Saturday, December 16, 2017

Holiday Express: Opening Night! at Fairfield Museum and History Center

A long awaited tradition in Fairfield County, the Holiday Express is opening on December 1, 2017 and running through January 7, 2018 at the Fairfield Museum and History Center located on 370 Beach Road in Fairfield. This year features even more tracks and set-ups where the trains can zip around and weave their magical spell. Kids and adults alike will delight in the magic of the train show.

A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition! Kids and adults alike will delight in the magic of this wondrous display of model trains winding around a spectacularly decorated tree and through beautiful holiday scenery. Holiday Express Schedule is Weekends:  December 1 –  January 7: 10am - 4pm and Weekdays: Monday - Thurs. 10 am - 1 pm., NEW! Open late on Fridays, 10am – 7pm, Monday, December 26 – 28, 10am – 4pm. December 29  10am – 7pm Closed on Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

On December 1, gather with your family and countdown as the town of Fairfield lights the 90-foot tall Norway spruce, the tallest living tree that gets lit at Christmas time in Connecticut. It was one of three trees donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution in December 1918.Choirs begin at 5:55 PM and Santa arrives at 7:00 PM.  Also, on December 1 is opening Night Discounted Admission: $3, free for children 5 and under or 4 for $10. Be one of the first to see the Holiday Express Train Show! Visitors delight in the magic of the model trains winding around a winter wonderland beautiful holiday scenery. This year visitors will enjoy a craft activity, cider and cookies!

Check the website for special family fun events held throughout the month of December. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Trixie Strauss Christmas Bird Count @ Sharon Audubon

Each year,  the Sharon Audubon Center located at 325 Cornwall Bridge Rd. invites small groups of birders to venture out for the sole purpose of counting birds. This free event, known as the Trixie Strauss Christmas Bird Count, occurs on Sunday, December 17th from 12:01 am to midnight. Our count area is a 15-mile circle with its center at Hotchkiss School, thus taking in some of the good birding areas in Sharon, Salisbury, Falls Village, Amenia and Northeast. Teams from all over the state and all over the country take part in Christmas Bird Count, and all of the numbers are compiled and reported to help better understand flock formations and migrations.

You don't have to be a great birder to enjoy Christmas Bird Count. And, if it's cold outside, you don't even have to get out of the car! "Feeder watchers" are also always appreciated. If you would like to participate, but would rather not leave the comforts of your home, you can choose to count the birds at your bird feeders, even if only for one hour. Your numbers can then be given to our compiler Zach Adams right after the count and they will be included in the overall Christmas Bird Count report. Forms for the bird feeder count can be picked up at the Sharon Audubon Center on Route 4 in Sharon, CT. You can also call the Audubon Center to find out who the "area captains" are so you can contact them to learn meeting places and times throughout the day.
At approximately 5:00 pm, the teams congregate at the Sharon Audubon Center to turn in their data, enjoy some snacks, and determine who has the best hold on "bragging rights" for the day's finds. Even if you can't join us in the field, you are welcome to join us at the Center to hear the results. We ask anyone who lives in the surrounding towns to fill up your bird feeders to help with our counts! Please contact the Center at (860) 364-0520 if you would like more information on the Trixie Strauss Christmas Bird Count.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gifts @ The Zoo and Breakfast with Frosty

Frosty the Snowman was a popular song written in 1950 and became an overnight classic by being adapted to a popular television special. The song of Frosty recounts the fictional tale of a snowman that is magically brought to life through a black top hat that a group of children place atop his head. Although Frosty enjoys frolicking and romping throughout town with the children who constructed him, the sun becomes too much for him to bear and Frosty is forced to leave town, promising his friends that he will return.

On December 9,10,16,17,23: The Beardsley Zoo is getting into the holiday spirit by offering a special "Breakfast with Frosty & Friends" that will take place from, 9 a.m. - 10 am. Families are invited to join Frosty and his friends for breakfast at Connecticut's only Zoo. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Amanda Bolanos at (203) 394-6574. The cost of this special event that includes Zoo admission and breakfast is $10 per person for Zoo members and $15 per person for non-members.

