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Darien Draws Summer Vacation Visitors

DARIEN, Conn. – To people who live here full time, Darien 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. Darien and Rowayton have seen more people renting homes for the summer, said Doug Milne, a Realtor with Kelly Associates in Darien.

“We are clearly not the same market as Cape Cod or the Hamptons, but increasingly more people are asking about summer rentals,” Milne said.

The summer renters are mostly families. They come to take advantage of the beaches and often rent from people who have their own vacation homes in places such as Nantucket, Milne said.

“It’s typically not a lot, maybe a dozen or so,” he said. Many of the families may be considering a move to Darien and looking to try it out before making a commitment. Others are simply hoping to get out of the city for a bit and choose a vacation destination that parents can still commute from during the week.

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