Wondering what to do in Hartford, CT? There’s plenty that makes it special.
Take it from one of America’s favorite authors. After spending only a few days in Connecticut’s capital city, Mark Twain declared in a letter to a San Francisco newspaper, “Of all the beautiful towns, it has been my fortune to see this is the chief.” Twain went on to move to Hartford with his family and write some of his most famous works while living there including “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Prince and the Pauper.”
Today, you can tour Twain’s home at the Mark Twain House and Museum. As one of the nation’s oldest cities, Hartford is full of historic places to visit. In addition to the Mark Twain House, there’s also the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the country’s oldest art museum, and Bushnell Park, its oldest public park.
But the city nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World” isn’t all Colonial revival and historic landmarks; downtown Hartford is a New England metropolis, home to many insurance company headquarters and unique restaurants, shops, theaters and museums.
From picturesque foliage to city skylines, Hartford has it all. Here’s our list of things to do in Hartford, CT.
Explore and learn
Besides the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art – which is worth a visit, considering it holds about 50,000 works of art that span 5,000 years – another museum to think about is the Museum of Connecticut History. Get a glimpse of Colonial Connecticut through historical documents, military paraphernalia and other relics of Connecticut’s political and economic history.
For a more hands-on experience, there’s the Connecticut Science Center, perfect for families with children of all ages. Learn about scientific exploration of the deep sea, immerse yourself in the Butterfly Encounter, dig for fossils, get a can’t-miss view of the Connecticut River at the Overlook Balcony and more.
Take a tour of Connecticut’s Old State House, where you can see the restored legislative chambers. Don’t leave without checking out the hidden gem upstairs: The Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities, a collection of natural wonders and oddities, like a two-headed calf.
Stay for a show
Check out what’s playing at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center or Hartford Stage. Both theaters regularly put on productions and host events, so there’s no shortage of fun to be had.
Real Art Ways is an organization dedicated to bringing contemporary artwork to the community through exhibitions, programs and events. Check out the website to see what’s going on.
Grab a bite to eat
Looking for authentic barbecue to fill your belly? Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ claims to serve the best barbecue in Connecticut. With a menu of delicious Kansas-city style barbecue delicacies like smoked baby back ribs, pulled pork and the bear attack – cornbread topped with mac and cheese and your choice of meat – you might not have room for dessert.
Try locally-sourced cuisine at Firebox, where you can support the community and enjoy a delicious, farm-to-table meal. For lunch, have a tavern burger with red onion marmalade on a brioche roll, or a hearty Firebox salad with grilled chicken and quinoa. For dinner, try “The Plate,” a vegetarian spicy tempura dish with lentil and quinoa “fried rice.”
Take it outdoors
Picnic at Bushnell Park and take a gander at the historic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Corning Fountain and the Spanish-American War Memorial. Enjoy ice skating on the pond in the winter and the Bushnell Park carousel on the weekends.
Elizabeth Park is the perfect place for an outdoor getaway, no matter the season. Walk through the nation’s oldest municipal rose garden or the beautiful wildflower trail, have a picnic, play some tennis or stop for a meal at the Pond House Cafe.
Stroll along the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza, which offers views of the Connecticut River and sometimes hosts events and concerts. Public cruise tours of the river are available in the warmer months.
Other things to do in Hartford, CT
Visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, right across from the Mark Twain House and Museum. The circa 1817 home of the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was meticulously restored in 2017. It holds exhibits, gardens and a research library.
Honor the memory of those who perished in the tragic fire at a Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus performance in 1944. The Hartford Circus Fire Memorial is located at the site of the fire, with the center plaque being right where the center of the circus tent was on that fateful day.
Pop on over to the campus at Trinity College, the second-oldest university in Connecticut, behind Yale University. The campus is open to the public; see the brilliant architecture along the Long Walk, visit the campus library and chapel, or just hang out on the quad.
What are your favorite things to do in Hartford, CT? Tell us in the comments below!
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