Are you looking for a destination to poke around in for the day that combines rich history, stunning nature, and a vibrant cultural scene? Your search ends here! Welcome to Wilton, Connecticut, a picture-perfect town nestled in Fairfield County. This guide will take you on a journey through the top attractions and activities in Wilton. Wilton boasts historic landmarks, nature centers, parks, and theaters. It also offers top-notch dining along its charming country roads. Get ready to unearth the best things to do in Wilton, CT:
- Explore Wilton, CT’s history and attractions like the Weir Farm National Historic Site & Woodcock Nature Center.
- Take a break at Merwin Meadows Park or Norwalk River Valley Trail for outdoor activities.
- Enjoy shopping, dining and art galleries near Wilton such as Gallaher Mansion & Cranbury Park and The Philip Johnson Glass House!
A Brief History of Wilton, Connecticut
Wilton, Connecticut, is a charming town with a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Wilton marinates in history with spots like Cannondale Historic District and a charming town center. These are must-visit locations for history buffs and nature enthusiasts. With 18,000 residents, Wilton offers a variety of attractions and activities.
- Winding back roads
- Rolling hills
- And historic houses
Complement the town’s rural atmosphere. Weir Farm, the only national historic site in Connecticut, spans 60-acres of national parkland and is home to artist Julian Alden Weir.
The first written records of Wilton date back to 1640. On that date, Roger Ludlow and his friends purchased land from the Indians between the Norwalk and Saugatuck Rivers. The first settlers, the Proprietors, arrived in Norwalk in 1651 and owned 50,000 acres in common. By the end of the 17th century, the Proprietors began selling off northern lands for settlement. The first non-Indian settlements in Wilton were in the fertile lands of the Norwalk River valley and on the ridges of:
- Belden Hill
- Chestnut Hill
- And Ridgefield Road
By 1725, forty families living in Wilton wanted their own Congregational church and were allowed to hire a minister and open schools. In 1726, a petition to the General Court in Hartford created Wilton Parish. The new ecclesiastical society dealt with secular issues. Modern issues of the time included rules about communal flocks, pounds for animals, and trade regulation.
During the Revolutionary War, over 300 Wilton men, including Cato Treadwell, served in military units. While the British burned several homes, the town remained intact. You can find 52 identifiable veteran graves in town.
19th Century to the Civil War
In 1802, Wilton gained separate Town government status from Norwalk. The town adopted the Meeting-Selectmen form typical of traditional New England towns. Wilton’s population grew from 1,728 in 1810 to 2,208 in 1860. Local farmland produced dairy herds, horses, and marketable crops. Home industry expanded, with industries like shoemaking, shirt making, carriage building, and distilleries. Mills studded the local streams. Before the Civil War, Wilton was a strong anti-slavery town, serving as a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.
After the Civil War
In 1852, the railroad provided limited benefits to a community based on home industry and farming. But more importantly, it provided easy access to western lands. And the land in Connecticut is not ideal for farming. So as soon as local farmers were able to leave, they did. Wilton’s population dropped by 30% between 1860 and 1900, with only 1,598 people listed in the census. But thanks to this depopulation, 18th and 19th centuries homes avoided demolition. The last two of Wilton’s nine schoolhouses closed by 1935. The original nine school districts consolidated into the Wilton Center school.
Wilton experienced significant growth following WWII as a result of builder subdivision. The period between 1950 and 1970 saw the largest increases in population.
Today, it is home to around 20,000 residents and has played a pivotal role in the development of various industries. Global corporations, like:
- Breitling SA
- Cannondale Bicycle Corporation
- Melissa & Doug
Have found success in this vibrant community.
Wilton, formerly a “dry” town, became “damp” in 1993 after a local ordinance allowed local restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages. The town Board approved the operation of liquor stores in 2010, which lead to the opening of several.
Top Things to do in Wilton, CT
Wilton offers a variety of attractions and activities that cater to different interests. Some of the things you can do in this small town include:
- Exploring historic sites
- Visiting national parks
- Attending cultural events
- Enjoying outdoor recreation
Ready to discover the top things to do in Wilton? Let’s get started:
Weir Farm National Historic Site
See the world of American Impressionist painter through the eyes of J. Alden Weir at the Weir Farm National Historic Site. This beautiful property was once the home and studio of Weir. Today, it offers art exhibits, guided tours, and stunning landscapes for visitors to enjoy.
Take a stroll to Weir Pond, where the artist himself used to fish and walk, and immerse yourself in the creative atmosphere. Don’t forget to visit the Visitor Center porch, where you can borrow art supplies like:
- watercolors (on weekends)
To create your own masterpiece surrounded by nature. This is one of the most unique things to do in Connecticut, because it’s one of the few national historic sites devoted to the visual arts.
