20 Things To Do In Hartford CT

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Although Hartford is Connecticut’s capital, the city is overshadowed by some of the more well-known New England cities. It was nicknamed the ‘Insurance Capital of the World’ because, during the 19th century, numerous insurance companies set up their headquarters. As it’s a business hub, it’s not surprising Hartford has excellent eateries and bars.

Hartford’s small size makes it an ideal long-weekend vacation spot. There are quite a few things to do in Hartford that will make a visit worth your while, including literary museums, sciences centres and public parks. So whether you are a book lover, solo traveller or visiting with kids, there is always something to do in Hartford. Here are 20 things to do in Hartford, Connecticut.

Hartford, Connecticut

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20 Things To Do In Hartford, CT

1- Visit The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

things to do in hartford ct wadsworth athaneum external building
One of the most popular things to do in Hartford CT is to spend some time at the Wadsworth Athaneum.

One of the most popular things to do in Hartford is to explore the art at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum.

This is a fantastic Hartford attraction for art lovers and it also houses one of the best American art collections in the country.

Wadsworth Atheneum is the USA’s oldest free public museum and the perfect place to visit if you’re on a tight budget.

You’ll find over 50,000 pieces of art inside an imposing Gothic building, including a vast collection of European art, from Baroque paintings to works by Salvador Dalí.

One of the museum’s main features is the European Decorative Arts collection, which houses over 7,000 objects.

Wadsworth Atheneum should be high on your list if you are into art or want a great indoor activity.

Wadsworth Atheneum is at 600 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103.

2- Visit The Mark Twain House & Museum

things to do in hartford ct this weekend Mark Twain house
Visiting Mark Twain’s former home is one of the top things to do for literary fans.

Celebrated American author Mark Twain lived and worked in Hartford between 1874 and 1891.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is where Mark Twain and his family lived.

In this very house, Twain wrote some of his most famous works, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

The Victorian Gothic style house has been refurbished to reflect the Twain era and is an attraction for both literary lovers and architects.

Joining a guided tour will allow you learn more about Mark Twain and to get the most out of your visit.

There are 19 rooms and several rotating exhibits that allow visitors to learn about Twain’s life and literature.

Mark Twain House & Museum is at 351 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105.

3- Get Hands-On At Connecticut Science Center

Exploring the Connecticut Science Center is one of the best things to do in Hartford with kids.

This science centre is hands-on and you can easily spend half a day exploring the exhibits and activities.

Some exhibits recreate the feeling of a hurricane, and there is the opportunity to make and predict your own weather forecasts.

There is an ‘Exploring Space’ gallery for those interested in space, which allows visitors to see rocks from the moon and craters and even learn about black holes.

As well as planetary fun, there are also exhibitions about art, music and of course plenty about other elements of science.

Connecticut Science Center is at 250 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103.

4- Discover History At Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

If you’ve read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ you will want to check out this Hartford attraction, but even if you are new to Harriet’s work, it’s an interesting place to visit.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a 19th-century American author best known for her book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.

The Harriet Beecher Stower Center is located in the house that Harriet lived in between 1873 and 1896.

This house is close to fellow writer Mark Twain’s old home.

This cottage-style house is now dedicated to showcasing her life and works.

There are original objects from Harriet’s family as well as letters she wrote and other writing artifacts inside.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is at 77 Forest St, Hartford, CT 06105.

5- Admire The Architecture Of Old State House

Along with the State Capitol building, the Old State House is one of the most recognisable of Hartford’s landmarks.

The Old State House is a U.S. National Historic Landmark and well worth a visit when exploring Hartford.

The building was completed in 1796 and today is managed by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Inside, you can find a variety of exhibits, including the Joseph Steward Museum of Curiosities and various rooms that reflect the period in which the State House was built.

Old State House is at 800 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103.

6- Tour Bushnell Memorial Park

things to do in west hartford ct blue sky in autumn
One of the poignant things to do in Hartford is to stand beneath the brownstone Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch was dedicated to the lives lost during the Civil War.

Escape busy Hartford life at Bushnell Park, which is an inner-city oasis and the first public park in the United States paid for solely by public funding.

The park is named after David Bushnell, a Connecticut inventor.

With 37 acres (15 ha), there is a lot to explore right next to the grounds of the Capitol Building.

There are statues and memorials within the park honouring Civil War fighters and a gallery.

A highlight is the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch erected in honour of the 400 soldiers who lost their lives for the Union and the 4000 Hartford citizens who served during the Civil War.

Ride the 1914 Stein and Goldstein carousel, which is one of only three such carousels operating today.

Bushnell Memorial Park is at 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut 06106.

