The 20 Best Things to Do in Hartford, CT for First-Timers

Mark Twain House & Museum

Hartford is the capital city of Connecticut, so it is both a popular tourist destination and also a hub for business travelers. Regardless of whether you are visiting the city for business or pleasure, you will find plenty of things to see and do during your stay. These vary from family attractions to historical landmarks, and from outdoor activities to places for eating and drinking. To make sure you get the best experience possible during your visit to Hartford, you should plan your trip in advance. So that you can decide what you should include in your itinerary, here are the 20 best things to do in Hartford, CT for first-timers.

Hartford Symphony

20. See a Performance by the Hartford Symphony

Those who enjoy music should try to catch a performance by the Hartford Symphony says Trip 101. This is one of the best orchestras in Connecticut, and they have been performing for more than 75 years. If you want to hear them play, then you should check out their events before visiting this city and book your tickets in advance.

Brew HaHa Comedy Club

19. Have a Night Out at the Brew HaHa Comedy Club

If you are looking for something different from the usual restaurants and bars to enjoy in the evenings, then one place to consider is the Brew HaHa Comedy Club. This comedy club is probably the best in the city, and it is in the basement of City Steam Brewery. You can enjoy a few drinks with snacks while you enjoy the entertainment of live comedy performances.

Governor’s Residence

18. Tour the Governor’s Residence

A fantastic historic attraction to visit is the Governor’s Residence. This structure has been the official residence of the Governor of Connecticut since 1945. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the building before exploring the grounds. Within the grounds, there is a beautiful sculpture garden that boasts the work of 14 sculptors. Therefore, this is like two attractions in one.

Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities

17. Go to the Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities

An unusual museum to visit in Hartford is the Museum of Natural and Other Curiosities, says Atlas Obscura. This museum is located on the top floor of the Old State House, although it is a separate attraction. It houses a collection of unusual items that were assembled in the 1990s. It contains many of the items that were originally in the collection of Joseph Steward, who started one of the first curiosity museums in the nation.

Nixs Hartford

16. Drink Cocktails at Nixs Hartford

There are some great bars in Hartford where you can enjoy a couple of drinks in the evening during your stay. One of the top venues in this city is Nixs Hartford, which has a huge bar, lounge booths, and a DJ playing music daily. This bar is famous for its creative cocktails. You can also enjoy a bite to eat at Nixs Hartford, and the menu predominantly consists of small plates. They specialize in seafood options made using locally sourced ingredients, such as lobsters, shrimp, crab, and oysters.

Connecticut Historical Society Museum

15. Learn About Local History at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum

One of the best places to learn about the local history is at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum, says Vacation Idea. The society was established in 1825, and it is now located in a Colonial Revival building that was once a grand home. The exhibition contains more than four million exhibits, including photos, diaries, children’s books, textiles, clothing, furniture, tools, prints, and manuscripts. This attraction also has a library and the Edgar F. Waterman Research Center.

Riverside Walking Trails

14. Enjoy the Riverside Walking Trails

If you like walking and you want to enjoy river views during your visit to Hartford, then you should head to Mortensen Riverfront Plaza. This is a riverfront park system that is the start of several riverside hiking trails. It is also where you will find grass-covered terraces that are used for a wide range of outdoor performances throughout the year. If you are lucky enough to be in the city during the annual dragon boat festival, then this is one of the top viewing areas. From the Plaza, you can also catch a boat to enjoy a boat ride along the river. Furthermore, this is a great place to sit with a picnic, watching the world go by.

Bushnell Performing Arts Center

13. See a Performance at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center

Located on Capitol Avenue, the Bushnell Performing Arts Center is the best place to visit if you want to see a performance during your visit to Hartford. The center was constructed during the Great Depression, and it consists of several theaters. There is a jam-packed schedule of performances throughout the year. If you want to watch a performance during your visit, then check what is on and book tickets in advance.

Ancient Burying Ground and Butler-McCook House

12. Visit the Ancient Burying Ground and Butler-McCook House

Although the Ancient Burying Ground and Butler-McCook House are two separate attractions, they are commonly visited at the same time. One of the only attractions in Hartford to survive from the 1600s is the Ancient Burying Ground, so this makes it the oldest historic landmark in the city. There are more than six thousand graves, and the oldest is from 1648. Nearby Butler-McCook House on Main Street was built in 1782. It is the oldest house in Hartford, and visitors can take a tour of the property and its gardens.

the Old State House

11. Go to the Old State House

Built in 1796, the Old State House sits on the site of the first Amistad Trial and the former Hartford Convention. It is now a National Historic Landmark, and one of the oldest statehouses in the United States. Inside the property, there are historical collections, paintings, and various other interesting exhibits. You can take a guided or self-guided tour of this landmark, which some say is haunted.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

10. Take a Tour of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center

Harriet Beecher Stowe was a famous author who lived in this house between 1873 and 1896. The property is in the Nook Farm neighborhood of Hartford, which is close to the Mark Twain House & Museum. Beecher Stowe’s most famous book, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, played a significant role in the Abolitionist movement. The author’s former home has now been fully restored, and it has many interesting features. A tour of this property also includes a tour of the Katharine Seymour Day House, which is a neighboring property. This building contains the Stowe Center Research Library and the Stow Center’s administrative offices.