ZOO GIFT GIVING IDEAS:
As the holidays are approaching fast if you are looking for something unique you might consider picking up an unusual and thoughtful gift from the Beardsley Zoo for everyone on your list!
Membership to Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo for example can be enjoyed year-round. Your loved one gets free admission to the Zoo and free or discounted admission to over 150 zoos and aquariums nationwide. Membership also includes ZooBucks, carousel rides & guest passes! Contact Amanda Bolanos at 203-394-6574 for more information.
If you are looking for a more permanent gift, consider purchasing and engraving a Zoo Brick for someone special. Bricks will be displayed at the Zoo's Front Gate for all to see! Contact Emily Bobowick at 203-394-6569 for more information.
If you have a real animal lover on your list, consider a gift of Animal Sponsorship. With this gift, you will receive a Sponsorship Certificate, Fact Sheet & Photograph of your sponsored animal that you can visit at the Zoo.
If you are seeking something different, don't forget to check out the gift shop at the Zoo. The Beardsley Zoo's fabulous gift shop offers everything from children's games and handmade jewelry to clothing and animal-themed Christmas ornaments. You'll be amazed at the wide selection of gifts for him and her and for the little ones, too!
Give a Zoo Birthday Party -- Party like an animal and make your loved one's wishes come true by gifting a party at the Zoo! Connecticut's only zoo is available on Saturdays and Sundays year round for birthday parties. Make a lasting impression with a Zoo animal guest, a critter craft, and a ride on our colorful carousel! Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo is a fun and exciting place for any child's birthday party. To learn more, call (203) 332 4243 or email lisner@beardsleyzoo.org for more information!

About Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo celebrates its 90th birthday in 2012 and is closer than you think! Connecticut's only zoo features 300 animals representing primarily North and South American species. Visitors won't want to miss our Amur (Siberian) tigers, Brazilian ocelot, Red wolves, and Golden Lion tamarins. Other highlights include our South American rainforest with free-flight aviary, the prairie dog exhibit with "pop-up" viewing areas, the New England Farmyard with goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and other barnyard critters, plus the Grasslands trail featuring bison, pronghorn, deer, and more. Visitors can grab a bite at the Peacock Café, eat in the Picnic Grove, and enjoy a ride on our colorful carousel. For more information, visit beardsleyzoo.org

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kent Gingerbread Festival


The sweet scents will tease your sense of smell as you enter the quaint village of Kent CT. The rolling pins are spinning and creative minds of all ages are working hard to create dozens of  Gingerbread Houses. Ovens are filled to capacity and working overtime to get ready for the ANNUAL KENT GINGERBREAD FESTIVAL brunning through December 31.

Gingerbread Houses of all shapes and sizes will be on display in many of Kent's beautifully decorated shop windows until December 31. As you approach Kent you will find yourself in what looks like a movie set of the perfect little New England town, twinkling lights will guide you through the unique one of a kind shops. What an enjoyable way to do your holiday shopping.
Lots of places feature colorful gingerbread houses for the holidays, but Kent, CT goes a step further. The whole town will take place in this sugary sweet celebration. Everyone is invited to follow the Gingerbread Walk through town to view imaginative and ingenious gingerbread delights. Visitors can enjoy the displays as they navigate the gingerbread map and solve the NEW mysterious riddle the Ginger Girls have cooked up this year. At the end, visitors  vote for their favorite creations. Displays are guaranteed to delight all ages!
 Should you be hungry after your Gingerbread Walk there are many temptations that will lure you, from a chocolate shop and baked goods to delicious culinary delights in one of Kent's many restaurants & cafés. In addition to gingerbread displays, Kent will have special holiday events every weekend, from the Annual Kent Holiday Champagne Stroll, wine tastings and even Pancakes with Santa to an old time horse-drawn carriage ride through town and a Messiah sing-along. For more holiday information a visit http://kentct.com/events/

Monday, December 11, 2017

Shark Diving Santa @ Maritime Aquarium Norwalk

Santa Claus will be taking a bold step in December to help The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk demonstrate that sharks are not naughty, but nice.

 Twice each day on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays in December, Santa will strap on scuba gear and enter the Aquarium’s 110,000-gallon “Ocean Beyond the Sound” exhibit, which is home to 7-foot sand tiger and lemon sharks.
 It’s all part of The Maritime Aquarium’s regular dive program, intended to demonstrate that sharks aren’t the blood-thirsty killers of myth.  Visitors to the popular Connecticut family attraction can see – and talk with – divers swimming with the sharks on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 12:15 & 2:15 p.m.
 Workload permitting, Santa is expected to participate in each dive in December. Watch the Aquarium’s website – www.maritimeaquarium.org – to confirm dates when Santa can pull himself away from the North Pole and exchange his snow boots for swim fins.
At this time of year, parents tell their children that Santa could be watching them at any time and from anywhere – but no kid expects to find Santa keeping an eye on them from inside a shark tank!!  Bring your camera because Santa is always happy to swim over and get close to the exhibit window to pose for a unique picture with your kids.
 Viewing the Santa shark dives will be free with Aquarium admission.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas at the Hotchkiss-Fyler House Museum

