Top 25 Things to Do in Hartford (Full Guide!)

Last Updated on June 6, 2022 by admin

As the capital of Connecticut, there are plenty of things to do while visiting Hartford. Hartford is the fourth largest city in the state. It was founded in 1635, so it’s also one of the oldest cities in the country. I lived in Connecticut for several years, and I really enjoyed exploring the state. In this post, we’re sharing 25 things to do while you’re in Hartford, Connecticut.

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About Hartford

As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Hartford contains a lot of historical sites. The city is home to the country’d oldest public art museum and the oldest publicly funded park. Hartford also has the oldest continuously-run newspaper (the Hartford Courant). 

Hartford is the world’s insurance capital, as there are over 100 companies that have their headquarters in Hartford.

The Connecticut River flows through the city, which makes it a very picturesque city!


How to Get to Hartford

 

If you’re flying to Connecticut, you’ll likely fly into Bradley International Airport (BDL). The airport is located about 15 miles north of Hartford, which is typically less than a 20-minute drive. You can book a private transfer to the city here if you need transportation from the airport.

If you’re traveling to Hartford by train, you can book your tickets to Hartford Union Station

Need a rental car? Use our link: Book cheap car rental in the U.S. at RentalCars.com 


25 Things to See in Hartford

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

77 Forest St, Hartford, CT 06105

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is dedicated to preserving Stowe’s Hartford home and her legacy. Harriet Beecher Stowe lived in the home from 1873 until she died in 1896. 

The center is open 3 days a week at the time of this writing. During the interactive tour, you’ll learn all about her life and her novel Uncle Tom’s CabinHer home, which she lived in for 23 years, is a National Historic Landmark. At the time of this writing, a general admission ticket cost $20. 

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is located right next to the Mark Twain House and Museum, so it’s very convenient to be able to visit both during the same day if possible.

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Mark Twain House and Museum

385 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105

Mark Twain house, things to do in Hartford Connecticut

The Mark Twain House and Museum will teach you all about the life and writing of author Mark Twain. He lived in the house from 1874 to 1891, and it was at this house that he wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

600 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art features a variety of art styles. The museum first opened in 1844, and it’s the oldest continuously-operating public art museum in the country. The museum’s building is on the US National Register of Historic Places.

The word “atheneum” was used in the 1800s to describe an institution with a gallery and library that was dedicated to history, literature, art, and science.

The museum contains over 50,000 works of art. The collections include Greek and Roman artifacts, Baroque paintings, Hudson River School landscapes, impressionist paintings, modern pieces, and much more.

At the time of this writing, an adult ticket costs $15. (Subject to change. Be sure to check their website for current ticket prices and schedules.)

Connecticut Science Center

250 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103

The Connecticut Science Center is a 9-story museum that contains over 165 exhibits! Some of the permanent exhibitions include an engineering lab, butterfly encounter, and forces in motion space.

The museum opened in 2009 and is a perfect spot to visit for families.

Connecticut State Capitol Building

210 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT

This marble and granite building is where the Connecticut General Assembly, the Connecticut State Senate, and the House of Representatives meet. The dome of the building is over 200 feet high!

The capitol building first opened in 1871, and it’s a National Historic Landmark.

You can enter the building and have a guided tour (with a reservation) or a self-guided tour. You can read more about tours here. The building is open to the public Monday through Friday, with the exception of any federal holidays. Guided tours are available from 9:15am to 1:15pm. Self-guided tours are available 8am through 5pm. For both tours, you’ll only be allowed to visit the first floor.

Elizabeth Park

1561 Asylum Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117

Elizabeth Park, things to do in Hartford Connecticut

Elizabeth Park is a gorgeous park located in West Hartford. Like many of the sites mentioned here, it’s also on the National Register of Historic Places.

The park contains formal gardens, lots of green spaces, and recreational facilities. It’s the perfect place to go for a picnic. As a few examples, there are rose gardens, a sunrise overlook, a rock garden, a tulip garden, a pond, and rustic bridges.

The park is open every day of the year and is free to the public.

Museum of Connecticut History

231 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106

The Museum of Connecticut History is dedicated to sharing the state’s government, industrial, and military history. The museum is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 10am to 4pm (subject to change, always check the website for current scheduling). The museum is housed within a historic building that was constructed in 1910. At the time of this writing, some of the exhibits include Connecticut Postcards, Freedom Trail Quilt Project, Governors of Connecticut, and Remembering World War I. 

Old State House

800 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103

The Old State House in Hartford is the country’s oldest state house. The building opened in 1796! As such, it’s a National Historic Landmark. The first governor to work in the state house was Oliver Wolcott, who was also one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. You can visit inside the building and learn all about its history. At the time of this writing, an adult ticket costs $8. 

Connecticut Historical Society

1 Elizabeth St, Hartford, CT 06105

If you’re interested in Connecticut’s rich history, you should definitely plan a visit to the Connecticut Historical Society, which has both a museum and a library. At the time of this writing, an adult admission ticket costs $12. Current exhibitions include Inn & Tavern Signs of Connecticut and Making Connecticut.

Bushnell Park and Bushnell Park Carousel

1 Jewell St, Hartford, CT 06103

Bushnell Park is a beautiful park located right in the heart of Hartford. The park contains a historic carousel that was built in 1914, making it over 100 years old! The park contains the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Arch, and there are even some limited tours of the arch if you’re interested. You’ll also see the Corning Fountain, which was built in 1899. The park contains numerous statues, as well as the Spanish-American War Memorial. Bushnell Park also is a gathering place for events, such as the Hartford Marathon and the summer concert series.

