Bridgeport is a whole lot better than you think.
Despite too often finding itself on the wrong side of jokes from people who either have never visited or haven’t visited in decades, Bridgeport has a lot to offer. Connecticut’s biggest city and the fifth-largest in New England, Bridgeport hugs the coast and provides visitors with a range of activities, including waterside walks, parks, beaches, arenas, history and culture. Here are some of our favorite things to see and do.
Black Rock-ing Out: Residents claim the Black Rock neighborhood as “Connecticut’s Brooklyn,” and though New Londoners might beg to differ, the comparison makes sense. Black Rock can be thought of as a smaller, hipper borough of Bridgeport and just like Brooklyn, N.Y., it offers some of the best of what hipster culture has to offer. Source Coffeehouse is one of the finest of its kind in the state and specializes in pourovers, cold-brew coffee and espresso drinks. Nearby you’ll find Walrus + Carpenter, an upscale barbecue spot with a great beer list and craft cocktails. Across the street is Nom-Eez, a pho and Vietnamese restaurant that houses a doughnut shop. To get some exercise and enjoy great scenery, head to St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea, a half-mile, paved, waterside walkway that offers views of Black Rock Harbor and Long Island Sound. The neighborhood is also home to Fire Engine Pizza Co., a bar and pizzeria; Bloodroot, a feminist vegan and vegetarian restaurant; and Captain’s Cove Seaport, a sprawling marina, boardwalk and waterside bar and restaurant.
Park Place: Bridgeport’s “Park City” nickname may not enjoy the usage it once did, but the moniker is well earned. The city is home to two parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Connecticut native and legendary landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park. Seaside Park, a 325-acre park on the shores of Long Island Sound, spans 3 miles of coast and offers beaches, biking and walking trails. The park entrance is dominated by the giant Perry Memorial Arch. There is a natural wildlife preserve on Fayerweather Island at the western end of the park. The island is accessible by crossing the breakwater rocks (watch your step!) and is also home to a historic lighthouse that guided ships into the harbor from 1823 to 1932. Beardsley Park boasts the Beardsley Zoo and provides an ideal spot for strolls as well as the chance to see some exotic animals.
Get Downtown: The in-the-process-of-being-revitalized downtown Bridgeport features several classic restaurants, including Ralph ’n’ Rich’s, an old-school Italian restaurant with big portions and flavors, and the celebrated Joseph’s Steakhouse. There are also a number of historic attractions, including the Arcade Mall (built in 1840, it is one of the last remaining malls of its time period) and the Barnum Museum, a fascinating ode to the larger-than-life persona of Bridgeport’s one-time mayor and the greatest showman on Earth, P.T. Barnum.
Bigger Is Better: Speaking of larger than life, you haven’t seen a superstore until you stop at Bass Pro Shops. This outdoor store has the feel of an amusement park, complete with a bowling alley, bar and restaurant, archery range, fish aquarium and a whole lot of other things we don’t have space to list. Other “big” attractions in Bridgeport include the 10,000-seat Webster Arena, the perfect place to see a concert. It’s built alongside The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, a 5,300-seat baseball stadium that is home to the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Drink To That: After checking out some of these attractions, you’ll likely want to unwind with a drink. There are many options. Aspetuck Brew Lab in Black Rock is a relatively new brewery with a cool taproom. It’s not the only brewery in town. Just off I-95, Brewport is a sprawling brewpub that, in addition to beer, offers New Haven-style pizza. If you still haven’t had enough beer, cross the border to Stratford where you can stop by Two Roads Brewing Co., the state’s largest brewery. If beer is not your drink of choice, Bridgeport is also home to the Asylum Distillery, which produces a Connecticut gin and vodka. | Erik Ofgang |