The Hotchkiss-Fyler House Museum, 192 Main Street, Torrington, is once again decorated for the Christmas season.  During the Christmas season, the house takes on a special ambiance as trees, lights, and various Christmas decorations sparkle against the richly embellished interior of this historic home.  During the Christmas season, guided tours of the first floor will be available to visitors.  Tours will be available beginning on Saturday, December 9th and ending on Saturday, December 30th.  Hours are Thursdays through Sundays, 12-4, last tour is at 3:30.  Admission is $10 for adults;  FREE to Torrington Historical Society members.  Children 12 and under are free.  The house museum will be closed December 25th.



At Christmas, the house takes on a particularly festive look.  This year, the woodwork and richly embellished interior will be accented with touches of white, poinsettias, wreaths and several Christmas trees.  The rooms on the first floor will be decorated with an array of Christmas trees and greenery.  One of the many trees will feature antique ornaments from a private collection while others will be decorated with vintage ornaments from the Society’s collection and antique toys from the Society’s collection will also be on view.  In addition, the dining room table will be set for Christmas dinner with the fine china, crystal, silverware, and linens that belonged to Gertrude Fyler Hotchkiss.

One of Connecticut’s best house museums, the Hotchkiss-Fyler House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  A tour of this house provides visitors with a rare opportunity to view an historic home as it was when last occupied.  Built in 1900, the Hotchkiss-Fyler House Museum was home to the Hotchkiss and Fyler families for more than half a century until 1956 when it was bequeathed to the Torrington Historical Society by Gertrude Fyler Hotchkiss.  The interior features impressive woodwork, painted and stenciled walls, original furnishings and collections of fine and decorative arts. 


The Torrington Historical Society always welcomes new members.  Join now and your tour is free!   For more information, call (860) 482-8260 or visit www.torringtonhistoricalsociety.org.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Meet the North American Porcupine @ White Memorial Conservation Center

North American Porcupines are large, solitary rodents commonly found in New England including Connecticut.  Although they are elusive and mostly nocturnal, they can be found perched in the top of a tree during the day.  They tend to den in tree cavities and under logs.  They have thick, muscular tails that are six to twelve inches long. Underneath the tail are stiff bristles which aid them in climbing trees.

Porcupines are herbivores.  A typical diet consists of twigs, leaves, buds, nuts, seeds and green plants.  Wintertime food includes pine needles and bark.  A porcupine typically has 20,000 to 30,000 quills which cover most of its body.  These quills are sharp and range from one to three inches in length.  Contrary to popular belief, they cannot shoot their quills from a distance.
Find out more from CT DEEP Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator Gerri Griswold and an non-releasable Quill Pig for an hour long program at White Memorial Conservation Center located on 80 Whitehall Road in Litchfield.  She will address the natural history of one of Connecticut’s most fascinating species and the world’s third largest rodent! 2:00 p.m., A. B. Ceder Room.  This program is free.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Westport's festive annual House Tour

This year marks the 31st Holiday House Tour which has become a highly anticipated December tradition for many visitors and residents alike.  This year's holiday house tour is taking place on December 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will feature seven historic houses with festive seasonal décor. Five of the homes are Designated Historic Landmarks. 

Each home was carefully selected for its architectural merit and interesting stories. All of these wonderful historic houses have been adapted to 21st-century living and are sure to enchant you with inspiring decorating ideas and nostalgic holiday cheer!
Some highlights include:
• a circa 1800 barn that was adaptively re-purposed into a charming residence, the Eliphalet Sturges/George Hand Wright house that was originally built in 1764 as a simple two-room farmhouse and extensively remodeled in the Colonial Revival Style by the Dean of Westport Artists George Hand Wright in 1910, "Duck Haven" a house and cottage on the Saugatuck River adjacent to the historic low-tide crossing point
• the David Judah House, circa 1760, that has gone through a meticulous restoration by its current owner, who preserved every nail, piece of timber and window
• a circa 1840 Italianate house whose current owners uncovered an original back staircase hidden by 20th-century renovations
• a reproduction Saltbox c 1966 designed and built by well-known architect George White, which won a Historic Preservation Award this year.
• Westport's first one-room schoolhouse west of the Saugatuck River, that includes a large collection of signed prints by abstract artist Frank Stella
Tickets are $50 for members and $60 for non-members in advance; Tickets are $70 on the day of the tour. Pre-order tickets in advance online

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Polish Christmas with Martha Hall Kelly at the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden

Visit the Bellamy-Ferriday House Museum on Sunday, December 10th for a special day celebrating the holidays and the work of social philanthropist Caroline Ferriday, the inspiration for New York Times bestselling author Martha Hall Kelly's novel Lilac Girls at the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden.