Woodcock Nature Center
Embark on a day of outdoor exploration and environmental education at the Woodcock Nature Center. This 149-acre nature preserve in Wilton is ideal to discover the diverse wildlife that calls this area home, including:
At the Woodcock Nature Center, you can wander along walking trails to appreciate the beauty of the natural surroundings. The center also hosts a variety of family-friendly events. Events happen year-round and include:
- Farm-to-table dinners
- Wildlife walks
- And arts and crafts classes
Wilton Historical Society & Museum
Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Wilton at the Wilton Historical Society & Museum. This intriguing museum complex offers a glimpse into the town’s past. It does so through exhibits, lectures, and activities housed within various historic buildings. These include buildings recognized by the National Register of Historic Places:
- Betts-Sturgis-Blackmar House
- Burt Barn Gallery
- Sloan-Raymond-Fitch House
- Abbott Barn
- Blacksmith Shop
- Two-seat privy
These architectural gems from the 18th and 19th centuries offer a unique insight into the lives of Wilton’s past residents. Each building at the Wilton Historical Society represents a different historical period.
Merwin Meadows Park
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and unwind at Merwin Meadows Park, a delightful community park in Wilton.
- Dive into the refreshing waters of the swimming pond
- Watch your kids play at the playground
- Venture onto the hiking trails for some exercise and fresh air.
Don’t forget to check out the park’s seasonal events, including concerts, festivals, and summer camps. With lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day until Labor Day, you can relax and enjoy the park’s amenities with peace of mind.
Norwalk River Valley Trail
Discover the beauty of the Norwalk River Valley Trail, a scenic path connecting various landmarks and attractions in the area. Whether you prefer hiking or biking, this trail offers a unique way to explore the surrounding landscape and enjoy a breath of fresh air.
The West Side of the trail boasts the longest off-road section, winding its way through Merwin Meadows Park. On the East Side, there’s a three-meter wide path designed for multiple uses. It is made of compacted stone dust and it is wheelchair accessible. This path meanders through woodland for about 2.25 miles between Wolfpit Road and Route 7 intersection and Skunk Lane.
Experience the natural beauty of the area and create lasting memories along the Norwalk River Valley Trail.
Wilton Town Forest
Embark on an adventure into the enchanting Wilton Town Forest. This 188-acre expanse is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, complemented by hiking trails and waterfalls. Keep an eye out for deer, foxes, coyotes, and a variety of birds that call this serene environment home.
Schenck’s Island is a unique oasis near Wilton’s densely developed town center. The main trail system takes visitors around the island in a loop. There’s also a side trail that runs alongside the Norwalk River. Clearings along the river make ideal spots for fishing, picnicking, or relaxing by the water’s edge. The eastern section of the main loop trail passes through a mid-successional upland area. Wildflowers bloom all year, from early spring to late fall. An ambitious hiker can leave Schenck’s Island via the footbridge and follow an easement trail that begins on River Road into Bradley Park.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant local arts scene at the Wilton Playshop. This historic theater is known for showcasing local talent through a range of plays and musicals. The theatre hosts everything from suspense-filled dramas, live music, to light-hearted comedies. The intimate venue offers captivating performances sure to delight audiences of all ages.
You’re also supporting local actors, directors, and technicians when you attend performances at the Wilton Playshop.
Wilton River Park Shopping Center
Indulge in some retail therapy at the Wilton River Park Shopping Center. This charming outdoor destination features local boutiques and eateries. After a day of shopping, unwind with a movie at the cinema for the perfect end to your visit.
Wilton Farmers’ Market
At the seasonal Wilton Farmers’ Market, you can support local farmers and vendors. This market offers a wide array of fresh produce, flowers, and handmade goods. Shopping here allows you to enjoy high-quality ingredients, while also strengthening community bonds and supporting local businesses.
Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with the people behind the products and learn more about the local culture during your visit to Wilton.
This working farm offers educational programs and special events. It also has a farm stand stocked with fresh produce and maple syrup. Ambler Farm offers unique experiences such as beekeeping and sheep shearing. You can also attend cooking classes and gardening workshops. Ambler Farm provides a unique opportunity for visitors to learn about sustainable agriculture and connect with nature.
Be sure to check out their calendar of events, such as the popular Ambler Farm Day, for a fun and educational experience for the whole family. Ambler Farm also runs a summer camp, if you’re local.
At the historic Wilton Library, you can unleash your inner bookworm. The library is home to a vast collection of books and local history materials. It also offers engaging programs for all ages. It serves as a cultural and community center, providing a welcoming space for visitors. Here, you can browse, learn, and connect with others.
From storytimes designed for children to adult book clubs, the library offers a variety of programs and resources.
Hurlbutt Street School House
Step back in time at the Hurlbutt Street School House, a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse that now serves as a living history museum. At the Hurlbutt Street School House, you can explore the school’s original features. These include the blackboard, wood-burning stove, and teaching chart.
The Hurlbutt Street School House was the only school for the entire town of Wilton during its time. As such, this CT historic site provides a unique glimpse into the educational history of the town. It also offers insight into the lives of its early residents.
Restaurants in Wilton, CT
No visit to Wilton would be complete without indulging in its diverse culinary offerings. From casual eateries to fine dining establishments, you’ll find a variety of options to satisfy your taste buds. Sample the delicious soups, salads, wraps, and healthy beverages at Naked Greens.
