Things To Do In Old Lyme CT: Top 13 Most Unique Spots | Stanton House Inn

Visiting the beach is one of the best things to. do in Old Lyme, CT

Have you been to Old Lyme, Connecticut, a small town with a rich creative history? It sits on the eastern edge of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound. The town may be small, with only a few restaurants and shops. And yet it punches well above the weight, culturally. And it all started with a local family’s fall from fortune, and the opportunity it gave artists to experience the bucolic landscape here. The Florence Griswold Museum is a must-see, as the starting point of the local artists’ movement. And Lyme Street, the town’s heart, remains a hub of creative activity.

 

The town’s recent artist history begins with Florence Griswold. She had a major hand in shaping the town’s spirit. After her family suffered economic struggles, she transformed their grand home into a boarding house. This house became a home for artists, starting with Henry Ward Ranger. Old Lyme, of New London County, is still celebrated as the birthplace of American Impressionism. And it continues to attract artists worldwide.

 

If you seek a destination rich in art, history, and charm, Old Lyme, Connecticut is the perfect place. This seaside town offers a wealth of attractions and activities.

 

Ready to explore the best things to do in Old Lyme, CT, for an unforgettable day trip? Let’s get into it.

 

Quick hits

  • Explore Old Lyme’s art and nature attractions, from the Florence Griswold Museum to Black Hall Outfitters!
  • Get creative at Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds or let loose with some jazz tunes at The Side Door Jazz Club.
  • Take a trip down Connecticut Art Trail for unique sights, art attractions & cultural delights of nearby towns!

A Brief History of Old Lyme, Connecticut

Old Lyme Congregational Church, painting by Childe Hassam

Old Lyme is a quaint seaside hamlet in New London County. It’s home to 7,600 year-round residents. plus a brigade of seasonal sun-seekers. This artist’s oasis sprawls across 27 square miles of shoreline, marsh, wetland, and forested hills.

 

The town first appeared on the map in 1665. It snugly sits between the towns of Lyme and East Lyme, with Hadlyme, East Haddam, and South Lyme as its neighbors. The name “Lyme” is a tribute to Lyme Regis, a small port in Dorset, England. It’s from where the early settlers embarked on their Atlantic journey in the 17th century.

 

The Old Lyme Cemetery is a picturesque relic of the past. It’s the final resting place of those first settlers. The Duck River flows peacefully past it, journeying to meet the Connecticut River at Watch Rock Park.

 

Old Lyme Art Colony

May Night, painting by Willard Metcalf

Old Lyme’s fame is rooted in its Art Colony, a haven for American Impressionists. Esteemed artists such as Childe Hassam, Edward Charles Volkert, Willard Metcalf, and Henry Ward Ranger were drawn to this place. They found a home at Miss Florence’s boardinghouse, now the Florence Griswold House and part of the Florence Griswold Museum. They captured the town’s landscapes – rolling fields, rocky shores, and graceful gardens – on canvas, making these views globally iconic. Art lovers the world over recognize The Old Lyme Congregational Church thanks to artwork by Childe Hassam and others, for example.

 

Old Lyme residents established the Florence Griswold Museum, also known as “Flo Gris,” in honor of the colony. It showcases American Impressionist paintings and belongings of the artists who once lived there.

 

Modern Era

Sadly, Old Lyme and nearby Lyme is also infamous as the birthplace of Lyme disease. Experts discovered it here in 1975 after a mysterious outbreak of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the area.

 

The Best Things to do in Old Lyme, CT

Beach life is a thing here, even with all the artwork

Eager to immerse yourself in Old Lyme’s vibrant art scene and explore its natural beauty? There’s no shortage of top attractions in this charming town.

 

So, gear up for a journey filled with artistic wonders and scenic landscapes that Old Lyme has to offer!

 

Florence Griswold Museum

The Florence Griswold Museum, the birthplace of American Impressionism, is the heart of Old Lyme’s artistic community. Once home to the renowned Old Lyme Art Colony, this historic house is a cornerstone of the Lyme Street historic district. Here, artists gathered, drawing inspiration from the picturesque surroundings.

 

The restored Griswold home retains the charm of a turn-of-the-century summer. The first floor, especially the dining room, showcases original painted door panels. These are part of the ‘In Situ: The Painted Panels’ exhibit, featuring 46-panel paintings donated by resident artists to Florence Griswold. These paintings, depicting everything from distant places to local landscapes, are now a permanent display.

 

The second floor of the manor houses a gallery. It showcases works from the Lyme Art Colony and other brilliant artists. The back of the house offers a beautiful view of the Lieutenant River, a beautiful spot immortalized in countless paintings.