7- Explore The Connecticut State Capitol

things to do in hartford, ct Connecticut State Capitol and blue sky
Admiring the architecture of the Connecticut State Capitol is one of the top things to do in Hartford, ct.

Overlooking Bushnell Memorial on top of Capitol Hill is the State Capital building, which was constructed in 1879.

It’s home to the State Senate Chamber, the Hall of the State House of Representatives and other offices.

This National Historic Landmark is worth visiting either on a guided or self-guided tour of the building.

See the Hall of Flags, the Connecticut Hall of Fame and, if you arrive when there is a General Assembly, you can even watch from the public galleries.

Connecticut State Capitol is at 210 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106.

8- Discover The Museum of Connecticut History

things to do in hartford ct green highway sign with the words 'Hartford straight ahead'
Looking for things to do in Hartford, CT? These 20 will get you started.

History buffs and those interested in museums should spend some time at the Museum of Connecticut History.

The museum focuses on Connecticut’s governmental, military, and industrial history.

Here you can learn about the role Connecticut played in the development of the United States.

There are a variety of exhibits inside, including weaponry, historical objects, the Royal Charter and an array of flags.

Admission to this museum is free, so it’s another great Hartford activity to enjoy if you are on a budget.

Museum of Connecticut History is at 231 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106.

things to do in hartford connecticut
The Harford Connecticut city skyline as seen from Bushnell Park.

Located in Bushnell Park, the Pump House Gallery is a working Tudor-style pump house and a small gallery worth popping into if you’re in Bushnell Park.

The Pump House Gallery houses various changing exhibitions, including those of local Connecticut artists.

Pump House Gallery is in Bushnell Park, Hartford.

10- Watch A Show At Hartford Stage

things to do in downtown hartford sunset in autumn
One of the cool things to do in Hartford is to admire the downtown skyline from Charter Oak Landing at sunset.

Hartford Stage is an award-winning theatre that won a Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. So dress up and head out to enjoy a show in the evening.

The theatre was formed in a converted grocery shop and has become an important cultural centre in New England.

Hartford Stage has premiered several Broadway shows, including A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and numerous theatrical celebrities have appeared on their stage.

Hartford Stage is at 50 Church St, Hartford, CT 06103.

11- Cruise The Connecticut River

things to do in hartford, ct nightlife downtown skyline at night
Going on a river cruise is another thing to do in Hartford because you’ll be able to admire the skyline of downtown.

The Connecticut River is 410 miles (660km) long and runs through Hartford before passing into the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, New York.

There are many different options for taking a river cruise along the Connecticut River.

Lady Katharine Cruises offer both themed and relaxing river cruises.

Choose from a dinner cruise, fall foliage tour, or an eventful murder mystery event and you can even book a private charter boat.

For an eco-friendly option, choose a RiverQuest river cruise. Despite being a 64-foot (19 m) vessel, the RiverQuest boat doesn’t give off fumes and has an environmentally friendly design.

12- Visit the Cathedral of St. Joseph

Visiting the Cathedral of St. Joseph is another of Hartford’s top free things to do.

This cathedral is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a recognisable landmark of the city.

The cathedral’s tower stands 284 ft (87 m) high, and inside, you’ll find Connecticut’s largest pipe organ and 70, 14-foot stained-glass windows made in France.

The Cathedral of St. Joseph is at 140 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105.

13- Smell The Roses In Elizabeth Park

things to do in hartford connecticut Elizabeth Park
Wandering around Elizabeth Park is one of the relaxing things to do in Hartford CT.

Elizabeth Park has 102 acres (41 ha) of land to explore and discover.

Charles M. Pond donated the land to Hartford in 1894, with the one request that the park was named after his wife, Elizabeth.

One of the best parts of the park you have to check out is Rose Garden, the oldest municipal rose garden in the USA.

The garden is covered in more than 15,000 rose bushes with 800 varieties of roses.

As well as the rose garden, there are also greenhouses to explore, a pond, and tennis courts.

It’s the perfect place to set up for a lunchtime picnic.

Elizabeth Park Conservancy is at 1561 Asylum Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117.

14- Admire Art At Real Art Ways

If you’re keen to experience more culture, art and theatre, head to the Real Art Ways.

The non-profit art space houses an array of artists, events and exhibitions.

There’s an independent theatre, art exhibitions and even creative cocktail hours.

Their calendar is forever growing and these exhibitions change regularly.

As well as classic and independent movies being shown at their theatre, many local and regional artists showcase their work in the visual arts centre.

If you’re into art and culture, you have to check out this unique Hartford destination.

Real Art Ways is at 56 Arbor St, Hartford, CT 06106.

