You’ll find plenty of things to do in Norwalk CT, a small city that feels more like a town. This coastal community hosts museums, a cultural district, a beach, an aquarium, and a hands-on children’s museum, among other activities.
Coastal Connecticut has a charm that’s absolutely worth your time, even if it’s not talked about enough. And a trip to Norwalk in the southwestern portion of the state is the perfect place to get a taste of it.
Founded way back in the 1600s, Norwalk is a small, nautical city that’s had its fair share of ups and downs. After being nearly burnt to the ground during the Revolutionary War, today Norwalk is on the upswing. Situated along Long Island Sound, it’s where you’ll find well-preserved pieces of history and calming stretches of sand.
These days, there’s more and more to do in and around Norwalk – from oyster festivals to seemingly ancient museums. To help you make the most out of your time in one of CT’s coolest cities, I went ahead and narrowed it down for you.
So without further ado, let’s dive into 10 of the absolute best things to do in Norwalk CT!
10 FUN Things to Do in Norwalk CT
These are the coolest Oyster Town attractions to focus your Norwalk itinerary on:
Take a stroll along Calf Pasture Beach
One of the best Norwalk, CT activities is to spend a day at the tranquil Calf Pasture Beach. This historic beach (which is also a park) is a great place to enjoy the sun and sand these days, but it wasn’t always such a leisurely spot.
In the 1700s, it was used as grazing land and during the Revolutionary War, Calf Pasture became a landing point for soldiers during the Tryon Raid that nearly destroyed Norwalk.
In the summertime, the water is warm enough to swim in and the Norwalk Swimming School rents out water sports gear like kayaks to beachgoers. (Calf Pasture Beach Road)
Visit SoNo (South Norwalk Historic District)
For some of the best restaurants and ambiance in the city, head to SoNo, which stands for South Norwalk. Until 1913, this historical district was its own city, and today it’s the spot to go for good eats, nightlife, and art.
Many of the top things to do in Norwalk can be found in SoNo, where the water views might as well be a standalone treat, especially when you add summer sunsets into this mix.
This happening part of Norwalk is home to more than thirty restaurants, where you’ll find everything from seafood delights to Mexican and Spanish tapas. Shoppers will love strolling around The SoNo Collection, which houses not only dozens of shops but also a number of impressive art shows.
Explore Stepping Stones Children’s Museum
One of the best things to do in Norwalk CT with kids has got to be this unique hands-on museum that opened up within Mathews Park back in 2000. The founders strongly believe that kids learn through doing, and you can see that clearly from their offerings, which explicitly focus on kids 10 and under.
Get to know all about dinosaurs in one room, or play with water while learning all about energy in the much-loved energy lab. These are but two of the many exhibits they have on display at any time–in addition to special programs that happen throughout each month.
As an award-winning CT museum, it’s a particularly fun way to spice up a rainy or cold day in Norwalk. The museum is open 9 AM – 5 PM, Monday-Friday, and both kids and adults are $18 each. (303 West Avenue)
Visit the Maritime Aquarium
Perhaps the most famous place to visit in Norwalk is none other than its Maritime Aquarium. Now one of the most popular things to do in Connecticut, the aquarium was recently renovated into a state-of-the-art facility.
Coming from humble beginnings, the aquarium originally opened in 1988, and included an 1860s-iron-works factory turned IMAX theater. These days, you’ll get to enjoy the incredible experience of a brand new 4D theater, which is alone a reason to visit. The aquarium also does its own conservation work, with current projects relating to everything from climate change to sea turtle conservation. Hours for the Maritime Aquarium are 10 AM – 5 PM, Monday-Sunday. (10 North Water Street)
Wander through Lockwood Mathews Mansion
Want a look into Victorian-era architecture? Then don’t skip this Norwalk attraction, which is yet another thing to do in Norwalk, located inside of Mathews Park.
Built between 1864-1868 by renowned railroad tycoon Legrand Lockwood, this historic home is regarded as one of the most notable Second Empire abodes in the entire USA…a pretty cool find in such a small city!
You can pay a relatively small fee ($5-$10) for a 45-minute guided tour of the interior, which is a must-do to understand more about it. The Lockwoods Mathews Mansion is open from 12 PM-4 PM, May-September. (295 West Avenue)
Take a ferry to Sheffield Island Lighthouse
The perfect summer thing to do in Norwalk is to take a ferry over to a local island. Coast along the Long Island Sound past smaller isles and oyster beds before arriving on Sheffield Island, which used to be a haven for livestock before turning into a ritzy estate.
Today, the most interesting thing on the island is also one of the coolest things to see near Norwalk CT: the Sheffield Lighthouse which dates back to the 1800s. Take a tour of the lighthouse where you can get a feel for what life must have been like before electricity. You’ll also get to take in the views of a New England island and a swim might even be possible on a hot summer day! The hours of tours are 11 AM only on weekdays, or 11 AM + 3 PM on weekends, May-September.
Wander amongst Norwalk’s WPA Murals
If you’re wondering what to do in Norwalk and feel like you’re seeking something off the beaten path, then these murals are calling your name.
In the mid-1930s, the US government, through the Works Projects Administration (WPA), funded projects that were intended to provide relief to low-income artists. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long, but one of the outcomes was a series of murals painted across the country. Primarily commissioned inside public buildings, it’s right here in Norwalk where you’ll find one of the largest remaining collections in the country.
The majority of these exciting pieces of art history can be found at Norwalk’s City Hall. Do get in contact with the local historical society about informative tours if you’d really like to understand the murals’ meaning.
Check out the SoNo Switch Tower Museum
Love trains? Well, why not check out this famous Norwalk attraction that just so happens to be inside a restored switch tower?
Norwalk’s 1896 switch tower is where operators would physically “switch” a train from one track to another by throwing levers. Now more than a century later, you can teleport back in time thanks to this eccentric attraction right in Downtown Norwalk, open 12 PM – 4 PM, Saturday & Sunday. (77 Washington Street)
Go shopping at Stew Leonard’s
Connecticut residents may already be familiar with this monstrosity of a store, but all others should prepare for a grocery shopping experience like no other. And the one in Norwalk is the company flagship, meaning, you’ll really get the full experience.
Stew Leonard’s is like a theme park, fair, and shopping mart combined: it features one-of-a-kind foods, incredibly fresh everything, animatronics, and even actual farm animals that your kids will love.
Be sure to try whatever their daily special is in addition to the delectable soft-serve ice cream. Their fall selections are particularly fantastic, with delicious apple ciders, donuts, and more on offer. Stew Leonard’s is open 6 AM – 9 PM every day. (100 Westport Avenue)
Attend the Norwalk Oyster Festival
If you happen to be planning a trip in September, make it be for the weekend after Labor day. It’s when Norwalk hosts its annual oyster fest, which you’ll find legendary if you’re even somewhat into seafood.
Considering Norwalk is called Oyster Town, you can expect some delicious picks throughout the weekend, which honors the historic start of the oyster season. Aside from some of the best grub in Norwalk, you’ll also be met with live music, rides, and art that make it feel a bit like a seaside carnival.
Oysters are never too far from the focus though–a slurping contest takes place for those who think they have what it takes. You can also see a Paul Bunyon lumberjack show, adding to the historical vibes. (42 Seaview Avenue)
About Samantha Shea
Samantha Shea is a freelance travel writer and blogger who was born and raised in Connecticut and is now based in Hunza Valley in Northern Pakistan. Aside from freelancing, she runs the travel blog Intentional Detours and is passionate about slow, off-the-beaten-path budget travel. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, Fodors Travel, Matador Network, as well as others.