 

Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds

For a breath of fresh air and a feast for the eyes, make your way to Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds. This 4.5-acre park-like setting features more than a hundred contemporary sculptures scattered throughout picturesque courtyards and gardens.

 

During your visit, seize the opportunity to peek inside Studio 80, where local artist Gilbert Boro and his team create their masterpieces of sculpture.

 

Lyme Art Association

Founded in 1914, the Lyme Art Association is an art lover’s paradise. The gallery, a gift from Miss Florence’s land donation, is an indoor sanctuary for art. The skylights in the Lyme Art Association allow plenty of natural light to illuminate the regularly changing exhibitions. A gallery filled with miniature canvases, aptly named the “small works” room, offers a unique perspective. Meanwhile, the downstairs gallery is a lively display of local youth art.

 

Bell 8 Charters

Rocky shoreline

For a memorable water-bound adventure, hop aboard Bell 8 Charters. Offering a variety of CT outdoor activities, such as swimming, fishing, and birdwatching, you’ll get the chance to explore the natural beauty of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River Estuary. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Old Lyme from a new perspective!

 

Black Hall Outfitters

For adventure enthusiasts, Black Hall Outfitters has got you covered. Offering kayak fishing, paddleboarding, and eco-tours with certified instructors, this is the perfect opportunity to explore the great outdoors in a unique way. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced angler or a paddleboarding novice. You’ll be sure to create unforgettable memories on the waters of Old Lyme.

 

Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is a lively hub of learning. Its mission? To safeguard the Connecticut River Estuary by educating the next generation of environmental stewards. It welcomes curious minds of all ages, offering a deep dive into the estuary’s ecosystem. Here, you’ll find fish nurseries and bird nesting grounds. The center also serves as an educational center for Southeastern Connecticut schools, offering top-tier science and nature programs. They even run summer camps for budding young explorers. For the adults, they have programs and bird walks.

 

Ferry Landing State Park

Heron where the Lieutenant River meets the Connecticut River near Old Lyme, CT

Ferry Landing State Park in Old Lyme is a haven for nature lovers. It offers stunning views of the Connecticut River, with the occasional osprey and turtle sightings. This waterfront gem is a delight for boaters, picnickers, and hikers alike. A 0.6-mile flat boardwalk takes you along the river and through tidal marshes. From the high platform, you can enjoy a sweeping view of the area. Ferry Landing Park is a great place to relax, soak in the natural surroundings, and capture stunning photographs of Old Lyme’s picturesque landscapes.

 

Rogers Lake

Take a gander at Rogers Lake while you’re in Old Lyme, CT, a sprawling 265-acre water body. Its existence is thanks to a dam on Town Woods Road. The lake feeds Mill Brook, Grassy Hill Brook, and Broad Swamp Brook. It’s surrounded by a 4,833-acre woodland watershed. Five small islands dot the lake, the largest of which is adorned with a cottage. Each year, local authorities stock its waters with brook and rainbow trout. The town’s rowing team, the Blood Street Sculls, practice here. They take their name from the street that borders the north side of the lake.

 

Roger: The Rogers Lake Monster

While you’re there, be on the lookout for Roger, the elusive leviathan of Rogers Lake. This mythical creature, rumored to be a distant cousin of the extinct plesiosaur, has become the town’s unofficial mascot.

 

That said, there’s no concrete scientific evidence to support his existence. And yet, over 200 reported sightings have transformed Roger into a local legend and a tourist magnet. The Native American tribes of Connecticut knew him as “Caca-togo”.

 

In 1878, local artist Florence Griswold documented the first encounter with Roger. She described a large, long-necked, grey-skinned dinosaur-like creature. It rose majestically 20 feet above the lake’s surface before disappearing beneath the waves. Intrigued rather than alarmed, Griswold immortalized Roger in her paintings. A professor at the Lyme Art Academy compared Griswold’s period of Roger-infused work to Picasso’s red period, or Monet’s blue period.

 

While this possible plesiosaur doesn’t get Old Lyme on the list of the most haunted places in CT, it’s still a fun local legend.

 

Old Lyme Beaches

seagull flying over a beach

Old Lyme boasts several family-friendly and charming beaches. These spots each offer lovely views of Long Island Sound. You can enjoy a picnic, dine in the picnic area, or explore Griswold Point Preserve, a natural gem protected by the Nature Conservancy.

 

Sound View Beach, established in 1892, holds the honor of being America’s first public beach. It offers swimming, picnicking, and shopping along its 100-foot stretch.

 

For more beach options among the best beaches in CT, Hains Park and White Sand Beach are nearby. To ensure a relaxing day of sunbathing, remember to pack sunscreen, beach towels, and a good book.

 

Lyme Academy Of Fine Arts

The Lyme Academy of Fine Arts is the perfect place to nurture your artistic side. This renowned art school offers workshops and classes in drawing, painting, and sculpture for those looking to improve their skills or simply indulge in their passion for art.

