Queen of the day trippers

Travel writer Stacy Lytwyn combs Connecticut for excursions that offer inspiration and refreshment, all within 24 hours.

The world of travel is a vast one at that, with some preferring to jet away or cruise the open waters to far-flung places for long-planned excursions, But a growing sector prefers an experience that is tried and true and can often be planned spontaneously. This is known as the day trip — ideal for families, couples and groups of friends alike, as these are usually more manageable.

In many cases, day trips can also be affordable alternatives to big-budget itineraries, especially if you employ the tips of author Stacy Lytwyn, a seasoned day-tripper and Fairfield native who has been at it for nearly 30 years.  Starting in 1993, when her youngest child was still an infant, this travel writer took to the open road, mostly throughout her home state of Connecticut, setting forth to cull the best of the best. And she’s still at it, now through her revamped website, aptly named sightseecrets.com.

Before internet browsing entered the space, Stacy wrote a comprehensive guide book, “Consummate Connecticut, Day Trips with Panache,” in which no corner of the Constitution State was left unturned.  Stacy’s goal was to highlight its many historic destinations, perfect for day-tripping.  Steeped in history, the state established the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut,” making it history’s first written constitution. Diminutive in size and often considered a “pass-through” state along the Northeast corridor, its seaside and rural communities nonetheless offer something for everyone.

“I was doing local before it became a craze,” Lytwyn tells me when we meet up at Shearwater Organic Coffee Roasters in Fairfield, a favorite stopover with a relaxed coffeehouse vibe and superior product.  It happens to be situated in a shopping plaza just off Boston Post Road and alongside another local hot spot, Milk Craft, an artisanal ice cream shop with Japanese-style, cold-crafted dairy treats, with another location in West Hartford.

A day trip destination to work in while in this neck of the woods in Fairfield County would be a stop at the Fairfield Museum and History Center:  It’s one of Lytwyn’s favorite go-tos.  Such a destination of discovery makes for memorable experiences that are educational as well as affordable, and it drives her explorations — pun intended.  With her relaunched website, Lytwyn hopes to offer deals that sweeten the deal and lure of local attractions, hence the reference to their online “VIP” concierge service — the acronym corresponding to “value in price.”

A self-proclaimed fan of historical statistics and art, Lytwyn says, “I live for art, architecture and purpose. That’s my mantra.” One possible suggested itinerary could include the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, a classic example of Gothic Revival architecture, set amid park-like grounds that the humorist and his family enjoyed all too briefly.  Pair this stop with a visit to the nearby Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, celebrating the abolitionist and author of the seminal “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  Also, in Hartford, the young and young at heart will delight in a visit to the Bushnell Park Carousel, a restored antique carousel with Wurlitzer organ and 48 hand-painted horses, dating from 1914. For art lovers, the  revamped Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art features 50,000 works dating from the Italian Baroque.

 The New London area is another favorite and the Lyman Allyn Art Museum — with its American collection and new permanent Gilded Age exhibit — is a “must-see,” Lytwyn told me. In northeastern Connecticut, Essex, Ivoryton and Old Saybrook combine easily. Her documented immersion into the Mystic area resulted in an exhaustive 90-page guidebook, available in a Kindle edition on Amazon.  Completely updated in early 2019, romance is the theme for her Mystic guide.

What makes for a successful journey, particularly if you are traveling with little ones, I ask.  Well, for one there is the need to calculate how much time you are willing to commit to — more time pleasure driving through the scenic landscape or shorter excursions of no more than 20 to 30 minutes to optimize time spent at attractions and interesting destinations, factoring in time for locally sought after eats and treats.  With the summer months upon us, families, couples and singles alike seek easy, relatively hassle-free day trips that can be just what you need to discover some of our local treasures.

Day trips should contain no more than two attractions, factoring in stops for meals and breaks, and, Lytwyn suggests ways to keep young children engaged in the car and during stops. Simple pleasures, such as a ball to toss around in a park during stops, go a long way to stave off boredom.  When her young children were along, she always made sure they would burn off some energy before heading to a more subdued locale such as a museum.

Travel for me is very personal, Lytwyn said.  She refers to the practice as “go and flow,” believing that the more flow you have, the easier it will be to go with the experience.  She believes that travel is a metaphor for life — waiting, traffic, inconveniences and delights, not always in equal measure, but they make for interesting stories. Indeed, experiential travel can have a healing effect.  What comes to mind in this space, I ask her. Without hesitation she tells me Simsbury, a visual treat for nature lovers.  

“For me, even traveling with children, after just one afternoon away, I felt recharged and refreshed,” Lytwyn tells me.  “We all need to have some breathe time. The day tripping life can be restorative.”

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