Ridgefield, CT, is so staunchly New England that it’s difficult to believe that it’s a mere 50 miles from New York City and just over the border from northern Westchester County. But it is, which makes it a great day trip or a relaxing overnight getaway for those looking for a picturesque town with a side helping of history. One of the best things about Ridgefield is that it has a long, lively Main Street that’s not only walkable but has great architecture — like the Lounsbury House (pictured above), which was built by Connecticut Gov. Phineas Lounsbury in 1896.
Ridgefield was founded in 1708 by a group of families from Norwalk who purchased 20,000 acres from the Ramapoo Indians for £100. In 1777, it cemented its place in Revolutionary War history with the Battle of Ridgefield, in which the Colonial Militia fought the British troops who were returning from a raid on military store in Danbury. (Wow, I guess some things never change because Danbury is still a good place in the area to go shopping as it has all the major chain stores.)
Perhaps that battle isn’t the most famous, but when you’re in Ridgefield you feel like is. The Elms Inn (pictured left) has a mural depicting the fight in its foyer. Right on Main Street, The Elms is the place to stay in town, since 1799. It’s also a great place to eat. Diners can opt for its fine-dining restaurant or the tavern, which I prefer for its laid-back, old-fashioned vibe. In nice weather, you might want to opt for the terrace.
If you don’t want to stop at The Elms, keep strolling down Main Street and you’ll reach another famous landmark: Chez Lenard’s hot dog stand. For Ridgefield, this is a fairly new addition. Lenard des Leczinkskis opened the gourmet hot dog stand in 1978. Today it’s owned by Chad Cohen, who keeps up the tradition by serving all sorts of toppings.
Lest I leave you with the impression that Ridgefield is stuck in some kind of time warp, I should tell you about the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which showcases very modern art. From now through mid-September, you can see Robert Lazzarini’s “Guns and Knives” exhibit, which presents those objects distorted in ways that make you look twice.
Another sign of modernity can be found at the CVS — that’s right, the CVS that sits just back from Main Street. It just turned part of its massive store into Beauty 360, aka CVS’s answer to Sephora. It’s only the third location in the country and it sells upscale brands like Vincent Longo and Laura Geller.
I have family in Ridgefield, so I go there fairly often. Yesterday, however, was my first time spending Memorial Day there. Not surprisingly, the town’s Memorial Day parade was patriotic and picture perfect.