Experience the Hay, Caroline's beloved Connecticut home, staged in the traditional Polish fashion as inspired by her house guests. Rooms will also sport beautiful arrangements by Floral Designer Melissa Beard, owner and head designer at Floral Design by Melissa in Newtown, CT. Learn about Advent and Polish Christmas traditions, including holiday delicacies and customs. Meet Martha Hall Kelly in Caroline's kitchen and have her sign your copy of Lilac Girls. Tour sessions begin at 1 and 1:30 pm. Greenery will be available for sale to benefit the Bellamy Ferriday House & Garden.
Then, carol your way to Memorial Hall to enjoy a Polish beverage and desserts followed by an author presentation with a question and answer session. Martha will discuss Lilac Girls, including her research process, and where she took artistic license. Get insight into Martha's next book about Caroline and her mother Eliza.
Tickets are $35/$25 for CTL Members; limited availability. Purchase tickets by Monday, December 4th by visiting www.ctlandmarks.org or calling 860.247.8996 x 23. All proceeds benefit the Bellamy-Ferriday House & Garden.
Lilac Girls is based on the true story of Caroline Ferriday and the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp survivors known as lapin (rabbits), whom Caroline championed. This acclaimed debut novel, also available on audiobook, reveals a story of love, redemption and terrible secrets that were hidden for decades. For more information on Martha Hall Kelly and her work, visit www.marthahallkelly.com.
The Bellamy-Ferriday House and Garden is located at 9 Main Street North, Bethlehem, CT. It is open for tours May through October. For hours and more information, visit www.ctlandmarks.org ; https://www.facebook.com/BellamyFerridayHouseGarden ; or call 203. 266.7596.
About Connecticut Landmarks
Connecticut Landmarks' mission is to inspire interest and encourage learning about the American past by preserving selected historic properties, collections and stories and presenting programs that meaningfully engage the public and our communities.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Winter Backyard Birding @ Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield

The Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield is hosting Winter Backyard Birding on Saturday, December 9 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. that is perfect for kids 12 years old and up and, best of all, it's a free event!  Guests will meet at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Center at Fairfield Nature Store, 2325 Burr St. 



As many of us that love birding and wildlife know, the rewards of birding can be enjoyed all year long, but the coldest months can be some of the hottest times to view feathered visitors. The Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield invites guests to join long-time birder and naturalist Dick Worth at the Connecticut Audubon Society Center at Fairfield for an indoor program to learn more about this great family activity which can start at home, and lead to a life-long appreciation and interest that spans the world.

Backyard birding begins at the feeder so you’ll learn who is at their feeder this time of year, their characteristics, and their feeding habits. You’ll also receive tips on what kind of seed and feeders to use and other ways of creating a bird-friendly sanctuary that will attract birds to your yard.

After the class,  guests are invited to take advantage of the Audubon's  20% off sale on birdseed and birdfeeders and browse their store for unique, nature-themed holiday gifts and decorations. Call 203-259-6305, ext. 109 or visit their website for more information.

To sign up for a monthly free newsletter on things to do and see in Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County visit www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

Monday, December 4, 2017

Holiday Lights @ Lake Compounce

Lake Compounce, located on Lake Ave. in Bristol is proud to announce their  "Lake Compounce Holiday Lights", a seasonal holiday-themed family event taking place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings beginning November 24 and running through December 20. The park gates will open at 5:00 P.M. on Fridays, and at 4:00 P.M. on Saturdays and Sundays.

