Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Kelly
As the capital of Connecticut, the city of Hartford has plenty of activities and things to do. Hartford is the fourth largest city in Connecticut. It was founded in 1635, so it’s also one of the oldest cities in the United States. I lived in Connecticut for several years, and I really enjoyed exploring Hartford. In this post, I’m sharing 25 things to do while you’re in Hartford, Connecticut.
25 Things to See in Hartford
1. 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.
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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 Cabin. Her 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
2. Mark Twain House and Museum
385 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105
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
3. 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.)
4. 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.
5. 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. 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.
6. Elizabeth Park
1561 Asylum Ave, West Hartford, CT 06117
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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
Be sure to see all our posts about destinations in Connecticut!
12. 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.
13. 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.
14.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).
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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. 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.
18. Bulkeley Bridge
The Bulkeley Bridge was built in 1908 and spans across the Connecticut River. The bridge is comprised of numerous stone arches.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
About Hartford, Connecticut
As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Hartford contains a lot of historical sites. The city is home to the country’s oldest public art museum and the oldest publicly funded park. Hartford also has the oldest continuously-run newspaper, which is the Hartford Courant.
Hartford is the world’s insurance capital, as there are over 100 insurance companies that have their headquarters in Hartford.
The Connecticut River flows through the city of Hartford, which makes it a very picturesque city!
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:
- Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz: During several days in July, the city hosts a jazz festival. The festival takes place in Bushnell Park.
- Riverfest Food Truck Festival: At Mortenson Park, approximately 40 food trucks will be open. There will also be live music and entertainment.
- Hartford Marathon: The Hartford Marathon Foundation hosts an annual marathon each fall. See their website for additional races throughout the year!
- Greater Hartford Saint Patrick’s Day Parade: Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, the city hosts a large parade to celebrate.
Best Hotels in Hartford, Connecticut
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:
- Bear’s Smokehouse | $$: Serves up Kansas City-style wood-smoked barbecue
- Feng Chophouse | $$: Focuses on Southeast Asian cuisine
- The Capital Grille | $$$$: Fine dining in downtown Hartford
- Trumbull Kitchen | $$: Focuses on seafood in a contemporary setting
- U.S.S. Chowder Pot IV | $$: This restaurant serves fresh Connecticut seafood
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.
- 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.
Summary: Best Things to Do in Hartford, Connecticut
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 favorite experiences. 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 look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.