GREENWICH, Conn. – To people who live here full time, Greenwich may not be an obvious summer vacation hot spot. But attractions, beaches and proximity to New York City all make Fairfield County an attractive destination for others.
“It’s absolutely a place people come to visit in the summer,” said Janet Serra, executive director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitor Bureau, which promotes tourism in Fairfield County and Litchfield Hills. “What’s interesting to me is, with Fairfield County, we get to promote hills, lakes and coast.”
Of the two regions that make up the Western bureau, Serra said Fairfield County is probably the most attractive summertime destination. Litchfield Hills sees more visitors in the fall, she said.
The biggest attractions in Fairfield County are the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport and the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Serra said. Other big draws include Norwalk’s Sheffield Island, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, SoundWaters in Stamford, the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.
Connecticut’s major tourism market is from within the tri-state area, she said. Fairfield County’s greatest strength is its accessibility.
“It’s so easy to get to Fairfield County by train, and the towns are generally walkable,” she said. “Norwalk, for example, is very walkable, so in many cases, people can just get out off the train and walk around. It’s harder to do that in other parts of the state.”
Although it’s difficult to track numbers of tourists coming and going, Serra said that last year, the Fairfield County tourism website had the most page visits of any regional website, including Mystic Country.
So far this year, Serra said there’s a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in website activity and inquiries. “Since Fairfield County is such an important part of Connecticut tourism, we’re certainly delighted by this increase,” she said.
Day trippers aren’t the only ones attracted to the area, but most of the summer rentals are for high-end visitors. Mark Pruner, an executive with Prudential Connecticut Realty in Greenwich who also runs the real estate blog www.greenwichstreets.com, says there have been 14 summer rentals this year. That compares with the same amount last year and seven in 2010.
“There are certainly some summer rentals, and we do have some people go away for the summer, but it’s not a real common occurrence. It’s not a large part of our market,” he said.
When people use real estate agents to find summer vacation, they are most often looking for high-end homes to rent. The lowest cost summer rental was $5,000 a month and the highest was $60,000, according to Pruner.
“There are people who like to spend their summers here. There are certainly a lot of people who buy a weekend house and use it extensively during the summer,” said Pruner. “A lot of people may spend their summers here and the rest of the year in New York City, kind of like the Hamptons. Unlike the Hamptons, you can still commute to work.”