For most travelers approaching from the south and west, this area is the gateway to New England. Also known as "The Gold Coast," the Fairfield County shoreline stretching along Long Island Sound is the most affluent section of the nation's most affluent state. It's a residential refuge for many of New York City's movers and shakers, as well as a haven for Fortune 500 companies and their executives.

GREENWICH

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Welcome to Fairfield County, which Connecticut Yankees consider an extension of metropolitan New York rather than part of New England. The bluebloods of Greenwich couldn't care less. They're quite content living in the best of both worlds. Corporate chieftains work at head offices here or in Stamford or commute to Manhattan from large estates, some of which face Long Island Sound and others luxuriating in the bucolic "back country." A novel sight is the uniformed policemen directing traffic at busy intersections along Greenwich Avenue, the main shopping street that's the local version of Rodeo Drive.
The Bruce Museum at 1 Museum Drive is a family-oriented arts and science museum. Fifteen miles of nature trails are available at the Audubon Center in Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, a 522-acre wildlife sanctuary.

Bush-Holley Historic Site, 29 Strickland Ave. This treasured 1732 saltbox in the Cos Cob section became a boarding house for writers and artists attracted to Connecticut's first art colony. From 1890 to 1920 at the Holley boarding house, more than 200 art students studied with leading American Impressionists Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir and Theodore Robinson. The collection of fine early American furniture and American Impressionist art make this one of the finest historic house museums in New England. A visitor center and additional galleries are located in an 1805 storehouse. (203) 869-6899. Open March-December, Wednesday-Sunday noon to 4. January-February, Saturday and Sunday noon to 4. Adults, $6.

>> Greenwich Lodging Suggestions

Homestead Inn, 420 Field Point Rd., Greenwich. (203) 869-7500

Stanton House Inn, 76 Maple Ave., Greenwich. (203) 869-2110

>> Greenwich Dining Suggestions

Restaurant Jean-Louis, 61 Lewis St., Greenwich. (203) 622-8450. Click here to read capsule review.

Thomas Henkelmann, 420 Field Point Road, Greenwich. (203) 869-7500. Click here to read capsule review.

Rebeccas, 265 Glenville Road, Greenwich. (203) 532-9270. Click here to read capsule review.

Valbella's Restaurant, 1309 East Putnam Ave., Greenwich. (203) 637-1155. Click here to read capsule review.

Le Figaro, 372 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich. (203) 622-0018. Click here to read capsule review.

Elm Street Oyster House, 11 West Elm St., Greenwich. (203) 629-5795. Click here to read capsule review.

Terra Ristorante, 11 West Elm Street., Greenwich. (203) 629-5795. Click here to read capsule review.

Mediterraneo, 366 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich. (203) 629-4747. Click here to read capsule review.

STAMFORD

As far as Fairfield County suburbanites are concerned, Stamford is "the city" ┬ľand they don't mean New York. High-rise downtown Stamford, headquarters of more Fortune 500 companies than any city other than New York, is where the Gold Coast glitters most. The Whitney Museum of American Art maintains its only branch outside New York at 400 Atlantic St. Leading New York stores anchor the Stamford Town Center, New England's most fashionable downtown shopping mall. Bargain hunters prefer the United House Wrecking Co., a tourist attraction in itself, with five acres of antiques, relics, nostalgia and junk at 535 Hope St. Stamford is also where residents head for entertainment, at the Rich Forum, the Palace Theatre and the Stamford Center for the Arts.