Above: Mullett is coming back to FTC Friday, November 23
If changing up your romantic routine means selecting a new category on Netflix, now is a good time to enliven your dates. We asked Fairfielders for ideas of dates that can start within a twenty-minute drive from Fairfield Town Hall—or the average length of time it takes for pizza delivery to arrive. These fun-loving locals helped us uncover, discover or revisit dozens of great date spots.
MUSIC AND DANCING
When Jess McManus needs to light a fire inside of her, she knows just where to go: Fairfield Theatre Company (FTC) and its Warehouse, home to some of the best music in the state. “I’ve been there hundreds of times. It’s a warm and friendly place. I’ve seen Trevor Hall, Dweezil Zappa, Ryan Montbleau…I am always surprised when I meet people and they tell me they’ve never been there. Seriously? What are you guys doing that you’ve never seen a show?”
Jess attends by herself, takes her parents, goes with girlfriends—mostly, though, she heads out with her husband, Mitch. “Even if my husband and I were not getting along when we got there,” she says with a laugh, “we’ll have a drink or two and, before you know it, we’ll be dancing and I’ll say, ‘Hey, I like you!’”
It’s certainly not the only place around for good music and dancing. Fairfielders report packing a picnic, a cocktail, bug spray and dancing shoes for free date-night fun in Westport at the Levitt Pavilion’s summer concerts. But as that’s open only in season, music lovers can find other venues open all year long. In Bridgeport, the Bijou, the Klein and Acoustic Café are big music draws. And, closer to home, old-school beer and shooting pool at the laidback Horseshoe Café in Southport pairs with open mic night on Mondays. On Nerd Trivia Tuesdays, Guinness flights and DJ music draw dating Fairfielders to Grace O’Malley’s.
New in town: The Ballroom DanceSport Center at Sportsplex, where, once the music starts,
your troubles disappear with each cha cha cha. Plus, little stirs passion more than Latin dancing. Our favorite: the Friday night ballroom dance “Practice Party” for $10. No partner needed.
LAUGH IT UP
Long-time partners in the romance department understand that sometimes all it takes to get the kindling going is sharing a good laugh. As it happens, live comedy is all the rage in and around Fairfield right now. Comics breeze in and out of FTC and the Quick Center fairly regularly, but it’s the Fairfield Comedy Club, in the curtained-off lobby of the Circle Inn, that brings comics to town every weekend. Bring a cooler (it’s BYOB), recruit your friends, call Uber. Also, Stress Factory Comedy Club on State Street in Bridgeport recently opened down the street from Harlan Haus Beer Hall, a loud and hopping German-style beer hall in the old People’s Bank building. Making friends is easy at its community tables.
MUST SEE SHOW:
Comedian Jessica Kirson, who has appearanced on The View, NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Jay Leno, brings her larger- than-life routine to the Penfield Pavilion on Sept. 27. This 16+, BYOB event is brought to you by the Fairfield Comedy Club and sponsored by Fairfield Parks and Rec. Tickets, $25, at fairfieldcomedyclub.com.
Nearly three years ago, Jaqueline and Richard Bush, who are originally from England, moved to Fairfield from Brooklyn. “I did a spreadsheet of every town from the Hudson and started researching, looking for a combination of good schools, commutable, affordable. But we needed that ‘magic’ thing,” Jaqueline says. “On the train on the way up people talked to me. On the main drag people talked to me. On the beach people talked to me. Everyone was so chatty and nice. Not one person ever said anything but, ‘You will love Fairfield.’ I said, ‘Well I need to get me some of that!’ We love it.”
Jaq’s get-togethers with her husband, friends and family are as active as they are varied. They pack lunches together at the food bank, create something fun at Hands On Pottery, drop in to help at Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport, hike at the Audubon trail and, in the summer, picnic at Lake Mohegan. (“The food is good there now!” she reports of the seasonal fare.) Richard travels far and wide in his work selling advertising for a blockchain start-up, and sometimes they don’t get around to having dinner until midnight, Jaq says. Their favorite place to reconnect is Barcelona Wine Bar. “You can stay there until 1 or 2 in the morning and they’re quite happy to serve you dinner.”
