to the area, but that’s not all there is to do here.
Keep exploring before you arrive, by reading our guide to downtown Greenwich, including the shops and restaurants.
You can also check-out our guide to the best things to do in Greenwich, CT, and download a copy of our free Greenwich Visitor’s Guide.