Diving into Summer in Southwest Connecticut

Summer helps support Connecticut's tourism industry, which helps drive $17 billion in sales for businesses across the state.

Diving into Summer in Southwest Connecticut
The coast of southwest Connecticut is a huge draw for the state and local economies during the summer. (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

Summer is a time of relaxation, vacations, and enjoying the warmer weather, but it’s also an important season for the state, as it’s essential for tourism which helps drive the state’s economy. 

In 2022, a report from Tourism Economics found that tourism drives $17 billion in annual sales for businesses across the state. In addition, Governor Ned Lamont’s office reported this year that the state parks are some of Connecticut’s “largest tourism attractions” and they “fuel the outdoor recreation economy, which contributes $4.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.”

The state’s tourism website, CTvisit.com, had a “record 9.4 million visits,” in 2023, the office reported, up 32% from the previous year.

“Connecticut has so many beautiful outdoor recreation opportunities,” Lamont said at a “kickoff to summer” event held in May in Milford. “We are proud to be ranked the number one state in the country for hiking, with more than 2,000 miles of diverse trails in our beautiful state parks. Plentiful outdoor activity combined with an array of cultural marvels and exquisite dining, which includes the honor of hosting two James Beard Award finalists, make Connecticut an ideal place to visit this summer.”

Local Summer Impacts

In southwest Connecticut, local municipalities also rely on the boost that comes from the summer months. 

“Summer is undeniably Norwalk's peak season, bustling with activity in our downtown areas and along our coast,” Michelle Woods Matthews, Norwalk’s director of communications, said in a statement. “Boaters from across the region love going out along the Long Island Sound and visiting our waterfront restaurants.”

Woods Matthews also noted that throughout the summer the city has numerous events that draw people to Norwalk, including  Pride in the Park, Fourth of July Fireworks on July 3rd, the Norwalk Boat Show, the Norwalk Oyster Festival, the NICE Festival and various other events.

She highlighted the city’s marketing efforts through Visit Norwalk as a way to continue to encourage tourism to the city.

“To capitalize on this vibrant season, Visit Norwalk intensifies targeted marketing campaigns, strategically enticing visitors to our City,” she said. “While marketing efforts persist year-round, the summer months witness a concentrated surge, aligning with the abundance of experiences Norwalk has to offer during this season.”

For other communities, everyday tourism isn’t as much of a factor. Kesti Aysseh, the executive director of the Darien Chamber of Commerce said the town has “limited tourism,” but its “quality and top-rated shopping and restaurants do attract visitors from nearby towns.”

In addition, events, such as Darien’s Summer Sidewalk Sales, attract customers from around the region, Aysseh said.

“Our Sidewalk Sales consist of almost 50 local store fronts and vendors displaying their goods and services for shoppers to enjoy,” she said. “Bargains, deals and discounts are offered as some of the year's best and fun ways to spend a summer day strolling the beautiful streets of Darien.”

To help drive tourism to local communities, the state is also launching some efforts including an “inaugural oyster trail” this year, featuring multiple oyster farms, stores, and restaurants in our region as a way to promote the “best our state has to offer, ranging from farm-fresh to farm-to-table.”

Those stops include: 

Beach Season

Our region is home to dozens of local beaches, which attract visitors throughout the season. 

Check out the water quality grades of beaches across the region and learn more about how water quality is measured

Depending on the community, beach access could require purchasing a pass, while other communities, like Norwalk, allow residents to visit the beaches for free. See how to get beach access in your community. 

Summer Events in Southwest Connecticut

Here’s a look at some events and activities happening around southwest Connecticut throughout the summer.