Their favorite place for a date is the beach. “It’s free and always there like a little secret place you have where you never get bored,” Jaq says. “If you’re having a date in the house, there’s always stuff to do. If you’re having a date in the restaurant, you have to behave in a certain way. On the beach, there’s no requirement to do or be anything. You can just sit and be still.”
She remembers one special night at Sasco Beach when she and Richard and their two children stayed up late, hunting for shells. Fairfield Pizza delivered them a pizza. (“I was astonished that they did this!” Jaq says.) They watched the sun set over Southport on one side, and watched a full moon rise behind the trees on Sasco Hill on the other side.
FOR FLORA FANATICS
Harwood Preserve: Discover wild blueberries (seasonal), ancient rock walls and wetlands along the wooden walkways. 700 Lancelot Rd.
Sasqua Wildflower Preserve: Observe wildflowers in bloom.
360 Westway Rd., across from the historic Pequot Library.
Old Hay Fields: This land is a reminder of the area’s farming roots, containing old hay fields, crabapple trees and more. Cedar Rd. and Morehouse Ln.
Aspetuck River Access: This small trail bordering Westport and Weston provides a great spot for recreational fishing along the Aspetuck River. 609 Westport Tpk.
Putnam & Rudkin Preserve: Equestrians can ride along this flat, wooded preserve, once used by onion farmers to take crops back to the Southport Harbor. Find it off of Queens Grant Dr.
Acorn Lane Upland Preserve: Runners and adventurous hikers can enjoy a scenic route in the heart of Fairfield. 500 Acorn Ln.
The Kirkpatricks say the beach buoys them. Some Sunday mornings they grab breakfast at the Firehouse Deli, then walk down to Penfield Beach “to just be in the moment with each other,” says Heather, a Key Largo native. Other times they rendezvous with friends and neighbors on their boats.
This cozy beach and boating vibe seems the strongest suggestion of all for our dating Fairfielders, whether it’s heading out to kayak together in the early morning or buying an egg and cheese at Jennings Beach and watching the fishermen cast their lines in the warmer months. Until the end of the season, suggestions run the gamut, from party-boat fishing with friends out of Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport, to cruising to Sheffield Island in Norwalk with the kids, to packing a picnic with a mate aboard the Maritime Aquarium’s electric powered R/V Spirit of the Sound in Norwalk.
People are out on the Sound rowing, boating, water skiing. It’s good quality time together,” Heather says, “time to be in the moment and to appreciate each other.” That, she believes, is at the heart of every good date.
Yellow – COLDPLAY
Love on the Weekend – JOHN MAYER
The Night We Met – LORD HURON
Skinny Love – BON IVER
Vincent and Nicole Rusciano appreciate music and a fancy dinner like many of us do, but they don’t need one to make it a date. “Sometimes it’s nice to go the farmers’ market (in-season Sundays at the Gazebo), grab some things and go home to make dinner. Prepping together is very relaxing,” says Vincent, a former Manhattanite who owns a real estate holding company. The couple prefer to experience new things on their dates. Their favorites have included painting at Muse Paintbar in South Norwalk and ferry rides from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson. (The couple lobbied heavily to include wine-tasting at Jones Family Farms in Shelton as a favorite date spot, though that exceeded our twenty-minute driving limit.)
“I tell everyone that Fairfield is my favorite place around, with the energy of all the young people in the area, the restaurants, the ease of getting around,” Vincent says. While he and Nicole can easily name a dozen of their favorite restaurants in and around town, the pair did name one spot that no one else had: HomeGoods in Westport, where they regularly hunt for treasures together.
Coming up on their list of potential experiences: Glass-blowing together at Hot Spot Glass Studio, conquering the Panic Room adventure game in Norwalk, rock-climbing at Rock Climb Fairfield in the Sportsplex, navigating the Adventure Park and Zip Line at the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport.