Connecticut Scenic Drives: Merritt Parkway

Highlights of Merritt Parkway

Pastoral views like this one are plentiful along Merritt Parkway.
Pastoral views like this one are plentiful along Merritt Parkway.

For many, the 69 original bridges are the heart of the special appeal of Connecticut's Merritt Parkway. The popular belief is that a different designer made each bridge; however, they are all the work of a single architectural designer, George Dunkelberger.

The Merritt Parkway bridges have no style or icon that threads them together as a result of Dunkelberger's eclectic design ideas. It takes a keen eye to catch what is going on in the metal balustrade of the Merwins Lane Overpass in the town of Fairfield. This includes small butterflies caught in a stylized metal spider web that are about to be devoured by the web's builders.

The low relief sculpture on the Comstock Hill Road Overpass in Norwalk, the work of Milford sculptor Edward Ferrari, is adorned with the bust of a Pilgrim or Native American, apparent references to New England's colonial past. Not all the bridges are so subtle, however. Some use bold forms as the basis of their design.

The Morehouse Highway Bridge, with its series of steplike sections that march downward from one side of the cut to the other, is one example. The Lake Avenue Bridge in Greenwich is unusual in that the metal arches are not shrouded in concrete, but span the roadway in two graceful segmental arcs bedecked with cast-iron vines.

A scenic alternative to other north-south corridors, the Merritt Parkway gives easy access to some of the activities and attractions listed here.

Boothe Memorial Park and Museum: Near the northern end of Merritt Parkway, in the town of Stratford is the Boothe Memorial Park and Museum. The Boothe Family resided on this 32-acre estate from the mid-1600s to 1949. Ten of the 20 historic buildings have been restored at this National Historic Landmark. Displays include early farm equipment, carriages, trolley history, and more. The site also has a beautiful rose garden, an observatory and educational center, picnic facilities, and playground.

New Canaan Nature Center: Taking exit 37 off the Merritt Parkway and passing through the center of New Canaan, the New Canaan Nature Center is just a mile north on Route 124. The center has 40 acres of habitat diversity and walking trails, an apple cider house, and maple sugar shack. The nature center also features a visitor center with natural science exhibits, a Discovery Center, a solar greenhouse, an arboretum, and various gardens. To go back to Merritt Parkway, return back through New Canaan.

John Rogers Studio and Museum: The John Rogers Studio and Museum was built in 1878 by John Rogers, famous as "the people's sculptor" in the latter half of the 19th century. The studio is now a National Historic Landmark, containing a large collection of Rogers' statuary, many of them sculpted on site. Visitors can also tour the Hanford Silliman House, once an 18th-century tavern and inn.

Silvermine Guild Arts Center: Just outside of town is the Silvermine Guild Arts Center. It began more than a century ago as a colony for artists and writers founded by sculptor Solon Borglum, brother of famed Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, in 1895. Today the Silvermine Guild Arts Center features a gallery of changing exhibits with works from both local newcomers and nationally renowned artists.

Bush–Holley Historic Site: Connecticut's first art colony was in the town of Greenwich at the southern end of Merritt Parkway. Now a National Historic Landmark from around 1730, the Bush–Holley Historic Site features the Bush–Holley home, an 1805-period visitor center housed in a former post office, and the Hugh and Clair Vanderbilt Education Center, set in the historic barn and artists' studio. The grounds and gardens have been restored to the appearance they had when the Cos Cob Impressionist Art Colony thrived with more than 200 students here between 1890 and 1920. Tour guides enhance your visit to the house, and you may explore the grounds at your leisure.

Putnam Cottage: Known as Knapp's Tavern during the Revolutionary War, Putnam Cottage was a popular gathering place for patriot leaders and ordinary travelers along the Boston Post Road. General Washington was even known to have eaten lunch here. But it gained fame as a hideout for General Israel Putnam when he heroically escaped from the Redcoats. Placed under the care of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1906, Putnam Cottage is a repository of Colonial artifacts and is open to the public as a historical museum.

The Merritt Parkway is one of the oldest parkways in the United States and is acknowledged for the beauty of the land that it passes through, as well as the architectural design of its overpasses. The scenic, cultural and environmental assets of Merritt Parkway truly make it one of the most scenic drive vacations in the nation.

Find more useful information related to Connecticut's Merritt Parkway:

  • Connecticut Scenic Drives: Merritt Parkway is just one of the scenic byways in Connecticut. Check out the others.
  • New Canaan, Trumball: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Merritt Parkway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Connecticut? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.