Bristol is far more than just the home of ESPN. With the oldest amusement park in the US, a score of fascinating museums like the American Clock & Watch Museum, and dozens of theaters, restaurants, and beautiful green spaces to enjoy, it’s got something for everyone. If you’re ready to enjoy some of the best attractions the city has to offer, check out our guide to the 20 best things to do in Bristol, Connecticut.
20. Go bowling at Spare Time Bristol
Named one of the best attractions in Bristol by Trip Advisor, Spare Time Bristol is a great place to head for an evening of bowling, arcade games, and fun. There’s also a great restaurant on site in case you get hungry.
19. Load up on baked goods at the Harvest Bakery Incorporated
Regularly voted the number one bakery in Bristol, the family-owned Harvest Bakery Incorporated has been keeping Bristolians in fresh bread, rolls, pastries, and baked treats since 1941. All of the goods are hearth-baked using old family recipes passed down from Grandpa Bath to the current owners, siblings Paul Dinoia and Karen Nocera. The cinnamon buns with cream cheese icing are particularly good, but if you’re craving something a little more savory, give the pumpkin yogurt loaf a try.
18. Watch a game at Muzzy Field
Located just next to the ever-popular Rockwell Park is Muzzy Field, a hugely popular place to watch a game of baseball or football. The land the stadium is build on was gifted to the city in 1912 by Commissioner Adrian Muzzy in memory of his two sons. It was converted into a stadium in 1939, and today is best known for the tall ring of pine trees that line the outfield wall.
17. Escape the crowds at Page Park
If you’re bored of shopping, tired of museums, and shudder at the thought of visiting another gallery, give yourself a break by spending a few relaxing hours at Page Park. The land was donated to the city in 1933 by DeWitt and May Rockwell Page, and today serves as one of its most popular recreation spots. There’s a huge amount of attractions and amenities to enjoy, including a seasonal splash pad that’s always a big hit with kids, five lighted tennis courts, a lighted softball field, a lodge, a pavilion, and a lagoon. There are also plenty of designated picnic spots for alfresco dining. Perfect for all ages, it’s a must-visit for anyone visiting Bristol.
16. Take a tour of the Lock Museum of America
If you don’t mind taking the short drive over the town line into nearby Terryville, you’ll find the Lock Museum of America well worth a visit. Recommended one of the best things to do in Bristol by The Crazy Tourist, the museum is built on the site of the original Eagle Lock Company, which once served as the largest cabinet and trunk lock maker in the world. Today, you can learn more about the company at a special room in the museum that’s stuffed with over 1000 locks and keys dating from 1854 to 1954. There are plenty of other exhibits to check out as well, including the incredibly fascinating Bank Lock Room with its huge display of vault locks, early time locks, and safe locks.
15. Pick up some souvenirs at L & D Designs
If you’re hunting for some special gifts to remind you of your visit to Bristol, stop by L & D Designs. With everything from minerals and fossils to handmade jewelry and quirky gifts on offer, it’s the perfect place to grab some souvenirs.
14. Find out more about the natural world at Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center
Nature-lovers shouldn’t miss the Harry C. Barnes Memorial Nature Center. Established in 1972, the center is dedicated to educating the public about nature in a fun, hands-on way. There’s a huge range of exhibits to check out and activities to get involved in, from live feedings of birds and exotic creatures to arts and crafts. If you feel like stretching your legs before you leave, you’ll find several nature trails that loop around the back of the property. There’s also a cute little gift shop for gifts and souvenirs.
13. Admire the architecture at the St. Stanislaus Church
If you’re an St. Stanislaus Church, Bristol, be sure to stop by St. Stanislaus Church during your visit to Bristol. The church was designed and built in 1919 by a group of Polish immigrants who wanted to establish their own parish. Their grand ambitions also led them to build both a parish school and a convent, all three of which were eventually integrated into the wider community. The church underwent huge renovation work in the late ’50s, but you can still see aspects of the original design in the current building. If you visit in the fall, be sure to stop by for the annual Dozynki, or Harvest Festival.
12. Tuck in to some fried chicken at Greer’s Chicken
There are plenty of great restaurants scattered around Bristol, but if you’re craving chicken, the award-winning Greer’s Chicken is the place to go. Their hearty portions of southern fried and roasted chicken served with your choice of homemade sides like baked beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, jalapeno peppers, buffalo style livers, and fries are worth ditching the diet for. Try to save some room for dessert- the super-indulgent butterscotch swiss miss pudding is sensational.
11. Discover Bristol’s past at the Bristol Historical Society
If you want to learn a little more about Bristol’s history, Bristol Historical Society, Bristol, Connecticut don’t miss a visit to the Bristol Historical Society. Home to a vast collection of historical artifacts and records, it’s a fascinating place that people of all ages will enjoy. It’s educational, but a ton of fun to boot, with permanent exhibits like the Bristol Sports Hall of Fame, a Memorial Military Museum, and the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum all guaranteed to go down a storm with the whole family. Kids, in particular, will get a big kick out of the seasonal shows and events, including the always popular Winter Wonderland.