15- Relax At Mortensen Riverfront Plaza

fun things to do in hartford
Skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut from above Charter Oak Landing at sunset.

Mortensen Riverfront Plaza is a relaxing daytime or nighttime destination.

During the day, you’ll see people relaxing, and at night the lights are turned on, and there’s a hive of activity.

Practice yoga, participate in ‘Get Fit for Free’ on Tuesday nights, join a Zumba class and learn the basics of Qi Gong.

In the evening, there are performances, singing, dancing, orchestras, food trucks, and an overall fabulously vibrant atmosphere.

Mortensen Riverfront Plaza is at 300 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103.

16- Watch A Performace At Bushnell Performing Arts Center

Bushnell Performing Arts Center was named in honour of 19th-century intellectual Horace Bushnell and was a project of his daughter Dotha Bushnell Hillyer.

The centre was completed in 1930, during the Great Depression, as a memorial to her father and has several theatres.

It’s where the Hartford Symphony Orchestra performs and there are also educational community outreach programs held here.

Bushnell Performing Arts Center is at 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut.

17- Step Back Into History At Butler-McCook Homestead

The 1782 Butler-McCook Homestead was the home to four generations of the Butler-McCook family and has a beautiful Victorian garden that dates back to 1865.

You can go on a guided tour of the homestead or wander around admiring the displays of toys, colonial furniture and paintings.

Butler-McCook Homestead is at 396 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06103.

18- Discover The Isham-Terry House

Visiting Isham-Terry House will allow you to peek into Hartford’s upper-class lifestyles.

The Italianate style 15-room mansion was built in 1854 and became the home of Dr Oliver Isham in 1896.

You can tour the home to see what life was like during the 1800s while admiring stained-glass windows, antique furniture and rare books.

Isham-Terry House is at 211 High Street, Hartford, Connecticut 06103.

19- Explore Coltsville National Historical Park

things to do in hartford this weekend blue onion dome
The Colt Building was designed in Arabesque style and was a manufacturing centre for Colt guns.

Discover the secrets behind the Colt revolver empire at Coltsville National Historical Park.

Colonel Samuel Colt created the Colt revolver, which could shoot six bullets without reloading.

Colt was born in Hartford in 1814 and built his factory on the banks of the Connecticut River. He travelled the world demonstrating his firearms and presented personalised Colts to heads of states.

The blue onion-shaped dome on top of what was Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company has been a landmark in Hartford since 1855.

Coltsville National Historical Park is at 120 Huyshope Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106.

20- Enjoy A Delicious Meal

Hartford has no shortage of excellent eateries and bars. Here are a few:

Trumbull Kitchen

This eclectic and chic eatery is an excellent location for dinner and perfect for large groups of friends.

They have everything from burgers to Chinese food, Italian to New American cuisine.

This hip joint is perfect also for those with dietary needs as they offer a variety of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes.

Tuck into Japanese tempura, Mexican tacos, or southern BBQ pulled pork there is something for every taste at Trumbull Kitchen.

Bin 288 Wine Bar & Gastro Pub

Bin 288 is a great place to relax in the evening and enjoy good food and excellent wine.

This place is trendy, yet cosy and serves up a diverse selection of wines.

There are more than 45 wines to choose from by the glass and many more wines by the bottle.

Bin 288 pride itself on being a scratch kitchen, meaning everything from its dressings to dessert sauces are made entirely from scratch.

The menu is eclectic, representing the chef and owners’ favourite foods from around the world.

Feng Chophouse

If you love Japanese food, head to Feng Chophouse for Japanese delights, including sushi and sashimi.

Their presentation is incredible, and the hospitality is equally as inviting.

Opt for the tasting menu if you cannot decide what to have from their extensive menu, as the 20-item tasting menu, ‘Omakase’, allows you to taste the chef’s favourite dishes.

Sorella

An excellent lunch or dinner spot, Sorella is an Italian style restaurant on Main Street, and it’s perfect for dining with friends or family.

They serve up classic Italian dishes, including pastas and wood-fired pizza. Both the food and the service at Sorella’s is exceptional.

Enjoy fresh crispy homemade bread for a starter, and then tuck into some of their delicious mains.

Carbone’s Restaurant

This Italian restaurant is a top spot for a celebration or a date night.

Located in Hartford’s Southend, this restaurant originally opened in 1938 and is a family-owned joint.

Aside from delicious Italian classics, Carbone also serves incredible desserts that you must save room for.

Carbone’s has got those sweet-toothed diners covered, from New York Style Cheesecake to Chocolate Turtle Lava Cake and Tiramisu.

They also have two other locations at Carbone’s Kitchen and Carbone’s Prime.

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!