Weekend: Guilford, Connecticut
Guilford’s calling card is one of the prettiest town greens in America. It’s also home to the third-largest collection of pre-Civil War homes in New England — but don’t pack your mothballs. Rows of tidy 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century dwellings stand facing dozens of shops, galleries, and eateries packed with designer duds and modern furnishings — with dashes of antiques thrown in. Past and present intertwine gracefully everywhere in town, from historic house museums to new waterfront mansions built on peninsulas reaching out into Long Island Sound.
We like The B&B at Bartlett Farm for those who enjoy mingling with friendly animals (fallow deer, pigs, a buffalo). Owned and operated by descendants of the farm’s original settlers, the farmhouse offers cozy rooms ($90-$130) with private baths and televisions, as well as generous breakfasts (fetch your own eggs if you’d like). From the center of town, it’s a 15-minute drive on Scenic Route 77. You’ll love the views. Griswold Cottage, a chef-owned B&B a half mile from the town green, offers one suite with a full bath ($125).
After breakfast, lace up your boots, grab your wallet, and head to the town green. Favorite shops include Lulu’s, the place to go for fancy pajamas (with prices to match); The Purple Bear, with its dizzying array of toys for kids of all ages; Flutterby, with whimsical lamps, rugs, and tabletop items as well as designer jeans and tops; and The Paper Trail, offering a full line of Crane papers, Kate Spade stationery, and Vera Bradley bags and accessories. For lunch, grab a table at Cilantro Coffee Roasters, a full-service deli. Save room for dessert at The Village Chocolatier — the gourmet malted milk balls are a taste of childhood for grown-up palates.
Put on the gloves and take an afternoon stroll. Bird-watchers can get an eyeful of shoreline species on the one-mile Anne Conover Nature Education Trail along the East River salt marsh (look for Audubon signs on Meadowlands Road). Breathe the ocean air and take in the view of Long Island Sound at Chaffinch Island Park on Guilford Harbor (follow Mulberry Point Road from town to Chaffinch Island Road).
Be sure to leave time to stop at the Guilford Art Center on Church Street. In addition to an arts school, the center also houses the Mill Gallery (free admission) and a shop with works by more than 350 artisans that’s known especially for its selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry.
The next best thing to a weekend in Paris (well, almost) is a stop at Village Français (off Boston Post Road near exit 57 on I-95). The store’s buyers travel to France to bring back antique armoires, tables, chests, and artwork, all interspersed with new and reproduction home accessories. If the stone floors of the lofty post-and-beam building leave you craving early-American history, Guilford’s got that in spades. Summer is the high season for the Thomas Griswold House (a c. 1774 saltbox) and Henry Whitfield State Museum (built in 1639, it’s the oldest stone house in New England), but you can tour them in winter by appointment.
Make reservations for a fine dinner at a slightly newer rock pile, The Stone House Restaurant on Little Harbor. Watch the evening fog roll in over bouillabaisse or rack of lamb; entrées begin at $20.
For a glimpse of Guilford’s more recent (and more ritzy) architecture, take a Sunday-morning drive. Sachem’s Head and Vineyard Point are easy to find with a map of the town published by the Guilford Chamber of Commerce.
Make one last stop before heading home. Bishop’s Orchards farm market, bakery, and winery on Boston Post Road sells native apples and cider almost all year, as well as homemade pies, apple butter, and applesauce. Take some home and linger with Guilford a little while longer.