Ancient Burying Ground

60 Gold St, Hartford, CT 06103

The Ancient Burying Ground is a 1-minute walk away from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. It’s the oldest surviving historic site in Hartford. The cemetery operated from 1640 through 1815. There are numerous tombstones that are hundreds of years old, but they don’t represent everyone that was buried at the cemetery. In its earliest years, only extremely wealthy families could afford tombstones. Historians estimate that only 1 in 10 people buried in the cemetery have a tombstone. The cemetery is open and free to the public. At the time of this writing, its hours were from 8:30am to 5pm.

Mortenson Riverfront Plaza

300 Columbus Blvd, Hartford, CT 06103

The Mortenson Riverfront Plaza is a beautiful green urban space in downtown Hartford. The plaza is located right on the river front, and there’s seating for 2,500 people on the grassy terrace. The park has paved walkways and sculpture art. 

XL Center

1 Civic Center Plaza, Hartford, CT 06103

The XL Center is an arena located in downtown Hartford. It’s home to UConn’s basketball teams and it also hosts a variety of concerts and events. You can look at the current schedule here.

Dunkin’ Donuts Park

1214 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103

If you’re looking to watch a baseball game, head to Dunkin’ Donuts Park stadium. It’s home to the Hartford Yard Goats. The stadium was built recently (in 2017). You can read all about the stadium here.

Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts

166 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts hosts a variety of plays, musicals, and productions. The theater was built in 1930 and has been a cultural hub for the city. Check out their website here for current productions. 

Butler McCook House & Garden

396 Main St, Hartford, CT 06103

The Butler McCook House & Garden is the only remaining home that’s still on Hartford’s Main Street that was built in the 18th century. You can tour the home with an advanced reservation. (See their website for booking details.)

Isham-Terry House

211 High Street, Hartford, CT 06103

The Isham-Terry House is another example of a historic Hartford home. You can tour the home with an advanced reservation. (See their website for booking details.) The home was built in 1854 and has 15 rooms. The home contains hand-painted walls, gilt mirrors, stained glass windows, and much of its original fixtures.

Bulkeley Bridge

East Hartford

The Bulkeley Bridge was built in 1908 and spans across the Connecticut River. The bridge is comprised of numerous stone arches.

City Place I

185 Asylum Street, Hartford, CT

City Place I is a 38-story skyscraper in downtown Hartford. It’s the tallest building in the state of Connecticut. 

Connecticut State Library

231 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106

The Connecticut State Library is located directly across from the Connecticut State Capitol building. At the time of this writing, the library is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10am until 2pm. (Be sure to check current schedule here.)

Polish National Home of Hartford

60 Charter Oak Ave, Hartford, CT 06106

The Polish National Home of Hartford is an authentic Polish tavern that was built in the 1930s. Their menu contains Polish favorites like pierogis, kielbasa, and stuffed cabbage.

University of Hartford

200 Bloomfield Ave West Hartford, CT

If you’re interested in checking out the University of Hartford campus, you can register for a campus tour here

Hartford Stage

50 Church St, Hartford, CT 06103

The Hartford Stage is another performing arts venue. The Hartford Stage regularly hosts plays, dramas, and musicals. For a current live theater schedule, click here.

The Travelers Tower

The Travelers Tower was once one of the tallest buildings on the East coast. It was the 7th tallest building in the world when it was constructed in 1919. 

Take a Cruise on the Connecticut River

The Connecticut River flows right through the center of the city, and there are a number of companies offering tours. The covid-19 pandemic caused disruptions to the cruises, but hopefully they re-open soon. I saw on the Lady Katharine Cruises website that they are planning to re-open for the 2023 season.


Annual Events in Hartford

If you have some flexibility, it might be worth timing your visit to Hartford to coincide with one of the city’s annual festivals:


Where to Stay in Hartford (Best hotels!)

Booking.com  

Here’s a few ideas for places to stay in Hartford:

  • Goodwin Hotel: This brick-red boutique hotel has been a part of downtown Hartford since 1881. The hotel features a bar and is within walking distance to a variety of Hartford attractions. 
  • Hartford Marriott Downtown: The Hartford Marriott Downtown is located near the convention center. The hotel has a restaurant and a cafe.
  • Hilton Hartford: The Hilton Hartford has a restaurant, bar, and indoor pool.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Hartford: This hotel offers a shuttle for attractions within 5 miles. 
  • Delamar West Hartford: If you’re looking for a hotel in West Hartford, check out the Delamar. The elegant hotel features a restaurant, bar, and garden.

For a complete list of hotel options in Hartford, click here.

 

 


Best Restaurants in Hartford

While you’re visiting Hartford, here are a few restaurants to consider:


What to Pack for a Visit to Hartford

Here’s a few things you might want to pack with you to enjoy the state:

  • Comfortable Walking Shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking around town, so make sure you pack comfortable walking shoes. I’ve been wearing Brooks brand shoes for years and have loved them. I’ve linked them here for women, and here for men.
  • Power Bank: We always keep a fully-charged power bank with us while we’re out exploring. That way, if our phone battery is running low, we can easily plug it in and re-charge on the go. We rely on our phones heavily for navigation and photography, so this product is a must for us.
  • Water Bottle: We prefer to bring an insulated re-usable water bottle when we are out exploring. 
  • Travel Guides: When I moved to Connecticut, I brought a travel guide and it gave me so many ideas for weekend adventures. It also provided good historical background to the places I visited. I’ve linked a couple below.

 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing and shipping information!)


Summary

If you’re planning a trip to Connecticut, there are so many historic places to visit in Hartford. Visiting Mark Twain’s house was one of my favorites! I hope this article helped you to plan your own trip to Hartford!

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Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please see individual websites embedded in this post for the most current trip-planning information.

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