The Dog Who Went To: Ridgefield, CT
By Jane Turner
Jane Turner is the author and illustrator of The Dog Who Went to Main Street, a children’s book celebrating adventure, a perfectly imperfect dog, and Main Streets everywhere. Jane travels frequently with her Shih Tzu mix, Dozer, and shares their favorite dog-happy destinations with our readers. Dozer is a rescue, a therapy dog, happens to be totally blind, and is always ready to go.
Ridgefield, Connecticut is Main Street, USA – and our own dog-loving hometown. So welcoming to dogs, in fact, that this New England town was the inspiration for my children’s book. Since Ridgefield’s location – just 55 miles from New York City in southwestern Connecticut – makes it an ideal day-trip or weekend getaway (an easy add-on to any visit to the citiest city there is), we want to share our take on it with you.
What makes Ridgefield worth visiting is the cultural mash-up that gives the village its creative energy and all-American heartbeat. Within a few blocks of each other you’ll find the Colonial era Keeler Tavern Museum, the fast-forward Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Ridgefield Playhouse where area resident Rolling Stone Keith Richards has been known to drop by to see his friends perform. The spaces in between and around are filled with local shops and cafes, tall-steepled churches, and an abundance of dogs.
The vibe: Historic, small town New England with a creative edge. Where else can you find a Main Street punctuated at one end by a limit-pushing outdoor art installation and, at the other, a sign marking where Benedict Arnold’s horse was shot out from under him? It’s a wonderful life in Ridgefield – low-key but stimulating, more literati than glitterati.
Town and country walks
• Main Street. A Dozer favorite – most likely for the scents of dogs gone by and foods served outside. Stroll past magnificently preserved, centuries-old houses on your way to check out the many dog-friendly, one-of-a-kind stores. (It’s about a mile from the fountain on the south end to the Battle of Ridgefield sign on the northern curve.)
• “Woodland Walk.” A 1.2-mile, well-groomed path through wetlands and woods, full of birds. The entrance is right next to the Ridgefield Rec Center, at 195 Danbury Road.
• Longer, wilder hikes. Good options just outside of town, both less than15 minute drives from town center: Baxter Road Preserve in North Salem and Topstone Park in Redding. Leash rules vary by seasonality and time of day.
“It’s a dog’s life” cred: The everyday parade of dogs on the broad sidewalks running through town is testimony to dog-centricity here. And once a year (the first Sunday in October), the town literally goes to the dogs as village traffic is closed for the ROAR dog walk celebrating dogs and benefiting the local ROAR animal shelter. Dozer walks every year, along with hundreds of his canine friends.
Dining with dogs: a handful of Dozer hang-outs
• Bernard’s. In true South of France style, your four-legged friend is a welcome guest at Sarah and Bernard Bouissou’s outdoor courtyard. The food itself reflects their Daniel Boulud/Thomas Keller training and their personal take on contemporary French cooking.
• Chez Lenard, aka the hot dog man. A streetside institution serving high-level hot dogs. Dozer likes the bites that find their way to dog level.
• Perennial Chef. A good spot to grab a sidewalk table and an organic muffin or chicken salad.
• The Marketplace. A magnet for foodies, this collection of shops includes 109 Cheese & Wine and Ross’ Bread among others. Pick up artisanal cheeses, bread, wine, and organic fruit for a feast of your own design at an outdoor table. Or sit outside at Southwest Café where owner Barbara Nevins serves up the real deal in southwestern food – she’s known for traveling to New Mexico at harvest-time to hand select Hatch chilies.
Where to stay with Dogs
• Green Rocks Inn. An eco-aware B&B with an airy feeling, accented by art and antique pieces from the owner’s Asian travels. Everything is organic from linens to dog biscuits. You’ll sleep in a soothing, wellness-promoting bed…and so will your dog in his own canine-sized version. Resident Weimaraner Maxie helps extend a warm welcome to dogs of all sizes.
See you in Ridgefield… look for Dozer sniffing his way up Main Street!
Photo Credits: Starting with top right, Dozer hanging out with friends at Main Street landmark Chez Lenard; red brick buildings and lamp-posts line Main Street; Les amis Dozer and Daisy pictured at Bernard's. Photographs by Jane Turner.