 

Old Lyme Land Trust

Experience the preserved natural beauty of Old Lyme with the Old Lyme Land Trust. Hike along scenic trails through diverse ecosystems, and experience the town’s commitment to conserving its natural heritage.

 

The Side Door Jazz Club

In search of a cozy venue to relax after a day loaded with artistic explorations? The Side Door Jazz Club, located within the Old Lyme Inn, is your ticket to an evening of classic jazz performances in an intimate setting. With an ever-changing lineup of jazz legends, you’ll be tapping your toes and soaking in the sultry atmosphere all night long.

 

Shopping in Old Lyme, Connecticut

During your exploration of Old Lyme, don’t miss out on visiting its unique gift shops along Lyme Street for some memorable gifts and souvenirs. Here are a few recommendations for stores and art galleries to visit along a walk on Lyme St.:

 

The Bowerbird Old Lyme Marketplace

The Bowerbird is a unique treasure trove, far from your typical gift shop. Here, you’ll find an array of toys and games that evoke a sense of childhood nostalgia.

 

Looking to enhance your living space? They offer a selection of stylish home and garden items. If it’s jewelry you’re after, their beautiful pieces are sure to catch your eye.

 

For the writers and traditionalists, their charming stationery is perfect for penning those heartfelt letters. Whether you’re on a mission to find a special gift or simply treating yourself, this delightful shop caters to all.

 

But it’s not just the diversity of items that impresses. The Bowerbird itself spans an impressive 4,500 square feet. Inside, you’ll discover sections dedicated to stationery, toys, humorous books, gardening tools, women’s apparel, and unique maritime quilts.

 

De Gerenday’s Fine Art Materials and Curiosities

De Gerenday’s Fine Art Materials and Curiosities sits on the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts campus. This charming shop offers a mix of fine art materials and global trinkets. Modeled after renowned art stores in Paris and London, it displays an eclectic collection. Old apothecary bottles, plaster casts, lacey plants, and taxidermy pieces share the space. Among these, you’ll find more antique apothecary bottles, echoing a bygone era.

 

The Chocolate Shell

Indulge your sweet tooth at The Chocolate Shell, where a variety of chocolate-covered treats and candies are sure to satisfy your cravings. From truffles to bonbons and everything in between, this charming shop is a must-visit for the chocoholic in your life.

 

Cooley Gallery

The Cooley Gallery in Old Lyme is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. It offers a rich collection of American art from both renowned and emerging local artists. The Cooley Gallery is an ideal place to find unique pieces that will serve as mementos of your visit. A draw for American art collectors, this gallery will transform any blank wall into a storytelling canvas.

 

Restaurants in Old Lyme, CT

After a day full of discovery, satisfy your hunger at one of Old Lyme’s delicious eateries.

 

Coffee’s Country Market and Catering

When hunger starts to gnaw and your feet crave a pause, Coffee’s Country Market and Catering is your refuge. They serve:

 

  • Robust breakfasts to kickstart your day
  • Hearty sandwiches, each a culinary journey
  • Wraps, a compact feast in themselves
  • An array of desserts and bakery items

 

Each of quality ingredients and unique flavors.

 

The Hangry Goose

Experience the cozy atmosphere and delectable dishes at The Hangry Goose. Open for breakfast and lunch, this charming eatery offers traditional dishes with a twist, all served with a side of beautiful views of the Lieutenant River.

 

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Old Lyme, CT

Comfortable guest room at the cozy inn, Old Lyme InnConsidering a Connecticut day trip from our Greenwich, CT, bed and breakfast? Set your sights on Old Lyme, CT. The drive will whisk away about an hour and 20 minutes of your time.

 

That said, Old Lyme doesn’t have to be a place to skim over in a mere afternoon. It’s a place that demands an unhurried pace. Maybe a weekend trip, or even a long vacation. You’ll need a cozy place to lay your head and rejuvenate. Don’t worry, Old Lyme has got you covered. It offers the comforts of home, but with the bonus of someone else cleaning up!

 

Old Lyme Inn

The Old Lyme Inn is a cozy retreat, perfect for a tranquil getaway. With its 13 unique guest rooms, on-site restaurant, and jazz club, this cozy inn promises a memorable stay in this picturesque town. The Old Lyme Inn is a charming destination among historic inns with modern amenities and classic allure. And its convenient location on Lyme Street in the historic district makes it an ideal base for exploring Old Lyme and its surroundings.

 

Some other nearby Connecticut inns include the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina and the Niantic Inn, both in the coastal Niantic borough of East Lyme, Connecticut.