9. Dine at ON20

Although there are many fantastic restaurants in Hartford, one of the top dining establishments is ON20. This restaurant is located on the 20th floor of the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. building, so it has spectacular views of the city. ON20 serves an elegant fusion menu that is ever-evolving. It is known for its stunning and creative presentation of food.

Cathedral of St. Joseph

8. See the Cathedral of St. Joseph

The original Gothic Revival cathedral in Hartford was destroyed by fire. The new cathedral was dedicated in 1962. In 1979, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was also named as a contributing property in the Asylum Avenue District. The New version of the Cathedral of St. Joseph is 284 feet high, and its design is a modern version of the original Gothic style. The cathedral boasts many interesting features, including stained-glass windows, bronze doors with biblical scenes, the largest pipe organ in the state, and the largest ceramic tile altar in the world. It is a fully operating cathedral that is both the mother church and the seat of the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Outdoors at Bushnell Park

7. Enjoy the Outdoors at Bushnell Park

The 37-acre Bushnell Park is the first public park that was built in the United States using taxpayers’ money. It opened in 1861, was designed by Jacob Weidernmann, and is overlooked by the Capitol. It has some wonderful open spaces, 157 varieties of trees, and the Bushnell Park Carousel, which is a vintage 1914 merry-go-round. One of the interesting features of the park is the Soldier & Sailors Memorial Arch at the Trinity St. entrance. This park is used for multiple events throughout the year, including the annual jazz festival. Check to see if there is anything going on in the park at the time you are visiting.

State Capitol

6. Visit the State Capitol

Planetware recommends visiting the State Capitol during your stay in Hartford. Built in 1879 and overlooking Bushnell Park, the State Capitol is a High Victorian Gothic structure, It is a National Historic Landmark. Within this building, there is the State Senate Chamber, the Hall of the State House of Representatives, along with the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Secretary of State. Some of the impressive features of the building include its stained-glass windows and the Italian marble floors. A tour of the building includes visits to the Connecticut Hall of Fame, the public galleries, and the Hall of Flags.

Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens

5. Stroll Around Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens

If you want to enjoy a peaceful and relaxing activity outdoors, then a wonderful place to visit is the Elizabeth Park Rose Gardens. These gardens cover 102 acres, and they contain more than 15,000 rose bushes of over 900 varieties. The gardens were donated to the city by an industrialist, and the park is named after his wife. Both the colors and the aromas in this park are amazing, and it is a therapeutic place to spend time during your visit to Hartford.

Museum of Connecticut History

4. Go to the Museum of Connecticut History

Housed in the Connecticut State Library on Capitol Hill, this museum is known for its outstanding genealogy library. Some of the exhibits on display include the table at which Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the original royal charter of 1662, a coin collection, and a collection of Colt firearms. There is also a collection of political memorabilia that relates to the area. You should set aside a couple of hours so that you have time to fully appreciate all the exhibits at this museum.

Interactive Experience at the Connecticut Science Center

3. Enjoy an Interactive Experience at the Connecticut Science Center

One of the top family attractions in Hartford is the Connecticut Science Center. This interactive attraction has something that will appeal to everyone. It has been described as an exciting architectural space that was designed by Cesar Pelli, an Argentinian architect. On the first floor of the center is the KidsZone, which boasts stage shows, interactive exhibits, films, and various programs and events.

Mark Twain House & Museum

2. Visit the Mark Twain House & Museum

Mark Twain was the pen name of an author called Samuel Longhorne Clemens, who was one of the most famous authors in United States literature history. He lived in this house in Connecticut from 1835 to 1910, which was the most productive period of his life. The property is a striking orange and black Victorian house, which was designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It features verandas, gables, and turrets. Some parts of the interior design were by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Visitors can take an informative guided tour of the property and its grounds.

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

1. Go to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

According to Lonely Planet, the best thing to do in Hartford, CT for first-timers is to go to the Wadsworth Atheneum. This is the oldest public art museum in the United States, and it underwent a $33 million renovation in 2015. The museum is housed in a Gothic Revival building in the style of a castle. It now consists of 32 galleries, 15 public spaces, and more than 50 thousand works of art. The works on display include a collection for the Hudson River School, 19th-century New England furniture, 19th-century impressionist works, and sculptures by Alexander Calder, a Connecticut artist.

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