Baldanza at the Schoolhouse, in the charming Cannondale neighborhood, is a standout with only 36 seats in a former schoolhouse. The restaurant is ideal for special occasion dinners and offers personalized menus to commemorate special occasions. The chocolate souffle is a popular dish at this romantic Connecticut restaurant.
Wilton’s eateries provide a gastronomic adventure that showcases the town’s dynamic culinary landscape.
Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Wilton, CT
After a day of exploring Wilton and its surrounding attractions, you’ll want a comfortable place to rest your head. This Fairfield County village is only a 30-minute drive from our Greenwich, Connecticut bed and breakfast.
If you’d prefer to stay in Wilton, it’s time to make friends with a local!
But other spots that are a little closer to Wilton than Stanton House Inn include the various chain hotels in the city of Norwalk, Connecticut.
If you’d prefer a bed and breakfast near Wilton, Connecticut, your options include:
- West Lane Inn, in the nearby town of Ridgefield, Connecticut
- Roger Sherman Inn in the town of New Canaan, CT
- Stanton House Inn, in the town of Greenwich, Connecticut
Directions to Wilton, Connecticut
Getting to Wilton is a breeze, whether you’re traveling by:
- car: the nearest airport is Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York, just a 30-minute drive away
- train: the South Norwalk Metro-North station is about a 20-minute drive from Wilton
- bus: the Norwalk Transit District is just a 15-minute drive away
Upon your arrival, you can explore the surrounding areas and attractions using the Norwalk River Valley Trail. And if this section is the only you read, be sure to at least visit Weir Farm National Historic Site.
More things to do near Wilton, CT
If you want to go beyond Wilton, the surrounding area has a plethora of other attractions and activities to discover. Below are some of the nearby attractions and what to expect during your visit.
Gallaher Mansion and Cranbury Park
Located in the nearby town of Norwalk, the Gallaher Mansion and Cranbury Park are a unique blend of history, art, and nature. Attractions here include:
- The historic mansion
- A sophisticated sculpture garden
- A stone terrace
- A grand lawn
- Hiking trails
- A nature center
- A playground
- Guided tours
With leisurely walks, picnics, events, and art appreciation, you’ll find something to do at Cranbury Park.
The Philip Johnson Glass House
The Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan is a unique architectural marvel. Its features include transparent glass walls and a stunning sculpture garden. This combination provides a one-of-a-kind experience for art and design enthusiasts.
To thoroughly appreciate this intriguing property, consider opting for a guided tour. You’ll delve into the history and understand the design philosophy that underpins this iconic structure.
Devil’s Den Preserve
The largest nature preserve in Fairfield County is at Devil’s Den Preserve. Covering over 1,700 acres, this tranquil oasis is home to diverse flora and fauna, as well as over 20 miles of Fairfield County hiking trails.
Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of the preserve as you spot deer, foxes, coyotes, and a variety of birds. If you’re an enthusiastic hiker or simply looking for a peaceful retreat, Devil’s Den Preserve is an ideal destination.
Experience the world of contemporary art at MoCa Westport, a large Connecticut museum housed in a historic building. Offering regular exhibitions and free admission, MoCa Westport serves as an accessible cultural destination for art enthusiasts of all ages. Westport, Connecticut, is a lovely (and larger) town to explore.
Other nearby Connecticut towns to visit (that I haven’t already mentioned) include:
Wilton, Connecticut, with its rich history and charming atmosphere, is a unique CT day trip. Explore the town’s historic sites and reconnect with nature at the various parks and preserves. Or indulge in the vibrant local arts and dining scene while you’re here. Or pick your own mix of the activities available. Wilton is a more bucolic destination that inspires. So, why wait? Start planning your trip to this enchanting town today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Wilton Connecticut famous for?
Wilton is renowned for its historical charm and beautiful natural landscapes. It’s home to the only National Historic Site in Connecticut, Weir Farm, making it an ideal spot for nature lovers and history buffs alike. Weir Farm is a great place to explore the outdoors, take in the scenery, and learn about the history of the area.
Is Wilton CT a good area?
Wilton is a safe and family-friendly town with a lower-than-average crime rate. It’s conveniently located in Fairfield County, which is one of the best places to live in Connecticut. Wilton also has great public schools and a liberal atmosphere – making it an ideal place for families.
What is the main industry in Wilton, Connecticut?
Wilton, Connecticut is famous for its large number of global corporations. Major ones include ASML, Breitling SA, Cannondale Bicycle Corporation, Melissa & Doug, and Deloitte.
What activities can you do at Schenck’s Island?
At Schenck’s Island, you can go fishing, have a picnic or just relax by the water. It’s also a great spot to enjoy some professional soccer match appearances!
What kind of critters can you spot at the Woodcock Nature Center?
Come to the Woodcock Nature Center to spot some amazing critters, like woodcocks, bobcats, owls, and beavers! At the Woodcock Nature Center, you can observe these animals in their natural habitat. You can also take part in educational programs and activities to learn more about the wildlife in the area. The Woodcock Nature Center is open year round.