9 Best Things to Do in Hartford, Connecticut

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Hartford is the capital of Connecticut, and it’s one of the oldest cities in America with a population of a little over 123,000 today. This is an iconic New England destination for your next Northeast road trip or family-friendly getaway spot for the summer. There are some excellent historical sites and attractions here, as well as museums, green spaces, breweries, and restaurants. So, to help you make the most of your next stop in Hartford, here’s our list of top things to do here!

Connecticut State Capitol
Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, Connecticut during autumn

Connecticut State Capitol

Many people start their exploration of Hartford with a stop at the state capitol building and grounds. This is where the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives meet, and the building, a U.S. National historic Landmark, dates back to 1871. You can see historic artifacts on the main floor of the capitol building or take a self-guided tour or a guided tour to learn more about the state’s history. Self-guided tours are possible on weekdays between 8am and 5pm, and free one-hour guided tours are offered on weekdays at 9:15am, 10:15am, 11:15am, 12:15pm, and 1:15pm with a 2:15pm time available as well during July and August.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Family exploring the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

Another great place to visit during your time in Hartford is the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. This museums’ history dates back to its founding in 1842, and you’ll find many American and French Impressionist paintings here, as well as many modernist and contemporary works by artists. This is the largest art museum in the state and definitely worth a visit for all art lovers. The adult admission price is $15, students 18+ with school ID for $5, and youth under 18 are free. Some free admission days are offered on select days and times, and daily drop-in tours are free with museum admission.

Bushnell Park
Highrise buildings along Bushnell park downtown Hartford with blue sky

Bushnell Park

Hartford has no shortage of beautiful parks and green spaces, and one of the best ones here is Bushnell Park. This park is significant because it’s the oldest publicly funded U.S. park and a park that offered green space to city residences way before it was trendy. This large park was opened in 1861 and is made up of paths, a pond, trees, a fountain, carousel, and pavilion for live performances. Park tours begin in April, and tours of the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch and park tree tours begin in May. Special events that take place here include the International Vesak Celebration, the CT House Music Festival, Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival, and the Susan G. Komen Be More than Pink Walk.

Hartford Stage
The cast of The Age of Innocence on the Hartford Stage

Hartford Stage

The city of Hartford is also a great place to watch a live theater performance, and there are quite a few recommended venues around town. One excellent one is the Hartford Stage, which is on Church Street and features musicals, classic plays, and innovative premiers as well. There are usually six or so major productions per year and a couple summer productions too that range from traditional to provocative works. The venue also offers after-school programs for kids, classes for adults, and other engaging events for locals and visitors. Check the theater’s website to see what’s playing during your visit.

Mark Twain House and Museum
The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford

Mark Twain House and Museum

The Mark Twain House and Museum is also a must-visit spot in Hartford, Connecticut. This is where Samuel Longhorne Clemens (known as Mark Twain) lived in the late 1800s. This is a significant place because it’s where Twain wrote many of his famous books, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There are three floors and 25 rooms inside this Victorian-style house and also rotating and permanent exhibitions to explore. The museum is open daily from 9:30am to 5:30pm and admission is by guided tour only. Adult admission is $20, seniors are $18, and children ages six to 16 are $12.

City Steam Brewery Café
Perfectly poured pint at City Steam Brewery

City Steam Brewery Café

Nearly every city and town has a good number of breweries these days, and one of the best ones to visit in Hartford is City Steam. This is a large beer venue in a 1970s H.H. Richardson brownstone that is also home to the Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club in the basement. Highly recommended are the Naughty Nurse Amber Ale and the Autonomy IPA. The brewery is open from 11:30am to midnight Monday through Thursday, from 11;30am to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11am to 10pm on Sundays.

Mortensen Riverfront Plaza

Mortensen Riverfront Plaza

Riverfronts are always fun places to walk and explore in new cities, and Hartford has the Mortensen Riverfront Plaza for this. The plaza is part of a riverfront park system and offers grassy terraces and performance space for live events. You’ll often see people exercising on the stairs of the plaza and just sitting on the stairs to relax and look out over the river to see the boats. Get active on the walking trails, go on a boat tour to see the city from the water, or join in the fun at a local festival held at Mortensen Riverfront Plaza.

Connecticut Science Center
Hartford, Connecticut featuring the Connecticut Science Center

Connecticut Science Center

Another great museum to check out in Hartford is the Connecticut Science Center. This museum is an impressive nine stories tall and has a theater in this 154,000-square-foot facility. There are lots of family-friendly exhibits here that allow kids and parents to learn about space, health, and the local environment. Permanent exhibits include Forces in Motion, Sight and Sound, and KidSpace. General admission for youth age three to 17 is $16.95 and for adults is $23.95.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Dining room at Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an author, activist, and abolitionist who lived in the 1800s and wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When you’re in Hartford, you can visit the house that she lived in during her final years of life, a two-story brick home that’s located conveniently near the Mark Twain House. Inside you can learn more about this revolutionary woman and find your own inspiration. You can stop by to check it out between noon to 5pm on Sundays or between 9:30am to 5pm any other day. Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, and $10 for kids ages five to 16.

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