10. Join in the fun at the Bristol Mum Festival
If you’re in town towards the end of September, be sure to join in the Bristol Mum Festival, an annual event that finds the entire city turning out in force to enjoy four days of fun and festivities. Ostensibly, the festival is held to celebrate Bristol’s historical connection to chrysanthemums, but really, it’s just an excuse for the kids to take pony rides and hang out with their pals at the petting zoo, and the adults to drink, eat, and get their groove on to the live bands. It all culminates in a huge parade on Sunday afternoon.
9. Enjoy a stroll at Hoppers Birge Pond
Recommended by Thomas Cook as one of the best places to go in Bristol, Hoppers Birge Pond might be only a few minutes from the downtown, but it feels like a different world. A vast nature preserve with a huge pond, wetlands, forest, and open fields, it’s the perfect place to shake off the cobwebs and enjoy some time in nature. Popular activities include kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and following the trails that lead through the hardwood forest. The area is home to dozens of different wildlife species, so keep your eyes peeled for turtles, deer, bobcats, waterfowl, and foxes.
8. Sample the goods at the Relic Brewing Company
If you can’t resist a cold beer, head for the Relic Brewing Company, a small-batch brewing company that offers visitors the chance to buy and sample their products every afternoon and evening from Wednesday to Sunday. With 17 beers on draft, over 200 spirits, 600 rare kinds of whisky, and too many wines and ciders to count. there’s bound to be something here to take your fancy. Stop by on Thursday at 19:00 to join in the bar trivia or Friday for live music.
7. Relax at Rockwell Park
If you want to enjoy a hike, a picnic, or a lazy afternoon soaking up the rays, Rockwell Park is the place to go. This 104-acre public park is significant enough to have made it onto the U.S. National Register of Historic Places – once you get there, you’ll understand why. With vast expanses of woodlands and open spaces to discover, hiking trails to explore, a swimming pool to cool off in, a playground for the kids, and lots, lots more, it’s the perfect place to enjoy some rest and relaxation.
6. Enjoy some quiet time at the Bristol Public Library
As Expedia says, an escape to Bristol need not blow your budget. If your wallet is feeling lighter than you’d like, leave your credit cards at home and head for the Bristol Public Library. Set in a gorgeous Colonial Revival style building that dates back to 1907, the library is home to over 200,000 books, along with a vast range of other materials like magazines, CDs, and DVDs. While you’re there, be sure to check out the research center with its old yearbooks, WWII scrapbooks, databases, and genealogy line.
5. Give yourself a fright at the Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum
The Witch’s Dungeon Classic Movie Museum is owned by Cortlandt Hull. In 1966, Hull’s father helped him build a Swiss chalet-style building to house the life-size figures of classic movie monsters he’d developed a passion for making out of things like wax, paper mache, and wire mesh. The figures have since been replaced by incredibly accurate replicas of famous figures from films like Dracula, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Zenobia the Gypsy Witch, along with costumes and props used in the original movies. It’s bonkers, but brilliant.
4. Inspire your kids with a trip to Imagine Nation
If you’re looking for something to keep the kids entertained, look no further than Imagine Nation. Designed for kids aged 2 to 8 years old, the museum aims to inspire young minds with a range of interactive hands-on exhibits and fun activities. As Vacation Idea notes, the range of things to do and see is huge, with dozens of studios dedicated to things like art, water, design & engineering, wellness, wildlife, farm to table, playbox theater, outdoor learning, and more besides.
3. Take the kids to Lake Compounce
If want to enjoy some top-notch fun at one of the biggest and best amusement parks and waterparks in Connecticut, head for Lake Compounce. As one of the oldest continuously operating amusement parks in the US, it’s been keeping generations of families happy for years with its rides and attractions. Top attractions not to miss include Boulder Dash, one of the few wooden roller coasters in the whole of New England, and the scream-inducing Phobia Phear Coaster. Over at the water park, you’ll find tons of twisting tunnel slides, a huge 300-gallon water bucket, and a wave pool for kids.
2. Take a ride at the New England Carousel Museum
Once you’ve checked out the modern rides and attractions over at Lake Compounce New England Carousel Museum, Bristol, Connecticut, discover more about the fairground rides of the past at the New England Carousel Museum. Opened in 1990, the museum showcases the art and history of carousels through a huge range of special events, interactive displays, live shows, and exhibits. You’ll be able to check out the work of legendary carvers like Herschell Spillman and Dentzel, admire over 100 antique wooden horses, watch the restorers at work in the restoration department, or even take a ride on the indoor carousel. If you’re looking for the kind of destination the whole family can enjoy, this is it.
1. Take a tour of the American Clock & Watch Museum
The American Clock & Watch Museum first opened its doors in 1952 under the name of The Bristol Clock Museum. Over the years, its reputation grew, and today, it’s one of the very best horology museums in the world. Dedicated to preserving the history, science, and art of timekeepers and timekeeping, it’s a fascinating place where visitors can check out exhibits dedicated to clocks, watches, and the history of clockmaking in Connecticut. There’s also a superb selection of American industrial-made clocks from the 19th and 20th centuries to discover, along with a display dedicated to prominent Connecticut inventor and clockmaker, Eli Terry.