The thing about not knowing what’s in Bridgeport is we can always be surprised and delighted to learn about what’s in Bridgeport!
Such as the Bridgeport Art Trail (BAT). Who knew? I mean, besides the thousands of people who have known for years.
Remember SoHo in the ‘80s? When it was spacious and gritty and filled with artists? That’s sort of like how a section of Bridgeport is now. It’s scattered with extinct factories and buildings which are now homes to artist collectives, including a number of Westport and Weston artists.
13 years ago, to celebrate and promote this growing wellspring of creativity, the collectives conceived BAT. It’s a free multi-day event that includes just about everything possible. States Suzanne Kachmar, Executive Director of City Lights, “Each art place has its own character. The individual artist communities and entrepreneurs create their own schedule of activities.”
Bearing in mind there are over 50 sites, the NEST Arts Factory (begun by Weston resident Vic Mulaire) alone is offering cool events like art sale, glass-blowing demonstration, honey tasting, and belly dancing.
Then there’s a day-long BAT urban bike ride tour, family scavenger hunt, WPKN vinyl sale… I won’t list everything because a protracted list doesn’t make the most compelling reading.
Learning about the art trail made me wonder what else I didn’t know. I imagine we’re all familiar with the Beardsley Zoo, the Bluefish, the Discovery museum, etc. But here a few places of which are new to you:
Circus-man lived in Bridgeport for 40 years! He designed a whimsical museum, originally the Barnum Institute of Science and History, to house his collection of eccentricities, including a centaur skeleton and an unwrapped mummy.
820 Main Street
Mountain Grove Cemetery
If the mummy isn’t enough death for you, visit Mountain Grove Cemetery and Mausoleum for graves of P.T. Barnum, Tom Thumb, Neal Ball, and some notable others.
2675 North Avenue
Mermaid and Mer-Baby Sculpture
Restored in 2010, sculptor Gutzon Borglum - of Mount Rushmore fame - made this creepy statue of a sea nymph and her upset offspring for sewing machine heir Nathaniel Wheeler. The baby was modeled after Gutzon’s son, Lincoln, who completed the presidential peaks after his father passed away.
753 Fairfield Avenue
St. Margaret’s Shrine
This practicing church has a garden full of religious statues, including a re-make of Michelangelo’s Pieta. From reviews, I gather it’s sort of a Disneyland of sacred symbols, some “mysterious,” some… well, not exceedingly elegant but still fun to see, depending on who you ask.
2523 Park Avenue
The Cushing Center
This Center houses the Cushing Brain Tumor registry, a collection of over 2,200 human brain case studies in jars. You can view whole brain specimens, tumor specimens, microscopic slides, notes, journal excerpts and over 15,000 photographic negatives dating from the late 1800’s to 1936.
333 Cedar Street
Now that I’ve unearthed and promoted a bunch o’ borderline-disturbing destinations in Bridgeport, let’s focus on fun!
Stress Factory Comedy Club
You’ll need a laugh after all of those brains. Comedian Vinny Brand opened this casual fun factory/restaurant in 2018 and the line up is, reportedly, amazing.
167 State Street
Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater
Accessible from pretty much everywhere, the HHA is a new 5,700+ open-air concert hall that’s amazing and quietly attracting top-label talent.
500 Broad Street
Downtown Cabaret Theatre
A fun theatre for tribute acts, musicals, cabarets, and kids shows, DCT offers a lively line up of beloved entertainment (and open calls for auditions, if that’s your thing).
263 Golden Hill Street
Little Liberia - Mary and Eliza Freeman House
Little Liberia “began” in the early 1820s, when freed slaves created their own village. In its heyday it had black-owned businesses and homes, two churches, a library, and a four-story hotel for a black clientele. Today, only the Mary and Eliza Freeman House exists. market.
358-60 Main Street
Bloodroot Feminist Vegetarian Restaurant
This survivor of the feminist restaurant movement has been serving food in an activist atmosphere since 1977. The movement was a “way to establish a feminist community and enable women, historically barred from eating out without male escorts, access to public space.” Come prepared to serve yourself.
85 Ferris Street
An 75,000 sq ft shop of every conceivable antique, salvaged, and vintage item, including furniture, jewelry and, I don’t know, ladders, lightbulbs, brass door knobs and everything else you never thought you needed. Plan on staying a while.
1155 Railroad Avenue
Fifth State Distillery
Drink, anyone? Fifth State Distillery makes its own gin, vodka, and corn whiskey with ingredients from Pleasant View Farm in Somers, Connecticut. Enjoy a tour, a tasting, and a specialty cocktail.
259 Asylum Street
Gathering of the Vibes
Each June, thousands gather for four days of a music, arts, and camping festival on Seaside Park. Vibes has featured headline talent - Grateful Dead, Elvis Costello, Branford Marsalis - as well as extraordinary new talent each year.