If you're looking for a quick getaway that combines gourmet food, art galleries and bars in a peaceful setting, take Metro-North to Norwalk, Connecticut.
This coastal town along the Long Island Sound is just one hour away and has been undergoing a design renaissance. Most of the action is happening in the SoNo (South of Norwalk) area.
In the 19th century, SoNo was a hub for oystering and the manufacturing of corsets and iron works. Today the neighborhood has retained its industrial vibe but the restored historic buildings are now home to the city's top attractions.
WHERE TO GO
Norwalk's biggest attraction is arguably the Maritime Aquarium (10 N. Water St., 203-852-0700, admission $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and youths ages 13-17 and $12.95 for children ages 3-12). Check out the sharks, lizards and jellyfish, and settle in with a bag of popcorn to watch "Humpback Whales" at its IMAX theater, the largest in Connecticut.
Head to Mathews Park to explore the Center for Contemporary Printmaking (299 West Ave., 203-899-7999) a non-profit studio that supports prints ranging from silkscreen to lithographs. The art is affordable and mostly in the $250-$500 range. Galerie Sono (123 Washington St., 203-831-8332) is a loft-like space showcasing contemporary artists like Hunt Slonem, whose works are in the Guggenheim's and Whitney's collections.
Ready to whip out the credit card? Pop into the new Simple (104 Washington St., 203-857-1873) which sells a well curated selection of womenswear, men's clothing and housewares from global brands. The look is casual cool -- think skinny jeans and drapey shirts. For decorate pieces, head to the Lillian August Outlet (85 Water Street, 203-838-0153), or browse for antiques both pricey and budget-friendly at the Fairfield County Antique and Design Center (19 Willard Rd., 203-826-8575). The collection ranges from antique French ceramics to classic Saarinen tulip tables.
WHERE TO EAT
There is no shortage of stylish restaurants in Norwalk, and the best are clustered in SoNo. The Spread (70 N. Main St., 203-939-1111) offers a mix of small plates that are perfect for sharing. Try the massaged kale salad with avocado and goat cheese, pork belly bites with rhubarb and grilled octopus served with chorizo. At Oishi (124 Washington St., 203-957-3888), warm up with a bowl of ramen or try the roasted Peking duck Asian slider. The Ginger Man (99 Washington St. #2, 203-354-0163) and Donovan's (138 Washington St., 203-354-9451) are perfect spots for a nightcap.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, there are two excellent options in town. The SoNo Baking Company and Café (101 Water St., 203-847-7666) sells bite-sized treats like mini cupcakes, while Knipschildt Chocolatier's Café Chocopologie (133 Washington St., 203-854-4754) offers truffles, exquisite pastries and a cinnamon and chipotle-spiced hot chocolate that's as thick as a melted chocolate bar.
WHERE TO STAY
SoNo is an easy day trip, but if you're looking to make a night of it, the newest place to stay in Norwalk is the EVEN Hotel (426 Main Ave., 203-846-9355, rates starting at $85/night), a new brand from IHG hotels that is a 15-minute Uber from SoNo, which doesn't have any hotels in the area itself. The focus is on health and wellness and stylish design at an affordable price. Each guest room has a cork-floored fitness area with a yoga mat, ball and resistance bands, and fitness videos are available on TV. The in-house restaurant, Cork & Kale, has healthy grab-and-go food as well as a small menu of made-to-order plates and smoothies.
It's easy to get to SoNo, especially if you don't have a car. Just take the Metro-North New Haven line to South Norwalk (about an hour from Grand Central Terminal) and you're within walking distance of all the attractions. Tickets are $15.25 one way peak, $11.50 one way off-peak.