A coastal town in New London County, Old Lyme, CT is a glorious place to venture into if you’re looking to delve into art and the outdoors. Having been the birthplace of American Impressionism, it continues to be a haven for artists from all over the world.
1. Florence Griswold Museum
© Florence Griswold Museum
The Florence Griswold Museum, which magnificently displays its role as the home of the Lyme Art Colony and the birthplace of American Impressionism, can be found on the banks of the Lieutenant River. Encompassing a flourishing 13-acre surrounding, the Georgian home of Florence Griswold, and the Krieble Gallery, the museum is one of the most visited attractions in Old Lyme. You’ll be able to embrace the beauty of several temporary collections as well as its permanent collection, which includes the works of artists from the 18th century up to the present day. You’ll be able to see the works of Ammi Phillips, Thomas Cole, Childe Hassam, and many more artists while you’re there.
96 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371
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2. Black Hall Outfitters
© Black Hall Outfitters
Since it was established in 1999, Black Hall Outfitters quickly grew to become the local authority on kayak fishing. In addition to their rentals and sales, Black Hall also provides a variety of tours which are a unique way to explore the area’s waters. You can go paddle boarding during the sunset, show off your skills with kayak fishing, test your balance with stand up paddle boarding, or go on an eco-tour to get up close and personal with the local flora and fauna. Discover some of the most pristine coastlines in the nation on the Long Island Sound while learning so much from you certified kayak instructor and naturalist.
132 Shore Rd, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-9680
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3. Sculpture Grounds
© Sculpture Grounds
The Sculpture Grounds comprises a number of courtyards and gardens which contain over a hundred sculptures. The grounds span nearly four and a half acres and houses sculptured of all sizes and shapes. It’s a beautiful and interactive display of art that lets you really connect with the pieces. Sculpture Grounds can be found on the property of Gilbert Boro, a local artist, who invites people from all over to come and explore, take in the sights, enjoy a picnic, or visit the “cafe” outside of his home. Along with the sculpture grounds is Studio 80, the working studio of Boro and his assistants who are always creating fascinating new works which visitors are welcome to observe.
80 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-5957
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4. Lyme Art Association
© Lyme Art Association
Old Lyme is packed with art as it was the home a prolific art colony in the beginning of the 20th century. The Lyme Art Association was incorporated in 1914 and began at the home of Florence Griswold, the birthplace of American Impressionism. The gallery has several exhibitions throughout the year, often displaying works of both professional and developing artists. In addition to exploring the exhibits, you can also spend your time taking part in one of the many classes and workshops held at the Lyme Art Association’s Gallery. Some of their most popular classes are Beginning and Intermediate Watercolor, Portrait/ Figure Drawing and Painting, Oil Painting for Beginners, and Working with Pastels.
90 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371
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5. Things to Do in Old Lyme: The Chocolate Shell
© The Chocolate Shell
Often called “the sweetest destination in Old Lyme”, The Chocolate Shell is sure to have something to satisfy your sweet tooth. The shop has been around since the 1980s, though the current owner took over in 2011. Walking in, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; the shop is full of truffles, bonbons, and chocolate covered everything no matter if you prefer salty pretzels or chewy gummy bears. Another reason that The Chocolate Shell is so popular is because it’s the best place to buy nostalgia-inducing candies from your childhood like Peanut Chews, Mallo Cups, and Abba Zabba.
16B Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-9727
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6. Connecticut Art Trail
The Connecticut Art Trail will guide you on a journey through fifteen historic sites and world-class museums, all of which are located on a single path of travel. The trail was established in 1995 as a way of making it easier for residents and visitors to explore, appreciate, and celebrate Impressionist art, though now it has expanded to include other styles of art as well. Some of museums which you’ll find along the way are the Yale University Art Gallery, the Florence Griswold Museum, the Bruce Museum, and the Bush-Holley Historic Site. To make it easier, you can purchase an Art Pass which will grant you admission to several of the museums on the trail for one low price.
7. Things to Do in Old Lyme: Bell 8 Charters
© Bell 8 Charters
Home of the Black Hall Outfitters and Marina, Bell 8 Charters can handle all of your outdoor adventure needs. You can utilize the services of this renowned company to partake in fun activities such as swimming, birdwatching, fishing, and much more. Cruise the Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River Estuary to come across the local flora and fauna such as the marshes, various species of fish, and shore birds such as kingfishers, gulls, and marsh sparrows. Their fishing and fly fishing tours are incomparable and is sure to be an amazing experience for anglers of all ages and skill levels. Walk and swim through stunning deserted beaches which seem as if you’re on an exotic island. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that Bell 8 Charters is one of the most sought-after companies in the state.
132 Shore Rd, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-490-0967
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8. Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe & Cafe
© Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe & Café
Open seasonally, the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe & Cafe is a favorite among residents and visitors. All of the ice cream served is made in that very location and is homemade, hand crafted, and uses only the best ingredients available. All of the ice cream is crafted with super premium 16% butterfat cream, ensuring deliciousness in every single mouthful. Their most popular flavor is Connecticut Peach and is made with native peaches which are locally picked; because of this, it is only available for a limited time towards the end of summer so be sure to try it out if you’re in the area then.
34 Lyme St, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-6942
9. Coffee's Country Market and Catering
© Coffee's Country Market and Catering
Coffee’s Country Market and Catering is must-visit deli and full-service catering company in Old Lyme, Connecticut. To ensure that everything served at Coffee’s is delightful and full of flavor, the culinary-trained chefs follow three rules: fresh ingredients, classic cooking techniques, and no short cuts. They’ve won many awards over the years including the Best of Readers’ Choice Awards for Food and Dining. Stop by for a hearty breakfast of eggs and ham, an omelet, or a freshly baked giant muffin. They also have a varied selection of sandwiches, wraps, desserts, cookies, and other bakery items like sticky buns, buttery croissants, and cinnamon rolls.
