Whether you're looking to escape New York City for a day trip with the kids or a weekend getaway with the whole family, Norwalk Connecticut is one of my favorite destinations so far. If you have a car, well, good for you - easy peasy to go just about anywhere! Without a car, Norwalk is about as easy, cheap, quick, and fun a getaway as it gets - just hop on the MetroNorth from Grand Central and you're there in just over an hour! The MTA even has a rail & aquarium package that will save you big bucks.
We brought our double stroller to give it the ultimate test of stroller-friendliness and it passed with flying colors (with the exception of our elevator-free subway station in Bay Ridge). We found elevators and stroller-friendly walking paths at Grand Central, South Norwalk Station, and throughout the town of Norwalk - hooray!!
HOTEL: Hilton Garden Inn Norwalk
Without a car, finding a central hotel or one with free area shuttle was key. We went with the Hilton Garden Inn at Norwalk because they offer a complimentary shuttle within a 5 mile radius (you just call and they come pick you up within about 15 minutes), and we made good use of it!!
The hotel itself is currently under renovation but they're doing it in small stages so it's not really noticeable. Toddler (and hubby) loved the pool and jacuzzi, and I ate my body weight in hot buffet breakfast - yum!!! They have great open spaces for eating and relaxing, had nice clean pack 'n plays, and a very helpful staff! They have complimentary coffee station (though there is a Starbucks across the street if you must) and free cookies and lemonade in the evening. Good stuff!!
ATTRACTION: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
In a word? AWESOME!!! We spent a solid 4 hours there and our toddler was still not ready to go. The place was enormous, clean, and full of hands-on imaginative play for kids of all ages and abilities! A water-play area, outdoor building blocks, an interactive musical floor-pad, and room after room of different-themed learning toys and activities that kids and parents alike will enjoy.
They had a large area dedicated to children under 36 months, and within that an area for pre-crawlers where I spent 2, count 'em, TWO HOURS hanging with our 8 month old twins. It's rare that they have a large space to crawl and explore, so they really went to town!!
Strollers are not permitted in most of the museum, but they have a large stroller parking room. We were there on a holiday and it was not crowded at all - we wouldn't have had a problem getting around with our double if they allowed it, but actually it was nice to not bother with a stroller at all. They have a cafeteria with decent options and high chairs, changing tables in all the mens and women's bathrooms, and I even found mom and child potties in the handicap stall - how cute!!
ATTRACTION: Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk
For the amount of hands-on activities, this aquarium gets two thumbs up! Kids and adults can pet jellyfish, sting rays, sharks, and more! Their meerkat exhibit is probably my favorite - the little creatures are so fun to watch, and kids can poke their heads up in a dome to feel like part of the pack! They have a great little play area for kids to get out some steam upstairs, and a huge IMAX that is included in admission! We saw the new film, A Beautiful Planet, featuring footage filmed by astronauts at the International Space Station (giving us a very interesting peak into their life up there - from how they wash their hair to how they have to exercise 2.5 hours a day!) and narrated by THE Jennifer Lawrence. It was both breathtaking and educational, and our 3 year old made it through without a problem!
The indoor Harbor Seal show is cute and definitely not to be missed, so check the schedule before your visit or at the start so you can be sure to catch it. It gets VERY crowded on both floors, so you probably want to find a good spot at least 10 minutes before the feeding time.
We were excited to check out the newly opened Flutter Zone (open through September 5) outside. It was small but fun to be among so many butterflies and watch them land on your clothes! Insider tip: your toddler may not be so interested in the butterflies if they catch a glimpse of the HUGE sandbox on your way to the Flutter Zone... either plan to give them time in there or figure out a distraction as you walk out!
They didn't have a stroller check, but they did have a large open coat room where we were able to keep our double (though the door wasn't wide enough so we had to collapse it to get it in there). Many people had their single strollers with them throughout the aquarium, and some had double-wides but it looked a bit cumbersome so I wouldn't advise it. Babywearing is the way to go, if you ask me.
FOOD: Burger Bar & Bistro
Yelp helped me out with this one - they have Burger Bar & Bistro rated as Norwalk's #1 family-friendly eatery. They have a large outdoor space where they set up rocking toys and corn hole, and on Sunday's from 5-7pm they have a free balloon animal artist. Just so happens that was EXACTLY the timing of our visit. SCORE!! Not only did they have tons to entertain my toddler with, they also had amazing food and a large selection of kids and toddler meals! YESSSSS!!! They had outdoor and indoor seating, with board games and books, coloring - basically tons of stuff for kids of all ages.
It is located fairly close to the aquarium, but we actually WALKED here from Stepping Stones. It was almost a mile and nobody else was walking, but it was very pedestrian friendly with stroller-friendly sidewalks and cross walks. We didn't have our stroller with us, so even our toddler walked! Such a city kid, I couldn't be prouder! So, if you're sans car and the weather is nice, don't waste your money on a taxi, just hoof it!
And now, the pièce de résistance, my video and photo collage of our 2-day 1-night weekend getaway to Norwalk, Connecticut! Enjoy!! (Don't forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!!!)
DISCLAIMER: I was provided complimentary admission to Stepping Stones and Maritime, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I only post reviews of places, products, and services I love and stand behind - I'm no sell out!
6/1/2016 09:43:08 am
You are spot on with your recommendation. Norwalk, CT has great accessibility for anyone traveling via public transit. Cars are also an option.
8/6/2019 08:40:34 am
This is a perfect weekend get away ! I would love to visit the aquarium My grandson would really enjoy the stepping stone museum
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About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)