BEACHCOMBING: Some of the Best Daycations in Connecticut

Photos by Catherine Avalone

Nina Lesiga, who had driven up from her home in Stratford, looked around the meeting room at the New Haven Free Public Library on a recent Saturday afternoon and told us, “My name is Nina and I am a traveler. One of my passions is daycations.”

Indeed, the title of her talk was “The Art of Daycations.” You might not have realized this is an “art,” but Lesiga approaches it like a dedicated artist.

She defined “daycation” for us in simple terms: “It’s a day’s outing without needing to stay overnight.” She noted there are many opportunities for us to do fun things and get back home by nightfall in snug Connecticut.

​Lesiga told us: “What I ask of you today is this: Be here. Be in the moment. Be open to new ideas. Follow your own compass.”

Originally a New Yorker, Lesiga moved to Stratford 12 years ago. “It was my dream to live by the shore. You can do that affordably in Stratford.”

She has gone on some of her favorite daycations right in her adopted hometown. Although she strongly advises daycationers to do some research and planning before journeying out, she just walked along the Stratford beaches without any particular plan. “And I found a message in a bottle! It turned out to be from a boy who had put it in the water the day before. But I called him and then I put my own message in a bottle.”

Lesiga raved about something else in Stratford that was new to my ears: “Blues on the Beach,” an outdoor music festival held annually on Short Beach; this year it will happen July 23 from 2 to 9 p.m. “It’s about good music, enjoying the company of new and old friends and summertime fun. You’ll see the beach and surrounding areas speckled with decorated tents, deck furniture and even roasting pigs. This family-friendly event drew 20,000 people last year.”

Lesiga also told us about the “Little Poland” neighborhood of New Britain, which boasts a large Polish population. If you walk down Broad Street, you will see more than 70 Polish shops, including restaurants, bakeries and butchers. “The last time I stopped by for lunch, I bit into a freshly made pierogi and it was a little bit of heaven.” (On the last Sunday of every April, you can experience “The Little Poland Festival.”)

Because she has an open mind and often drives around Connecticut to see what she can find, Lesiga makes rewarding discoveries. One of her favorites is Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm in Lyme. “I saw a sign and a red barn-like structure and pulled right in. It was a sheep and cow dairy farm!”

After she bought some “amazing” artisan cheese (and learned Connecticut actually has a cheese trail), a farm staffer encouraged her to “visit the new babies and the wool shop.” She recalled, “I opened the door to where I was enthusiastically greeted by a chorus of more than 50 baby lambs. I found myself laughing out loud and encouraged them to do it again and they obliged!” (Sankow’s is at 139 Beaver Brook Road, Lyme. Call 1-800-501-WOOL or go to buyctgrown.com/sankows-beaver-brook-farm.)Lesiga recommends public libraries as a source of fun events. “You’d be amazed at the breadth and depth of the activities. I saw a listing at the Milford Public Library for raising chickens in your backyard.”

At the Westport Public Library, Lesiga discovered “the Westport Ukulele Meet-up,” which happens once every month on a Thursday night. Lesiga said the sessions are led by a musician, but the players who join don’t have to be experienced. “It’s rejuvenating to play a ukulele for an hour and thrilling to see the players come for the first time, fumble and then create music with confidence at the end of the hour.

And it’s free. If you don’t own a ukulele, you can sign one out like a library book.” (The library is at 20 Jesup Road in Westport, 203-291-4800, westportlibrary.org. You have to register for this event.)

Lesiga favors daycations that are off-beat and inexpensive. Often she goes to Trumbull to watch women’s roller derby games. She recalled seeing a doubleheader for $11.34. “That’s entertainment!” (ctrollerderby.com).

Lesiga’s favorite sources for daycation leads include the Connecticut tourism site (ctvisit.com), “CT Now” (ctnow.com), our own Connecticut Magazine (connecticutmag.com) and infonewhaven.com.

And don’t forget your local newspaper. “That’s how I found out about an Aztec Two-Step concert ‘under the stars’ at the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport.”

While Lesiga clearly enjoys discovering places most of us have never heard about, one of her tips is “include sure bets.” And so she urges people not to forget to visit the Florence Griswold Museum, the great Impressionist art site. (It’s at 96 Lyme St., Old Lyme, 860-434-5542, florencegriswoldmuseum.org.)

Lesiga has time to do all this traveling and to give lectures on her recommendations because she retired from a corporate job in product research and development. “Travel brings me joy and a better understanding of the world and myself. My art of travel is going outside of my comfort zone most of the time to fully engage with people and my surroundings. It’s where I discover magic, happiness and have quality experiences.”

And of course she has a website: gottatravelsolo.com.Randall Beach is the longtime columnist for the New Haven Register, where his column appears Fridays and Sundays. He enjoys his New Haven neighborhood, running through the city’s streets and parks and hanging out in its coffee shops. At home he plays his many 1960s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll albums and CDs.

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