Ticks, schmicks. Spend five minutes here, and you won’t be thinking about infectious arachnids. Instead, you’ll be thinking: How can I fit that giant bronze frog sculpture into my trunk? This picture-perfect coastal town of 7,500 is chockablock with art. Located on the east bank of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, just off Interstate 95, Old Lyme is about two hours south of Boston. Beginning in the late 1800s, Old Lyme was an arts colony, centered on the emerging American Impressionism movement. Much of the credit goes to Florence Griswold, who took in boarders to keep her family home afloat. One of her guests in summer 1899 was Henry Ward Ranger, a New York artist who helped turn Griswold’s late-Georgian home into a lively zone of artists, artwork, and artistic temperament. Docents share the colorful details as you tour the home, now part of the Florence Griswold Museum. Visitors quickly discover that the Griswold is just the tip of the art-berg.
The Old Lyme Inn (85 Lyme St., 860-434-2600, www.oldlyme
inn.com, rates from $265) has refurbished eight of its 13 guest rooms, with such modern touches as heated bathroom floors. Each room is different, but all are elegantly furnished with antiques, custom-designed pieces, and local artwork. The inn is home to a fine dining restaurant, open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Sunday, and Sunday brunch. Just down the street, the nine-room, 18th-century Bee & Thistle Inn and Spa (100 Lyme St., 860-434-1667, www.beeandthistleinn.com, rates from $187) is decorated with lots of Victorian touches. A massage room offers treatments by Vitality Spa. The inn has two sitting rooms, a bar, and a restaurant, the Chestnut Grille, open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday.
For breakfast or lunch, you can’t go wrong with the Morning Glory Cafe (11 Halls Road, 860-434-0480, www.mgc-oldlyme
.com, from $6.50). If the weather’s fine, sit outside on the patio alongside the Lieutenant River. Breakfast specials include a panini stuffed with scrambled eggs, prosciutto, basil, tomato, and feta ($7.50); for lunch, try the Laotian pho rice noodle bowl, a Yankee Magazine award winner. They make a hearty sandwich at the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe & Cafe (34 Lyme St., 860-434-6972, www.oldlymeicecream.com, from $5, cash only) but ice cream is their claim to fame. We followed a soccer team into this tiny place, and it was worth the wait; the house-made chocolate ice cream is superb. The Grill at the Old Lyme Inn (see above, entrees from $14) offers a seasonal menu of American comfort food with a twist, ably executed by chef Dennis Young, formerly of Biba. Current dinner entrees include Scottish salmon with French lentils, wasabi butter, and crisp radish salad ($24) and lobster sliders with herb mayonnaise and Greek orzo salad ($18). Meanwhile, at the Bee & Thistle Inn’s Chestnut Grille (see above, entrees from $22), chef Kristofer Rowe offers an enticing charcuterie plate ($15) and a popular pan-roasted Long Island duck breast ($29). In the lounge, the mac and cheese with bacon ($12) goes down well on a chilly night.
DURING THE DAY
The Florence Griswold Museum (96 Lyme St., 860-434-5542, www.florencegriswoldmuseum.org, adults $9) is a must-see, thanks to the Krieble Gallery, the gardens, and the Griswold House, which housed the Art Colony of Old Lyme. Upcoming shows at the Lyme Art Association (90 Lyme St., 860-434-7802, www.lymeartassociation.org) include the New England Landscape Invitational and a juried exhibition of the Society of Connecticut Sculptors. Set in an old general store, the Cooley Gallery (25 Lyme St., 860-434-8807, www.cooleygallery.com) displays works from the mid-19th to the 20th century. Also check out E.F. Watermelon (24 Lyme St., 860-434-1600, www.efwatermelon.com) for custom and antique jewelry, gemstones, glassware, and pottery. There’s a nifty zone of walking trails at the end of Library Lane. Look for the sign that reads “Town of Old Lyme Open Space” to find marked, woodsy trails lined with towering boulders. For an ocean walk with views of Long Island Sound, head to the shoreline off Hartford Street, where the beach colonies are eerily quiet in the offseason. The major shopping place nearby is Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets (www.premiumoutlets.com), about 10 minutes south on I-95. Besides the usual suspects, they offer names like Kate Spade and Le Creuset.
Night life is somewhat less than abundant. There’s live jazz on weekends at the Old Lyme Inn, where they’re building a fabulous music space, aspiring to be the premier jazz hot spot between Boston and New York. For more options, your best bet is to head to a nearby town like New London or Essex, or really splash out and hit the night life scene — 16 clubs — at the Mohegan Sun casino (1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, 888-226-7711, www.mohegansun.com.)