169 Boston Post Rd, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-1877
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10. Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
© Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center
Fueled by their commitment to preserving the Connecticut River Estuary, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center provides several educational experiences for all ages while showcasing the thriving estuary’s ecosystem. As visitors explore the estuary, they’ll be amazed to find several fish nurseries and nesting grounds for different birds. The estuary center also provides award-winning science and nature programs to schools in Southeastern Connecticut, as well as summer camp programs for kids, all to instill the future generation with a greater appreciation for the environment around them. Adult programs are also available, together with bird walks where you’ll be able to explore and learn more about the various birds found within the estuary.
100 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371, Phone: 860-598-4218
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11. Old Lyme Beaches
© Flamingo Images/stock.adobe.com
Old Lyme has several beaches for families to enjoy. White Sand Beach and Hains Park, located on 11 Seaside Avenue, is a local town beach known for its beautiful views of Long Island Sound. Lounge around on the beach, enjoy a meal in their picnic area, or take a tour of the nearby Nature Conservancy’s Griswold Point Preserve. Be mindful when visiting, however, as the community beach is located between two private beach sections exclusively used by the White Sand Beach Association. Another beach worth visiting is Sound View Beach located on Hartford Avenue. First established in 1892, Sound View Beach was the first public beach in America. Visitors can swim, lounge around, picnic, and check out the nearby shops and food concessionaires. More ideas: Connecticut beaches
Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371; Phone: 860-434-1605
12. Cooley Gallery
© Cooley Gallery
Whether you’re an avid art lover or unfamiliar to the world of art, the Cooley Gallery is welcoming to all levels of art enthusiasts. Together with help from their friendly staff, the gallery showcases artwork without any intimidation or condescension. The gallery focuses on American art, presenting examples of the major art movements that have emerged in the country such as American Impressionism and Tonalism. Viewers can admire and purchase oil paintings, pastels sculptures, and other artworks by both renowned and emerging local artists. Cooley Gallery is open by appointment.
25 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371, Phone: 860-434-8807
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Attraction Spotlight: Florence Griswold Museum
Located in an idyllic setting between the bustling cities of New York and Boston, the town of Old Lyme is home to the Florence Griswold Museum. Visitors to the museum are sure to be inspired by the sights and sounds of the historic district within which the museum is located. The same graceful gardens, rolling fields, and rocky shores that initially made this town a draw for artists seeking a refuge from turn of the century urban life can still be viewed by visitors today. This historic landmark aims to preserve and display both the historic structures and the art works that put Old Lyme on the map.
Built in 1817, the home that would find itself at the center of the American art scene was once just the humble abode of Florence Griswold. A long time teacher in a girls’ school, Florence found herself in financial hardship after the passing of several members of her family. To remedy her situation, she decided to take in boarders to help supplement her income. One of the first people to lodge in her home was Henry Ward Ranger, an American artist who had recently returned from a sojourn in Europe. Ranger, inspired by the beauty of the region and the hospitality of his hostess, encouraged many of his friends to join him. Over time, the School of Lyme was born. With a strong group identity, the Lyme artists created an entirely original painting style that was distinctly American in nature. Their creations form an important chapter in American art, identity, and culture.
The museum’s collection largely consists of paintings and sculptures that were made by the artists who lodged there. However, in 2002, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company donated an additional 190 pieces, which now form part of the museum’s permanent holdings.
Built in 2002, the Krieble Gallery is a great place to begin one’s exploration of the Florence Griswold Museum. This space is designed to showcase the impressionist art of the museum’s permanent collection in the most natural light. With plenty of windows and skylights, visitors can appreciate the subtleties of the works on display. In addition, the Orientation Theatre, located in the gallery, shows an introductory film that helps contextualize the works displayed at the museum.
Gardens and Grounds
The Florence Griswold Museum has over 10 acres of gardens and grounds, which guests can explore during their visit. These scenic surroundings, which include who gardens and the picturesque Lieutenant River, are the very same that inspired the many artists that pioneered the Lyme school of art.
Florence Griswold House
Occupying a unique place in American art history, the Florence Griswold House welcomed over 200 artists over the course of its career as a boarding house. This stately structure underwent a huge transformation as it went from being the home of a wealthy sea captain’s family to a retreat for turn of the century artistic luminaries. Its occupants left behind a visual legacy, which visitors can experience by touring each room of the home. Exploring this historic landmark can be a fun and rewarding experience and the museum also offers prizes for those who successfully complete its scavenger hunt challenge.
Rafal Landscape Center
To get a better understanding of how the residents of Lyme utilized and interacted with the land in and around the museum, visitors can explore the Rafal Landscape Center. Located in a restored 19th century barn, the center offers reproductions of historic photographs and paintings, 19th century agricultural implements, and a silent film from the 1920s. Though the barn housing the Rafal Center underwent a recent restoration in 2009, its features have been curated to preserve as much of the original character of the space as possible. The result is a quaint relic that serves as a window to Connecticut’s long and storied past.
Those planning their visit to the museum between the months of April and October may include the Chadwick Studio in their itineraries. American artist William Chadwick worked in this studio from 1920 until his death in 1962. The Chadwick Studio arrived at the museum in 1992 after the artist’s daughter-in-law donated it to the institution. Prior to that, it was located on the artist’s property, about 3 miles away from the museum grounds. As Chadwick was an impressionist, he spent much of his time painting directly from nature. However, he used his studio for still life and figure painting.
96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT 06371, Phone: 860-434-5542