“Explore Fairfield County” is an informational series that provides a glimpse into the wonderful towns and cities in Fairfield County. Fairfield County is diverse in that it includes big cities, small suburbs, beaches, farms, and busy highways. It covers a large geographic area and, because of this, it has a lot to offer families! To help you get the most out of Fairfield County, our contributors have shared the top things they love about each local area. To read more in this series, click here.
The historic town of Bethel lies 70 miles north of New York City in the northern part of Fairfield County. It is close enough for many to travel into New York City or lower Fairfield County via train or car for work, yet it remains a quintessential idyllic New England town. Downtown Bethel is filled with boutique shops and delicious foods for everyone to enjoy. Even high schoolers and middle schoolers love to walk downtown when school lets out on a nice day.
With a population of approximately 19,000, there is just one public school system with two elementary (K-2), a 3-5 grade, middle (6-8), and one high school – all located in one large educational park. There is also a K-8 program at the local St Mary’s church. Bethel may be the most famous for being the birthplace of P.T Barnum, founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. A statue in his honor resides beside the library, and the center of town is named P.T. Barnum Square. Bethel has much to offer, including great restaurants, shopping, and beautiful scenery. Here are some of the local’s favorites.
Shopping in Bethel
You can find Byrd’s Books on the main strip of Greenwood Avenue. It always has the latest releases, and its helpful staff will not only help you to find everything you want and need, but they will order you anything they don’t have on hand and get it delivered as soon as possible. They also have a weekly story time and host a “Where’s Waldo” scavenger hunt around town every summer. As a side note, Bethel also has a slew of used bookstores.
Find the latest and most fun toys, from the classics you grew up with to the newest toys for your kids to grow up with. They offer a unique selection of quality toys, including crafts, games, dolls, science projects, building kits, pretend play, puzzles, toys for infants, educational, special needs, and developmental toys.
If you’re looking for the perfect Pottery Barn-esque gift of home decor and unique local finds, you definitely want to stop by Gather. From delicious-smelling candles to adorable baby outfits, you’re sure to find something you’ll love. This quaint little shop is located on the main strip in an old Victorian home. Its warm and inviting atmosphere will have you admiring this beautifully designed space, and you won’t be able to walk away without a special find.
Restaurants in Bethel
Family-owned and a town favorite you are sure to love! This Greek-style pizza is a recipe passed down through generations and is one of a kind. Their menu offers a variety of tasty options, truly something for everyone. With warm and friendly service, you’ll enjoy it year-round. Open-air seating is fun in the warmer months and offers the perfect view for the annual Christmas tree lighting in November.
Sycamore has been serving up food since 1948. This 50’s-style diner offers a great menu from burgers to their amazing homemade root beer. It is, by far, our favorite breakfast place. Park directly out front and flip on your lights, and you’ll get some old-fashioned curb service. In the summer, The Sycamore hosts car shows on the weekends. If you’re looking for a ’57 Chevy, this is the place for you to be.
Outdoor Activities in Bethel
Who doesn’t love picking their own apples or eating homemade cider donuts every fall? We are lucky to have this local orchard and store (also the place to pick your own pumpkins). Inside, you can purchase their goodies (bonus points if you can get there when they come right out of the oven) and jarred varieties of jams, jellies, sauces, and other baked goods from local businesses. And don’t forget to pre-order your holiday pies before they close the shop for the season!
This amazing property offers incredible scenery of open fields and trails for walking, hiking, biking, and even riding horseback. Families enjoy canoeing, archery for deer hunting, letting their dogs swim in the ponds, and fishing. Spend the day or just an hour, taking in the fresh air and gorgeous surroundings as you participate in your favorite activities.