'Holiday Lights' will provide full family entertainment for all ages, and include festive activities such as a spectacular light show every half hour at the main gate, which will feature tens of thousands of dancing lights set to holiday music. Kiddieland rides and family-themed rides will be in operation. The Train will be transformed into the North Pole Railway, operated by a very special, uniformed train conductor with a magical holiday story to tell.
There will be indoor activities such as cookie decorating and gingerbread house making. Children will be given the opportunity to customize their very own letter to Santa, and will then receive a personalized letter sent directly to them, from Santa, just a few days later. On the Kiddieland stage children can enjoy Story Time with Mrs. Clause. There will be carolers strolling throughout the park, an ice carver creating unique, frozen sculptures, and lots more festive entertainment including clowns making balloon animals and lots of holiday characters greeting guests. The childhood favorite; photos with Santa is not to be missed in the Winter Wonderland Starlight Theatre.

The park's gift shops will also be loaded with holiday-themed merchandise for sale, so guests can get their holiday shopping done, and new this year great food will be served hot from unique and festive food trucks. Another new attraction is the Holiday Craft Fair on Nov. 11 that will feature a selection of holiday craft vendors selling handmade items that are perfect for holiday décor or a gift for a special love one. There is also a pet-friendly night on December 17 when guests are invited to bring their well behaved dog or cat to Lake Compounce, if you bring a can of cat or dog food, you will get $5 off admission at the gate.
New for 2017 is dinner with Santa on Dec. 2,9,16, and 23. Enjoy dinner from 2:30-3:30pm, followed by a visit with Santa! After you're done with pictures, the entire night of Holiday Lights is yours to enjoy with family and friends until 9 pm! Buffet menu: will include lots of child and adult favorites! Adults are $29.99, kids 4-10 $23.99 and children 3 and under are free.

Admission is $11.99 online and $15.99 at Gate per adult, $11.99 for children 4 thru 10, and free for children 3 and under. Senior tickets are $11.99. Platinum Season Pass holders may enter for free with their 2016 season pass. Tickets may be purchased online now, or at the park gate once the event begins.  For more information https://www.lakecompounce.com

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Kent Historical Society Holds a Historic Holiday House Tour in Kent Hollow

The Kent Historical Society is convening a Historic House Tour, focusing on structures built in the 18th and early 19th century. The Tour will take place Sunday, December 10 from 12:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Advance tickets are available for $45 on our website and at the Heron Gallery, Kent Wine & Spirit, and the Kent Town Clerk’s Office. The price jumps to $60 on the day of the tour, so be sure to get your tickets early!


The Kent Historical Society has lined up seven architectural gems that have been preserved with great care. Some were grand dwellings in their day, others were much more modest, but nearly all of them date from the Colonial era. There are all sorts of curiosities and beauties to appreciate on this journey through the past of Kent Hollow. One house is even on the National Register of Historic Places.

The journey into the past starts at Swift House, where ticket holders will get a map to the houses, .which are mostly in Kent Hollow. Tickets may also be purchased that day at the Swift House from 11 a.m. through the afternoon. Afterwards, everyone will gather at Swift House at 12 Maple Street to share festive beverages at the wassail bowl.  It promises to be a fun event -- who doesn’t like peering back in time in old houses?
“Historical House Tour 2017,” a Kent Historical Society event, begins December 10, 2017 at noon at Swift House, located at 12 Maple Street, Tickets are $45 in advance, and $60 on the day. For more information, see www.kenthistoricalsociety.org

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Celebrate Holidays like it is 1864!

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum kicks off the Holiday Season the day after Thanksgiving and invites visitors to step back in time to experience the wonders and beauty of mid-to-late 19th century holiday traditions. A new exhibition entitled, A Magnificent Victorian Holiday at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum opens at noon on Friday, November 24, 2017, at 295 West Avenue.



The Museum will explore the holiday traditions from the 1860s through the 1930s, as they were celebrated by the Lockwood and the Mathews families in Norwalk, Connecticut and New York City. The Mansion will also feature 21st century holiday design and lavish trees and seasonal displays by renowned interior designers, Victoria Vandamm of Vandamm Interiors and Kip O’Brien of Kip O’Brien Design, LLC, a full-service, residential interior design firm in Cos Cob, CT.  Kip’s successful career includes fashion advertising at Vogue, Town & Country, and Glamour magazines and a strong understanding of color, proportion, and texture.

As seen in the recently published book by photographer Caryn B. Davis, Christmas in Connecticut, red silk garlands embellished with ribbons and trimmings will drape the grand Victorian staircase designed by the Herter Brothers and decorated by Danna DiElsi, owner of The Silk Touch in Norwalk, CT. 


 The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is a National Historic Landmark. For more information on schedules and programs please visit www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com, e-mail info@lockwoodmathewsmansion.com, or call 203-838-9799.


 Photos Sarah Grote