 

Directions to Old Lyme, Connecticut

Strategically positioned between Boston and New York City, Old Lyme making it an ideal destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. Whether you’re traveling by car or taking advantage of the Estuary Transit District services, getting to and around Old Lyme is a breeze.

 

Heading to Old Lyme from our Greenwich, Connecticut, bed and breakfast? Start your journey on I-95 N from the exits in either downtown Greenwich, CT, or Cos Cob, CT. Continue on I-95 N until you reach exit 70 for CT-156 E in East Lyme. Follow CT-156 E and Ferry Road to reach your destination along Lyme Street, in Old Lyme.

 

More Towns to Visit Along the Connecticut Art Trail

Extend your journey beyond Old Lyme! The Connecticut Art Trail is dotted with numerous other charming towns worth exploring, each with its own unique art attractions and cultural delights.

 

Some of the other major towns to visit in Connecticut that were major gathering spots for the American Impressionism movement include:

 

 

 

More Connecticut River Valley Towns to Explore Near Old Lyme, CT

Connecticut shoreline along East Lyme, Connecticut

Expand your horizons beyond Old Lyme and delve into neighboring Connecticut River Valley towns. Or, head east deeper into the county named after its seat, New London, Connecticut. From scenic beaches and historic sites to vibrant art scenes and delectable dining options, these charming towns offer a wealth of unique CT attractions and activities to make your visit to the area even more memorable.

 

East Lyme, CT

Just a short drive from Old Lyme, East Lyme offers an array of attractions and dining options for visitors to enjoy. Some highlights of the best things to do in East Lyme, CT, include:

 

  • Strolling along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk in the village of Niantic, CT
  • Relaxing at Rocky Neck State Park or Hole-in-the-Wall Beach
  • Indulging in delicious meals at local eateries like Il Pomod’Oro Restaurant & Pizzeria, The Shack, and Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant.

 

Old Saybrook, Connecticut

Discover the charm of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, via its list of historical sites and attractions like the General William Hart House, Lynde Point Lighthouse, and Fort Saybrook Monument Park. Enjoy a performance at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center or simply relax and take in the breathtaking views of the Connecticut River.

 

Essex, CT

Essex, another charming Connecticut town, is renowned for its eye-catching panoramas and architectural wonders. The many attractions, activities, and things to do in Essex, CT, is enough to keep you entertained for more than a day trip:

 

  • The Essex Steam Train & Riverboat Museum offers a captivating journey into the Connecticut River Valley. It reveals a variety of landscapes, from state parks and wetlands to birding habitats and hidden coves.

 

  • The Ivoryton Playhouse, a proud member of the National Register of Historic Places, hosts notable performances.

 

  • And the Connecticut River Museum is a trove of exhibits, highlighting Native American history and the local ecosystem.

 

East Haddam, Connecticut

Gillette Castle State Park

Explore the natural beauty and historical sites of East Haddam, Connecticut. Visit iconic attractions like Gillette Castle State Park, Devil’s Hopyard State Park, and the East Haddam Swing Bridge.

 

Tl;dr

Old Lyme, Connecticut, is a treasure trove of history and art. This small town is the perfect destination for both day trips and weekend getaways in CT. The vibrant art scene is as captivating as a summer sunset. It’s a charming town that dances to its own rhythm. Unique shops sparkle with curiosity. Local eateries are a delight for the palate. And the abundance of attractions in Old Lyme, CT, are sure to lift your spirit. A visit to Old Lyme will leave you with a heart full of joy, a camera brimming with memories, and a soul ignited with inspiration.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Does Old Lyme have a town beach?

Old Lyme does have a town beach, located between the two beach sections of the White Sand Beach Association. However, non-members must use the Town Parking Lot.

 

What’s it like to live in Old Lyme CT?

Living in Old Lyme is a cozy and secure experience; with beautiful views, plenty of nearby towns for entertainment, and excellent schools, it’s easy to understand why families have stayed here for decades.

 

Why is it called Lyme, Connecticut?

Named after Lyme Regis in England, Lyme Connecticut was formally recognized as a town in 1667. In 1975, it made medical history when the full spectrum of Lyme Disease was first described in the area, leading to subsequent laboratory-based research for the disease’s surveillance from 1984-1986.

 

Is Lyme CT a good place to live?

Old Lyme, CT is a beautiful town full of natural wonders and a strong sense of community. It’s the perfect spot for outdoor adventurers and families alike, with diverse landscapes, great schools, and volunteerism at its core. It’s an ideal place to call home.

 

What is the Old Lyme Art Colony?

The Old Lyme Art Colony was a band of American Impressionist artists who used the idyllic landscapes of Old Lyme as the perfect backdrop for their creative endeavors. They set up home at Florence Griswold House and painted the scenery around them.

 

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